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Rick Wakeman - Out Of The Blue CD (album) cover

OUT OF THE BLUE

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

4.48 | 20 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Rock Wakeman

Out Of The Blue is an absolutely fantastic live album by Rick Wakeman and his Rock band. As something of a Wakeman fanatic, I have many live albums and particularly live videos of his. The nature of the present recording is very close to that of the DVD Live In Buenos Aires; identical line up and overlapping set lists. I consider these two releases as something of companion pieces and having at least one of them is strictly essential! While the DVD suffered slightly from some minor mistakes, both technical and performance wise, that hindered me from awarding the full five stars, nothing stops me from giving this great live album the masterpiece rating.

This concert is a stunning presentation of great band chemistry, great passion for music and immense instrumental and vocal skills of all involved. The sound quality is great, the set list is simply fantastic, the band is brilliant and the performance is simply amazing! With several timeless Wakeman classics performed here, often in new and very interesting arrangements, this live album should appeal both to beginners and to hard core fans. Rick's very best albums are all represented with great cuts from Six Wives Of Henry VIII, a brilliant version of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, No Earthly Connection and even a Yes number! The arrangement of Journey To the Centre Of The Earth is the same as on the DVD I mentioned. This arrangement easily surpasses its original recording in my opinion! The sometimes annoying narration of the original version is here removed and more space is left for instrumental workouts. It is slightly edited, but all the important bits are there and stronger than ever.

Buried Alive, originally from the Return To The Centre Of The Earth (a 1999 follow up to the original Journey album), and originally sung by the great Ozzy Osbourne (a personal friend of Rick's, I believe), is also better here than in its studio version. The original version is a little bit too orchestral and bombastic for my taste, while the present version has a much harder edge. The same is true, and even more so, of the two songs from the obscure Phantom Power album: The Visit and Return Of The Phantom. While the original album in this case is very weak, in these versions these two songs are great! Indeed, something of hidden gems in the Wakeman catalouge, I would say! The No Earthly Connection tracks too are improved here; the original album being slightly too long and repetitive, here only the very best parts are performed. And, once again, with a harder edge. Finally, the Yes song performed here is an exhilarating version of Starship Trooper, very different arrangement compared to the original and also incorporating snippets of Heart Of The Sunrise to great effect!

The only thing that could possibly improve such a marvellous set list would be to make it longer, thus making this into a double disc set. The Buenos Aires DVD had a few more tracks including a very good version of 1984 and something to represent the Myths And Legends Of King Arthur album which is wholly ignored on this live album. This is not a serious complaint, however, as we get a much as 74 minutes of great live music here. If you are curious for more after you've heard this one, simply get the DVD I mentioned too.

The vocalist here is Damian Wilson, known from Prog Metal band Threshold and Neo-Prog band Landmarq. He later did the new album Out There with Wakeman, which is one of Rick's best studio albums ever in my opinion. Too bad none of the Out There songs is present here, but they were not yet written at this time, I believe. I like Damian Wilson's voice very much and I prefer him over Ashley Holt. The rest of the band is equally amazing and all members are allowed to shine. Rick is a very 'democratic' leader of the band here and he does not need to be at the centre of attention all the time. The line up includes Rick's son Adam on extra keyboards, Tony Fernandez on drums, Lee Pomeroy on bass and Ant Glynne of guitars.

They really create a strong band feeling and the musical atmosphere benefits greatly from this. The imperfections present on other live releases are, as I mentioned before, not present here. For the most part they get everything exactly right and all band members have their moments of brilliance! If all you know by Rick Wakeman is his early 70's albums you will be surprised by this and, dare I say, blown away! This performance rocks a lot harder than you probably think! Personally, I think that this is Rick Wakeman and band at their very best.

This live presentation brings together some of Rick's very best songs and presents them in a new fresh way, the conclusion must be that this album is both an excellent place to start if you want to discover Wakeman's solo career and an essential purchase for his most devoted fans. Indeed, I would even go as far as saying that this is the best Rick Wakeman product full stop.

Extremely recommended!

SouthSideoftheSky | 5/5 |

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