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CREDO –
This Is What We Do

Metal Mind 2008

The way some bands progress is a reason to believe.

It’s a human sign to outline your own humility in the DVD title, but this English band look like unlikely lads in the progressive business, what with having released only two albums in 15 years. Quite a reason for a bout of self-doubt for which on that October 2008 night in Katowice when this concert was recorded the quartet just had no time. What they do here is concentrating on what they – and their audience – like. And what not to like? The tambouring-shaking start lends a certain playfulness to “The Game” where the real depth seems hidden under an almost discoteque veneer of the chorus – but Mark Colton’s dramatic performance is transfixing. So much for the show, yet the medley of “Field Of Vision” from the band’s 1994’s debut brings with it a one-man theater, while the instrumentalists deliver the emotion nonchalantly and that makes the composition’s message all the more convincing.

Right from there, the front line harmonize a catchphrase of not-yet-recorded track which goes under the working title of “Round And Round”, and the audience seems to finally be catching up – clapping and enjoying the atmosphere – while Tim Birrell takes the guitar flight in a couple of solos. Though the singer consults the scribbled lyrics on the floor it doesn’t get in the way of climactic ending, an antithesis to the whole line-up stand-still at the end of “Too Late… To Say Goodbye”. Stage lights complimenting the music, the scene turns green for “From the Cradle…”, and there’s a version of it from 1999’s Rotherham ProgFest appearing as one of the bonus videos. The success of the show seems to surprise the band – but if CREDO didn’t have much creed before, they should embrace the glory now. This is what they’re going to do.

***1/4


NINE BELOW ZERO –
Both Sides Of

Angel Air 2008

Blues hardly need amplification when such emotions are at play.

Some people get il all wrong thinking modern blues mean electric while there’s no such thing as modern blues at all, but you can’t go wrong with this British quartet of the genre’s veterans for whom 2007, when the DVD was recorded, marked the band’s thirtieth anniversary. And it shows. Coming down to the stage through the crowd – a sign of togetherness – for Mark Feltham’s harmonica to ease in on “Duke” and Brendan O’Neill to brush the snare, the four plunge into the unrestrained unplugged set… Well, almost unplugged as Gerry McAvoy plays electric bass yet the gig feels reckless enough for anyone to feel attached from the off like the audience does. The white blues don’t get more intimate these days!

“We Rock The House” isn’t a boast – the bravado’s all in the swing and singing guitarist Dennis Greaves’s broad smile – and “White Boys Lost In The Blues” brings about Feltham’s one-man spectacle, gesturing and all, having the fans eating from his hand. In “Soft Touch” they clap along eagerly and not that soft, but the soft spot comes in one of the extra features with fully acoustic jaunt played down by the river – literally, on the bank with a little gust but a lot of gusto. All in all, riveting performances, even the soundcheck. As for the electric, to cross to the other side means putting on the CD from this “Sound & Vision” package.

*****


THE LIZARDS – 4.2.11

Hyperspace Records 2008

From one stage to another, the hard rock reptiles are coming to get you hooked on.

One may wonder what do the hell the digits in the title stand for until the whole cover picture comes into view with four volume control knobs set to eleven. Of course, it’s ironic as this quartet have an amazing dynamic range which, as this DVD shows, shatters the stages the world over – from B.B.King’s club in New York via Germany to the Sweden Rock Festival. And it’s the dynamic that matters because the picture for the most part looks amateurish, but there’s enough cameras involved to make one feel in the thick of the things that, after the sheepishly inauspicious start of “I’m No Good”, gain good momentum. Locking into the powerful, bass-laden and slider-oiled, blues groove, the band coil up in a tight spring ready to unwind yet suppressing their might for a better sonic punch – or the FREE-like lyrical release like in “Down”, with Bobby Rondinelli’s drums and Patrick Klein’s guitar building up the drama.

One of the most spectacular moments is the butterfly-limbed drum solo, while “Planck Time” sees Randy Pratt trade his faithful low-end beast for harmonica and head for the light jive with the singer, Mike de Meo, taking to the keyboards to deliver, on fantastic “Hyperspace” and “Revelation No. 9″, some faux-classical and jazzy wigouts. Not so funny as they’d like to be in the interview snippets but prowling freely for “Something Higher”, in “We Are Dinosaurs” the four set for the heavy plod-trod with “our time has come again” larger-than-life statement; and who were dinosaurs if not big lizards? Long may they thunder!

****4/5


THE KORGIS –
Unplugged / DVD Kollection

Angel Air 2006-2008

The master class in songwriting: silly love songs transcend their electric coating.

They don’t tour in full force, that’s given, and Andy Davis can be seen on-stage with James Warren only as part of STACKRIDGE, so here’s the unique chance to experience THE KORGIS at their best. It is even more unique because here the band play unplugged – well, a sort of as there are some synthesizers to flesh out the spare, three acoustic guitars sounds of Davis, Warren and John Baker. Stripped to the bare bone essentials, the songs that originally were coated in electro-pop sound incredibly fresh, with stress on the lyrics and the catchiness of the tuneful simplicity.

Live in the studio which looks like your proverbial living room, THE KORGIS come as personal as can be; it seems – only seems! – like there was little effort put into the performance, no rehearsals at all, and the magic of this effortlessness feel ever so natural. The trio’s silky vocal harmonies are put forward this way as well as the players’ instrumental prowess that’s wasn’t obvious in the songs’ recorded versions and isn’t so obvious even now, yet it’s difficult to ignore James’ vignettes in “Young ‘n’ Russian” or Andy’s solo in “If I Had You”.

Making the package complete is a handful of videos, including two takes on the perennial “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” and marvellous “Something About The Beatles”, plus a lengthy interview with the band. Still, it’s the main feature which begs to be watched over and over again.

More so, now it’s coupled with "Something About The Korgis", the best-of, which makes it all all the more enticing.

*****


YES –
The Director’s Cut

Classic Pictures 2008

Wondrous stories that get behind the music which gets some magnification.

There’s been already two versions of YES’ 35 Anniversary DVD, "YesSpeak" and “Yes Acoustic”, the former featuring a 3-hour film consisting mostly of interviews and some live footage, while the latter presented a theatrical 1.5-hour version plus an acoustic performance beamed by satellite to the cinemas right after the “YesSpeak” screening. Now, there’s a time for the third take, “Yes – The Director’s Cut”. While before music was taking the back seat, here it’s reinstated to ride the shotgun defending the storyline told through the main drivers’ words – now heavily truncated.

This limited edition DVD features the footage from the 2003 world tour that didn’t make to the original edit, including the show from Birmingham, plus Glastonbury. The festival appearance makes the veterans look a little incongruous among the breaking acts and the audience waving the FLOYD banner, but they win the crowd which is what really matters. “There’s always been a YES”, says Rick Wakeman during his interview, and it sounds almost like “There’ll always be an England”, yet there’s the wondering as to what makes the band tick for so long and so effectively; still, the musicians trying to decode it all still cannot crack the enigma. It’s only while watching Alan White’s little girl sing “I’ve Seen All Good People” that one realizes the song’s easy conversion into a children’s ditty and its universal appeal. Dinosaurs YES may be but who doesn’t love such fantastic creatures?

***3/4


STACKRIDGE –
The Forbidden City

Angel Air 2008

See the CD

God speed the plough that brought them back. Forbidden their city is not!

It seems this band has no visual history – the search on “YouTube” returns just one song from the ’70s when STACKRIDGE reigned the progressive shadows – so it’s about the time to rectify matters. It’s even more timely as the line-up that graced the stage April 1st, 2007, when the DVD was filmed – featured no less than four original members. Here they are, forming the front line, the fearsome foursome who look like stand-up comedians – which they, of course, are, it’s just that all the fun is in the hilarious songs and heartfelt delivery. And if the stage feels a bit crowded with nine people on it but that only adds up to the village fair feeling.

Still, there’s not a lot of extravaganza nowadays, not counting the percussion that hits even unhittable things on “Anyone For Tennis” – and bassist Crun Walter showing off his grasp of Polish. But who needs strangeness when singing flautist and comsummate showman Mutter Slater is so funnily charming in the “Happy In The Lord” pastiche and the vaudevillian grace of “Dancing On Air” – and in his bowler hat, too? Too dry when one expects something juicier, STACKRIDGE had to come back anyway: just catch James Warren adoringly look at Andy Davis singing “Can Inspiration Save The Nation?” to see it was worth it. For the fans as well as for the musicians themselves.

****


SAILOR –
Pirate Copy – Live

Angel Air 2006-2008

See the CD

It takes some grace to walk the plank but these salty dogs have that and then some.

Can there be a riveting show with four musicians – not PINK FLOYD! – firmly attached to their instruments? Yes, if they’re SAILOR whose performance is effervescent just like bubbly wine. And what instrument would be the first to sound but the bell-adorned Nickelodeon! This multi-keyboards, four-hands operated beast launches “A Glass Of Champagne” to open the laughter-filled and lantern-lighted night which sometimes turns into a stand-up comedy for the sit-down audience. They let their hair down and get on their feet only to dance to the nostalgic waltz “The Old Nickelodeon Sound”, but it’s not the good memories that rule the game here – it’s as contemporary as it gets with Peter Lincoln more than adequate in the captain’s role.

The quartet don’t overplay their nautical direction, yet it oozes out of Phil Pickett’s accordion swing and Grant Serpell’s sensitive drumming that anchors the stylistic extravaganza which drifts all over the world: from the Reperbann backstreet alleys of “Mack The Knife” to the Copacabana breeze of “La Cumbia” via the “Girls Girls Girls” good times roll and the “Sailor Unzipped” acoustic part of the show. Since 2002, when this concert was recorded, the steamboat’s moved on, and there’s another singer at the helm, but the sound of the good ship enterprise is still homely and warm no matter whatever waters it may roam.

****4/5


BELIEVE –
Hope To See Another Day – Live

Metal Mind 2008

Why hope for tomorrow if there’s a fine day for the Polish band today?

If the first song of a show is supposed to be spectacular, BELIEVE gloriously fail, but they immediately win over the audience when it comes to involving through the nonchalant veneer of the players: one is tempted to project his own emotions onto “Liar” which comes brimful with feeling anyway. Such a combination of visuals and music strips the performance of queasy theatricality that’s almost inherent to progressive rock. More so, there’s a tense contrast between singer Tomek Rozycki’s nervous face and the legendary COLLAGE guitarist Mirek Gil’s serene playing in “What Is Love” but then “Seven Days” takes it all in wrong direction of acting, and too many same-tempo songs in a row makes the focus shift.

But there’s a waking surprise: the studio version of “Memories”, together with final “Hope To See Another Day” the most rocking piece on the offer, will appear only on the next BELIEVE album – and they regain momentum with the shuffling “Coming Down” floating in the blinding light and dancing sonics. With tracks from the band’s two studio albums and two audio-only cuts from their latest, plus interview, it’s hard to love this DVD. Still, ultimately, it’s classy music that’ll make one want to revisit it.

****1/2


GILLAN –
Live Edinburgh 1980

Angel Air 2006-2008

A glimpse of the blistering blitzkrieg down the Glory Road.

It was the time when the ensemble fronted by and bearing the name of the quintessential hard rock vocalist had reached their prime, so the Scottish TV producers were right on the money when they decided to capture the energy of this collective. Indeed, an advantage of the DVD is that it features GILLAN the band rather than Gillan the singer with cameras paying close attention to all of the musicians from the opening salvo of the chainsaw-raving “Unchain Your Brain” right to the end of unfortunately incomplete performance.

Muscular: that’s the word to describe it both visuals- and sound-wise. As riveting figure as he is with the impressive mane of hair, Ian’s never been the one to move across the stage very much, so it’s bassist John McCoy with the equally impressive lack of hair (not facial, though) who does the prowling and stalk the keyboard maestro Colin Towns during the latter’s short solo. Sporty drummer Mick Underwood and Byronic punk guitarist Bernie Torme, attired in neckerchief and frock, rounding off the line-up, it’s quite a motley crew which fantastically gels to deliver the eye candy at high velocity. Looking seriously, if a tad menacing, they’re clearly having a ball with Gillan breaking into laughter in the midst of “Trouble” and everybody letting their hair (or beard when it comes to the bassist) down in “No Easy Way”.

With a smattering of inferior quality bonus tracks, including “Smoke On The Water” from the band’s first line-up, and hour-long interviews with the singer’s brothers-in-arms, it’s the best GILLAN live footage there is. Indispensable.

****2/3


CHICKEN SHACK –
Stan Would Rather Go Live

Angel Air 2005-2008

Forty years on, the chicken soup is still a strong brew. Eat your blues out!

This great document of the British wailing veterans’ 2004 tour of the UK finds them in top form and in quite an intimate setting where the stage is small and the atmosphere’s hot with the fans eating out of Stan Webb’s skilful hand. The best way to capture the audience – not that Stan needs to – is to plunge headlong into the free-hand singing while inquiring of the listeners “So Tell Me”, but when it comes to “The Thrill Is Gone” the sunburst Gibson gets really worked on. Webb gently caresses his guitar just like stroking a lover’s skin and makes the instrument weep and moan with passion.

This contrasting with the veteran’s deadpan delivery which somehow – a paradox – renders it all even more heartfelt, “You Are The Sweetest Little Thing” sees Stan fathom the depth of breakdown with a shade of pain on his face. When the main man goes clowning a little in “Chicken Shack Opera”, Webb’s counterpart Gary Davies’ filigree technique takes tension one notch higher. And who could be more visually unassuming with their greatest hit than Webb going into “I’d Rather Go Blind” and hanging on the notes to the audience’s cheers? More so, he can be cheerful himself – don’t miss this bit after the credits! And the audio version of the concert.

****2/3


OLIVER-DAWSON SAXON –
Rock Has Landed –
It’s Alive

Angel Air 2002-2008

See the CD

With their foots on the throttle, there’s no looking back for the NWBHM originators.

They’re a real deal, this SAXON led by the British heavyweights double-barrel of Steven Dawson and Graham Oliver, it’s just they split and now how a band of their own bearing the same “S” word in the name but not the same gravity. Here, an alternative SAXON in their passion – live – but, in the beginning, it’s somehow doesn’t gel as the veterans’ restraint contrasts with the newcomers’ effusive ebullience. Thus, “The Strong Arm Of The Law” packs no visual – and aural for that matter – punch, and “The Power And The Glory” seems to have neither of the titular qualities.

The problem might be the divergence of the sound and vision: the band look like synching it up to a playback – never more so obvious than in “747 (Strangers In The Night)” done in a rather hilarious way with John Ward’s voice clearly heard when the microphone’s nowhere near his mouth, and Dobby Dawson putting on his SPINAL TAP-inspiring persona. Whatever it is, in “Dallas 1PM” Graham Oliver allows the emotions to paint a picture on his face while pouring out the guitar solo, and “The Eagle Has Landed” comes very expressive in the players’ abandon, while “Bitch Of A Place To Be” creeps out of the SAXON shadow as it harks back to SON OF A BITCH, a band Dawson and Oliver had when they reunited forces. A charged but disappointing set.

**


STEVE ELLIS’s
LOVE AFFAIR –
Last Tango In Bradford

Angel Air 2008

Firmly standing on his own two feet, now there’s a time for more than just chart-denters.

Intelligent, and thus irreverent, version of Joe South’s “Hush” speaks volume of the singer whose emotions, written all over his face, are hidden so deep that Steve Ellis’ take on “Handbags And Gladrags” emerges as one of the coldest covers of this great ballad. Much better fare another Chris Farlowe’s hit, “Out Of Time”, the Northern soul gem “If I Could Only Be Sure”, and the original LOVE AFFAIR smashes “Everlasting Love” and “Bringing On Back the Good Times”, carried out by the catchy melody and the less nonchalant delivery yet still with the deadpan looks.

This contrast makes Steve somewhat special, as he’s a very convincing performer, especially when his jacket comes off, the smile lights up his face and “Gimme Some Lovin'” is unleashed on the dancing audience.

****


McFLY –
All The Greatest Hits

Universal 2007

Now it’s them, not the Fabs, are the youngest band to have released a debut album to enter the charts at the top. And here’s the visual proof they’re the real pretenders.

A boy band? Yes, McFLY are the one, and the adorable one. And the capable of doing a great show, too. With three albums under their belt, the lads kick off the Wembley concert of May 14, 2007 with an adrenalised version of “That Girl”, a pure catchy rock ‘n’ roll, which is exaсtly what’s needed to get the audience up on their toes and to demonstrate the band’s magical instrumental interplay and vocal harmonies, the rapid change of the camera angles underlining the hectic pace of the show. Tom Fletcher and Danny Jones pass the verses around, and while the tunes’ catchiness goes without saying, it’s their youthful energy that’s infectious the most.

It’s no surprise the punters know the lyrics well enough to carry the doubtful lines of “Obviously” and be drawn to the “I’ll Be OK” optimism, as the songs’ sentiment is close to every teenager’s heart. And if the quartet are poseurs, it’s all a part of the youngsters’ immediacy, even though the burping into the microphone feels like a needless extra. Yet the sweat dripping from the cutting vertiginous swirl of “I Wanna Hold You” and the propeller-like cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” is all real – as well as the fantastic acoustic guitar solo in “All About You”. Fooling around comes as the game rule here, what with the promise of coming back for encores – including the bold attack on QUEEN’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” – after leaving the stage for the first time. Such a bravado suits McFLY fine to propel them to the real greatness.

*****


PALLAS –
Moment To Moment

Metal Mind 2008

The dreams of men coming true for the momentous show in Poland.

When it comes to neo-prog, PALLAS aren’t among the ensembles that make a shortlist alongside PENDRAGON or IQ, but now a time came for reinstation of the Scots’ position, and this show, recorded in Katowice in 2007, is their claim to fame. The group is nicely peculiar: untypically for a prog band, long instrumental intros aren’t for these Scots who go for the throat with the “Warriors” cutting riff from the off, the corridor-like stage set-up stressing their perspective and focus on the subject matter rather than frilly paraphernalia.

Alan Reed, a sensitive, studenty type of lad, looks a bit out of place amongst the hard-boiled long-haired clique, yet there’s no histrionics in the singer’s approach to the tremulous sentiment of “Heaven” and “Ghostdancers”, and there’s an untamed energy in Scottish folk-tinged rock ‘n’ roll that is “Queen Of The Deep”, while instrumental “Northern Star” demonstrates the lyrical side of Niall Mathewson’s guitar work. The only problem here might be a deceptive sheen devoid of genuine emotionality, save for Graeme Murray’s rumbling bass attack throughout, yet this is rectified when the DVD is re-visited. As it is, the real depth is revealing itself little by little, and that’s how little fish eats the shark, as “Invincible” goes. With “Arrive Alive” summing up this blend of elegance and swagger, PALLAS emerge as the true winners.

****


MIKA –
Live In Cartoon Motion

Casablanca 2007

A strange creature in a strange world that’s very ours. Take it easy but relaxation is out of question.

What’s Mika? Not who but what? The British singer plays an Alice game in the Wonderland which is so out of time that it feels as timely in 2007’s Paris, like on this DVD, as in 1979’s New York where the then-unborn guy could have been a dance floor star, too. Here, what at first feels like a staged discotheque with a sound that’s initially too disciplined to be live turns into a celebration thanks to the main man’s engaging personality. Brutally exquisite, with a knack for observations that strike a chord with an audience, Mika’s full of energy and full on – falsetto acrobatics take a back seat to the driving beat in contrast to the message of the opening “Relax (Take It Easy)” which, on-stage, reveals its funky underbelly.

It’s impossible not to be drawn into the “Ring Ring” urgency or the joviality of “Big Girls”, especially when two of the titular ladies come to dance around the lanky singer who, a bit later, goes even more intimate taking lively to the piano. Comparisons with Freddie Mercury seem unavoidable – there’s the same humorous camp in “Billy Brown” and the jazz-tinged “Stuck In The Middle” – yet Harry Nilsson must have influenced the young artist as well, and it’s hardly a coincidence that one of the multiple extras, including the tour documentary, promo videos and cartoon clips to many of the album’s songs, is “Everybody’s Talkin'”. The EURHYTHMICS’ cover, “Sweet Dreams”, and THE JACKSON 5’s “I Want You Back” may be rockier but less expressive than this – and a new, acoustic piece “Holy Johnny” for that matter. Of course, “Grace Kelly” receives an airing: in the concert context, though, it sounds mundane, a verse in French notwithstanding, while “Lollipop” brings on a genuine carnival atmosphere – and a hope that Mika’s second album will be as contagious.

*****


RACING CARS –
76-06,
30th Anniversary Concert

Angel Air 2008

See the CD

Between the past and the future, the sweet moment in time and a time for a celebration.

The male choir singing some Welsh anthem before the band get on stage might be a sign of what a national treasure RACING CARS are. Still, Morty, wearing straw hat, looks like the most unlikely rock star in the world – but that’s until he starts to sing and dance to embrace the audience with the welcoming “The Time Has Come”. Sure, the ensemble are at home and relaxed, so the singer can humorously shake Graham Williams’ leg while the guitarist lays down the rocking licks of “Swampy”; watching the close-up of his hands during the “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” solo is a treat in itself.

But all the playfulness flies away when the two main men delve into the dramatic, if mellow, “Lost Without You”, and sit down for a touching unplugged reading of “Potter’s Blue” from the then Wales-only "Bolt From The Blue" album which the crowd seem to know quite well. Old favorites such as “Downtown Tonight”, “Moonshine Fandango” and, of course, “The Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” only spice it all up for everyone’s, the band including, obvious delight. Long may they run scared!

****2/3


CAAMORA – She

Metal Mind 2008

Read The Interview

The most fabulous reading of H. Rider Haggard’s novel, a real historic adventure.

That’s the way any rock opera must look like! To call Clive Nolan a genius might be a word too loud, but the keyboard wizard who always has a lot of cards on his hands pulls them all in fine fashion, and this one can be the most daring of the master’s projects. Musical re-imagining of a classic book is not a novelty idea, yet taking the aural performance to the stage and turning it into a spectacular play, like CAAMORA, the Englishman collaboration with Polish singer Agnieszka Swita, did in October 2007 in Katowice, feels a real triumph.

Here’s the band seated at the front of the stage just like a real orchestra, while Nolan and PALLAS’ Alan Reed show up as Leo Vincey and Horace Holly on their African trail – rifles, game-bags, and stuff – singing duet of “The Storm” against the backdrop where Agnieszka appears for the first time, and with a superimposition of the screen visuals onto the concert action, we’re right away in the thick of the things. The men live the lyrics to make up emotionally for what they lack in the acting department – and they lack not a lot! – while MAGENTA’s Christina Booth comes on fantastic as Ustane with her erotic dance and strong vocals. The trio the three bright voices weave in “Ambush” is immaculately breathtaking. Ayesha, unfortunately, is too theatrical and less convincing, especially in the drama of “Confrontation” alongside the natural Booth, yet if Swita’s accent feels a little awkward, that’s rather fitting for the African queen, and when it comes to duetting with Nolan in “Resting Place” it’s just engaging.

The CAAMORA enterprise opens up a new facet of Clive Nolan’s talent, but there’s also an amazing camera work involved: on the crowded stage, the film crew never gets in the way of the visuals to let the music do the talking. Those who sneer at prog rock must have a look at “She” to be converted.

*****

ROGER CHAPMAN –
Family & Friends

Angel Air 2003 / 2007

A wonderful live overview of the FAMILY man’s career from Newcastle Opera House – a perfect companion piece to the CD of the same title.

If a stepping stone can be a mere footnote, that’s how it was for Roger Chapman who has to live in the shadow of a group he broke up in the early ’70s. FAMILY could be billed as a strange band, but there’s nothing strange about what the singer’s up to these days. There’s no trace of erstwhile awkwardness in this 2002 document, just a grace in this bear-like chap – and the songs for that matter.

Chappo saunters on-stage in his casual attire to plunge into the swinging country plea of “Kiss My Soul” with a delicate, if rough, bleat which is but a distant echo of the vibrating warble of yore that comes to the fore in the yet majestic “Weaver’s Answer”. With transfixing charm, he cuts an avuncular figure, kind but always ready for a swearing mule kick to give the friendly audience some aural wacking. It’s all about music, still, not an image: that’s why Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell” turns up as the fey, dramatic blues, and Chuck Berry’s “Downbound Train” a chugging gypsy dance topped with Henry Spinetti’s little drums extravaganza. With Steve Simpson alternating between guitars, electric mandolin and fiddle, without missing a maverick beat over the near two-hour show, Roger has a responsive band, ever up to cracking a musical joke such as the skanked-up “Shadow On The Wall” Chapman originally recorded with Mike Oldfield.

The players, including the longtime SHORLIST stalwarts Ian Gibbons on keyboards and Gary Twigg on bass, are clearly enjoying themselves and, returning for encores that the public demand, they stay on for more than half an hour more. It couldn’t get better than that!

Now the audio of the show is available also on CD.

*****


Rick WAKEMAN –
Amazing Grace

Classic Media 2007

See the CD

A journey to the center of one’s hope and glory.

Every Wakeman fans knows Rick plays with his eyes closed because he sees pictures in his mind. What does the maestro imagines is anybody’s guess, but it’s surely not the visuals that accompany new instrumental interpretations of spiritual perennials. The veteran’s not novice when it comes to video albums – there was “Out There” before – yet here’s a paradox: the music for the most part is much more moving than the moving pictures. Sometimes, though, it’s really spellbounding, with no illustration at all, when shown is only Wakeman at the grand piano, sometimes the aural and visual are equally thought-provoking like in “Glad That I Live Am I” where the marine theme comes as a sign of a storm lurking behind the serenity, sometimes equally banal like in the title composition set to the everchanging landscapes.

The luring part of this is that you never know where you’re bound with every new piece, so “Jerusalem” is wrapped in the European scenery while the Holy City makes itself seen in Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”. And if Rick plays a guide, he gives historical and cultural background to each composition, but he’s not the one to impose his vision on the listener, especially with a companion CD. Which is the mark of a great artist.

***2/3


Rick WAKEMAN –
The Other Side Of Rick Wakeman

Classic Studio T 2007

There are many ways to cast a spell, and the keyboard wizard knows all of them.

It’s a little bit misleading to imply that Rick Wakeman has the other side – which means there’s just two to him – as the man’s an all-rounder, yet performing-wise, yes, the YES man’s not only a piano virtuoso but also a great storyteller. And here, at the famous Shepperton Studios, all this comes together in one gripping show that’s in part a concert and in part a stand-up comedy interwoven in such a way that a musical piece serves as an illustration to a story and a precursor to another tale. Wakeman has a peculiar, British sense of humor with a toilet overtones which can displease a casual viewer but then, an onlooker like this will hardly find his pleasure in listening to the “lost” chord of “And You And I” that didn’t make it to the final, recorded arrangement of the classic.

And listening to the bare-bones grand piano renditions of compositions from the various stages of Rick’s four-decade-long career is a real treat, the veteran managing to make familiar tunes such as David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?” which Wakeman contributed to originally, all his own. So the “bare-bones” definition is misleading again, what with little yet moving embellishments from the maestro’s magic hands. It’s as intimate show as it gets, and to be this close to the artist of so many facets when he delves, eyes closed, into the sweet reverie of “Guinevere” is like sharing a special, sacred gift. But wizards are always generous, aren’t they?

*****

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