Ben Jordan on 29/12/2002 [Other
reviews by Ben Jordan ]
Although originally hailing from Australia, I'm too young to have seen Rick when he did perform Down Under, so this video for me is perhaps a bit of compensation for that. It was also the only live performance of Rick I'd ever seen, and the warm atmosphere of the set, punctuated by Rick's enjoyable anecdotes (such as what it was like to play in Japan with vocalists unable to pronounce the phoneme /r/!), really make the proceedings a pleasant thing to watch. It's great to put faces to names, and to see, for example, Mr Pickford Hopkins and Mr Holt being the great prog rock stars of the time that they were, rather than simply hearing them. Being able to see it all really brings to one the 'feel' of the era. We fans do think of Rick's greatest works to be timeless, but it doesn't hurt sometimes to view them as products of the era in which they were made. Of course, if you were alive then, it's a nice nostalgia trip too. And there's also the joy of the obviously very satisfied Melbourne crowd which is pleasing. In the end though, this is all about the performance itself. When I first got the video, I'd yet to hear the Henry VIII and King Arthur albums, and was thus judging their renditions here afresh. Although sounding quite melodic and interesting, I enjoy far more the original studio versions I have since heard. Catherine Howard and Anne Boleyn, for example, are simply not the wonderful haunting mood pieces that I would later hear on the studio album, but there's no flaw in the way they are played here. I think the problem is because the actual sound is a bit flat. No criticism of the performers, it's the recording itself. With today's recording equipment, this concert would no doubt have stood out even better, and of course it would've been in stereo. It is however a great joy to watch Rick play Merlin, especially the keyboard solos. With his hands dancing over not just one, but two keyboards at once, it seriously demonstrates what a talented man this guy is, in even his early days. I listened to the Journey suite with a very critical ear, as it was something I'd listened to repeatedly as far back as I can remember even existing, and I knew it off by heart. Initially, I wasn't so impressed, again I think because of the sound quality. Journey also suffers because without the backing of a proper choir and orchestra, it lacks the sheer power and resonance that made me completely at one with the music and oblivious to my surroundings everytime I heard the original as a child. With repeated listenings, I find myself being more charitable to even the sound quality here, and appreciating all that is on offer for being a different interpretation to the original albums. This would continue later when I listened to the same tracks played on the Live In Hammersmith album, and finding that although markedly different, and scaled-down, there was something about these versions that made me appreciate them for what they were. Why should they have to reproduce the originals note for note? One thing that irked me though was Terry Taplin. Sorry, but David Hemmings was THE man for that job, and Terry's voice is too high and lacks any weight to be taken seriously, though he does nonetheless really throw himself into it.
I have also found that plugging the vcr (or vtr) into the stereo system's speakers really helps. I recommend this video despite it's faults for the chance to see Rick live in his heyday, especially if you never had the chance to do that in person. It's also worthy since it allows us to hear what the 3 most popular albums sounded like when played live at the time they were made. It's worth buying if you really like these 3 albums, and enjoy listening to all the different permutations of them. Yes, I've waffled on about the sound quality a lot ^^, but in the end, it's the visuals that you ought to get The Rick Wakeman Chronicles for.
Julia Harries on 11/11/2000 [Other
reviews by Julia Harries ]
This is definitely one for the collection! If you didn't have the privilege of seeing Rick live in the early days, you need to get this video to see what you missed. Filmed in Australia in 1975 at a huge venue, it shows the maestro in his flamboyant youth, all flowing hair, sideburns and voluminous spangled cape. Why he never featured in shampoo commercials is beyond me because his hair is in such great condition and he swings it around in true superstar fashion! Performing with the Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra and the Melbourne Chamber Choir as well as a six piece rock band, Rick dominates the proceedings and looks confident and in control throughout. He tells a couple of anecdotes that are very funny. The whole thing evokes the mood of the time perfectly with Terry Taplin giving it large in true thespian style as he narrates Journey to the Centre of the Earth, complete with giant plastic dinosaurs. Gary Pickford Hopkins is every inch the rock vocalist, lithe and svelte in tight trousers and a lacy shirt, in direct contrast to the more robustly built Ashley Holt. Journey is performed in its entirety and there are two tracks from the then unreleased King Arthur. Three of the Six Wives complete the set list. Particularly good is Catherine Howard that has a good acoustic guitar solo by Jeffery Crampton that includes a snippet of Waltzing Matilda, much to the delight of the Aussie crowd. The mixing is a bit dodgy in places but it doesn't spoil the enormous fun. This is Rick in his heyday and is a great piece of rock nostalgia.