Rick Wakeman

The Definitive Music of Rick Wakeman

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A two-CD set, The Definitive Music of Rick Wakeman came out in 2002 on Store for Music, an imprint of Voiceprint. You have to know what you are buying: All the tracks included here come from Wakeman's Music Fusion label releases, not his A&M albums. The flamboyant keyboardist doesn't own the rights to his '70s catalog, so in the course of the 1990s he re-recorded his classics in order to cash in a bit on them. These tracks have been disseminated on various releases. This collection does indeed contain Wakeman's definitive music, especially most of the material from his first three LPs: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Some of these versions are very strong -- even better than the originals if you can't stand the orchestra and choir -- but none are the originals. That said, once you know what you are buying, this collection has a lot to offer. The jewel of the crown is the 32-minute Journey to the Center of the Earth -- the complete thing minus the recitations. Drums bang (they were muddy in the original), the singers are excellent, it sends the pitiful late-'90s Return to the Center of Earth down the drain. Also worthy of note are a rendition of Yes' "Starship Trooper," the Fields of Green track "The Fighter," and a stunning performance of "The Realisation/The Prisoner" with singer Ashley Holt that will send you back to your copy of No Earthly Connection to check out what it was that you actually had against it. Instrumental Wakeman can sound like corny new age at times, but most of the material here is worth your time -- once you get over the "hey, that's not how it used to sound" phase.

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