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Rick Wakeman - The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table CD (album) cover

THE MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

3.59 | 364 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Lyrics reviewer
5 stars Rick Wakeman's masterpiece!

By the time this album was recorded, Rick had already released two famous albums: The Six Wives of Henry XVIII and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. (Besides his unknown and ordinary Piano Vibrations). These two albums were very successful, both commercially and artistically. But both had some problems. Six Wives was an instrumental album, where Rick wants to show the different demeanours of those six women. Was he successful? No. The result is very, very good music, but the concept is scarcely developed. Moreover, sometimes there is a feeling that parts of the music are created just to Rick show his great competence on the keyboards. Journey to the Centre of the Earth followed, with another ambitious concept, this time a book by Jules Verne. This time the album - which was recorded live and featured a whole orchestra and a choir - showed the concept very well, but chiefly due to a narrator, that reads a summary of the book between the pieces of music. His voice is ok, but after the third or the fourth time, you get really tired of his descriptions, that interrupt the music for such a long time. The album also had some extended parts that seem like almost pointless filling. But don't misunderstand me, it's a great album.

Why am I saying all this stuff? Because I consider The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (what a long title!) as a union between those two albums, with some improvements, achieving a great result. The Myths is in my opinion the ultimate Rick Wakeman album, and arguably the ultimate prog-keyboardist album and the ultimate classical-influenced prog album. It mixes the best aspects from Six Wives (great melodies and playing, different musical ideas joined) and Journey (good orchestral arrangements, good development of concept, good vocal harmonies). Then let's see the songs. The album starts with Arthur. There is narration, too, but fortunately this time it's only eight seconds, and it starts the epic and medieval style, that will be present through all the album, with old-fashioned English and pompous orchestrations. Then, the song begins, with a very simple theme, that is, actually, a kind of arpeggio. This theme is masterfully developed through this song, with changes on keys, changes from major to minor mode, and then from minor to major, and changes on the instrumentation. The voices start, after a wonderful instrumental opening. Notice that the accompaniment for the voices, in this song, is different each time, and one is better than the other! Harpsichord, synthesizers, woodwind doing yet another variation of the theme, bass and drums accompany the voices masterfully, as they sing the good lyrics. For a keyboardist, this song is heaven! A choir follows, in a great harmonic arrangement, to sing a short and complex melody, Lady of the Lake, whose second half is a soft and beautiful piano melody. Afterwards, we listen to a fading-in introduction, a simple piano and what do we have? The main theme, transformed again, now turned in a fast moog phrase! Rick shows himself as a genius on the transformation and reworking of musical motives. Guinevere is somewhat a love song, and a beautiful one! It has great work by Rick, both on piano and moog. There's a perfect instrumental interlude, with fast and dreamy moog solos by Rick, followed by an electric guitar solo. A choir of women helps to give the medieval and classical feeling. The following song is Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight, a marvellous mixture of many musical styles. You can hear here a great orchestral work, very powerful, which would feature very well on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, for example. In addition, there is a clear influence of hard rock, and if the orchestra was a noisy guitar, it could be a Black Sabbath song. It's almost a precursor of prog-metal. You also have, of course, astonishing moog solos, that always add something to the song. Moreover, pay attention to the multiple time signatures. After that powerful song, we have an instrumental: Merlin the Magician. Ok, it has choir sections in the beginning and in the end, but the song itself is the in between. Here Rick is absolutely successful on what he tried to do on Six Wives: describe a personality with instrumental music. And what a music! Merlin has basically three parts, each one being repeated with some changes: the first is the calm one the reveals the cleverness and the placidity of Merlin. Then, we are astonished by the second part, much more dynamic, and with a great work of Mr Wakeman on the synthesizers, expressing the magic that comes from Merlin. When the first part is repeated, the choir adds more greatness to it, and suddenly we're surprised by the third part, very fast and difficult to play: it features great bass lines, and Rick uses a pianola, which refreshes the ears that were getting used to the timbres of the keyboards. This section is beautiful and fresh. Then, the sections are repeated, with some changes. For example, the pianola section gets a clever orchestral arrangement. Gallahard is another song with an epic style. The voices are echoed, and the orchestra makes, again, great contributions to the song. The Last Battle finishes the album, with lots of lyrics, to explain the end of the story told. The main theme of the album is reworked again, this time on the strings, mixed with some new musical ideas. "Gone are the days of the knights", sings the singer, and piano accompanies him fantastically, with a sad style. The album ends with a powerful and concluding coda of piano and brass.

I consider this album heaven on earth for anyone who likes (and/or plays, like me) keyboards, and for people who appreciate the idea of mixing rock and classical music. As most progressive fans have one or both of these characteristics, I give five stars to The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Lyrics reviewer | 5/5 |

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