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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

3.57 | 348 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Oh goodness, this album is DORKY!!! And it was later performed ON ICE!!! The seriousness of this album is transcendantly ridiculous, and I'd be hardpressed to think of an album that better symbolizes why prog-rock suffered such a miserable crash and burn (in the mainstream, anyway) around this time.

Yet for all that, this is still a pretty good album. Once I cut through the Medieval male choirs, the crappy vocals, the stuffy narrator and the fact that the album seems to have taken upon itself the task of restoring "dignity" and seriousness to the Arthur legend (after the humorous "desecration" of Monty Python and the Holy Grail), I find that there are some pretty lovely melodies and just enough diversity to keep things mildly interesting. There's no mistaking any of this for anything but solo Wakeman, but at least this jumps between epic balladry, epic forced "rocking" and epic forced goofiness. Plus, while it may be extremely banal, there's a very clear narrative thread that minimizes the need to think when listening to the album and allows the brain to spend as much energy as possible on maximizing enjoyment of the album ... which for me still isn't an incredible amount, but at least is somewhat.

Several high points of the Arthur legend are hit: Arthur pulling Excalibur out of the stone, Arthur meeting the Lady of the Lake (which gets less than a minute devoted to it), Arthur's relationship with Guinivere, Lancelot's battle with the Black Knight, the wizardry and magic of Merlin, Lancelot meeting his bastard son Galahad, and Arthur's death in battle. "Guinevere," "Merlin the Magician" and "Galahad" all have a brief, pretty piano theme near their beginnings, but while "Galahad" ends up extremely forgettable, "Guinevere" ends up as a mildly lovely ballad (with mediocre vocals, unfortunately), and "Merlin the Magician" ends up as a multi-part epic that's as good as solo Wakeman is supposed to be in theory. There's a majestic theme, there's a mildly "aggressive" guitar-driven theme, and there's a goofy rag-time theme where Rick suddenly turns into Works-era Keith Emerson. It's corny, but it's quality corn.

"Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight" "rocks" in as stiff and as awkward a way as can only be otherwise imagined, but if nobody else is around, I can mildly enjoy it. The opening "Arthur" and the closing "The Last Battle" each manage to not stick with me much past listening, but they have quality "epic" (in a good way) atmospheres that frame the album well. It's not good that they're so overblown in relation to the number or quality of the ideas, but that's just par for the course with solo Wakeman.

The short version, then, is that while I can see why this album sold pretty well and is regarded so highly by Wakeman fans or hardcore fans of "serious" music, I also can't completely share that perspective. There are no enigmas or elements of abstraction to be found, and the way Wakeman presents this makes it feel like the Arthur legend rewritten by kindergartners. The populace might have liked that, and people who like to feel smart with a minimal of effort might like that, but to enjoy this album (which, sadly, I do) I have to work very hard to overlook that. Man, Wakeman was a talented man, but he really needed other people to keep him from going off the deep end.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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