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


Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Another one of these tackily ambitious project/concept came with a "holiday on ice"show . No wonder that punk came along. Well executed music does not save this horrendously ridicule idea. I happen to think also that the sound is horrible and the production is poor, the composition are weak and some of those vocals hurt my ears . I kept my vinyl for a long time , hoping one day to get into this , but did get rid of it after one last listen at the end of the 80's. Recently (last year ) I rented it again from the library in Cd form thinking this might sound better but still not.Wakeman fans will love this one , but I only moderately appreciate the artist and his grandiloquence.
Report this review (#27355)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well honestly this time Rick WAKEMAN is not completely inspiring from the point of view of his symphonic composition (except on the first stunning track, which has recently become also the most important reference for a couple of keyboardists, A. Bassato & M. Bon from Le ORME), whose main symphonic theme is similar to that one which will bring about a strong epic impact, inside the latest album "Elementi" by Le ORME, talking about the intro of "King Arthur..." by WAKEMAN!!). Nevertheless the songs are a bit simplistic and formulaic, in other circumstances, too, talking about the arrangement. As for the previous explanations, this album is not completely recommended, despite of being interesting as a reference for every "prog keyboardist" (forget only a few boring parts!)
Report this review (#27356)
Posted Sunday, April 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Founding Moderator
5 stars On "Six Wives" (1973), Wakeman experimented with his plethora of keyboards, playing around with different sounds and textures, and creating fabulous compositions using those sounds and textures. On "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" (1974), he made his first attempt to meld rock, orchestra and chorus in a storytelling genre, and was generally successful, though the effort was ultimately "immature." With "Myths and Legends," Wakeman hits the perfect blending of rock, orchestra and chorus, creating an amazing album that will send chills up your spine. / The album opens with a deep voice speaking the famous inscription on the stone that held the legendary sword, Excalibur: "Whosoever pulleth this sword from this stone and anvil is the trueborn king of all Britain." It then launches into the main theme - a majestic and perfect medieval motif - which segues directly into the first song, "Arthur," which tells of the quest to find a new king. Following this is "Lady of the Lake," the first of three short acappella vocal vingnettes, full of beautiful medieval harmonies. This brings us to "Guinevere," which tells of Arthur's wife's precarious situation - being loved by, and in love with, both Arthur and Lancelot. It also contains the first of many excellent Wakeman solos, during a beautiful, mellow jam. We then come to the centerpiece of the album, "Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight," which may not only be the most perfect single blending of rock, orchestra and chorus ever written, but among the best, most exciting prog-rock compositions ever written. Opening with a "restatement" of the main theme, it launches quickly into successive single measures of 7/8, 8/8, 9/8 and 10/8, settling into 7/8. After a couple of verses, it moves into an extended jam which contains some of Wakeman's most spine-tingling solos. I could listen to this single piece over and over and never tire of it. We then have the second of the brief acappella vocal vignettes, introducing us to the next composition, "Merlin the Magician," a multi-section instrumental. The second section, a 5/4 jam, contains more of Wakeman's most compelling solo work. The third section is repeated twice, the first time using multi-layered keyboards (including one that sounds like a banjo!), the second time arranged for orchestra. We then have the third and final acappella vignette, introducing us to our next character, "Sir Galahad," which segues into the final composition, "The Last Battle." Opening with a great double entendre - "Gone are the days of the knights" - it tells of the end of the Round Table, and Arthur's death, and features another mellow jam containing yet more marvelous Wakeman solo work, and ends with a masterfully orchestrated final statement of the main theme. / If a masterpiece is a work which is compositionally, musically, vocally and lyrically perfect, in which not a single note is out of place or misused, and which features exceptional production qualities, then "Myths and Legends" is an unequivocal masterpiece. So much so, in my opinion, that I have included it in my "desert island discs (DIDs)"; i.e., one of the ten albums I would choose to take to a desert island if I was confined to only ten albums. In any event, "Myths and Legends" is a must-have for any serious prog collection.
Report this review (#27350)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Tales from Pendragon Castle

Wakeman was truly inspired when he decided that the legendary King Arthur was to be the subject of his next project. While the album will not really serve as a definitive historical document, it does capture the essence of the Myths and Legends of that period. (For those who have seen the recent film "King Arthur", this album bears little relation being steeped in the mythology of the period, rather than attempting to impart any historical accuracy in the way the film does.)

As with the previous "Journey to the centre of the earth", the album is heavily orchestrated, with choirs and plenty of accomplished solo musicians. This time however, Wakeman reverted to the studio to record the album, and thus the sound quality is excellent.

Two of the tracks, "Guinivere" and "Merlin the Magician" are sketches of the characters. The latter is one of Wakeman's finest instrumental pieces, with synthesisers soaring and diving among a myriad of different sounds and atmospheres. Those with suspect woofers in their hi-fi system are warned to beware of the very deep notes Wakeman hits at certain points!

The other tracks tell different parts of the story, from Arthur's early days to his death; the music being superb throughout. "Arthur" is majestic, befitting the discovery of the new king, as he succeeds where all others have failed in pulling the sword Excalibur from the stone.

"Sir Lancelot & the black knight" reflects the pace of the battle, complete with one of Wakeman's great synth solos, similar to the one near the end of "Revealing science of God" by Yes from "Topographic Oceans". The final tracks, "Sir Galahad" and "The last battle" combine to form a wonderful long piece telling the story of Arthur's final days and beyond, before finishing in a triumphant climax to a great album.

The original LP came in a lavish packaging with an ornate gatefold sleeve, and lyric booklet, rendering it well worth seeking out. Quite simply, a superb piece of work from start to finish.

Report this review (#27359)
Posted Wednesday, June 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars Horrible! Much as I respect Mr. Wakeman, I must say that this album is bad to the point of being unlistenable. It does contain some good compositions, but mostly they sound like some cheap BBC production. As far as the arrangements are concerned, that's where the album really falls on its ass. The orchestra and choir really sound cheesy and tasteless. And the vocals are just absolutely awful. Wakeman's playing is excellent, of course but uninspired and clicheed for the most part. Only for Wakeman maniacs - everyone else is advised to stay away from this album.
Report this review (#27360)
Posted Wednesday, June 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Excellent stuff. In fact I would go out on a limb here and say this is as good if not better than Six Wives Of Henry The VIII.What he has achieved so eloquently on King Arthur is the ability to match the sound to the Medieval era he was portraying with accuracy. In the main the whole album is superb but highlights would have to be ' Guinevere' and ' Sir Galahad'. Terry Taplin's voice does this business when narration is needed and Wakeman's keyboard arrangements, some of his best ever.Underrated album without a doubt.
Report this review (#27362)
Posted Thursday, September 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I picked this up at a vinyl store for 50p in mnt condition. A lovely gatefold with lush drawings of knights and a huge 12 page booklet. I really wasn't sure what to expect. Some of his solo album reviews got terrible feedback and i am a huge yes fan but this album is excellent. Rick does what he does best, with brilliant traditional piano piece (which reflects the concept of the album) as well as some synth and guitar work here as well. This was musically arranged very well with a huge orchestra featuring on the album.

This album definetly has some yes sound to it but it is a very delightful and refreshing change from Yes. One strong point here is the vocals. They are very different to jon anderson and the guitar arrangements are different too. The concept of this album is a bit over the top but it works brilliantly. The lyrics are accurate and do the job nicely. This sounds like a very proffesional arrangement of musicians which is something yes didn't have, though still managed to create with 5 musicians.

The standout tracks here are "Sir Lancelot and the Black Night", "Merlin the Magician" and "The Last Battle". I found these pieces incredible and very progressively captivating. I highly recommend this piece as it is brilliant and gentle progressive rock and definetly for fans of YES but people who dont like them can still find this piece very listenable. The only offputting thing is that the male choirs can become a little tedious as they are played on just about every song and it all sounds the same. Otherwise this is a brilliant piece.

Report this review (#27363)
Posted Sunday, September 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars It is obvious that Rick Wakeman is a very prolific musician. I only have listened to this album (which has a very long title!) and to "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" from his very long discography. I still prefer "Journey...", which is more accessible than this "King Arthur" album. The best songs in this album, in my opinion, are "Arthur" and "Merlin the Magician". "Arthur" has a very good melody which is maybe the main musical theme of this album, as it is repeated several times in the album. "Merlin" has some "humour"in the music. I think that Wakeman invested a lot of money and time in the production of this album as it has impressive arrangements, an orchestra, a choir, etc. But the best moments in this album, in my opinion, are the instrumental moments when Wakeman appears as the main musician, playing very good piano parts (which reflect very well his Classical music trainning), without the orchestra and the choir, or with the orchestra and the choir in the background. Of course, he also plays very good synth solos. As I wrote in my review for the "Journey..." album, I don`t like the lead vocals by Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford- Hopkins. But his backing band (drums/guitar/bass) does a better job in this album than in the "Journey..." album, particularly drummer Barney James. I consider this album as a very good example of some excesses done by some Progressive Rock musicians. Sometimes this album is very "pompous", with the choir and orchestral arrangements sounding as excessive as Richard Wagner`s operas (sorry, I don`t like Wagner`s operas, apart from some preludes, overtures, etc.). But I still respect Rick Wakeman (and Wagner too!) despite some of these excesses. I have read some interviews in which Wakeman really laughs about some of his excesses in the 70s (was "King Arthur on Ice"?) and the lot of money he spent in these excesses :"It was done in the mid 70s, you know!".
Report this review (#27365)
Posted Friday, November 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
The Owl
1 stars Some things unfortunately just do NOT age well, and Rick Wakeman's overblown take on King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table does so very painfully.

Flush from his success with the "Journey To The Center of The Earth" tour, Wakey decided to approach an equally grandiose subject. However, in his quest to do so, he got a little too full of himself, a few pints and no small amount of Broadway-style cheese-wiz that would probably embarass Andrew Lloyd-Webber (as if THAT were actually possible).

End result, some of the CORNIEST, STOOOOPIDEST lyrics you ever heard in your life (they make "Hello Dolly" sound like Shakespeare by comparison) that permeate nearly ALL the tracks, save for the largely instrumental "Merlin The Magician" though this has cheese- whiz issues of its own, trying to jump to every musical style it can in the space of 6 or 7 minutes). The proceedings are NOT helped in any fashion by Ashley Holt's abysmal vocalizing (heck, William Shatner could outsing him and at least be somewhat entertaining) and the rather pedestrian band (although the orchetra and choir do get to flex their muscles periodically) as Wakey lets forth Mini-Moog and piano assaults aplenty. There are odd musical moments though that actually threaten to get good and interesting but that is QUICKLY dealt a death blow when the Broadway/Stage impulses take over.

With the lone exception of "Six Wives of Henry The VIII", Wakey has NEVER been able to compose anything meaningfully deep or substantial, sounding more like Romantic/Post- Romantic period cliches strung together with other odd bits. He can play his keys like a fiend and contribute colorful passages in the confines of Yes, he can wear the coolest capes on the planet, but the boy CANNOT WRITE!

You want high-concept hijinks that are actually FUN? May I suggest William Shatner's "The Transformed Man" (at least it was FUNNY!). This thing however just takes itself WAAAAAAAAAAAYYY too seriously and tries to overcompensate with bombastic cheese whiz (I'm just glad he didn't attempt a collaboration with Elvis on a redux of "Hamlet").

Best used for extracting confessions from criminals or getting rid of unwanted party guests. Otherwise, steer clear.

Report this review (#27366)
Posted Friday, November 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is another Rick Wakeman's album with some EXCELLENT orchestral arrangements: compared to the previous "Journey to the center of the Earth" album, the album here is more lively and dynamic: there are some choir parts with more predominant male singers, although there are still many ethereal female choirs. The foreground orchestra really participates to the rhythms and melodies involved: the textures are still very heroic, mythic and enchanted. Wakeman plays nervous & melodic moog solos, and he uses very much the piano. There are some delightful & magic small bells parts. Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford have EXCELLENT lead vocals, as usual. The very complex and elaborated last bit on "Merlin the magician", purely classical, is absolutely PERFECT! There are some variations on the same theme, but the variations are so well made that it is not annoying at all.


Report this review (#27371)
Posted Saturday, March 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Rick Wakeman is one of my favorite all-time artists, as you can imagine my nickname is maybe childish but is like a tribute to him, i love his unique style he is a god of keyboards and he was one of the few artist i knew when i discovered this site, obviously knowing Yes first than his solo career.

Later a friend of mine lend me journey to the centre of the earth and i fell in love with it, so i was recommended to listen to this album which was described to me as one of his bests albums, and it is true, this is excellent it has magnific orchestral arrangements and a very classic style, i can imagine all the characters involved in this album, i refer to the song titles you know, Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere etc, which are the reason of this album, the music is excellent obviously what caught my attention was Wakeman´s keyboard playing, but the guitar arrangements are also good and a powerful drums are present here, the vocals are probably not the best, but good anyway, there is alos narration during the songs.

Merlin the Magician is one of the best songs he has composed andprobably my favorite, it shows his superb keyboard playing making changes every minute, Guinever is another of my favorite songs here and the last battle is also great, you will love this album if you give it a chance, not a pasterpiece bot surely recommendable for everyone, 4 stars.

Report this review (#27372)
Posted Saturday, March 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
2 stars It's rare Hugues Chantraine and I agree on anything, but I echo everything he says on this. It was overblown, overambitious and its only redeeming feature is that it's marginally better than its predecessor. The vocals are painful and the lyrics banal, some of the backing band's playing is uninspired (the drummer honorably excepted) and the compositions are often crude. For example, Merlin is just beginning to develop into something interesting with some nice bass, mellotron and synth work when, smack in the middle, we get a section more appropriate for a Benny Hill chase scene, complete with banjos and God knows what. The only redeeming feature is the synth solo in the second part of the track which is a good test for the deep bass on my hi fi. And that's all I get this album out for. God only knows what the highly talented orchestra and choirs must have thought when they heard the finished product. Definitely one to miss unless you can't bear not to have everything by Wakeman.
Report this review (#27373)
Posted Tuesday, April 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the only solo album of Rick's from the 70s which I've got, and while it's by no means an absolute classic, it is a solid piece of symphonic prog. The opening track and 'Guinevere' are both classic mid-70s prog tracks which are the perfect showcase for Rick's keyboard playing, and Ashley Holt possesses an impressive baritone which is not dissimilar to John Lawton from Uriah Heep. My favourite track on the album is 'Merlin The Magician', which is probably my favourite solo song of Rick's along with the title track from 'Out There'. My only quibbles with this track are that the Gregorian chant at the beginning and the 'vaudeville' sections mar what would otherwise be a flawless instrumental. I suppose the non-prog fan would find it easy to sneer at this album as a typical piece of medieval escapism (and the King Arthur On Ice debacle was pure Spinal Tap), but I'd have no hesitation in recommending this album as the perfect introduction to Rick's solo work.

BTW happy birthday Rick, I'll see you in Rotherham on Saturday.

Report this review (#27375)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was suprised at the wide range of scores for this album - the full spectrum, from 1 through 5. To me, it has some great orchestration, fine playing from the man himself, and despite some occasionally weak lyrics, the album really does manage to create an atmosphere - albeit rather romanticised - of ye olden times. From the first to the last, the album always draws me into another, nobler time. I'd be tempted to give it 5 stars purely for my enjoyment, but I would question to what extent it is truly "progressive" music or whether it is largely rather simple, lightweight tunes, deftly arranged, carefully orchestrated and superbly produced. And despite other comments, the production was excellent - but the pressing you are listening to may not be!

Report this review (#38047)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Absolutely interesting "rock epic" album, as defined in the introduction. For an ex-keyboard player (like me), the work made by His Majesty Rick is absolutely on another planet, but even guitars-drums are excellent. Vaste horizons ballades, and classical music, amazing voices (e.g. in "Sir Lancelot"), instruments combination, etc.: the effect is the sensation of being present at King Arthur's Court. The only negative note is the narration (i dont like it always), which is in some cases a bit too heavy, even being Wakeman's trademark, in nearly all his albums (and justified considering the desire to narrate an epic story).
Report this review (#38189)
Posted Friday, July 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator

Who so pulled out this sword from this stone and anvil, is the true-born King of all Britain .. JRENG!

Oh man . I know that some of you may disagree with me but I really apologize that I have to stand still with my conviction that this album was (and is still until today) a masterpiece. One thing for sure, I cannot lie to myself that this album has a very special place for me as it did show me how great music has great impact to me because in a way this album has helped energize my days in my life. Am not trying to be melancholic but I'm expressing my true-being as a victim (thankfully) of great (prog) music! If you ask me what is lacking on this album I'm not in a position to answer as every single thing here is marvelous and I'm not exaggerating. I'm sure that this opinion differs significantly with you and we may be in the different poles. If that is the case, please ignore this review. As for my case, it's a joy reviewing this album and I don't know where I can't stop it because I'm now also playing the CD (signed personally by Rick Wakeman and Tony Fernandez when they did a concert in Jakarta, February 2002) while punching my fingers on my laptop. This is the beauty of reviewing the album that I really love ..

This album was my third experience with Rick's album having listened to "The Six Wives" and "Journey" and the opening track King Arthur really blew me away at first listen. I had no difficulty at all digesting this album as I had been familiar with Rick's previous work. I did even cover King Arthur in our school band's performance where I looked after guitar and lead vocal (what a shame thing, I was trying to emulate Ashley Holt! Who cares? No one knew what Rick's music was except a small number of my rock- mates). So, how can I easily forget this album? Of course I will never do that. Especially if I read the story behind the making of this album as explained in Rick's perspective.

Rick's Perspective: "This is in many ways a musical autobiography. Much was written in my head whilst lying in Wexham Park Hospital after my first minor heart attack. The Last Battle I wrote after being advised by the specialist, in front of my management, that he recommended I stopped playing and retired in order to give myself a chance of a reasonable recovery. I was 25. Thankfully I ignored the advice, wrote The Last Battle that night, and carried on. Heart surgery has come a long way since the mid seventies as well thankfully!" (source:

And this is my personal view about this album:

Arthur (7' 26" ) opens the album with excellent and memorable narration by Terry Taplin: "Who so pulled out this sword from this stone and anvil, is the true-born King of all Britain .." Followed with timpani sounds and the blast of orchestration in an uplifting mood. It's a great opening and it's like watching a colossal movie with dts technology. The music then flows with a combination of keyboard and orchestra at the back, augmented with guitar work. The music slows down to welcome the vocal line and the keyboard turns into a clavinet sounds. As the song builds up with lyrical passages, the keyboard effects and orchestration enrich the song textures. It's a beautiful melody track with excellent combination of keyboard solo, orchestration and choral section. "Arthur is the king of all this land ."

The next track Lady of the Lake (0' 45") is a choirs section that serves as a break to the piano / keyboard intro of the next melodic track Guinevere (6' 45"). For me, this track is like an emotional break having listened to grandiose orchestral work of Arthur. Structure-wise, this track is simple and even straight forward. The key attraction points of this track is its strong melody, good acoustic guitar rhythm, excellent keyboard solo (in the middle of the track) and great chorus by Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford Hopkins. The guitar solo is also stunning and has become a great part of the overall song.

Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight (5' 20") starts off with a great string arrangements, timpani and brass section followed with energetic choirs and Roger Newell solid bass lines and high register notes voice line. The music has variation of high and low points augmented with choirs section. Rick's synthesizer works overlay the orchestration which starts simple and turns into a complex s one when Rick performs his keyboard improvisations. As the track has many tempo changes, the transition into quieter passages are filled with a combination of piano, guitar and string section. I especially like when the vocal performs the high point segments and the orchestra dynamically follows the melody. It's a masterpiece!

Merlin The Magician (8' 51") is an excellent instrumental track that has been Rick's favorite in live performance because most of the crowd like it very much, I think. It opens with a repetition of "Lady of The Lake" and continues with a floating keyboard and solid bass lines as song opener. As the music builds up into crescendo, string orchestra enters the music and brings the music steadily to first part of piano solo with soft rhythm section. The music moves up firmly with dazzling synthesizer solo that characterizes this song. Despite wonderful keyboard improvisations, what I also love about this track is the rhythm section with simple bass lines. This track is probably the most diverse one as compared others in the album as it blends perfectly various music styles: classical, rock, country (?) - yes, on some transition pieces. As a result, it creates highest emotional impact to the listener - at least for me.

Sir Galahad (5' 51") is another wonderful track that combines nice melody, choirs, vocal, excellent orchestra and keyboard / piano solo. It's composed combining a high energy section with choirs section and slower tempo parts. The keyboard fills at the back during the main vocal and choirs section work together. The transition piece is melodic combining duo vocals followed with high energy orchestra. I also like when the choirs take main role as melody combined with synthesizer fills. The ending point of this track creates good musical peak. This track should be enjoyed with the next and last track The Last Battle (9' 41"). As you may have read at above that this track was written when Rick was hospitalized and being told that he should stop composing. This track summarizes the whole album by (at the end of the track) incorporating excerpts of previous tracks. It's a great track.


What is the best way to suggest you if the above represents my personal views? Tough. Let me put it this way: if you do enjoy a combination of orchestra and electronic equipment with rock elements, this album would probably fit you. If you like Yes, I don't think it guarantees that you would automatically like this one as well because it's different. I would say that those who like orchestra music would accept this album. For me, it's a masterpiece. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours,


Report this review (#38807)
Posted Thursday, July 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I think this is a great album, one of his best. As usual wakeman's keyboard playing and is superb, and i also feel the musical melodies are very strong. The album has an big orchestral feel however i think this backs up Rick and his band quite well. My personal favourites are 'Merlin the Magician' and 'Arthur', and the are only weak track is lady of the lake, but that's only a 45 seconds choir thing, which he uses as an introduction. So in conclusion i recommend this album to any progressive rock fan, as this is a fine piece of music.
Report this review (#40998)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album has some flaws, and is not as satisfying as the others in the 70s. This is a concept album, and as the title implies, you will realize that it will sound medievalish , and very classical. It is, and Wakeman has succeeded in creating that atmosphere needed to 'feel' Arthur. A weakness has to be the vocalist, it could have been 4 stars with a better vocalist, since the compositions are very strong.

1. Arthur 7.5/10 : A very solid, bombastic and a bit pretentious opener of the album. After narration, The intro riff begins and is very memorable, and you would want to play it on your keyboard after hearing it. After the intro, the song is a very accessible keyboard driven song.

2. Lady of the Lake : Very pretty choral piece, with a pretty piano melody following.

3. Guinevere 7/10 : A Very decent and again, accessible song with pretty melodies, and good keyboard sounds.

4. Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight 7.5/10 : Pretentious? maybe, but You can't help but like this song. It creates imagery with its main string riff theme, and it contains one of the best synth solos Wakeman has ever written.

5. Merlin the Magician 9.5 /10 : Very challenging and insane piece. From the Lady of the Lake reprise, to the pretty piano melodies, to the simple yet effective bass line, to the brilliant moog synth soloing, to the ultra fast fun jam ... this song has it all, and it may be Wakeman's best composition along with Judas. It was rated #1 in Wakeman's site.

6. Sir Galahad 5/10 : the lady of the lake again!? This song is not as strong as the others, it seems less serious and more fun. The highlight of this is easily the echoey haunting chord progression.

7. The Last Battle 6.5/10 : You can hear themes from the other songs in this one, and it is an epic. There are some good parts scattered around. It doesn't keep my interest for its 10 minutes tho.

This album while its ending may be a little weak, is a very solid album, and can you imagine that Wakeman wrote most of this music while he was in a hospital because of a heart attack?

My Grade : C+

Report this review (#41580)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table" is one of the definitive epitomes of Rick Wakeman's prog approach at its best. Wakeman musically approaches the legend of King Arthur, a mythical pioneer of the British nation, as a work of dramatic grandiosity and cinematographic pomposity, something like an original soundtrack for a movie in his head. Wakeman's intention wasn't for sure to recapture the spirit of those old times' folk: what does that Cajun upright piano on 'Merlin the Magician' have to do with the music that Arthur and his brave knights used to sing and dance to when the partied? And what about that Latin-jazz inspired rhythm section for the Moog solo in ' Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight'?. But I won't bash this album because of these foreign elements. On the contrary, they serve as indicators of the general colorfulness that constitutes the album's musical ideology as a whole. Anyway, the touch of the Middle Ages can be clearly grasped in the choral arrangements that at times appear either between songs or introducing them. Generally speaking, both the main melodies and the interaction group-orchestra-choir are tighter than on his previous "Journey" album. The monster opener 'Arthur' displays a superb majesty like only Wakeman can create with his delicate arpeggios on piano and harpsichord, mellotron orchestrations and captivating Moog leads. The choir and orchestra enhance that cinematographic aura that will constantly shape the music contained in this album. The solemnity of 'Arthur' is soon reprised in 'Guinevere', only with an added romantic vibe; the featured presence of female voices in the chorale properly create a solid companionship for the instrumentation and the lead vocalists. The first real explosion gets going with 'Sir Lancelot': the Moog solo in the middle section is one of the best articulate leads ever delivered by this keyboardist magician. Wakeman, being as skilful as he is, can also be a gigantic performer of impromptu solos, and in this album we also have a great showcase for that: I'm, of course, referring to 'Merlin the Magician'. This is a real classic, in which Wakeman displays a large amount of effort in order to keep things constrained and ethereal in the calmer sections and then go nuts during the stronger ones (it is said that he was actually inspired by the 'muse of alcohol' in his performance of the second Moog solo - true or false, the final result feels very good to me). The effort is successfully translated into a manifestation of musical genius. The upright piano interventions serve to provide a touch of frivolous playfulness, something I've always interpreted as a reference to the funny side of magic. 'Sir Galahad' returns to the intensity of war and struggle that we already knew in 'Sir Lancelot', only with a bit lesser degree of intensity and a bit major dose of sophistication. This track is segued into the other monster track, which is also the closure. Although its title makes a direct allusion to a fighting situation, 'The Last Battle' is not stormy at all, actually. It is focused on the mourning for the loss of the king's dream, the dream for a united nation; therefore, it is centered on feelings of sadness and disillusion. The 'Arthur' and 'Lancelot' quotations that surface near the end give this album a full circle ending: this resource of consistence is a very clever way to fulfill the album's general idea in full splendour. "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur" is a definitive cornerstone of symphonic prog rock at its prime, and also, a Wakeman masterpiece.

[I dedicate this review to my grandfather Celestino Flavio, recently departed]

Report this review (#45094)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars of the best albums ever. of course it's pomp! it's about pompy stuff. wakeman goes all guns blazing but if you listen you can hear endless details, themes, layers and parts which evolve, mingle and pop wih endless depth. the way the orchestra/choir and rick's band interact is fantastic. if he he made only 'merlin' rick should be celebrated as one of the greats. Of course some of his stuff is quite bad. Some is good. but this is up there. thanx rick
Report this review (#50032)
Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Rick Wakeman - The Legend of King Arthur

Opens with male voice choir. The arrangement sounds like some 6th form composition, with mostly static harmonic columns moving step by step to the next one through safe harmonic progressions, and a few prescription "joining notes" in a vain attempt to give a sense of movement.

This short introduction ends with a reasonable suspension and predictable perfect cadence - I would really have liked some open fifths to give a suggestion of Mediaeval music, and some working on the harmony parts such that each became closer to a melody than an enforced part of the vertical structure of each chord.

The overall effect is muddy, where I'm sure the intention is to be grand, and this is largely due to a baritone part with too low a register, and too little attention paid to the upper registers. That said, some of the harmony is more reminiscent of Barbershop quartets than straightforward Oxford Harmony Book 1.

It's the close attention to detail that would have lifted this from the compromised dirge that I find it to be, and it's by examining in detail the treatment given to the material here that the expectations are set for the remainder of the work - and really, one would hope to be proved wrong, and that the composer is not, in fact, running before the walking thing has been mastered. The evidence, under analysis, would suggest that this is sadly true;

Next we have a piano section which tells me my memory for tunes needs some refreshment - where does that snippet of melody come from? Answers on an email to. This is mysteriously overlaid with harpsichord - presumably an attempt to lend an olde worlde feel to it. I doubt that anyone in King Arthur's time had ever seen a harpsichord, however. This ends with a distinctly 18th Century style flourish such as might end a short cadenza, or have been lifted from a Beethoven Sonata - perhaps the Pathetique. But it's well executed, so we can forgive the Wakemeister that.

After this, a slightly darker keyboard section, with multi keyboard layers and pseudo- brass and a nice, rich bass line provides some nice, gentle, moody prog rock with soft sixths and OH! Those Mellotrons! The bass rolls along very nicely, with the piano melody getting a reprise before tumbling headlong into a heavier section, a kind of freaky Led Zep Riff, over which Rick unleashes some fireworks panning madly across the stereo, underlaid with some Beethoven-inspired piano.

This opens into a gentle reprise of the main theme with Mellotron choir, and then the most horrible fairground type racket replete with detuned Cockney, knees-up Mother Brody type piano. Very fast and intricate, but UGH!

This tangentially drops back into the soft sixths, and onward back to the main theme. I really would have liked actual thematic rather than simple textural development here, but it's rather predictable, and the bassist particularly seems to have issues maintaining concentration, as Rick unleashes the mad panning stereo solo and the Beethoven piano runs once more, adding string layers, then sending the synth down low - then ARGH! That horrible fairground section is back but with added cheesey bits. Fortunately it all ends there.. For now.

Next we get more of the male voice choir. The lyrics are dodgy to say the least, and you can practically hear the conductor (Rick?) waving his arms about to encourage some dynamics - as if to hide the decidedly average content.

There now follows another, somewhat unnecessary reprise of the piano theme - well executed with turn decorations. but then a kind of variation on the fairground theme follows, with a kind of Carribean flavour, mysteriously. A vocal section follows, and all is rather chaotic with no real flow; loads of sounds are piled in, seemingly for their own sake as if the complexity of sound layers is attempting to make up for the famine of musical ideas here.

A little piano interlude made up of an ostinato figure takes us to the next part of the vocals, which has a nice dark change - and here is where it gets a bit better. A pseudo reggae-flavoured passage cavorts into a full choir section, and a solo vocal section which pulls out even more stops than were pulled out earlier - more is more seems to be the motto here. Some new musical themes are introduced, leitmotif-like, although these are all rather short and do not develop.

This drops away to a rather nice section featuring tubular bells and electronic seagulls, to a wistful vocal section. yes, those lyrics are still Wensleydale to the core. The layers are interesting, and the bass and drums meander very nicely, Prog Rock style, with hints of Yes, but it's all idea on top of idea then repeat idea rather than idea grows into idea then develops. What's wrong with that approach? Well, you know how a pop song is constructed - verse, chorus, verse, chorus and so on - well that's exactly it. Without development, this might as well be a little series of pop tunes all tacked together with sticky tape.

There are some good ideas here, but mainly the sort of stuff that an obsessive ideas and quick-fix merchant would appreciate or dream up. I'm sure Rick has done some top-grade work, it just feels like this was something exuberant that was dashed off in a day or two - there are few signs of careful workmanship or a desire to create something new, more a kind contractual obligation of a lazy display of keyboard abilities that are certainly higher than average, and compositional abilities that would prompt the report card "Must Try Harder" - low Grade 5 tops.

If ever there was an award for number of layers - or good choice of keyboard sounds, then this would surely appear high on the nominations list.

At the end of the day, this is some of the most pretentious and bombastic Prog Rock ever - and rightly so. Prog Rock should be pretentious, and bombastic is good. The virtuosic keyboards are designed to dazzle - and if you don't play yourself, then chances are they might - so there's no need to be put off by an academic lambasting.

My biggest complaint really is the complete failure to conjure up images of an Arthurian world populated by the Knights of the Round Table, Lady of the Lake, Excalibur and so on - only a few nods and winks to appropriate musical styles exist, the lyrical style makes an effort - but makes you wish it hadn't, and the atmospherics are almost entirely of a Prog Rock extravagana rather than of a bygone era of heroic deeds and derinng-do. I'm tempted to say it's more like derring-don't.

It is not a bad Prog album, however, and a worthy consideration if you're not one of those awful artsy types who takes it all seriously or a die-hard Romantic with expectations and ideals to match - in fact, if you're not analytical by nature, you might enjoy this very much for itself.

However, if you do fall into the former categories, there's a lot of pain and too little pleasure to get much enjoyment out of this particular opus - so I suggest you try elsewhere for your introduction to the genius of Rick Wakeman, 'coz it ain't here.

*No I'm not going to review side 2- this is long enough - the booklet has some nice pictures on it ;0)

Report this review (#53114)
Posted Monday, October 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Retaining the services of vocalists Garry Pickford-Hopkins and (former Warhorse singer) Ashley Holt as well as the rhythm section of Roger Newell and Barney James from the Journey To The Centre Of The Earth project, Wakeman set about tackling yet another ambitious subject. I think he got a decent mix of the overly ornate orchestral style of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, and the pure keyboard wizardry of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, although some really weak vocal spots do drag this album down a little.

I think the opener Arthur is an epic song, with loads of swirling synths and rousing choral vocal sections. But while the melancholic Chopin-esque piano that kicks off Guinevere and the dreamy synth runs that follow are great, the flat lead vocals and the crooner melody are from it ... thankfully it also contains one of Rick's best ever solos.

In fact great synth solos adorn both Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight and Merlin The Magician as well, even though each has it flaws. Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight is the most consistent piece, with brilliant runs, fantastic brass and even a decent vocal melody, although the choral contributions sound twee. Merlin The Magician, on the other hand, was on course to be a knock-out epic, when an awful rag-time section interfered. Sir Galahad is another curiousity ... I'd swear I heard some medieval reggae at one point! And The Last Battle is simply too meandering and uneventful a piece for a work of this scope.

Overall, I'd have to say that the Arthurian atmosphere is only conjured up sporadically, and there are times when this album is downright ridiculous. But despite the draggy passages, the sheer volume of essential Wakeman moments make this one of the most pleasing albums in his catalogue. Second only to The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, I'd say. ... 62% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#56175)
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Tha album is ok. It has that King arthur times feel to it, however, I prefer a RW album where it is mainly keyboard. Sure, some back-up instrumentation but when I want wakeman, I want organ, Moog Synth, the works. everything else is not neccesary for me.
Report this review (#61786)
Posted Monday, December 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars A Rick Wakeman's album says everything? I think no or maybe not exactly. You will find everything that can be expected of this great master. Epics, beatiful and powerful compositions, stuffed with classical influences. Incredible passages of keyboard saying who Rick Wakeman is. But not only this. The musicians that follow him in this masterpiece are so creative and competent, becoming this work more superb.


Report this review (#70657)
Posted Monday, February 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars Wow! I just bought this record at a garage sale. Thinking that the Six Wives... wasn't too bad I would take a chance on this album that I'd never heard. I paid a dollar for this record and even that seems like a rip off now. This is worthy of Spinal Tap parody. In fact I began to wonder if this was the album that spawned the idea for the movie. While some of the keyboard lines were nicely executed the rest of the band seemed underproduced in comparison to the sound of the keys. The vocals were laughable at best. Interesting idea but poor execution. I would not recommend this album.
Report this review (#77354)
Posted Saturday, May 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Album attached to thr hystory of Britains land. The actor is Arthur king of the United Kingdom, interpreted majestically by Rick Wakeman. As always he played the music join together a good musicians and the Philarmonic orchestra, Chamber chorus and the relator very similar to "Journey to the center of the earth". Arthur is the first song with the pompous begin unique in the symphonic rock, excellent!!!! Second, Lady of the lake is a short mystical music that take and introduce us in Guinevere the song belong to the Arthur`s loved woman. Third, Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight, a rock theme full of Wakeman skill. Merlin the magician perhaps is the most known song of this album with the impressive circus melody clapped again and again for the listeners. Sir galahad the man who get the excalibur sword to Arthur enclosed by the man relate and the perfect Wakeman perform. The final is the Last Battle, a hyperactive theme, queezed by the linked band joined to Wakeman, heavenly Ashley Holt sing. In a personal opinion.... humble I think this album is a precious jewel a real treasure of the seventies rock musicians characterized by Wakeman talents to play, to compose and overall enchant us. No more to say, 5 stars, UNIQUE MASTERPIECE.
Report this review (#80243)
Posted Saturday, June 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars It´s a perfect progressive album totally recommended. Vocals are very good, which is kind of rare in Rick´s albums... All the songs express perfectly the characthrs of King Arthur´s legend, and Rick Wakeman plays VERY well, in Merlin any keyboardist will want to punch him, his agility and maestry aren´t human.
Report this review (#80725)
Posted Thursday, June 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table", the album which you either like it or hate it, me? I'm neutral, there are things I like about it and there are things I dislike. Don't get me wrong, this as prog as an album can get, song length, instrumentation, a concept. There are a few cheesy bits in the vocals which drag the album down. The highlights for me are "Arthur" and "Merlin the Magician" both of which are very proggyand have nice melodies and themes. Rick Wakeman played an excellent live version "Merlin the Magician" during his farewell tour to Australia. of The album has a lot of synth like all wakeman and it is a tad overindulgent at times. It is a good album, entertaining and it has a classic Wakeman sound. Not bad, but there is better wakeman stuff out there. Good, but non-essential
Report this review (#83860)
Posted Sunday, July 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars So after many sore trials and adventures, Sir Rick fell seke of a grete maladye and did falleth to the erthe clutching sore his herte. This attack of the herte slew hym not. And therewith Sir Rick began his quest to compose a masterpiece of cheese and magnificence before he falleth to the erthe dede.

In his sore state he dreamed of Kynge Arthur and his swerde, Excalibur, ryding on a palferey to a fanfare of grete cheese.

And Sir Rick dreamed of the fayre Guinivere all shimmering and awash in cheese though still the beautifullist and most fayre of all maidens. And for want of her fayre beauty, Sir Rick by gods grace did play upon a moog synthe an ode to the fayre Queen and did thus redeem hymself from cheese.

Still In his sore state, and all fevered, Sir Rick saw in visions most dreadful The Black Knyght upon a palferey, and Sir Launcelot did strake hem downe to the erthe after which the Black Knyght did ride deep into the forest with his hede all blody, and accompanied to music of much pomp and cheese.

On the Fifth day, Sir Rick did dream of Merlyn the grete magician. And did write a comedic ditty in the manner of Benny Hill, all in honour of Merlyn. Thenne by the grace of Jesu and God, Sir Rick did play mighty and low upon his moog synthe and did thus receive god's blessying and redemption.

Fighting the fever that was still upon him, Sir Rick saw visions of Sir Galahad, who was begatt by Lancelot and the fayre Elaine one night when Sir Lancelot was so drunke he did but think the fayre Elaine was none other than Queen Guinivere. Sir Rick did see fit to tell the tale of the grete Bastyrd, Sir Galahad, by setting it to calypso music. Layed low by fever, Sir Ricks musical judgement was most certainly more impaired than usual.

In sore distress and at the hight of his fever, Sir Rick donned his cape of Ermine and Gold and did write his last grete homage to the lost days of chivalry, 'The Last Battle'. A plaintive ditty the likes of which had never before been heard throught the whole of Englond and Beyond. All cheese and pomp, it's enough to make a brave knyght wepe sore. And Sir Rick did play one last grete synthe solo to the accompaniment of what sounds like The Mike Sam Singers - "do-be-do-be-do. Do-be-do-be-do." Jesu Mercy!

So it was done as Sir Rick had devised. A grete edifice of cheese; the greatest that ever there was.( except maybe for Jeff Wayne's 'War of The Worlds') The mighty tales of Arthur and his brave knyghts reduced to forty-five minutes of cheese and a few goodly but samey synthe solos. A prog underpiece of considerable absurdity. BUT BY JEUS' BLOOD, I WOULDN'T BE WITHOUT IT.

A short while after Rick's recovery, he suffered a relapse, and in a state of utter delirium, he believed that the adventures of Arthur and his knights actually took place, and was insistent that everyone in those days wore ice skates. . .even the horses. JESU, SAVE US!

You have been reading the ramblings of ThE mEnTaLiSt

Report this review (#87589)
Posted Friday, August 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, if I had to say who are my two favourite keyboardists, Tony Banks and Rick Wakeman are cerntainly them. I call Tony Banks the "keyboard-genious", and Rick, the "wizard of keyboards". Now, it's time to talk about Mr.Wakeman, of course. This is his fourth solo record and it's great. I would say this is like "Journey to the centre of the Earth part II" (musically) as it uses and orchestra and a choir, its synth solos are similar to those on "Journey", its based on a story, making a concept album and it repeats a main theme all the way through (and the band is also the same.The guitarrist is anotherone, though). But, still I guess this one doesn't reach the high quality of the previous release.

1) Arthur: A great openning track. The narration by Terry Taplin sets the mood for the album. The harpsichord and piano are played with a lot of class. There's also some great syth playing accompained by a wonderful orchestra. The vocals sound quite sh*tty but they fit perfectly on this one. 4/5

2) Lady of the lake: A short song for choir solo, which sounds pretty much like gregorian chant. Nice melody (this is one of the themes that gets repeated) and interesting voice mixes. It also acts like a bridge between "Arthur" and "Guinevere", and makes the album flow greatly. 4/5

3) Guinevere: A nice ballad, with great piano and synths. Nothing really great about the vocals, but very good melodies. There's also some cool guitar work. 4/5

4) The best track on the album. Surprisingly, the vocals rock here! First, they're sung agressively, and, all of a sudden, they change to softness. The orchestra does a very good job here, and Rick's syths are mind-blowing! The drums and bass are also great. A very adrenalinic piece.5/5

5) Merlin, the magician: An awsome instrumental. Some of the most inspired and awsomely played pianos (classical and honky-tonk-like) are here. The bass is heavy and it accompains the piano wonderfully, together with the orchestra.4.5/5

6) Sir Galahad: Not a bad track at all, but it lacks inspiration. The vocals are quite a disaster, but I like the fast organ and the electric piano. 2.5/5

7)- The last battle: Great ending for a great concept album. It features some awsome piano arpegios, and the vocals are nicely combined, making this really progressive. Great bass, guitars and drums, as well as a really powerful orchestra. Another narration can be heard here. 4/5

So, overall, although it's not as great as "Journey", it's and excellent addition to your progressive music collection. Get it, it's worth having. But, firts you should get the previous album from 1974. If you like it, you'll like this one.


Report this review (#93683)
Posted Saturday, October 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Six Wives of Henry the 8th was pretty good, this is simple dreadful. It is little wonder that prog got such a bad name. This sounds like a school orchestra on a pretty bad day. Wakeman is a great Musician and even this dross has its moments , but who hired the band ? Who told Wakeman that this was a good idea ? This is the sort of mush that might have sold a lot of records but which gave progressive rock a reputation for being pretentious that it still has not completely over come. Rick was at this time going through something of a personal crisis and this shows up on this less than inspiring recording. I like Rick Wakeman, and as a Band member there is no finer Keyboard player. Just listen to his work with the Strawbs or Dave Cousins or even Yes and you will almost certainly agree that he is a very fine musician with a lovely touch and a very real talent. So its not surprising that the Keyboard playing is excellent even on this low point in his output. However the rest of the band and the lyrics of the story never comes close to being up to the high standard of some of Wakemans other solo projects. This record is so silly that for many years I filed it with my Monty Python albums just in case somebody saw that I owed a copy and asked me why...I could then honestly say that it is a very funny record and maybe that was the point in the first place.
Report this review (#96460)
Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#113210)
Posted Thursday, February 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3 stars. Good but not essential pretty much sums up this album, as much as I'd like to give it four stars instead.

The Arthurian theme makes a great concept and Rick stays faithful to it. The songs are generally more accessible tto the average listener than anything else Rick did in the first phase of his solo career, so this makes a good album to introduce someone to Rick's particular brand of epic prog. Most of the album is strong but not brilliant. The exceptions are Sir Galahad, which is weak, and Merlin the Magician, which is a sparkling track that condenses everything that made "The Six Wives of Henry the VIII" so wonderful into a nine minute keyboard extravaganza. Still, it's the story that the album tells that make most of it's parts add up to a interesting and listenable whole. This is a great place to start exploring Rick's music, but you'll find other albums more rewarding.

Report this review (#117662)
Posted Sunday, April 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (does this get the award for longest progressive album title or what?) was one of the first progressive albums in my collection. It was part of a record club order that included Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth. Like Journey, King Arthur had a great set of artwork including a full (LP) size lyric booklet. It was not only one of my first additions to my LP collection but the CD also became one of first additions to my CD collection.

I was originally drawn to this album more for its concept than it's progness (proggieness?). Truth be told, it has more of a commercial edge than what Yes was doing at the time, but it's still a shining example of symphonic prog at it's best. I don't give it a spin as much as I used to, but I find it holds up well after all these years.

Report this review (#123412)
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars As a concept album, ARTHUR is irredeemably flawed. The original A-side consists of just three-songs-and-a-bit. The first and longest song is devoted to the story of Arthur pulling the sword "from the stone and anvil", the second proper song is a love song adressed to Queen Guinevere (with an wonderfully cheesy minimoog solo), and the third is the evocation of a battle. After that, most of the B-side is devoted to King Arthur's downfall. In contrast to JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, it just doesn't make for a proper story. All you get is bits and snippets from an unwritten epic. "Like Richard Wagner performed on ice" was how the critics described it, when Rick actually had his show performed on ice. And that's just how it feels.

The music, too, will probably sound horrible to you... "Incredibly bombastic. Everything people hate about prog" etc. I wish I could write a proper dismissal, in objective and coolly musicological terms, but my problem is that I simply ADORED this album when I first heard it in 1975, and I'm finding it impossible to betray my younger self. Every time I play this music I secretly enjoy it. But why did it so carry me away when I first discovered it? Well, I guess I was looking for the perfect marriage between classical music and rock, and I must have been so wet behind the ears, in ARTHUR I thought I'd actually discovered, erm, the Holy Grail!

For who could have resisted these rousing tunes, performed by a glorious combination of symphony orchestra and rock band, together with Rick's grand piano, tinkling harpsichords and screaming synths? The opening piece sounds terribly majestic - no wonder the BBC used it as theme-tune during the British elections a few years ago. "Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight" has one of the most exciting moog solos Rick ever did, played on that same screaming (double-tracked) siren-like instrument that he uses towards the end of the first side of TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS. "Merlin the Magician" is sheer (instrumental) fun on moogs, honky-tonks and more - one of Rick's all time classics, invariably included in compilations of his work. And finally, I don't usually enjoy the way Rick uses choirs, but in "The Last Battle" their ah-ah-ah-ing sounds truly tragical, while brass and string sections seem to sweep across the silver screen, and the narrator keeps telling us in a mournful voice what Sir Hector, Sir Bors and Sir Bleoboris were up to, in those dark days after Arthur's death... All this invariably brings tears to my eyes.

I can't predict if you will love or hate this album. It's a curiosity; but admirers of symphonic prog really shouldn't miss it.

Report this review (#125331)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
5 stars Probably Rick Wakeman´s best all around album. I picked up this record recently and I was stunned how good it was. Much better than I ever thought, even at the time of its release (when Wakeman was hot news in Brazil. He was one of the first ever prog acts to play here, in 1975). I remeber how beautiful was the LP artwork, with insert lyrics and drawings of the story. It almost distract you from the music itself, which I stil find very captivating and inspiring. The orchestra and choir parts are more concise and better used than the massive Journey to The Centrer Of The Earth. The lyrics basicly tells through music the most popular version of the legendary King Arthur saga, and they are quite well done. Arthur and Guinevere are among the best Wakeman´s moments in his entire career.

Simply putting it, I think it is the only Rick Wakeman album that I remember going over and over again, even though I appreciate Six Wives... and Journey... so much. Those two first ones are much more acclaimed by progheads in general. And I must agree they are both excellent. Still This album is the one I hear the most and the one that pleases the most. A very well balanced album that did not receive the credit it deserves. And a must have for any prog fan.

Report this review (#138939)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars Wow, this is too much. I like over the top stuff, whether it be music or movies or any other form of entertainment. I also find King Arthur a very interesting subject, too. On first glance, I thought this would be an album I would like: an over-the-top composition about King Arthur and his folktales done by the genius himself, Rick Wakeman. I also happened to love his previous album, Six Wives of Henry VIII, so I thought this would also be an amazing album. If you can't tell from my rating, it turns out I was wrong. Everything has a limit, even prog. C'mon, really? Medieval-sounding choruses and songs that are cheesier than Meatloaf's material? I have to admit that I liked some songs on here (Guinevere and Arthur were good) and the other songs had some interesting material within them too, but other than that, this album is just too much. Of course, what was even worse was that he did this cheesy album ON ICE! Some people complain that Tales of Topographic Oceans from Yes is worse at being pretentious and over the top, but I think this takes the cake.
Report this review (#166399)
Posted Friday, April 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars It somehow has flawed sound, but I don't care. Anyway, I'm not looking for classical symphony, am I ? This can't stop me from appreciate this. So, we have a tale about British most famous myth, King Arthur. Are we happy ? We indeed could be. After hearing these mighty words which brings us to this tale, keyboard (synth?) starts to play even mightier melody. For about two minutes, then there is voice singing (voices) lyrics. Medieval-like, again. this whole album sounds like being from ancient times. And I suppose that's good. Everything is like it should be, The Myths are perfect and still easy-listening album
Report this review (#209037)
Posted Saturday, March 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
1 stars Right, Wakeman goes musical. As I have an avid revulsion of the hollow theatricality of musicals (please feel free to convince me there is at least one worth hearing), I can't find anything enjoyable about this release. The songs are badly written, the singing is horrible and, as usual with rock music embracing an orchestra, the instrumentation is even worse. Complete kitsch and cheap sentimentalism.

By the way, isn't that Richard Kleiderman on the piano in Merlin the Magician? (which is one of the few songs that has a few interesting bars by the way). And oh dear! What are those annoying mosquito sounds? "That would be a moog mr. Bonnek, the sacred synth of holy prog! Shame on you!" No thanks, if I want moog I'll put on a Klaus Schulze platter. Now you come to mention it, I'll put on "Dark Side of the Moog VII" right away. I need something to shake off this frightening experience.

Report this review (#242001)
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars I spent much of my early years in prog listening to The Six Wives Of Henry VIII and loved it, despite it being a bit over the top in parts. So I looked forward to the follow ups with pleasure. Journey was pretty mediocre but surely he'd sort it out next time out.

Nope, he didn't. Myths is probably the most pompous, pretentious album ever. The composition is amateurish, the orchestration poor, the lyrics laughable and the vocals........well, if ever there were 2 vocalists who simply can't sing in tune, Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford-Hopkins are they. I'd rather listen to a cat being neutered. Rick plays a few worthwhile solos, but the only track worth listening to is Merlin, despite the excruciating banjo-driven section in the middle.

This is one that's getting the lowest grade. Avoid like the plague.

Report this review (#242038)
Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Errors & Omissions Team
4 stars 01. Arthur

I even if I find that initial narration incomprehensible in that epic-British-accented epic (laughs), Terry Taplin made a genial work. This opening tune is well known, 'Uncle' Rick was very inspired on this record, the keys in all its extensions, shapes, colors and sounds are used, also his arsenal of keys was giant on stage and studio. Sonically it is beautiful and complex, full of details. The voice of Gary Pickford-Hopkins I think it's entirely appropriate for the 'role' of storytelling, melodic and when you need acute and dramatic when it is required. Another good feature is the basses from Roger Newell with his timbre strange but essential. In a 'broken' part, almost at the 4th minute the song takes strange and obscure shapes, but it's all on purpose, because then we are pleased to hear again the central theme on keyboards. The orchestra and its 'coral horn' is another highlight, without it I think the sound of the album would have died on the road. The outcome of the track it's another surprise, when we thought the theme only would repeat itself it changes, and even though it is great outcome. Total Epic!

02. Lady Of The Lake

A 'vinheta', something rare in his albums, but here it is for good reason. Only vocal track, and perfect! It's creepy!

03. Guinevere

Talk that Rick Wakeman have full control over their keyboards it's like a rain when we're wet, because he has that right, the guy takes the melody and sound where least expected, and exchange keyboards with incredible ease, not to mention seeing the guy on stage is incredible, because it changes the keyboard quickly and uses ALL of their set (which are many keys). This is a beautiful ballad and it's guided by the Jeffrey Crampton guitars and some bells here and there and of course, vocals, many of them. Rick's solo has a very unusual tone, which is very good, since most of the same is not always a good thing (unless we are talking about AC / DC and the Ramones), the solo is soon also accompanied by a guitar solo. The drums from James Barney is simple, but has the tone that I love so much in the 70's drums. And the choir takes the space given to fill up the 'holes'

04. Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight

Ah this beginning! Strong and dense! The vocals marry perfectly with everything, the strength of sound full of syncopation with the orchestra, and at times the vocals sung loudly. And the chorus can be even more beautiful, both in voice and in its harmony. The opening theme is repeated, superb. And it gives you the 'master' of synthesizer Mr. Wakeman. The groove just after 2 minutes of music reminds me of the 'stunts' of Gentle Giant, full of broken beats. Sensational!

05. Merlin The Magician

This band has a 'canon' melody repeated as on track 2, but this time an amendment hyper renaissance times melody on the piano. The melody is original with a low bass, a few blows that I imagine are tubes and a series of keys in a 'beach' melody. Almost 3 minutes and the picture changes and beyond the melody of time we have also various synth soloing and moving from one side to another on the speakers. Almost at the 5th minutes of music, a crazy honky tonk piano comes in, depicting a possible scene of our dear blatant Wizard. But amazing is the sound that Roger took of the bass. And the synthesizers are thrashed till the end. The fun and laughter is guaranteed in the final melody. Very good!

06. Sir Galahad

The canon song (or would be Gregorian?) Is used as an introduction again, it gets the impression of listening to the same previous track again, which is further reinforced as the opening theme piano is exactly the same as above. Only near the 1 minute and fifteen the subject becomes almost a fun and strange reggae with excellent vocals, but I confess that when the 'playful' theme comes in the vocal lines are very strange. Close to 3 minutes the keyboard mimicking a triple harp and vocals sing the blues of the World. This next theme is really very strange, I do not know where Wakeman was with his head (in the Bahamas certainly, laughs).

07. The Last Battle

In the exact sequence of Sir Galahad (which had not happened at any other time of the record), comes The Last Battle that's an epic of those who claim to have gigantic proportions but it begins warm. There are several issues that compounds this closing track, but I do not think they really represent a final battle till his mid 5th minutes. Before that is beautiful, but I do not believe a final battle is pretty (laughs). The harpsichord is always a beauty in that kind of 'epic' sound. The vocal melody is really sublime, perfect fit in the chords. And the incomprehensible stories with former British accent (laughs). When the 8th minute comes the phones are invaded and the melody becomes intoxicating, like 'we will think about all that happened,' and then i went back to the initial theme to close on a high note.

Still remember when he brought home the vinyl and listen for the first time, much of a scare with the sound of The Myths & Legends Of King Arthur & The Knights Of The Round Table .

4,5 stars

Report this review (#257244)
Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars This is a pretty decent album for Rick Wakeman and that says a lot considering the quality of some of Wakeman's later albums!

The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table marks a definite improvement compared to Journey To The Centre Of The Earth in the vocals performance. The performances here fit nicely in regard to the instrumental passages and, surprisingly enough, even the the narration actually manages to adds nice mythical atmosphere to the overall feel of this album.

So why would I still be giving it the good, but non-essential rating? Well, to tell you the truth there aren't any real stand-out tracks for me here, that is with the slight exception of The Last Battle that builds up a great finale towards the end. Merlin The Magician is one track that I actually think slightly ruins the overall mood because it's here that Wakeman really lets his ego out by playing some of the most over-the-top instrumental sections that sound very much out of place compared to the rest of the material. I also dislike the panning effect that dominates the ending section of that particular composition. Sir Galahad also starts off with an out of place instrumental intro but the second part of the track really makes up for that minor flaw.

The end of The Last Battle makes this performance seem better that what it actually is, but this feeling starts to fade away with every repeated listen and what I'm left with is just another good, but non-essential release.

**** star songs: Arthur (7:26) Lady Of The Lake (0:45) Guinevere (6:45) Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight (5:21) Sir Galahad (5:51) The Last Battle (9:41)

*** star songs: Merlin The Magician (8:51)

Report this review (#258033)
Posted Sunday, December 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I bought this album when it came out and remember really enjoying it--playing it quite a bit my freshman year of college. I consider Rick as one of the rock artists who helped prepare me for classical music, and his solo albums are definitely a big part of that role. I was buying them all in the 70s and early eighties. Though an amazing keyboard player and fairly decent composer, Rick fails as a lyricist (and as a chooser of his vocalists). There are some great compositions with some gorgeous melodies here but the singing and vocal arrangements are so over the top. He could compete with Andrew LLOYD-WEBER for stage time! As a matter of fact, as I listen to this for the first time in almost 35 years, I many similarities to the made-for-stage Broadway musicals of the 1970s. I do not think that the sound quality in the recording of this album is very good--especially of the live acoustic performances (mostly voices). But the classical themes Rick used to charge and build around are nice. The most memorable song I now hear is probably "Merlin the Magician" (8:51) (8/10) with its multiple memorable melodies--borrowed and original. Myths and Legends does not stand up as well to the test of time as well as Six Wives or Criminal Record. But it is worth hearing.
Report this review (#330965)
Posted Tuesday, November 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#337614)
Posted Sunday, November 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars If 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' was pretentious and overblown, then Rick Wakeman is a hypocrite! In any case, I really like this album.

The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table has a long title, and it's concept is as obvious as the hit album 'Six Wives of Henry VIII', but things are taken further this time, with lyrics, narration, an orchestra and choir! Such a big project demands good production quality, which this doesn't have unfortunately; the drums and vocals are sometimes buried beneath layers of keyboards, but the music makes up for this.

'Arthur' kicks things off as a pseudo-title-track where he first becomes king, built on simple melodies and epic, movie-eqsue chord sequences which will reappear throughout the album as Arthur's personal themes. This cross-referencing aspect is something I would have liked to see on 'Six Wives' (but then, I guess those wives had nothing to do with each other so maybe that's why). 'Guinevere' is understandably softer, describing with some emotion the aspects of Arthur's dear wife. It is one of my favourites on the album actually, with great harmonies and a killer synth solo. Lancelot's battle with the infamous black knight introduces more epic medieval themes and also has a soft chorus and killer synth solo (they become a bit of a formula for this record). It's all very interesting though, probably more from a music point of view than the actual storyline, which everybody already knows.

Side two kicks off with the mysterious instrumental 'Merlin the Magician', a fan favourite that Wakeman occasionally still plays today. It's themes are perhaps drawn out for a bit too long, but the eccentric ragtime-style parts succeed in invoking thoughts of a crazy wizard... that is, a keyboard wizard! And then the album closes with Galahad's story seguing into the big finale, a battle no less between Arthur's knights and the Saxons. As an ending these songs are less impressive than the previous ones; I don't really feel caught up in the middle of an intense fight like I do on Lancelot's track. The sad closing words from the narrator are a nice touch though. Throughout the album, tracks are interspersed with short choral verses and a melancholy piano theme, which doesn't make too much sense but somehow aids the flow of the story (a lyric sheet would be helpful to include in this album!).

This monster of an album is perhaps less well-remembered than the one about the real king, but apart from some muddy production and a bit of thematic excess, it is just as good. Wakeman's versatile handling of the various keyboards is of course, the highlight.

Report this review (#394799)
Posted Saturday, February 5, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars Who so pulleth out this sword from the Stone and anvil, is the true born King of all Britain

If you ask 10 Prog fans which is the best RICK WAKEMAN album, probably 8 will answer that Six Wives of Henry the VIII deserves that honor, well I disagree with this opinion despite the quality of the music in Rick's debut, mostly because the atmosphere created by the "Cape Crusader" in Myths & Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is simply perfect to describe the saga of the child king who took the sword from the anvil.

The fact is that Rick took care of each detail to make the album credible, even the vocals are perfect, because the controversial duo formed by Ashley Holt and Gary Pckford -Hopkins who struggled with the vocal parts of Journey to the Centre of the Earth are perfect for a medieval legend being that they sound a traveling troubadours taking the story from town to town, but lets talk about the songs:

Arthur opens the album with all the pomp and grandiosity required to describe the moment when Arthur became king by his own hand, and even when Rick uses diverse synths ad organs, reserves a special place for the harpsichord to enhance the effect. The powerful voices of Holt and Pickford are simply perfect for the occasion narrating (more than singing) the beginning of the saga.

But the real magic is in the tasteful combination of electronic and acoustic keyboards, because WAKEMAN jumps from harpsichord to Moog without affecting the atmosphere, it's obvious for me that Rick graduated as a genius in this album and Arthur is the perfect introduction to the record.

Lady of the Lake consists of a Gregorian Chant passage followed by a piano melody, this same theme is repeated several times in the album (with slight variations) to introduce the listener to important characters as Merlin and Sir Galahad. Again Wakeman does his best effort to keep the atmosphere intact and succeeds.

Guinevere is the best known song of the album being that it's easier for commercial radios to sell a beautiful and romantic melody to the mainstream listeners then the most elaborate sections, but this doesn't mean that it's simple at all, because Rick adds wonderful choirs, fantastic Moog and piano sections which combined with the strong drumming of Barney James blend the medieval era with contemporary music.

Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight is an impressive epic track in which the duel is described with accuracy not only by the vocals but also by the breathtaking interplay between keyboards and rhythm section. It's interesting to notice that in one point the Lancelot theme mixes with the Arthur melody creating an effect of blending of the two characters as one.

Merlin starts with the Gregorian intro used for Lady of the Lake but his time the melody at the end of the introduction is performed using harpsichord and grand piano, and then starts one of the most elaborate and ever changing pieces of the album. In first place we can listen a mysterious melodic passage with soft choirs but without advice morphs into a some sort of epic battle between Moog and bass. After several and radical changes, the track ends with a Charleston section almost as a comedy relief for the listener after so much intensity. This is what Prog is about.

Again the Gregorian intro is used for Sir Galahad and again the melody suffers slight changes ending with a nostalgic melody that describes the character of the most humble of the knights, again its' interesting to notice that the Arthur melody is blended in several parts, being that Galahad is seen by many as the continuation of the King, because he also took a sword from a stone in a river. A great and descriptive song.

The album ends with my favorite song The Last Battle, a track that has everything a fan of the genre loves, from breathtaking sections, brilliant keyboard solos and radical changes just to end in a nostalgic and incredibly beautiful narration of the end of King Arthur and the discovery of his tomb. Love it from start to end.

Sadly I read people saying that his album is pompous as a derogatory comment, others claim that "The Myths & Legends is hated by Punks (something logical from people who follow a genre based in simple music), but for me it's a perfect masterpiece. Please guys, we love Prog, it's meant to be pompous, if I hated pomp, I would be listening soft mainstream ballads.

If it wasn't for Arthur on Ice (Something for what Rick can't be blamed, because he was forced to accept or cancel the concert), would receive more praises, because in my opinion Myths & Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is the quintessential legendary - conceptual album and deserves no less than 5 solid stars.

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Posted Thursday, March 22, 2012 | Review Permalink

Ok, so sometimes I do revert to elementary creativity/humor(?). Anyway, another use of the opening line quote would have been redundant. I personally like this album very much! I feel that it has some great music, very possibly some of Mr. Wakeman's best. It has the feel of being where it's supposed to be when it's there. I enjoy it the most of any of his albums, with 'Journey...' and 'six...' in close succesion. Only Rick Wakeman in his youth/heyday would have attempted and in MHO-pulled it off majestically, a grandiose statement of such quintessential British folklore. His keyboard play is top-notch, dead-on! Everything on this album musically rings true to me. I have no idea if this album was ever performed live, let alone captured on film, but I would love to see-sorry for interrupting, but I'm listening to this as I type, and I just have to say--"You gotta love that silent movie piano break in Merlin(!) too funny!- anywho, were was I? Oh yes, live, well if it was recorded on film back-in-the-day, I could only hope that it someday sees the light of day in dvd form! I enjoy greatly the 'journey' dvd from Australia and I think I would enjoy this one even more! This record is a solid 4.5 for me but just doesn't quite reach the masterpiece level. Although this to me is Rick Wakeman's solo masterpiece! Anyone interested in great 70's keyboard music played with a rock ensemble and a strong touch of orchestral and choral music should definately consider this album. Obviously to appreciate this fully, an aversion to blatant story telling verging on broadway musical form would be something that you couldn't bring with you. It is an outstanding album and the top of his works-(French:ouebvresiereuovre) (pardon my French) IMHO!

Report this review (#914567)
Posted Saturday, February 16, 2013 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars If prog is about dynosaurs making pompous end pretentious music with symphonic orchestra, choirs and fireworks, this is prog!. With the vinyl edition you immediately see the sword in the anvil and a seal made of wax with Rick Wakeman's name on. Then you open it and find a booklet with paintings and lyrics plus on the last page the names of the about 100 people who took part in it. Of course, behind the booklet the interior is occupied by a painting of the battle between Lancelot and the Black Knight.

Of course everything starts with Arthur and the famous sentence about "who pulleth out this sword..."immediately followed by the symphonic orchestra and Rick's piano and keyboards. For the kind of composition, before the main theme appears for the first time, one could expect to hear Roger Daltrey singing. The chords of this intro remind me of Tommy, but when Ashley Holt starts singing it's clearly Wakeman. The melodies are catchy and the symphonic arrangements fits well with the operatic voices of the two vocalists. It sounds very similar to Journey To The Centre Of Earth which is his first true concept album, but being both featuring operatic vocals and symphonic orchestra, how could they be much different?

For less than one minute a male choir sings "Lady Of The Lake". Nothing to do with Gnidrolog who dedicated her a full album. This is just a quick apparition.

About two minutes of piano intro reminding the Arthur's theme and the song about "Guinevere" starts. Without the classical arrangement it would be just a pop song, but don't forget that Wakeman has been capable of making excellent pop music like the piano part of Cat Stevens "Morning Has Broken".Guinevere is just a two minutes song, what is great is its long interlude in line with Journey.

Again, very operatic, the battle of "Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight" contains also the hardest and heaviest parts of the whole thing. There's also a jazzy keyboard solo in the middle of the track. This song has all the requirements to be called an 'epic' even if its lenght is inferior to 10 minutes.

The theme of "Lady Of The Lake" is reprised by the same choir, but this time it introduces "Merlin The Magician". An excellent piano intro seems to carry us into the Magician's laboratory, while the Arthur's main theme, slowed down in tempo, is back again. The real song starts after about 2:30 minutes.A very interesting thing is the rhythm of the guitar which leads to the most compulsive part. However this song is made of very different moments but all the transitions are well managed, including the one leading to the very fast ragtime interlude. Then the various themes which make this song reappear until the final ragtime closure.

The choir again starts "Sir Galahad". After this dark intro, despite the subject, the music is upbeat and quite "happy". It acquires a sense if you imagine a live performance, like a musical. In this sense the acapella singing which follows makes sense. From a musical perspective only this part of the song featirung the English Chamber Choir shows all the excellent composition skill of Rick Wakeman and is also the part more similar to Journey.

The last track has reminds to all the principal musical themes. It has to be sad..."Gone are the days of the Knights...". It features the full orchestra and the choirsbut there's room also for a jazzy keyboard solo which is one of the best album's things. However, this is mainly a coda, like the end titles of a movie. It could be considered "essential" because it's one of the clearer examples of how pretentious prog was, but we are speaking of an artist who had all the rights to be pretentious.

I don't hear the masterpiece,but it's surely an excellent album with some historical value.

Report this review (#954918)
Posted Monday, May 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars I own "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table" on vinyl and it is quite an amazing package complete with garish artwork on the front cover and back showing the sword in the anvil and then raised high in the water. The gatefold is a Knight jousting with a nice blue painted sky, almost cartoon in style. Thankfully the copy I grabbed still had its 12 page booklet showing lots of drawings and colours depicting each track and including the lyrics an Ancient scroll calligraphy.

The music as expected showcases the Elizabethan chamber music that Wakeman loves to play. The atmosphere captures the period beautifully and of course it is bombastic and layered with choirs, orchestration and a ton of pipe organ. Tracks that jump out are Arthur, Lady of the Lake, Guinevere, Merlin the Magician and The Last Battle, though the album works best listened to in one sitting as one grand tale. Guinevere is familiar as it is on radio airplay often but I prefer the proggier tracks. Those familiar with the tale of sir Arthur will know what to expect in the concept reimagined here, but there are surprises in musical terms. The vocals are oddly placed and at times seem inappropriate and dated, however the musicianship is outstanding throughout.

This album will divide and conquer, some listeners will not be impressed with the pompous Arthurian approach, though it is imaginative undoubtedly. Some of this is extraordinary and some is dated and pretentious these days, but it is still one of the better Wakeman solo albums. More pomp and ceremony than anything Yes touched including "Topographic", the album is definitely one that should not be ignored. I prefer "6 Wives of Henry VIII" but have time to listen to these early projects of the great caped prog wonder.

Report this review (#1124087)
Posted Thursday, January 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Now here comes one of the most interesting parts in Rick Wakeman's bio.Having already been gifted his second son Adam and touring extensively for the promotion of ''Journey to...'', Wakeman simply seemed to live one his most fruitful periods after his departure from Yes.Then comes his collapse after a show at the Crystal Palace Bowl and the reason was a minor heart attack.He was delivered to Wexham Park Hospital, but not only he did not leave time pass by, but he also found the chance to write down material for his upcoming album, inspired by the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table.The album was recorded at Morgan Studios in London and released in 1975 on A&M Records under the title ''The myths and legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table''.His line-up included ex-Big Sleep and Wild Turkey Gary Pickford-Hopkins on vocals next to Ashley Holt (ex-Warhorse), Barney James on drums (also ex-Warhorse), while the orchestral parts were arranged by Wil Malone.

Musically this is one of Wakeman's more mature works, always performed under a grandiose Symphonic Rock style and based on an arsenal of different keyboards.It retains the keyboard wizard's familiar epic style with fairytale passages followed by bombastic orchestrations and flashy solos, but this time the music sounds very deep, mature and consistent with an extremely balanced sound between orchestral movements, romantic piano lines and sharp Moog synth moves.The Moog synthesizer and the piano appear to be again Wakeman's prime forces towards a symphonic work with intricate and dramatic instrumental passages, supported by choirs and superb orchestrations.Harsichord appears sporadically in an old-fashioned but always delicate way.What actually ruins completely this work was Wakeman's choice on vocals.Both Pickford-Hopkins and Holt had very raw voices to consistenly follow the music style of the album and their vocal colors were rather suitable to Hard or Pomp Rock groups than to an elaborate Progressive Rock album.Fortunately the instrumental length of the album is pretty extended with limited room for vocals and the album is dominated by Wakeman's clever moves on keyboard and piano, resulting an album full of cinematic soundscapes and Classical-inspired moments of pure elegance.

This could have been an even better album if the singers were chosen more appropriately.Be sure though to listen to some majestic moments delivered by Yes' former keyboard leader.Romantic, elaborate and dramatic Symphonic Rock with a pompous but well-executed attitude.Recommended.

Report this review (#1164254)
Posted Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table issued in 1975 is for sure another worthy album from his vast career. This is the second album under his name after the departure from Yes and is to me at least among his best works. The orchestral arrangements are as usual grandious, with rich keyboarts textures, melodic lines and warm pleasent vocal parts. All pieces are great with a plus on Merlin the Magician or The last battle. I like what I've heared here and I considered to be among the good towards great albums from prog scene from mid '70s, definetly a keeper. 4 stars for this beautiful elegant symphonic prog album.
Report this review (#1236468)
Posted Wednesday, August 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Thanks to the bankruptcy-inducing King Arthur On Ice performance which was held to promote it, this album's become a bit of a lightning rod, with people either despising it as an example of the worst sort of vacuous, pretentious faux-artistic pomposity associated with prog rock, and others revering it as example of prog's soaring ambitions.

In fact, I consider it neither, and to be honest if it didn't have Rick Wakeman's name and a deeply misconceived concert surrounding it, nobody would have heard of this. It's rather generic keyboard noodling set against rather generic orchestral pomp without much meat to either, with Rick showboating a lot and generally the whole package being quite, quite forgettable.

There's a bit in the King Arthur stage show where ice skaters taking on the role of Lancelot and the Black Knight do a bit of duelling. They look extremely, extremely serious doing it, despite the fact that it looks extremely silly, partially because you can't actually do a decent fight scene like that on ice so they don't really bother and just fall back on doing generic ice skating moves and occasionally tap their swords together in that "We're deliberately hitting each other's swords and very obviously aren't actually trying to hit each other way" that's indicative of really bad fight choreography - all this whilst dressed as Monty Python and the Holy Grail extras with horribly unconvincing "horses" incorporated into their costume.

That one visual, for me, sums up what's wrong with the album. You have all the ingredients to produce something amazingly cheesy, if the artists responsible just loosened up a bit and embraced the ridiculousness of it all and trim back the more po-faced bits; alternately, you have all the ingredients needed to make something deep and artistically meaningful, if you just toned down or took out some of the goofier ideas. But as it is, Rick jumbles it all together and it ends up this horrible mash-up of ideas, half of which are sabotaging the other half.

Again, it's not terrible. But it keeps tripping over itself a bit too much to be actually considered good.

Report this review (#1586210)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album seems to have inspired very polarizing reactions on this site, with some hailing it as a masterpiece and others calling it an overly bombastic and cheesy album that fails to inspire. I fall somewhere in between these two extremes. The music on this album, while certainly bombastic, is quite good, conjuring up heroic images of fantastic landscapes and brave knights. However, what would otherwise be at least a four star album is held back by some production problems and often lackluster vocals.

As to the nature of the music on this album, it is generally orchestra-driven symphonic prog with a great deal of keyboard and synthesizer work, as is to be expected from Rick Wakeman. For those who dislike overly bombastic, "epic" music, this album will likely be a chore to endure. However, for others such as myself who enjoy these kinds of compositions, the music on the album is a real treat. The orchestra and choir work well with Wakeman's choice of keyboards and instrumentation, creating a truly enjoyable sound. However, there are issues.

First off, it may just be the digital copy of the album I purchased, but some songs (the beginning of "Guinevere" in particular) seem to suffer from fuzzy audio quality which obscures the music. This is a fairly rare problem, however. A bigger issue is the vocal quality on this album. Some songs, such as the final track, "The Last Battle," have vocal performances that are quite good. On other tracks, such as "Arthur," the singer sounds as if he is audibly struggling to hit the notes. This can make the vocals occasionally painful to listen to. However, it is not a constant problem, and if one is able to overlook these flawed vocal performances, the music is generally quite good.

Overall, I would recommend this release to anyone who is a fan of epic, orchestral music and is willing to overlook some occasional issues with vocals and recording quality. A good album overall with some flaws that cause it to fall a bit short of four stars.

Report this review (#1739215)
Posted Wednesday, June 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review Nº 160

'The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table' is the second studio album of Rick Wakeman and was released in 1975. As his previous studio album 'The Six Wives Of Henry VIII', this is also another very ambitious and risky conceptual album, but this time it's based on the legends of King Arthur and The Round Table. Once more he chooses the history of his country England, but if in the first time the characters were real persons who lived in the sixteenth century, this time the characters were mythical and supposedly lived in the twelfth century. Many of the characters that existed in the Arthurian legendary myth are present on the album, such as King Arthur, Lady Of The Lake, Guinevere, Sir Lancelot, The Black Knight, Merlin The Magician, Sir Galahad and of course Excalibur, the famous and legendary sword of King Arthur, the king of the knights of the round table, the mythical king of England.

The most interesting and curious fact about this work, is that much of this album was written while Wakeman, at 25 years old, was recovering from his first of three minor heart attacks at Wexham Park Hospital. Imagine that even after a cardiologist advised him to stop playing and retire to rest, he ignored it and wrote the final musical piece of the album 'The Last Battle', on the same night. Now, it's interesting to think that thankfully he didn't fulfil that order of his doctor.

'The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table' has seven tracks and all the songs were written by Wakeman. The first track 'Arthur' is a solid opener for the album. This is probably the most consensual and accessible song on the album and is also probably the most known too. It's a very beautiful melodic song where the music flows perfectly well with excellent combination of keyboards, orchestration and choral section. This is one of my favourite songs on the album. The second track 'Lady Of The Lake' is a very brief but at the same time pretty choral piece of music with a nice piano melody which is a kind of an introduction to the next song. The third track 'Guinevere' is another very accessible song with a strong and pretty melody, good acoustic guitar rhythm, good keyboard work and an excellent choral work too. However and despite be a very good song this is my less favourite track on the album. The fourth track 'Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight' is, in my humble opinion and without any doubt, one of the highest moments on the album. This is a very powerful and energetic song that creates within us a kind of an imaginary world. It's a song full of variations with a fantastic keyboard work and contains one of the best solos ever written by Wakeman. This is also a song with great orchestral arrangements followed by fantastic and energetic choirs and also has a great rhythm section on the background. It's an incredible song that reminds me, very strongly, the ambience of the great rock operas. This represents Wakeman at his best. The fifth track 'Merlin The Magician' is also a song full of musical changes. This is an instrumental track, another highlight, and is also one of my favourite songs. It begins with the reprise from the second track 'Lady Of The Lake' and continues with a great and beautiful keyboard work, pretty piano melodies and a nice bass line. This is the song most diverse on the album with some transition musical pieces with several musical styles. This is a song with everything on it. It's at the same time beautiful, insane and genial. Once more we have Wakeman at his best with one of his best compositions ever. The sixth track 'Sir Galahad' is another very good song that also begins with the reprise of 'Lady Of The Lake' and that combines nice melody, beautiful choirs, good vocals, great keyboard work and an excellent orchestral arrangement, as is always usual on the all album. This song makes a kind of a link to the next track. Despite be another great track it isn't as good as the two previous ones. The seventh and last track 'The Last Battle' is clearly an epic track and where we can hear themes from the other songs of the album. We can consider that this track summarizes the music on the all album incorporating excerpts of the other previous tracks. This is also a great song and a perfect and logical way to finish this very special album.

Conclusion: I've no doubt in saying this is another very controversial album. We may be able to consider that this is a kind of 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' of Wakeman. This is very interesting and curious because he was the only member of Yes who criticized 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' as a bombastic and megalomaniac musical project, and that fact produced his first departure from the band. However, I've no problem with bombastic and megalomaniac musical projects, if they're great, which is the case of 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' one of my favourite albums of Yes. But, 'The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table' isn't a masterpiece as 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' or 'The Six Wives Of Henry VIII', but nevertheless, is an excellent album. It isn't as uniform, cohesive and balanced as they are, but it has some tracks like 'Sir Lancelot And The Black Night' and 'Merlin The Magician' that are authentic musical pearls and that represent some of the best musical compositions of Wakeman.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1871501)
Posted Saturday, February 3, 2018 | Review Permalink

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