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Rick Wakeman - Softsword CD (album) cover

SOFTSWORD

Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars It was almost ten years ago? when i heard the music from this album. My first thought was "Oh it's Rick Wakeman!" The second thought "Six wives of henri 8 is no more my favourite prog-rock album..." This album sounds wonderful, from the beginning, till teh end ofthe last song. A real Rick Wakeman's pearl. Since 1991 there were no albums of such a high quality in his discografia. ''Softsword", "Six wives..." and "The Myths and Legends of king Arthur" is a threesome for every prog-rock collector to have! P.C. Sorry for my poor English. I hope You will share my delight from this masterpiece!
Report this review (#27531)
Posted Monday, June 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars An Average "arthur' wanna be album that seriously lacks in intensity and art. It is not bad, but I don't think Wakeman was really trying here.

The oveture of the album is a solid epic with good musicianship, and some bombastic parts, but the rest of the album can't keep up, until the very end which contains a seriously good melodic metal song with great guitar work and organs.

I do not recommend this album

My grade : D

Report this review (#41593)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars RICK WAKEMAN was the first Prog legend who came to Perú back in September 1991 so there was easy to find information about him in the newspapers and among it I read he had released recently an album called "Softsword - King John and the Magna Charter", the name instantly brought to my memory the early stages of his career after a decade full of New Age releases, so the day I went for my concert tickets also bought the album sadly my first impression was negative.

It's true that the album had some moments but still not in the level of Rick's first albums, but slowly the album started gaining me.

Now I believe I can judge it with a clear perspective and what I see is a musician who had lost the path of his career trying to regain the respect of his fans who had abandoned him, and honestly he did a nice job, the album is at least satisfying.

The opener "Magna Charter is a 12:16 minutes epic that clearly reminds of "Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table", the whole bombasting sound that I loved so much when learning about Prog is back, the track is very solid despite the poor vocals by Chrissie Hammond (Well, Wakeman was never accurate when choosing vocalists) and the programmed percussion, some excellent changes and a coherent atmosphere make of this song a good starting point for the album.

"After Prayers" is a weak point in the album, sounds poppy and artificial, like trying to add Symphonic arrangements to a simple and absolutely in special ballad, the first point against Rick.

"Battle Sonata" reminds me of the sound from "White Rock", still not bad but well charged of cheesy selection of keyboards, despite this fact the performance of Rick makes me forget the flaws in this song.

"The Siege" is a nice change, the distorted guitar intro by David Paton is interesting and a change in Wakeman's music, the song turns cheesy again when Rick makes a terrible selection of keyboards and starts sounding pretty poppy, but when Rick starts with his organ and the heavy riffs by Paton follow him, everything improves a lot, another good track despite the uneven moments.

"Rochester Collage" is a nice dreamy instrumental that again reminds instantly of "Myths and Legends", to be precise to the song "Arthur", this time Wakeman's choice of keys is simply perfect, another very nice track, things are getting better.

"The Story of John (Love)" is terrible, repetitive and absolutely lack of interest, two words come to my mind when listening his track, uninspired and filler, not even the nice guitar by Paton saves the song, I always avoid it.

But again Mr. Wakeman retakes control of the album with another pompous and solid track "March of Time", somebody should have told him that he is good with the overblown music so he had avoided some boring ballads being that only progheads buy his albums and that's not what we normally expect from him. If you have a skip button in your CD player, better press it when "Don't Fly Away" is being played, completely forgettable example of the boring and cheesy ballads the Cape Crusader must avoid at any cost.

"Issabella" is a very nice instrumental, soft and slow but absolutely interesting maybe if hw had reduced it in one minute the result would had been even better, because the next instrumental "Softsword" with it's short 1:45 minutes is perfect as a reliever.

The album ends with "Hymn of Hope" which is simply excellent, Wakeman proves how versatile he is with his synth and organ while again Paton and Sawney make a good job with the guitar and percussion, a great and dramatic closer for an uneven album.

If you are expecting a masterpiece like "Six Wives of Henry the VII" don't buy it, because this is a transitional album after the weakest decade in the life of RICK WAKEMAN; but if you like his music get it because it's a breeze of fresh air after the crimes against music he committed in the 80's and gives hope to the bored fan who expected a resurrection of his idol.

Never the guidelines were so clear as in this case, "Softsword" is by in no way essential album (leave that honor to Journey, Six Wives, Myths & Legends and Criminal Record) but surely a great addition to any Prog collection, so four stars from me.

Report this review (#100345)
Posted Saturday, November 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars Rick Wakeman teaches history

Anyone who has attempted to venture outside Rick's most popular period (1973- 1977) knows very well that his solo discography is vast and wildly inconsistent. While exploring his 80's and 90's output you only occasionally hit upon a good album among many quite poor and boring albums. I think that no one (including Rick himself) can deny that he very often put quantity over quality. However, this 1991 effort is one of those rare instances where he made a good album once again. Though I haven't yet heard all of Rick's albums (who has anyway?), I am quite sure that Softsword (at the time of its release) was one of his best albums since the 1984 album that was released in 1981 - ten years before this one!

Softsword is apparently a concept album about King John, the king of England who signed the Magna Carta. King John was given the nickname 'John Softsword' because he lost a lot of wars (?). (I would have known none of these things if it wasn't for this album). The historic theme and references to kings of old might make you think of the classic The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table album. And while this is not entirely inappropriate it might push up expectations a bit too much - this is not another Arthur, or if it is, it is an adult contemporary version of Arthur with both progressive and New-Age influences.

The album begins with a 12 minute epic about the Magna Charter. This is one of Rick's most progressive pieces of music since the mid 70's. It has a strong chorus and some unexpected twists and turns. Chrissie Hammond handles all the vocals of the album, and I must say that she does a great job on this album. She sounds much better on this album than on any of the other Wakeman albums I've heard her sing on. She sounds a bit like a young man! Apart from Magna Charter, the best of the vocal tracks are The Siege and Hymn Of Hope. These two songs have a bit more of a rock edge to them due to the presence of electric guitars and a slightly heavier organ sound. The Siege is similar in style to Magna Charter and here Chrissie Hammond sounds even more like a man, is it really her singing?

There are also several shorter instrumentals of this album; Battle Sonata, Rochester Collage, March Of Time, Isabella and the title track all belong to this category. Mostly these instrumentals functions as interludes and helps a lot to make the album varied and interesting throughout. There is a perfect mix between vocal and instrumental material. Of the instrumentals, Isabella is the best one in its own right; this is Wakeman as we know him, or as we want to know him anyway.

Apparently, Don't Fly Away/After Prayers was released as a single. And these two songs are indeed the most commercial sounding and least progressive ones, but they are not examples of selling out. Rick himself claims to be particularly fond of After Prayers. I'm not too impressed myself, it is not much more than a good soft power ballad.

Despite some imperfections this album holds together pretty well and it has several nice moments.

Report this review (#209098)
Posted Saturday, March 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Ok, now don't freak out when I say this. But I think that as a person & as a keyboardist, Rick Wakeman is a wee bit overrated. Now don't get me wrong, he is an amazing keyboardist, but he is overrated, and I think that even in compositional and creative terms, Tony Banks & Keith Emerson easily outmatch him.

His solo stuff is quite poor & average in my opinion (I've only heard 2, and might to get some more, I need suggestions basically), and this album proves it. This album is okay, it does have some massive flaws & can be boring at time, but it has some good moments and a pretty good vocalist on it.

The one problem that I had with this album was the story. The album should be about King John and all his accomplishments, not the relationship with his wife. Ok, we have now discovered that this album is based on a relationship, but there is one word that is said non stop in this album, the world "love." Now I wouldn't mind it every now and then, but the word pops up everywhere. I counted how many times it is said?.it's 40, and this is coming from an album that is dominantly instrumental. Seriously, it is said too much, in one song it is said over 20 times.

1. Magna Charter - Nice atmospheric instrumental intro. The acoustic guitar parts do sound like a cheap backing track. The vocals are very good though. This song does remind me of an over pompous and dramatic Led Zeppelin song. The piano solo is quite interesting with some nice Antonius Rex like percussion. The programmed drums are out of synch most of the time.

2. After Prayers - Sounds like a boring Simply Red song (now don't get me wrong, I love me Simply Red). Very cheap sounding. Almost like something you would hear in a pub with some singer singing over a backing track. The vocals are quite good though. The lyrics are quite sinister.

3. Battle Sonata - Nice instrumental. Show's off Wakeman's true abilities. Although I'm not getting a very battle like vibe from it.

4. The Siege - I love the keyboards in this song, very sadistic. Pretty interesting song. The word love is thrown in whenever it can, seriously, at any random moment, it's thrown in. Love is said so many times, there isn't even a mention of a battle and if it is, it is overclouded.

5. Rochester College ? Nice interlude. Interesting use of keyboards.

6. The Story Of Love (King John) - LOVE!!!!!! Oh my god, get over the use of using that word. The intro sounds like late Pink Floyd. Love is said even more in this song, I thought he was taking the piss most of the time. The ending is interesting.

7. March Of Time - Best song on the album. The off time drums ruin it a bit though.

8. Don't Fly Away - I like the almost electronica like backbeat. The 80's sound is very cheesy but very

9. Isabella - Quite cool instrumental with some mental keyboard work.

10. Softsword - A nice flluety interlude.

11. Hymn Of Hope - The keyboards make the song very dark and quite eerie. Nice way to end the album.

CONCLUSION: This album would have been way much better if played with a full live band, and with a lot more precision and more careful arrangements?and better lyrics?.LOVE!!!!!!!

Report this review (#280576)
Posted Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | Review Permalink

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