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Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog

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Rick Wakeman Softsword album cover
3.27 | 38 ratings | 5 reviews | 16% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1991

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Magna Charter (12:16)
2. After Prayers (5:36)
3. Battle Sonata (3:47)
4. The Siege (5:14)
5. Rochester College (2:51)
6. The Story Of Love (King John) (6:42)
7. March Of Time (3:55)
8. Don't Fly Away (4:43)
9. Isabella (3:29)
10. Softsword (1:54)
11. Hymn Of Hope (3:16)

Total time 53:43

Line-up / Musicians

- Rick Wakeman / keyboards, composer & producer

- Chrissie Hammond / vocals
- Anabel Blakeney / gemshorn
- David Paton / bass, guitars
- Stuart Sawney / percussion programming

Releases information

Sub-titled "King John And The Magna Charter"

LP Ambient ‎- A-IOM 3 (1991, UK)

CD Ambient ‎- A-IOMCD 3 (1991, UK)
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC 2452 (2014, Europe) Remastered by Ian Barfoot; New cover art

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy RICK WAKEMAN Softsword Music

RICK WAKEMAN Softsword ratings distribution

(38 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(16%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (24%)
Collectors/fans only (18%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

RICK WAKEMAN Softsword reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Zitro
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

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
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.

Latest members reviews

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#280576) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 Wake ... (read more)

Report this review (#27531) | Posted by | Monday, June 28, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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