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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

3.57 | 464 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
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]

Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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