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Rick Wakeman

Live at the London Palladium 2023 (CD box set)

Review by Gary Hill

This new collection showcases live recordings from two 2023 concerts. The shows were held on two consecutive nights. The first night, Wakeman along with a number of musicians, performed two of his classic solo albums in their entirety. The second night, the show was started with Yes song and finished with another solo album. This four CD collection gathers up all those performances for home audiences.

These live shows were absolutely impressive. Each CD comes in its own cardboard sleeve. There is a booklet included, and it's all encased in a cardboard clamshell box. I've included a short description of each album at the start of the track reviews for that section.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2024  Volume 2 More information and purchase links can be found at:

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
This first CD includes a performance of what is probably Wakeman's best known solo album. Since I've previously reviewed that disc, I'll include the track reviews from there, and then comment on the differences in this live performance. It should be noted that the sequence of tracks is different here.
Catherine of Aragon

Here's what I said when I reviewed the studio version of this track, " Powerful keyboard textures open this. The cut grows out from there with some changes from more rocking to mellower stuff. There are some great melodies and non-lyrical vocals (Liza Strike), The piece does have some exceptional keyboard work for sure."  Some parts of this version seem to be a little punchier, and that's in a good ways. There are some variants to some of the keyboard sounds and minor shifts in the arrangement. Hayley Sanderson is credited with vocals on the album, so I am thinking we are hearing her, but with the addition of some chorale singing.

Anne Boleyn
Here's what I said about the studio version of this song, "This just has some exceptional instrumental work and tones. It's one of my favorites here. Indeed, it's one of my favorites from Wakeman's solo career. It gets into some rather crazed territory later, too." This live performance is quite true to the original version. Some of the synthesizer work later seems a little meatier and fresher. I really love the funky bass work on this. Also, it should be noted that the studio version lists the song as "Anne Boleyn 'The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended." I really like the mellower resolution at the end of this.
Jane Seymour

"There is some great prog rock keyboard based stuff built into this. It's an exceptional tune on an exceptional album. It's among the more purely melodic and straight ahead pieces here." That's what I said in my original review of this track. I think this version perhaps rocks a little harder than the other one did. This is another powerhouse tune.

Anne of Cleves
This is what I said about the studio version, "Some freaky synthesizer opens this. The cut grows out from there into a killer fast paced prog groove. There are some exceptional sections built into this thing. I love some of the soloing in particular. This gets into some pretty crazy territory later. It's a real powerhouse." This starts out perhaps a bit less freaky. There is more of a punchy, rocking sound at play, too. Still, it's largely faithful. I really like the chorale vocals quite a bit. The synthesizer soloing is particularly on fire here, and this seems to have some differing rhythm section choices at times.
Catherine Howard

This was my review of the studio take of this track, "The melodies on this are strong. It has a good balance between louder and softer stuff. This one is perhaps more like Yes than some of the rest. I really love some of the piano work on this. The cool little break down mid-track is classy, too." That break feels a bit more rock guitar oriented at first. I really love so much of the keyboard work on the track. This gets into some cool Celtic styled music at times.

Catherine Parr
My take on the studio version of this track reads like this, "Coming in fast-paced and pretty crazed, this one works through a lot of shifts and changes. It makes good use of the dynamic space between rocking and mellower. It also has some of the most purely classically oriented sounds. The synthesizer lines that rise up from the mid-track drop down are especially effective. It is definitely one of the most dynamic pieces here. The closing section is really strong, too." They bring this in with the exact power and style you expect. It's a faithful and scorching hot live rendition of the track. This gets some freshening up, though and some minor variations. I really love this live version of the song so much.
Disc 2
The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
The second disc of the set covers another full album from Wakeman's solo repertoire. While Music Street Journal previously reviewed the studio version, I wasn't the reviewer, so I won't be giving the track reviews from that version to accompany the live takes. There are again some departures from the original track sequence and labeling.
King Arthur

A short spoken piece opens this. Then a killer synthesizer laden prog arrangement powers in. The track evolves from there, getting into more sedate territory at times. Eventually this works to a vocal section, featuring the aforementioned Sanderson. This works onward as a classy prog rock piece. The instrumental work on this is particularly classy and effective.

Lady of the Lake
Keyboards get us underway here. Then chorale vocals take over in unaccompanied fashion. Instrumental modes return to take this out. Less than two minutes long, this is more of a connecting piece.

Some of the melodies from the previous track are heard as this gets underway. More rock styled vocals are heard on the track. This is more along the lines of what we expect as progressive rock song style. It seems like it doesn't need mentioning, but the keyboard work on this is so potent.

Lancelot And the Black Knight
This powerhouse rocker has always been one of my favorites on the album. This is a smoking hot live rendition of the piece. There are some killer twists and turns and instrumental movements built into this thing. This live performance seem pretty faithful to the studio version.
The Best Knight

This is a short interlude. It starts with chorale vocals, and then after a while shifts to a piano solo.

Sir Galahad
Another energized prog rocker, this is a classy tune. It's another song that has a real rock attitude and vibe, but also manages to get into some neo-classical mellower sounds at times. This is loaded with cool changes and a lot of drama.
This is a 35-second chorale transition.
The Last Battle
Dramatic, but understated, prog brings this in mellow at first and gradually building. The instrumental work on this gets particularly potent. This is another rocker that really makes the album shine, and this live performance literally adds life to it. This makes great use of the contrast between mellower and more rocking sections. There is a spoken narration later in the track.
(ENCORE) The King of Merlins

At just over a minute long, this is a short introductory piece. It starts with chorale vocals. When those end, Wakeman's piano takes over and eventually takes it to the next number.

(ENCORE) Merlin the Magician
Here we get another powerhouse rocking tune. This is just so much fun. It's also dynamic and varied. This is one that has more of a mainstream prog rock vibe. It gets pretty playful at times. Despite the mainstream rock leaning, it still has plenty of classical music and other things built into it. This has some amazing keyboard work later, and I love the interplay between that and the guitar.
Disc 3
Classic Yes
Here Wakeman and company tackle some material originally performed with Yes. You probably got that from the title, right?

This version of the classic Yes rocker features some more prominent keyboards at points. It's largely faithful to the Yes version, although Sanderson's vocals have a different tone to them.

The YES Suite (part A – The Meeting)
Wakeman's keys bring this in, as they should. Then chorale vocals deliver the lyrics without instrumental accompaniment. Eventually the keyboards re-enter beyond those vocals. Sanderson comes over, taking the place of Jon Anderson. This is a beautiful number. While prefer the original, this take is effective and intriguing. Wakeman's keyboards take us into another Yes classic and segue into the next number.
The YES Suite (part B – Wonderous Stories)

They put in a great rendition of this Yes song. It wanders into some moments that feel like something from Six Wives..., but then come back out into the song proper.

The YES Suite (part C – Southside of the Sky)
The previously referenced, but unnamed, Yes classic returns here, at first with Wakeman's piano. This is actually my favorite Yes song of all the music they made, so I love this. It's a killer live rendition that manages to play it pretty faithfully. The jam later is a departure from the studio version of the song, but it's in line with some of the live versions Yes have done of the song.
And You And I
They play this one quite faithfully. The vocal performances are the main difference, but that's more avoid the sound of the voices than any actual variants. They deliver a very potent telling of a real classic here.
Starship Trooper / Wurm
This comes in fairly faithful. It works along that line until there is a more keyboard-dominated variant movement after the first vocal section. The bass really gets to show off later, even turning a little funky. It's a departure from the way Squire played it, but it's also very cool. The keyboard soloing later in the track is positively on fire. They really put in a killer rendition of that part of the song.
Disc 4
Journey to the Centre of the Earth
With a live performance of another of Wakeman's concept albums, this is powerful. I previously reviewed the studio disc. However, that CD was split into two epic pieces, basically each the side of an album. Here the pieces are cut into smaller parts, so it seems illogical to reference that review in this instance.
The Preface
This is a spoken introduction to the story and the album.
The Journey Overture

A real rocking motif opens things up musically. This features plenty of cool keyboard work over the top of it. There are some chorale vocals in the mix, too. It works through some twists and turns along the road. Some keyboard soloing takes us straight into the next movement.

Journeys Dawn
A little mellower and more restrained, this drops back to a prog ballad approach for the entrance of the vocals. Wakeman's keyboards on the instrumental section beyond that section really elevate it. The track works out to more of a rocking movement for the next vocals. Another killer instrumental section ends this.
Crystals / The Gothic Cathedral / A Quest for Water
Weird sound effects are heard in the backdrop as the narrator continues the story. Beautiful keyboard textures combined with chorale voices are heard as the narration continues. Then the narrator drops away and the music gets gradually more involved. A harpsichord sounding section takes over from there, and the narrator returns. The music gradually intensifies, but only so much.
The Hansbach / Fervent Prayer
Coming straight out of the previous movement, this powers out with some killer symphonic rock modes. It builds with an almost metallic crunch, but eventually resolves to a less insistent, but more soaring prog rock arrangement from there. The narrator returns during the second half of the song over more classical styled music.
The Recollection / Lost And Found
Coming out of the previous section, this has a real song-based vibe to it. It is not quite balladic, but definitely of the melodic prog type vibe. This works through some shifts and changes, and the narrator returns near the end.
Echoes / 4 Miles
I really dig the cool, almost soulful prog groove as this movement gets underway. The vocals bring some real magic to it. This works through with style and the narration returns at the end.
The Reunion
Much more guitar oriented and hard rocking, this is a real powerhouse. This instrumental section works well.
A New Vista
A bouncing sort of musical backdrop sits behind the next narration section.
A World within a World
This section comes in with more rocking stuff and some themes from earlier return before it's over.
The Raft
Effects laden sounds are heard behind the next narration.
The Battle
Driving, energized progressive rock that is trademark Wakeman gets this thing going with style. This works through as a real progressive rock powerhouse tune. It's one of the more mainstream song-like pieces, and it's packed full of magic. I really love the keyboard work on this, but then again, it is Rick Wakeman. the whole song works so well, really.
Cumulous Clouds
A narration with some keyboards as the backdrop, this is short.
The Storm
Powerhouse keyboard soloing over a hard rocking jam gets us going here. Chorale vocals come over the top as this continues.
The Cemetery
Spacey sort of music with chorale vocals makes up this cut, but it's also got the next narration over the top of it.
Quaternary Man
More of a song-like piece, this has some cool progressive rock at its heart. It gets pretty powerful and soaring further down the road. The jam later includes some potent guitar soloing. Of course, Mr. Wakeman gets the chance to shine, too.
Chorale vocals provide the backdrop for another narration to carry the story forward in this connecting piece.
The Forest
A mellower arrangement accompanies the vocal performance on this. There are some chorale vocals later, and this works really well, even if it's not the most intense or rocking thing here. It does get more rocking as it continues.
Ages of Man

Coming out of the previous tune, there is almost a blues rock vibe behind the next narrated section.

The Tunnel
The keyboard soloing on this track are on fire. The whole piece has so much energy and drive to it.
Hall of the Mountain King / Mount Etna

Wakeman tears into Grieg's classical masterpiece as this movement gets underway. The rest of the musicians join, and this continues growing and intensifying. As that winds up we get returning themes from the beginning of this journey. They work it out to a very satisfying conclusion.


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