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Rick Wakeman - Journey To The Centre Of The Earth Live In Concert DVD (and bonus CD)

Rick Wakeman - Journey To The Centre Of The Earth Live In Concert DVD (and bonus CD)In the early 1970’s, there were always three main contenders jockeying for position as the ‘Best Keyboard player’ in various music polls – Keith Emerson, Tony Banks and Rick Wakeman.  I’m sure all of them at one time or another were voted number one and deservedly so.  However, the whole thing was rather pointless as they each have a different style of playing and they perform different music.  However, Rick, with his long golden mane and white cape captured the imagination of my keyboard proficient peers, mesmerised by his incredibly fast and accurate finger work and use of all the banks of keyboards that surrounded him, often within one piece of music.

At long last a company (classicpictures) has found what can only be described as a classic concert featuring Rick at the height of his career and released it for posterity on DVD.  This concert was recorded live with the Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra in 1975 at the Sidney Myer Concert Bowl in Melbourne Australia in front of a 30,000 audience.  Yes, 30,000!  Younger fans will find it hard to believe that prog was so popular, but concerts often sold out within an hour of tickets going on sale.  Consequently, many others and I never managed to see many of the big names in their heyday instead having to be satisfied with vinyl recordings and the occasional radio or TV broadcast.  Domestic VCRs were rare and VHS as a format had yet to become the standard anyway.

Back to this DVD.  Rick Wakeman, resplendent in his legendary white outfit including cape, shows signs of rock and roll excesses having put on a few extra pounds (Rick suffered a suspected minor heart attack in 1975).  His dexterity and nimbleness of the fingers is truly amazing.  Even in those days he showed signs of being the raconteur he was to become on numerous talk shows in the eighties to the present day.  In fact the band, orchestra and the choir put on an exemplary performance by and large, though Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford Hopkins take a little time to settle their vocal roles.  Special mention must be made regarding Jeffrey Crampton’s performance on acoustic guitar during the rendition of Catherine Howard – superb.  Whilst the main set of this concert is the epic Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (narrated with clarity and authority by Terry Taplin), it also features tracks from Six Wives (Catherine’s Parr and Howard and Anne Boleyn) plus Merlin from the then forthcoming album, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  All in all, 94 minutes of pure nostalgic enjoyment.

Technical Aspects

Technology being what it was in 1975, the soundtrack is purely Dolby© stereo.  The recording was originally made and broadcast by Network7 TV (Australia) and having had some experience in recording concerts in more recent times for video, I can appreciate the problems that have to be overcome such as sound recording, camera placement and live editing.  Direction is not far removed from how I would have approached it, with minimal flitting about although there are a few ‘special effects’ used in places which would seem a little kitsch if not a definite no no these days.  Fortunately these are few and far between.  Long shots (camera sited at the centre back of the auditorium) catch people walking past, which is unavoidable when there is such a large audience.  The stage shots are good and there are many close ups concentrating on the master himself tickling the ivories.  You could be mistaken that some shots appear out of focus, but this is due to the effect of red-gelled spotlights.  Not wishing to go into too much detail, different colours have a slightly differing focal plane so even when the subject is in focus in white light, a red light will, maintaining the same focus, cause the subject to appear slightly fuzzy.  If you have a camcorder, try it for yourself.  The soundtrack cannot be faulted.  Any distortion (usual at the start of any concert) would have been there at the concert.  I am sure this is a faithful rendition.

Package features

The DVD does not have any special features, which is perhaps not surprising considering the age of the concert, so no animated menu, photo gallery, interviews or notes.  Individual tracks can be selected at the start or by using the display button then selecting whilst the DVD is playing.  I don’t this being much of a problem, as most people will want to watch the concert in one go.  However, on the inside of the DVD tray there is a one-fold insert giving track and personnel information. 

Included in this collector’s edition is a CD album, which captures the bulk of the concert minus the banter, but the track order has been rearranged (Journey is at the end with The Six Wives and Merlin up front) presumably to ease editing so that it fits onto a 74 minute CD.

The DVD is multi region PAL, running time 94 minutes.  Cat No:  DVD1077X.

Summary

If you have attended a recent Rick Wakeman concert you have only to look at the age range of the audience to see what a wide appeal he has.  This DVD provides the opportunity to revisit the golden age of progressive rock and master keys man Rick Wakeman on one of his no-expense-spared tours.  Halcyon days indeed, and so easy to lose oneself in the enormity of it all.  A piece of classic prog history that just shrieks ‘buy me’.  With the bonus CD included in the package, you’d be foolish not to.

Jem Jedrzejewski

Rick Wakeman website

Classic Pictures website

 

 

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