Rick Wakeman Live At The Maltings captures the caped wizard at his finest in a show taped in 1976 in Farnham, England. It’s available now as an individual disk, or better yet as part of the “Video Vault” collection. The concert was in support of Rick’s progressive rock masterpiece from 1976, No Earthly Connection. This thematic album one reviewer described as a “metaphysical exploration of the musical essence of mankind’s soul” divided listeners in the day, coming on the heels of Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Myths & Legends of King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table yet without the orchestra and choir from those releases. For this listener, and many prog fans, the more stripped down approach to this ensemble, the focus on Ashley Holt as the lead singer, and addition of a horn section comprised of Martyn Shields (trumpet, flugelhorn, french horn) and Reg Brooks (trombone, bass trombone) lent a kind of funk and soul to this very progressive release. Rick employs his usual array of keys, some of his best Moog leads, lots of clavinet, electric harpsichord and a host of studio recording techniques to add a space-age sheen to the sound. This was also the debut of Tony Fernandez (drums) and John Dunsterville (guitar), who both added tightness and drive to the work.
As performed live, captured on this DVD, the tracks from No Earthly Connection are spectacular. While it would have been wonderful to see the whole album played live, the three core tracks are included on the video. It’s worth the price of the release, or the whole box set, to see great shots capturing Rick hitting all the notes, Ashley belting out his lines in runs that finally seemed meant just for him, and everyone caught up in making the show a display of immense talents. On the older tracks from Journey and Arthur the horns really add to the mix such that it’s hard to miss the full orchestral treatment afforded the two prior tours. To top it off, Rick shows his personality during interludes joking about other TV shows that were likely available concurrently, along with other witty observations.
A great release available from Gonzo Multimedia, this is my favorite among the first three Rick Wakeman tours so thankfully filmed back in the day, and highly recommended.