Wakeman, Rick - Winterland Ballroom 1975,
Apparently, I have 97 Rick Wakeman solo albums according to iTunes, which means I’m still missing some, and that doesn’t include his work with other artists and bands! Yes, it’s safe to say I’m a fan. I also have multiple DVDs and books of his, and it is a serious regret of mine that I have only seen him in concert twice, once on the ‘Out There’ tour and once on a solo piano tour. Now, most people are aware that just a few days before the ‘Out There’ tour Rick’s singer, Damian Wilson, decided that he couldn’t do the gig anymore, but instead of abandoning the shows Rick instead contacted his old mate Ashley Holt, and with a rejigged set list the tour was saved.
Heading all the way back now to 11th February 1975, and this CD captures Ashley also singing his heart out for Rick, but here it was at a concert in San Francisco, following on from Rick’s three massive albums ‘Journey’, ‘King Arthur’ and ‘Henry’. This was recorded and broadcast as a radio show, and it is obvious that there has been no cleaning up at all, as there are a few duff notes here and there. Also, it must be realised that there was no expectation at the time of making this commercially available so there are times when the sound is dated, and I noticed an audible hiss at some points. But, and it is a huge “but”, the concert itself is quite astounding. With both trumpet and trombone in the band, it gives the band a very different feel, as does the use of percussion as well as drums. This means that there are times when “real” instruments are used where Rick often plays the sounds on keyboards, which allows him to go off on piano or another musical tangent. There is strong use of acoustic guitar as well as electric, and this really does feel like a band as opposed a keyboard player and session musicians.
Is this an album that I would recommend to someone trying to discover Rick for the first time? To be honest no, there are better live albums around, and certainly better studio releases. But in terms of historical context and Rick’s overall biography this album is fascinating and is one that any fan needs to have in their collection. With sleeve notes by Gonzo’s own Jon Downes, this is a CD to which I will often be returning.