Merlin the Magician - Rick Wakeman (1975)
No three chronological albums in an artist's repertoire have come to represent their careers as much as Rick Wakeman's first three solo discs. On his first, we are presented with six breathtaking instrumentals that capture the essence of the six women who were King Henry VIII's wives. On the followup, he demonstrated his storytelling prowess with his adaptation of Jules Verne's Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. A narrator was provided, as well as vocalists, but none were needed; not with such expressionistic music that provides the required visual aids for storytelling inherent in the listeners imagination. Then came the caped crusader's take on the Authurian legend and all bets were off.
This album should be in any music critic's top 12 best albums of all time. Instrumental music rarely finds such depth, power and nobility outside the realm of the classical masters. On today's track dedicated to Merlin we are treated to stoic beauty, rapscallion-esque delight and vivid mind pictures of the wizard who came first. All of his portraits on the disc ring out with the same biographical flair but, like The Six Wive's "Catherine Of Aragon", this one shines brightest in a vivid British sky.
It's a shame that dirty "prog" word gets attached to these pieces. If it wasn't considered such a divisive description, I would simply be recounting things you already knew about. As is, anything that the greatest tool (besides Jon Anderson's voice) that Yes ever "wielded" touches is well worth your time.
Rick Wakeman is a sorcerer equal to today's tune's inspiration, believe-you-me!
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