(All Album Reviews by maribor)
I would be surprised if anyone who is a fan of progressive rock had never heard of a certain man by the name of Rick Wakeman. His reputation as a keyboard player of such bands as Yes and The Strawbs is only a small portion of what this man is about. He has collaborated with numerous other artists of various genres. This live album was recorded in Buenos Aires in 2001 and includes The New English Rock Ensemble, a band that has been playing with Rick in one form or another since 1975.
Rick Wakeman includes many of his classics into the show. Songs from The Six Wives of Henry The Eighth, Journey to The Centre of The Earth and No Earthly Connection are present, unfortunately there's no inclusion of the King Arthur compositions, which just happens to be my favourite album by the man. There are also some of his later works, which I'm not all that familiar with and the drop of quality compared to the 70s compositions is evident. I am perplexed as to the inclusion of “Starship Trooper” into the show. Of course Rick Wakeman is bound to play a Yes song in his set, it was after all an important part of his career. But why on earth “Starship Trooper”? Wakeman wasn't even present on The Yes Album. Wouldn't it make more sense to include something like “Siberian Khatru”, “Close To The Edge”, “Awaken”, “Roundabout” or anything from Tales From Topographic Oceans? Perhaps this was included on this live record because it's a collector's item to hear Rick play a Yes song that he wasn't originally involved on.
Out of The Blue is a satisfying album if you're a fan of Wakeman's constant synth noodling. Personally, I can take it in small doses, but after a while it starts getting old. We get it, you're good, but enough with the solos already. And as if that weren't enough he has a second keyboard player in the form of son Adam Wakeman to help him out. So we now have a keyboard wall to contend with and sometimes it's a bit overwhelming. But don't get me wrong, the keyboards are actually quite well done. It's not as if the synthesizers steal the show, there are plenty of Hammond and church organ sounds, as well as piano. Wakeman sometimes tends to get overboard with synths, but here it's not that bad. All the other instruments are naturally of secondary importance, but all are played at a very high level. It takes some getting used to the voice of Damian Wilson, whose theatrical, almost Broadway voice may be annoying at first, however I got used to it and now even enjoy it to a certain degree.
If you're looking for a live recording of Rick Wakeman that displays a large portion of his career, look no further. Out of The Blue features some great playing by Rick and his band and I'm certain that fans of this keyboard wizard will be pleased with this offering.