Published on 12th November 2015
Rick Wakeman & The English Rock Ensemble – In The Nick Of Time: Live 2003
Our favourite Progressive Rock raconteur Rick Wakeman has a long and varied career under his belt, which has included time with such bands as The Strawbs and, of course, Yes, as well as being a respected session man and solo artist. It is in his solo work that he has been at his most prolific with a vast catalogue of releases to date. This particular set comprises recordings from the 2003 tour to support the Out There album, which in my opinion is amongst his finest works.
In The Nick Of Time: Live 2003 has been unavailable for some years, but has now been newly re-mastered and repackaged with a detailed booklet as Esoteric Recordings continue their series of official Rick Wakeman reissues. The booklet, which also contains the song lyrics, is informative, interesting and extensive, shot through with the sense of humour that we are all no doubt familiar, as Rick tries to, in his own words, “attempt a definition” of what went on.
The members of The English Rock Ensemble who appear on this release are the same as on Out There, except for vocalist Damien Wilson who apparently went suddenly AWOL a few hours before the first night’s concert, which had to go ahead as an instrumental gig. To prevent cancellation of the whole tour, Damien was replaced at the last minute by Rick’s long time collaborator Ashley Holt (veteran of 21 albums with Rick), hence the title In The Nick Of Time. It appears that all this forced Rick to make some adjustments to the key of some of the pieces to suit Ashley’s voice. That said, Ashley gives a good performance, in particular on the songs from Out There featured here considering that he did not appear on that recording. Tony Fernandez handles the drumming, as he has for around forty of Rick’s albums, with bass provided by Lee Pomeroy. Ant Glynne appeared on the Out There and Out of the Blue albums and puts in a great performance here.
Rick and the band perform a some solo classics, plus two tracks from Out There and the Yes classic Würm, part of Starship Trooper. The sound of the re-master is bright, clear with a good balance between the instruments, no one player appears to dominate the proceedings with the guitar runs as clear as Rick’s keyboard flourishes.
We begin with the classic Catherine Parr which segues into the unreleased Beware Your Enemies and you can hear the band’s intent from the start with an excellent performance. As most followers of Mr Wakeman will know his live playing is often textured with his somewhat improvisational style, which makes for a different experience with familiar songs. The title track from Out There follows, one of the pieces that needed adjusting for Ashley’s voice but he sings it well, offering something a little different from the original but clearly recognisable.
The other Out There track, The Cathedral in the Sky, begins with Rick providing an introduction on the organ, soon joined by a choir as the song progresses. Good performances from all here once again, in particular Ant Glynne whose guitar work shines throughout the album. His playing is also excellent on Steve Howe’s Würm, doing the piece full justice whilst putting enough of his own stamp on it to make it an interesting listen. With a lively version of White Rock and the great No Earthly Connection the album is completed with two more classics.
Although many of these tracks appear on other live recordings spread throughout Rick’s catalogue, I feel these selections do add something new to his live output. An enjoyable listen with top quality playing. I have seen Rick play live on numerous occasions and as a solo artist I have often heard him play Dance of a Thousand Lights as a piano piece, but to hear it here as a full band piece is a joy to me. It goes to show that his music can be multi-functional, whether played as part of a band or as standalone solo pieces.
If you are a Rick fan then this release is a good purchase, if it is not already part of your collection. It would also be a good place for the novice Rick listener to start. Good performances, great song choices and a very good remaster.
01. Catherine Parr / Beware Your Enemies (11:07)
02. Out There (13:17)
03. No Earthly Connection (8:06)
04. Dance of a Thousand Lights (5:48)
05. The Cathedral in the Sky (10:36)
06. White Rock (3:15)
07. Würm (9:29)
Total time – 61:39
Rick Wakeman – Keyboards
Ant Glynn _ Guitar
Ashley Holt – Vocals
Lee Pomeroy – Bass
Tony Fernandez – Drums
Erik Jordan – Additional keyboards
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 2462
Year Of Release: 2014