Published on 29th October 2014
Rick Wakeman & The English Rock Ensemble – Out Of The Blue
Out Of The Blue along with the Live In Buenos Aires DVD serve as the first recordings of the then recently reformed The English Rock Ensemble featuring Rick Wakeman (keyboards), Damian Wilson (vocals), Ant Glynne (guitars & backing vocals), Lee Pomeroy (bass), Tony Fernandez (drums) and Adam Wakeman (keyboards & backing vocals). The DVD and more importantly the CD under review here were recorded in the Teatro Gran Rex in Buenos Aires on the 21st April 2001 – although it should be noted that the tracks on the CD vary from the Classic Pictures DVD.
With such a wealth of live Wakeman recordings to choose from is there anything to commend this release above the others? Well the simple answer is yes and mainly because the band were cooking on gas for this concert, which more than compensates for the somewhat pared down line-up – no choirs or orchestra here. Another striking feature is how heavy the band are with Ant Glynne adding muscle to the performance which in turn suits Damian Wilson’s rockier vocal delivery to a tee. The rhythm sections are suitably driving too…
The CD starts in with ‘chug’ led by Glynn and pulsed by the rhythm section before the Wakeman choirs lead us into more familiar territory and an adaptation of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. Rick Wakeman is on fire from the start, ably assisted by Adam, the keyboards rise up and soar across the heavy musical backdrop. Damian Wilson’s voice is perfect for this track and he takes ownership of the piece from the outset. We recently reviewed the Esoteric Recordings re-mastered Live In Lugano (DVD) and it was fascinating listening to the differing approaches to this track in particular. Two very fine versions of a Wakeman classic.
From JTTCOTE we move to the 1999 sequel, Return To The Centre Of The Earth and Buried Alive, which as memory serves was originally sung by Ozzy Osbourne. Not one of my favourite albums, so I could be mistaken, however The English Rock Ensemble breathe new life into this song and certainly Damian Wilson turns in a far superior performance. We move from here to the first of the two pieces from the wonderful The Six Wives of Henry VIII, for a live recording this is truly awesome adaptation whilst remaining fairly close to the original. As I said Rick Wakeman was on fire here in Buenos Aires.
An interesting choice comes courtesy of Music Reincarnate/The Prisoner from No Earthly Connection (1976). Again I’m not overly familiar with this album, perhaps initially put off by the overt ‘musical’ nature of the music, although here it does give Damian Wilson the opportunity to demonstrate his admirable theatrical voice.
Standout track on this release is the second track from The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Catherine Parr. At just under ten minutes the band allow themselves the opportunity to cut loose with Rick Wakeman and Ant Glynne turning in fiery performances. I never tire of hearing this track and certainly this extended version is highly recommended.
Damian Wilson returns for rocky versions of The Visit/Return Of The Phantom from the somewhat obscure Phantom Power (1990). Once again I’m not overly familiar with this release, but the guitar histrionics seem to carry the track forward.
The final song on Out Of The Blue comes from the Yes catalogue and an extended version of Starship Trooper. Perhaps a strange choice as Wakeman wasn’t in the band at the recording of The Yes Album (1971), however he certainly would have performed it on numerous occasions afterwards. However with such a vast wealth of material to choose from I do find it a curious choice, or is it simply that regardless of how many times I hear Würm, it still does nothing for me. This said this is a interesting version of Starship Trooper rounding off the CD in fine style and certainly to the delight the Argentine audience.
The sleeve notes for the album comment: “This recording is completely live and has no additional tracks added, nor has any part of this CD been re-recorded.” which is very commendable and may go to explaining the sound production. Despite Esoteric’s re-mastering there are audio inconsistencies across the album, however the quality of the performance and music outweigh this. As mentioned above, with such a wealth of live Wakeman recordings to choose from it is difficult to know which one to buy, unless you buy them all of course. However if the bank balance doesn’t quite stretch that far then I can certainly recommend this live recording.
01. Excerpts From Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (16:43)
02. Buried Alive (6:45)
03. Jane Seymour (4:42)
04. No Earthly Connection
– I. Music Reincarnate,
– II. The Prisoner (11:49)
05. Catherine Parr (9:45)
06. The Visit/Return Of The Phantom (8:07)
07. Starship Trooper
– I. Life Seeker
– II. Disillusion
– III. Würm (16:30)
Total Time – 74:22
Rick Wakeman – Keyboards
Damian Wilson Vocals
Ant Glynne – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Lee Pomeroy – Bass
Tony Fernandez – Drums
Adam Wakeman – Keyboards & Backing Vocals
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 2451
Year Of Release: 2014
Original Release: 2003