Refer to my coverage of Yesspeak (here) and then combine it with this, Rick Wakeman's 2005 concert in Cuba, and Yesficionados can thank MVD for a prodigal feast of progressive rock from some of the absolute best the genre-field has birthed. There's even an interesting backstory to the Wakeman event: though forever opposed by the same capitalist forces which have been ruining the planet since Reagan, Cuba has never balked an inch in its socialistically-oriented showdown and here thumbed its nose, flouting the arrogant posture of its adversaries by inviting Wakeman to Havana (at a point when pressure was again being ratcheted up on the island nation for various "reasons") for one of the country's first and largest official rock concerts.
Besides Wakeman's presence, the second best news is that the keyboard maestro forsook his mainstay vocalist (sorry, I can't remember the bloke's name, though his semi-operatic pretense is all too vivid while I'm busily trying to forget) and tagged Ashly Holt for the vocal chores, a MUCH better choice. Though not the equal of the inimitable Gary Pickford-Hopkins, Wild Turkey member and the original lead singer for Journey to the Center of the Earth way back when (accompanied by Holt), Ashley has far more grit, has known Rick since their old days in Warhorse, and ain't afraid to belt it out, as he proves in The Recollection / The Spaceman. Thus, in tandem with a very good backing band, Wakeman and Holt present a dynamic repertoire of some of the golden-haired wizard's best, including a medley closer of Yes' Starship Trooper / Wurm.
Of all the progressive Yes members, Wakeman has best preserved his virtuosic talents, and the ability of those nimble fingers to fly with dexterity over the various instruments Rick always packs his kit with never fails to impress. Of the forever rotating roster of the famous erstwhile group's ensemble players, he was the most rebellious, went through the most dramatic highs and lows, and yet has maintained an edge that only rarely dulls (except with damn near all those wretched Christian CDs he pooted out for too many years). The gent's not only a survivor of the first water, but it's impossible to knock that trait of sterling achievement out of him when he's in his elements: classicalism and progrock, abundant here.
It's also little known that Wakeman has produced over 100 albums selling well over 50 million copies and has never been long out from under the musical umbrella, a dyed-in-the-wool artist whose amazing chops emerge just as well here as elsewhere, though the recording could've pushed him more to the forefront mixing-wise. The guy never ceases to cause jaws to hit floors when he takes the stage, and this marvelous show, with all its great improvs and extensions on treasured opuses, will give none reason for anything but gratification. Guitarist Dave Colquhoun can shred when he's given rein and the rhythm section keeps everything on a dynamic keel, well supporting the mainman. Our amigos down in Cuba, trust me in this, knew just what the hell they were doing when they set this gig up.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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