Rick Wakeman – Rock Explosion ’75 (Reel Masters-014)

Rock Explosion ’75 (Reel Masters-014)

Shibyua-kokaido, Tokyo, Japan – January 17th, 1975

Disc 1 (39:39):  Opening, Catherine Parr, Guinevere, Catherine Howard.

Disc 2 (71:28):  Journey To The Centre Of The Earth:  The Journey, Recollection, The Battle, The Forest.  Bonus tracks radio interviews from Japan:  Programme 1, Programme 2.

DVDR (approx. 28 minutes):  King Arthur at Wembley, Wembley Empire Pool, London, England – May 30th, 1975:  The Myths and Legends of King Arthur And the Knights of the Round Table, Guinevere, Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight, Sir Galahad/The Last Battle

It is easy to forget how popular Rick Wakeman was in the middle of the 1970’s.  He was easily the most well-known and popular member of the biggest progressive rock band in the world, Yes, and his solo LP The Six Wives Of Henry VIII and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth sold extremly well.  In fact Six Wives even hit #1 on the charts, a first for a purely instrumental LP. 

This new tape released by Reel Masters comes from Wakeman’s very first tour of Japan as a solo artist, supporting the newly released Journey LP.  Tapes from the four Osaka concerts have circulated, but this is the very first appearance for the January 17th show in Tokyo.  As with all releases on this label, the tape source makes it’s debut. 

The sound quality of the tape is very good and enjoyable.  It sounds a bit distant from the stage but captures everything going on in the show.  Also the tape doesn’t suffer from a boomy, bottom heavy bass that is common for so many tape sources from this era.  The Scotch 90 reel-to-reel is pictured on the artwork as is the case with all releases on this label. 

The set list for this tour consists of a selection from the Henry VIII album and prviews from the soon-to-be-released Myths & Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table LP.  There is an unfortunate cut in the tape after “Catherine Howard” eliminating “Merlin The Magician”.  The second set consists of the Journey LP complete with narrator Terry Taplin telling Verne’s story of the nether regions in the earth. 

Disc two contains two bonus tracks, two radio interviews broadcast on this tour.  The first programme is from the “American Top 40” show and is dominated by the female Japanese mc.  The second programme is much longer and better sounding with a Japanese pianist interviewing Wakeman through an interpreter covering all aspects of his career and the equipment he uses.

The performance itself is vintage Wakeman.  It sounds to me that he wrote the King Arthur material for Yes.  The vocal melodies are definitely within Jon Anderson’s range and dexterity.  The two vocalists, Garry Hopkins and Ashley Holt can’t really handle Wakeman’s vision.  They are too “rock and roll” for this and are a weak spot.  The orchestra, on the other hand, is really great and adds a lot to Wakeman’s keyboards. 

Rock Explosion ’75 comes with a bonus dvdr of a broadcast on Japanese television of Wakeman’s King Arthur on ice show at the Wembley Empire Pool on May 30th, 1975.  Unfortunately the first half of the show is missing.  But what we have is the best quality available.  It is very sharp and enjoyable with Japanese subtitles. 

This performance made VH1’s 100 most shocking moments in rock (#79) and it is interesting to see Sir Lancelot skating around, waving his sword fighting the Black Knight.  Whatever one can say about this, it is an interesting way to stage a rock show.  The cd set is limited to 300 copies and the dvd to only 100 copies. 

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