Friday, 6 February 2015

Rick Wakeman - Reissues

Well, these have been a long time coming. It is hard to believe that this is the first time that Wakeman's A&M catalogue has been properly remastered since the albums were first released on CD around 1990. Those were also poorly packaged as was the norm in those days, which didn't do justice at all to the flamboyant packaging of the original vinyl LP's. The catalogue however was reissued in Japan around 2003 as papersleeve editions which did mention a remastering. But what the source of the tapes they used for this is unknown. I have them as shown below and they are an improvement over the original.
There were plans to re-release the catalogue by Esoteric many years ago, but Wakeman decided to do them himself. But, again a few years dragged on and nothing. But now at last, Universal have picked up the reigns and we now have the first fruits of this reissue program. Strangely not the first two albums that were chronologically released, but the first two studio albums. So, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is not included in this first batch of releases. What we have is Six Wives and King Arthur. The format of these re-issues is a CD of the remastered album plus a DVD with high resolution stereo and quad mixes. Some may argue that it's a shame they didn't go back to the original multitracks, if available and produce a new 5.1 surround mix. There is still some discussion on the origin of these quad mixes, whether they are from tapes or transfers from vinyl sources. However, the MLP 24/96 stereo is very good.
Both albums have been remastered at Abbey Road and sound really clear and detailed, especially King Arthur where the vocals of the choir, orchestra and low synth notes are very impressively presented. The menus on both discs has been authored by Neil Wilkes, who has been involved in projects such as the King Crimson and Yes archival releases and I have the feeling it was him who guided the decision to have these discs released in lossless high resolution. The packaging of these reissues is quite good, with the original artwork reproduced within the booklet which includes, notes by Jerry Ewing and even the full lyric book from King Arthur.
For me, these are pretty good upgrades of Wakeman's albums. It's especially good they have them not just as CD but in high resolution stereo on the DVD. It's that which gives the best representation of the classical, orchestral grandeur of Wakemans music, especially on King Arthur.


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