Folklore has it that back in 1988 Rick Wakeman was doing a sound check for a concert to be held later that day, and things were not going well. The sound engineer kept telling Rick to ‘just keep playing’. Of course the irrepressible Mr. Wakeman cannot resist a little improv and plays his version of the Beatles classic Elenor Rigby. And so the seed was cast.

Tribute is a tribute to The Beatles. Now, there are a million bands and players who cover The Beatles, and some do it better than others. But I can think of no example where the cover is better than the original other than Rick Wakeman. He takes 10 well known Beatles tunes and adds his own unique interpretation to them. You likely will think me a musical heathen when I confess that I have never owned a Beatles album in my life, I find their music simplistic and overrated. Rick however takes these ‘Three Chord Wonders’ and turns them into a full rich sound. This maestro of the keyboards can do more by himself than the 4 boy wonders from Liverpool.

Tribute was recorded in 1996, but do not be put off by that fact. It is Wakeman at his very finest. Recorded long enough ago we catch Rick still playing synth, a weapon that he seems to have put away in favor of the Grand Piano of late.

It is in albums like Tribute that you get to truly appreciate this classically trained musician. It is hard to appreciate that in the 70’s he was at the very forefront of the Prog Rock movement. This is so very different from The Strawbs and Yes.

The sleeve notes say ‘a tribute album like no other’, and they are telling the truth. This is just a joy to listen to.

Tribute has just been released, and if you cannot find it in your local record store you can get a copy from MVD.

Simon Barrett   

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