Rick Wakeman’s horrific Beatles ‘Tribute’


1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#99: Rick Wakeman – Tribute (1997)

MATT KELLY finds a blotch in the prog-rock keyboard maestro’s catalogue that’s even more risible than King Arthur On Ice.

When Rick Wakeman, one of the most talented rock keyboardists in rock, takes on the songbook of The Beatles, arguably the best songwriters of the 1960s, you’d expect something special to happen. And it certainly does, because while I’d normally consider progressive rock and elevator music polar opposites that can’t exist together, progressive elevator music is what Wakeman creates on the risible Tribute.

Wakeman limply noodles away through an interminable ‘Norwegian Wood’, his naive synthesized flutes producing music you’d expect to find playing at a Hobbiton daycare. Don’t worry, the other end of the spectrum is covered with a rest home lunchtime concert rendition of ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ that drags on for seven minutes. But just wait till you see what Wakeman has done to ‘Come Together’. A genuine musical crime, he has flavoured this Fab Four favourite with the fakest funk vibes you’ve ever heard, complete with a trash disco beat and the main melody played on a synthesizer set to “alarm clock”.

Harrison’s classic, darkly compelling ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is here transformed into a sleep aid, while ‘We Can Work It Out’ feels like it’s been assembled on an NES soundboard, the sonics thin, unsophisticated and dated even for 1997.

Wakeman knows he done wrong, having apologized for the eight-minute ‘Eleanor Rigby’ which begins well enough with a stark, moving piano refrain that escapes the digitized blandness, but turns into a face-palm-worthy dungeon synth dance remix.

Proof that the man who gave us King Arthur On Ice had more than one great rock folly up his sleeve.

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Matthew Kelly is the most important person in the music industry – the type of obsessive nerd without whom it would have no reason to produce box sets and nine-hour long documentaries.

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