[Review] Rick Wakeman: The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table (1975)

A better journey through the highlights of Arthurian legend, like his last album but without the narrative sections.

Kronomyth 3.0: Hit or myth.

Another extravagantly packaged concept album that continues Wakeman’s journey into English historical fiction, although you really wish he would stop taking Ashley Holt along on these adventures. The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table (of Ulm) was released days before Monty Python and the Holy Grail in what was clearly a springtime revival for Arthurian legend. Although some listeners preferred his last Journey, I’ve always thought this was the better album.

Myths and Legends doesn’t get too bogged down in storytelling and does a much better job of integrating the choir and orchestra into the arrangements (for which, I suppose, Will Malone deserves a lot of the credit). The marriage of synthesizers and strings is still an unnatural alliance at times; in some ways, Wakeman was a victim of the limitations of electronic technology in the Seventies. (And in another, more meaningful way, I suppose we’re all victims.)

What I enjoy most about Myths and Legends is that each of these songs is a self-standing work. There are no narrative interruptions (in fact, I have no idea why Wakeman felt the need to introduce this album with a narrator, unless it was just to scare us), and every song has a principal theme that is strong enough to support six minutes (more or less) of music. There are a few missteps, like the bizarre hoedown in the middle of “Merlin The Magician” or the island infusion in “Sir Galahad,” but otherwise a lot of Myths could pass for Henry’s Missus. “The Last Battle” could even pass for vintage Yes in spots, with vocals that are clearly patterned after Jon Anderson’s wordless patter. Despite its pretentious packaging, including orchestra and choir in tow, Myths and Legends is surprisingly easy to swallow. African or European.

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Original LP Version
A1. Arthur (7:24)
A2. Lady of The Lake (0:44)
A3. Guinevere (6:30)
A4. Sir Lancelot And The Black Knight (5:20)
B1. Merlin The Magician (7:49)
B2. Sir Galahad (6:54)
B3. The Last Battle (8:19)

Al selections written by Rick Wakeman. Orchestral arrangements by Will Malone.

The Players
Rick Wakeman (keyboards), Jeffrey Crampton (lead & acoustic guitars), The English Chamber Choir, John Hodgson (percussion), Ashley Holt (vocals), Barney James (drums), David Measham (orchestra & choir conductor), Roger Newell (bass guitar), Garry Pickford Hopkins (vocals), Guy Protheroe (choirmaster) with David Katz (orchestral co-ordination), Terry Taplin (narrator). Produced by Rick Wakeman; engineered by Paul Tregurtha.

The Plastic
Released on elpee and 8-track on March 27, 1975 in the UK (A&M, AMLH-64515), the US and Canada (A&M, SP/8T-4515), Brazil (A&M, SP 4768), Germany (A&M, 88674 XOT), Japan (A&M, GP-230) and Yugoslavia (Jugoton, LSAM-73016) with gatefold cover and booklet; reached #2 on the UK charts and #21 on the US charts. Also released as quadraphonic stereo elpee in 1975 in the US (A&M, QU-54515) with gatefold cover and poster.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (A&M, SP-3230).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1986 in Japan (A&M, C25Y-3115) with gatefold cover and booklet.
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in the US (A&M, CD 3230).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in 1990 in Europe (A&M, 394 515-2).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc on May 7, 2003 in Japan (A&M, UICY-9263).
  6. Re-released on super high material compact disc on August 26, 2009 in Japan (A&M, UICY-94237).
  7. Re-packaged with White Rock on 2-for-1 CD in Russia (CD-Maximum, CDM-0660-45).
  8. Re-released on SHMCD+DVD on March 25, 2015 in Japan (A&M, UICY-76993) with stereo and quad mixes.
  9. Re-issued on SHMD on April 27, 2016 in Japan (A&M, UICY-25551).

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