Tag Archives: rick wakeman


Last night at the wonderful Staines Riverside Club we witnessed rare magic when WILLY FINLAYSON AND THE HURTERS came to town bringing their smooth quality rock and soft ‘n’ soulful covers.

The last time we saw Willy in Staines was with his band project HALF MEAL TICKET, then with Steve Simpson (now in retirement) and Dean Barnes (much missed.)

Edinburgh born Willy is a talented guitarist, composer and extraordinary vocalist and he fronted Bees Make Honey (1974 ) and later the famous country rock band Meal Ticket. They provided the theme for the brilliant play-for-today “Dominick Hide”.

Willy Finlayson – Carnation-cream and tobacco voice…

In staines The Hurters played songs like the award-winning “She Will Be Loved” [Maroon 5] with its insistent chorus.

These were emotionally rendered, and even at times perhaps overwrought. Though Willy’s smouldering carnation-cream and tobacco voice helped  alleviate any anguish.

Classy blues numbers, such as “Crazy ‘Bout An Automobile (Every Woman I Know)” (Ry Cooder, 1980) had good rebound and veritable trim.

And for the many upbeat numbers (Bruce Springsteen is a favourite songwriter) Willy provided eloquent slur to go with that amazing golden brogue.

Dave Colquhoun – bullets of masculinity and power…

The great revelation of the night was the “new” guitarist Dave Colquhoun.

Dave is actually an experienced session man, currently with Rick Wakeman’s band.

He has his own band projects and previously worked with Go West, Paul Young, Belinda Carlisle, T’pau, Bananarama and, of course, Bucks Fizz.

Dave added bullets of masculinity and power to ballads such as “Hungry Heart” or dark twists of sadness or tiny bee stings of articulation… In other words, he provided nuance and fragrance to every soulful song. Such was his impressive play that he earned  several bravos of his own during the evening.

Tempo was provided by acclaimed blues bassist Malcolm Hoskins who was a firm and steadfast rhythmic-energy maker.

Towards the end of the evening we were treated to a few songs from “surprise guest” LIZA MARSHALL.

Her husky chocolate-syrup voice always wins applause, and her smooth song-choice included the singalong gospel number “People Get Ready” [Curtis Mayfield 1965.] This allowed Dave to express his more imaginative and jazzy side.

As usual, a very fine evening of quality musical entertainment in Staines.

Words & Images: @neilmach 2017 ©

Link: http://www.willyfinlayson.com/


Anderson / Wakeman – Are They Just Yes-terdays Men?

On the evening of Friday 22nd October I went to see Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson  [The Anderson-Wakeman Project] at The Anvil, Basingstoke.

I approached this concert with a feeling of some ambivalence. The whole thing about these antique rock treasures being taken out of the old trophy cupboard and dusted down saddens me. I can think of nothing worse than spending an evening fawning over some old has-been who is attempting to rekindle that long extinguished flame one more time.  And all that servile pretentiousness that is expected from the audience. All those fake nostalgic feelings. And all that hushed beatification of the noble rock luvvies – the entire experience tends to bring bile to my lips. If old rockers don’t die gracefully then, at the very least, they should be forced into exile far away – running a trout farm or something. We do not need them to come back every five minutes, trying to hit the high notes, and rambling on about how freaky everything was back in ‘73. It is undignified. And, worse still, it reminds us that we are getting old too. So, no thanks.  If we really want to hear them at their very finest then we can download their stuff onto MP3 can’t we?  We don’t need them to be standing there in the weakly quasi-living flesh, doing their absent-minded best to entertain us in some frail way do we? But, on the other hand, what if they still could still turn on the old magic? What if the gift was still there? What if they could still deliver a sting?  It is so intriguing that it is almost worth taking the risk.  But, frankly,  I was  prepared to be disappointed.

As I sat waiting patiently in the luxurious surroundings of The Anvil I couldn’t help asking myself…  Are Rick and Jon just yesterdays men? Can they still pass muster?  Culture lovers and quality music aficionados around me seemed to be asking the very same question. Then, as the lights went down, a gentle ripple of applause echoed around the venue, and the two venerable rock-gods shuffled onto the simply light stage. Jon was clutching an acoustic guitar and was dressed casually, as if he was popping up the corner shop for a pinta.  Rick strolled over to the two keyboards. And that was it. We were in the presence of two artists who can conjure up sounds, images, textures and sensations from just an old guitar and a couple of keyboards.  It was magical.

It is interesting that Jon is five years older than Rick – because he doesn’t look it.  Aged 66 (to Rick’s 61) he looks like he is in his late forties. The years have not worn away Jon’s elfin features and nor that airy-fairy posture. Neither have they worn down his amazing voice. Naturally higher than tenor, but without extending to falsetto – his voice has a lush mellow sweetness to it. At this  concert he was still perfectly pitched and the nuances of that nutty-brown Lancastrian accent were still abundantly clear. Jon seemed to be completely baffled by the whole experience of getting up on stage with his guitar and putting on a show.  A consistent theme  ( perhaps  deliberately over-emphasised  for dramatic effect ) was that Jon could not remember the text of any of the songs, nor present a concise introduction to the pieces. In fact, it seemed likely that he didn’t even know what day it was. But the audience seemed perfectly happy to let this go by, and the songs were gorgeously inspiring and wondrously created.

Rick has now become a minor celebrity outside his rock persona for being one of the regular ‘Grumpy Old Men.’ He is also an admired DJ on Planet Rock. As far as I am concerned he can never do wrong, not just because of his keyboard work for ‘Yes’ but also because of his incredible contributions to such famous songs as Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” and Cat Stevens’ re-working of the school assembly hymn “Morning Has Broken.”     I first encountered Rick’s virtuosity on ‘The Strawbs’  ‘From the Witchwood’ album (1971) and I commend to you the track “The Hangman and the Papist”.  I advise you give that a listen, to understand why I was completely blown-away by his spectacular artistry. In the Anderson-Wakeman Project,  Rick keeps things simple. Just two keyboards and a laid-back gentle attitude. Only once or twice did we experience the true greatness and extraordinary rendition of this amazing player.  And at those times he stooped over the keys like a mad praying mantis – a look of deadly concentration upon his face – as his fingers flashed out, like a predator, to take the ivories.

Rick seems, upon the surface, to be ‘of sound mind’ and the more lucid of the partnership. But it is quite clear that he adds depth and magic to the mythical and emotional dimensions of Jon’s characteristically surreal pieces- like those old favourites “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Yours Is No Disgrace”. He is perfectly at ease in translating what seem like the ‘ramblings’ of  an imaginative mind, and turning that jamboree-bag of Jon’s thoughts into real commodities, containing sound and light. These two are a perfect creative partnership. This became even clearer as the new songs emerged from ‘The Living Tree’  and during the “Recital Part” of the show, (as Jon called it.)

Constant humorous interludes and witty interjections from the pair helped enliven the show and added a welcome lightness. Not only were these anecdotes entertaining, they were also inciteful.  According to Jon the two partners collaborate together using email and text – Rick lives in the UK whilst Jon lives in the U.S.A.   So when one has an idea, he urgently emails the other to put across the musical concept. Jon told us how he was grappling with the ideas behind ‘The Living Tree’ and he told us how he had come up with the idea after he had ‘Just come in from the garden… and trees and plants were on my mind ….  I had to contact Rick right away with my thoughts’. Rick added “It’s a good job, then, that you hadn’t just come in from the loo!”   An another occasion Jon was speaking passionately and fervently about the theme of love and how people do not love themselves enough – loving each other has to start somwhere and it ought to start with loving ones self.  Rick interjected ‘ I used to love myself …. a whole lot …. back when I was fourteen – until my dad told me to stop because it would make me go blind’.

Another interesting anecdote was shared with the audience when Jon explained how he had come up with the idea for “Roundabout” [from the 1971 Yes album Fragile ].  ‘In and around the lake – mountains come out of the sky – one mile we’ll be there and see you…’ According to Jon, the band were herded into a van to make a difficult return journey from northern Scotland back to the north of England in time for the next concert. The journey seemed to ‘go on for ever’ and the most annoying parts were the ‘roundabouts’ (circular road junctions) “I remember there seemed to be hundreds of roundabouts on the way back, and at each roundabout there was a traffic hold up – I thought we would never get to our destination.” But the icy lakes and the occasional glimpses of mountains squeezing through the cloud, helped Jon to pass the time and paint a pretty potent lyric.

The purpose of prog rock is to create an imaginary world. To move beyond what is commonplace. To travel through space and time, and reality. To represent textures, sounds and ambiguous ideas in the forms and nuances of light and shadow that make life a dream and reality a memory.

You might like your rock to be earthy and raw. You might need it to be unblemished and simple to digest at times.  But if, like me, you want to leave this tawdry planet every now-and-again and fly off in a paper glider towards those Topographic Oceans then you need bands like ‘Yes’ ( or ‘Porcupine Tree’ and ‘Spock’s Beard’ or ‘Rush’ ) and you need artists like Jon and Rick to help you break the bonds of your existence so that you can float gently away.

In the Anderson-Wakeman Project tour, Rick and Jon have managed to cut down on flamboyances, cut away excesses and shortened the conceited sojourns and the interminable jazz odysseys. This is stark, almost nude, Progressive Rock. Not quite unplugged, but almost. And without the pomposity and the over inflated egos, the audience were left with some simply attractive, carefully crafted, rock pieces. Put together with heart and soul. Yes, the lyrics are in bloom, and you need your thinking-cap on to make the most of it. But for sheer joyous escape, and flight to a better world, there is nothing better than sharing some time with Rick and Jon. I was not disappointed.

© Neil_Mach
October 2010

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The Anderson/Wakeman Project 360 Tour continues through November culminating in a visit to London’s Indigo at the O2  on 15 Nov

Monday, November 01, 2010      Colston Hall

Tuesday, November 02, 2010     Cliffs Pavilion

Saturday, November 06, 2010     Playhouse

Sunday, November 07, 2010     Concert Hall

Monday, November 08, 2010     The Sage

Thursday, November 11, 2010     Palace Theatre

Friday, November 12, 2010     The Corn Exchange

Monday, November 15, 2010     indigo2 at the O2

Moody Blues

Saturday 12th October 2008

The Moody Blues at Brighton Centre Neil_Mach Oct 2008

A week or so back, I was waiting in a damp and squalid queue of equally degenerate long-haired ‘student-types’ grumpily trudging at a snailspace towards the Southampton Guildhall main doors. We were there to witness fantasy speed-metal act Dragonforce. When the combined mood of this motley queue of unwashed chancers was at its lowest ebb and at the peek of intolerance a young man was spied stalking down the disgruntled line telling the irritable dragonforcers that he would be “playing with his band” later that evening in some uninspiring hole not a stones-throw from the Guildhall and that the ‘Dragonforce’ ticket stub would guarantee us all our free entry. Not wishing to miss an opportunity to see free music I asked what type of music his band played. He replied, “Our type of music”. I said, “Yes, wow, yes…but what genre, like?” He
replied, “We just sound like ourselves actually, no specific genre”. Upon hearing this reply several of the waiting Dragonforce fans told him to go and  f**k himself (in no uncertain words) and this attitude soon led queue-members into a loud and free flowing discussion about the merits of pigeonholing bands into different musical genres.  I came away from the experience thinking that almost every band- even the biggest ones like the Stones and the Zeppelin- can be
simply slung into an easy category for efficiency purposes. I began to change my mind last night.

Last night I went to see legendary Moody Blues, now celebrating almost 50 years on the road, at the Brighton centre, Sussex. This was the fourth time I had seen rock and roll’s very own version of the ‘Golden Girls’ in concert but I am no moodies expert or lifelong fan. I just happen to like good music well played. During their excellent and polished show the same question that I had encountered in the Dragonforce queue kept nagging at me like an Essex girlfriend who hadn’t been to Lakeside in a week.

In what hole would you place this bunch of saintly septuagenarians -other than the obvious six foot deep one? For a start, yes, yes, yes they are a moody bunch of Brummie blighters but why does their name imply that they are a blues act? Do they play blues? Nope. Well back then, in the sixties, they did. Back in the days of Michael Pinder and Denny Laine, they played their own style of rhythm and blues around the pubs and clubs of Birmingham but if you asked the average Joe in Staines High Street what he knew about the Moody Blues, he would say ( and I am confident about this) “Nights in White Satin”. And that is that. So are the Moodies a blues band? Er, no.

In fact,in the Denny Laine/ Pinder/Thomas days the Moody Blues were listed as a psychedelic rock band. But what the hell is ‘psychedelic rock’ and where did it go? Well, back in 1965, inspired by strong toxic mixes of supposedly ‘mind expanding’ deliriants people like Pinder and Thomas were experimenting with hallucinogenic psychedelia. This was riding on the wave of Lennon and Harrison’s commercial successes in Rubber Soul and The Doors acid rock 7-minute mini-epics. Even the Beach Boys were at it, as they left their safe clean-cut surfer-dude lives behind them and splashed ever deeper into a drug addled maelstrom of hellish proportions, releasing some quality material along the way like Good Vibrations. The effects of acid were not just ‘mind altering’ but also ‘life altering’ and, ultimately, life threatening.

Last night Moodies drummer Graeme Edge payed a moving tribute to those psychedelic days of yore by informing the crowd that ‘back in the Sixties we used to come down to Brighton for the red ones, the blue ones and the black ones…wow, those black ones were the strongest man!’.  ‘Now we just come down to Brighton for the fish n’ chips’.

Timothy Leary famously preached the message “Turn on, tune in, drop out” and the kids did just that. Justin reminded us, last night, that the Moody Blues ‘lost’ several years of their life by getting involved in ‘Love Ins’ in the sixties. Leary earnestly believed in the healthy benefits of a high dosage diet of LSD but was described as “the most dangerous man in America” by President Nixon and was, at one point, incarcerated alongside Charles Manson. Leary’s message started out as hopeful and encouraging. In the end it was seen to be a one-way road. A cul-de-sac to depression and oblivion.

A favourite of the fans at any Moodies concert is Ray Thomas’s rendition of ‘Legend of a Mind’ (from the 1968 album ‘In Search of the Lost Chord’) starting with the words “Timothy Leary’s Dead”. This affectionate song predicts the demise not only of Leary but also of the whole of the acid scene. The six-plus minute epic also features the enduring lyric, ‘He flies so high, He swoops so low. He knows exactly which way he’s gonna go.’ And so do we. And so did the Moodies. It was time to get out of psychedelia. (Note: this song is no longer played at Moody Blues concerts since Thomas retired from the band in 2002.)

So after the acid-years, the Moodies started to embark upon their art rock years as the progenitors (with Floyd) of English prog-rock. This was probably the sound that all those crustys had gathered in masses to hear at Brighton last night (and around the world) over the past 30 years. The sound was arty, the sound was farty, and the sound was blissfully unaware of it’s own sense of piss and self-importance. It sounded like nothing before it. The band needed the full backing of something like the London Festival Orchestra just to top-off some of the pompous and over-inflated ideas and make them work in a live show. How arrogant is that?  They also wrote overblown neo-classical pieces that included Edge’s poems spoken (not sung) with full orchestral backdrops. This undignified ostentation paid off and the Moody Blues started to reap the rewards with big sales and international accolades (On the Threshold of a Dream was a UK No 1; To Our Children’s Children’s Children on the Moodies own Threshold label was a UK No 2; both A Question of Balance and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour were UK No 1’s and Seventh Sojourn was a US No 1.)

But this hot-air balloon started to deflate quickly by the late Seventies- the sales of Octave were down and the young record buyers were turning up their collective noses at anything tinged by the hated words ‘prog-rock’ in favour of the New Wave.
Pinder moved to California quickly followed by the entire posse and then he suddenly left the band due to family commitments.

The band recruited ‘Yes’ man Patrick Moraz to replace Pinder (they presumably didn’t hire Rick Wakeman, who was also available at the time, because there was not enough room in the band for two tall blonde-haired ego-maniacs.) They set out on a long tour of the United States and they left behind their progressive pretensions and their mellotrons. This was hard work. But it was real work and it was honest work. And by 1981 they even managed to pull off a good new album ‘Long Distance Voyager’ that reached No 1 in the US. They had turned a corner and had transformed themselves into a working-class American band. I saw them back then in Nevada, after their huge successes at Red Rock, and the band, by then, were a formidably packaged business enterprise. They were slick, sensible and ‘in it for the money’. Good luck to ‘em. They went to the bank on the dividends of those years of graft.

In 1978 Jeff Wayne completed the massive concept studio album The War of The Worlds and Justin Hayward sang a simple song for it called ‘Forever Autumn’. This little song got huge international airplay and kick-started the Blue Jays (a kind of separate collaboration between Hayward/Lodge.) This song always used to be played in Moody Blues concerts and, although it is not strictly a Moodies piece, it is now considered part of their lexicon. (Note: they didn’t play it last night at Brighton.) But this song illustrates that the ‘man’ that the people come to see and the ‘man’ that sells the Moodies as a commodity is, undoubtedly, the man Justin Hayward.  Mark my words. He is the man.

The crowd gave two standing ovations to Justin and his twangly guitar last night. There were three encores. They were all for him. Justin Hayward still has those adorable Viking good-looks (the grannies were flinging their girdles at him last night) and he still makes those amazing yodel-like sounds at the end of each high-note. He can still play the gee-tarr like Duane Eddy. He is the real-deal and the real McCoy. So what happened to the other Moodies?

Well, to be honest, Novello award-winning bassist John Lodge is a talented musician in his own right and wrote some classics ( Isn’t Life Strange and I’m Just a Singer) but he has never been a favourite with the fans. I heard someone behind me at Brighton mutter to a neighbour that she only just about endures the (crappy) songs sung by Lodge. That is a general view but maybe a little unfair. However, there was a very real sense that the audience couldn’t wait for Lodge to shut up so they could all collectively ‘get back’ to Hayward. Even Lodge’s a-a-a-ahs in his (undeniably superb) composition ‘Isn’t Life Strange’ are knocked back into second place by Justin when he starts his verse.

Mike Pinder whose song ‘Go Now’ was also sadly missing from last nights set, and who introduced the mellotron to The Beatles, now keeps himself to himself in California. Graeme Edge, the elderly drummer (I will stand corrected but I think he is the ‘elder statesman’ of the Moodies) has to be helped with his sticks and has almost completely retired to his home in Florida. (Although he did surprise the audience by doing a little jig last night!) Patrick Moraz and Denny Laine are now part of the history and tradition of the Moody Blues but not mentioned ‘by the family’. Ray Thomas retired and original bass player Clint Warwick in the ‘Go Now’ days sadly died in 2004.

Due to the retirement of Thomas we missed out on the superb folk songs ‘For My Lady’ and ‘Lazy Day’ and this is a great shame. But Graeme Edge did some poetry for ‘Late Lament’ prior to Nights in White Satin and this gained an ovation. In place of Thomas we now have two girls. Norda Mullen plays the flute. Julie Ragins plays additional keyboard. The keyboardist is now Paul Bliss. The second drummer (the Moody Blues have toured with twin drums for years now) is Gordon Marshall.

So what category would you put The Moody Blues into?  Blues- not any more. Psychedelic rock? No, gone the way of Leary. Progressive rock? No, pomposity is out. Folk rock, not any more since Thomas. Rock and roll band?  Hardly!

I give up…the Moody Blues just sound like ‘themselves’ actually.

© Neil_Mach
Oct 2008

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Neil, what a shame, you simply do not get it. Oh well. You obviously have no idea what you are missing, but that, I guess is a good thing.

Marc said this on October 13, 2008 at 4:07 am


Nice reflection on a wonderful band. Thanks for your report.

sofa said this on October 13, 2008 at 5:14 pm


I’m a huge fan but I had to agree with a lot of what was said in that piece.

By the way, I can appreciate Justin Hayward still has more than his musical and vocal talents in abundance, and I’m no granny (29) 😉

Nikki said this on October 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm


I have since been informed that, in fact, the two famous ‘blonde-haired ego-maniacs’ did work together on one of Rick’s solo albums. Anyone know which one?


staines said this on October 14, 2008 at 5:42 am


Return to the Centre of the Earth. Justin sings “Still Waters Run Deep,” beautifully of course. 🙂

Jan said this on October 27, 2008 at 5:15 am


Ad Pontes Staines- music arts & going out IN STAINES