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Rick Wakeman - The Six Wives of Henry VIII CD (album) cover

THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII

Rick Wakeman

 

Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 834 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars All of the pieces are excellent, and all of them do a fantastic job exemplifying Rick Wakeman's flair employing all manner of keys. The liner notes attempt to express how Wakeman's perception of each woman was conveyed in each instrumental, but I fail to see those pictures relayed in the music. Catherine Howard, who was allegedly a loose woman, wound up beheaded in the Tower of London, but the music, which is calm, happy, and also upbeat, does not reflect that, and this is merely one example. Wakeman also has the wives out of order, for some reason.

"Catherine of Aragon" One of Wakeman's most easily recognized pieces (and one of his best), the first of the six opuses is full of vigor and majestic keyboard runs. The bass guitar groans in the beginning. The piano sections are especially well-written, and I like how he jumps from one keyboard instrument to another (such as from piano to a Hammond C-3). The music is interrupted to allow a brief mini-Moog interlude, and the amazing choir adds a grand touch to the deep piano in the middle. Near the end, the piece leaps into a major key, perhaps in light of the title woman's sustaining piety and a relative happy ending.

"Anne of Cleves" A synthesizer ascending and descending while the rest of the band punctuate the runs with heavy chords. The band jams for a while, alternating between 11/8 and 10/8 time signatures. Soon after, the musicians lock into a straightforward groove. Just before the two minute mark, there is a melody played on the organ that, had it been used as a recurring theme, would have made the piece even stronger. Even as I listen to it now, I still expect it to pop in again some time. Wakeman's organ doesn't choke the sound; in fact the funky bass rings out loud and clear throughout. Over some heavy drum soloing, Wakeman uses a tone that sounds like a dentist's drill, which I really find unappealing. The church organ from the analogue tape upon which it was recorded suffers from severe wow and flutter, which can make it very difficult to listen to.

"Catherine Howard" At first, this is a simple piano piece, until Wakeman abruptly throws in a more exciting and fast-paced section. When the band ceases to play, Wakeman uses several piano flourishes in a row, just as some expressive guitar playing enters. After some majestic mini-Moog work, the piece suddenly evolves into a hokey Country & Western caper the piece could have done without. Fortunately, Wakeman gets back to business with further lovely piano and synthesizer work, and soon returns to the main theme, this time with the backing of a handsome Mellotron.

"Jane Seymour" Wakeman treats us to impressive but haunting harpsichord work, as well as the imposing magnitude of the organ at St. Giles-without-Cripplegate. There is also the ebb and sudden dissipation of mini-Moog.

"Anne Boleyn / The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended" The beginning sounds like a cross between bluesy and classical piano. The piece moves between the piano and blasts from the mini-Moog. That awesome choir from the first track makes another appearance. As with "Catherine Howard," there are some jaunty sections that don't exactly fit. The synthesizer solo really makes me think of Keith Emerson's work. In the end, Wakeman plays a lovely piano rendition of the hymn mentioned in the title.

"Catherine Parr" Wakeman pulls out all the stops (perhaps literally) demonstrating his organ prowess. The sound makes me think of a cross between the organ solos on "Close to the Edge" and "Roundabout." The Mellotron is gives us a "choir" for part of this one, lending it a dreary feel. Dual lead synthesizers play the main theme. Wakeman drives the remainder of the album with inspiring piano and a happy organ section just before the synthesizers return to play the main theme. The very end is as grandiose as Wakeman's spangled capes.

Epignosis | 4/5 |

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