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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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iluvmarillion
5 stars Great works of popular art have simple premises. Here you have six pieces of instrumental music, each conceptualizing one of Henry VIII 's wives in music using an armament of keyboards. The keyboards are ably assisted by a bevy of other instruments including bass and drums and some of the contributory artists include both Yes drummers and Steve Howe, the Yes guitarist. The voices aren't silent either. Choruses are present, just not the words.

"Six Wives of Henry VIII" is signature Rick Wakeman. He has never bettered this studio album in live performance, playing it either piecemeal during Yes concerts, or in other solo performances such as the one at Hampton Court in 2009 where he performed it in full, with narration. Nor has Rick Wakeman surpassed his debut album in the sixty odd studio albums he has subsequently made. Like Mike Oldfield he has the lamentable misfortune of creating a masterpiece first up and having nowhere to go afterwards.

Undoubtedly the inspiration for Six Wives is Switched-On Bach by the composer Wendy Carlos in 1968. So much of J S Bach music is church music with organ so it's not much of a stretch to transcribe it for Moog without losing it's period appeal. What Rick does is create leitmotifs of melodies and rhythms for each of the six wives, bathing the Moog with harpsichord, organ, church bells and choir voices so as to create an aesthetic that lends itself to the Tudor period of Henry VIII.

The stand out piece is the third number, Catherine Howard. The catchy main theme is introduced by piano, which then changes into a sudden trill of piano and drum and then moves back to main theme played this time on acoustic guitar. Contributory electric guitar from the Strawbs guitarist Dave Lambert follows and then a secondary musical theme, faster and heavier, played on Moog acts as a counterpoint against the main theme. A bridge of quiet piano reintroduces the main theme again which is played louder and with more force, with church bells in the background, before the music peacefully concludes with a Mellotron fade out.

"Six Wives of Henry VIII" didn't get the same attention as another instrumental album did, Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells", but both are extraordinary works of art from two musical geniuses.

iluvmarillion | 5/5 |

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