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Rick Wakeman - The Six Wives Of Henry VIII - Live At Hampton Court Palace (DVD) CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 61 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Is it decent and proper for a 59-year old to have this much fun? Turning up at Hampton Court dressed in a red cape that makes him look like Father Christmas (a cape embroidered with something that looks suspiciously like the French lily!) accompanied by six ladies in period costume who only get to glare uncomfortably into the camera, and changing into two very different capes in the course of a 100-minute performance?

For those of you who thought THE SIX WIVES was High Art (there may be a few such people on the loose) this 21st century live performance reveals that the whole thing is closer in spirit to the British pantomime tradition. (An impression which is reinforced by the rather hammy way in which actor Brian Blessed reads out the introductions to each composition.) Seeing the cameras swoop over the symphony orchestra, the English Chamber Choir and the "English Rock Ensemble", I was also reminded of the glamorous shows put on by André Rieu, the now internationally famous "waltz king" from Maastricht in the southern Netherlands. (The main difference being that Wakeman's musicians never wear ball gowns or black tie. But then André Rieu doesn't wear glitter capes.)

Anyhow, whichever way you look at it, most of the performances are tremendous fun. Rick and his band definitely respect the arrangements and keyboard solos from the original SIX WIVES studio album. They never put a foot wrong, and their performances pack more punch than in the past. Most of the time, the choral/orchestral arrangements stay fairly subdued, but when they come to the fore, they undoubtedly lend the pieces extra force. (What you then get is THE SIX WIVES performed with some of the pomp of Wakeman's KING ARTHUR.) Best of all, Rick has extended most of his original solos, so as to make his compositions more exciting, and he's added a number of brilliant new solos which are entirely in the spirit of the original. To top it all, THE SIX WIVES now includes two splendid new extended pieces ("Defender of the Faith" and "Tudorock").

Apparently for the HAMPTON COURT CD version much of this festive music was trimmed down, so to all proggers who still love exuberant soloing on vintage synths (as I do!) I'd say: Go for it, buy the DVD, you won't regret it, as long as you don't mind those capes.

Just one thing truly disappointed me about this concert, which is that "Anne of Cleves" (my favourite piece from the original studio album) is given short shrift. In its original incarnation, "Anne of Cleves" sounds like a red-hot Hammond organ improvisation (with some overdubs); it also happens to include the best performance on drums I've ever heard from Alan White. But in the new version (accompanied by full orchestra, for Chrissake) much of the original fire is lost, everything sounds over-rehearsed, and drummer Tony Fernandez just can't hold a candle to Mr. White. For me, this is a serious drawback. Why couldn't Rick let himself go this time, with a properly wild (and new!) Hammond organ improvisation? As a consequence, I find myself wavering between three and four stars.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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