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


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 832 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars UPDATE: Silly me for not giving this 5 stars!

ORIGINAL REVIEW: Having recently experienced the magnificent one-off performance of this album at Hampton Court Palace, I can very easily give this near-perfect album four stars, and justify it. At the live show, every 'wife' was extended in length, instrumentation and complexity (not excessively though, just enough to make each song that little bit better), and of course, the 'Defender of the Faith' piece about king Henry himself, was included (this was written in 1973). The Six Wives album WOULD get five stars if there was this important development of the wives, and if the Henry piece was included. And I know the only reason that didn't happen is because of the limitations of the vinyl LP. Thus, had CDs been around in 1973, we would have a masterpiece.

Despite this, the album isn't far off being a masterpiece anyway. It's varied, structurally unique (until Rick's later solo albums of course), keyboard-ly diverse, and yet retains that central "feel" that is vital to any effective concept album. The composing is wonderful; very fancy and detailed with no 'musical-opportunity-stone' left unturned. Yet somehow, it avoids sounding at all pretentious (unlike another keyboard player I can think of) which is probably due to the emotion and warmth that Wakeman carries through in his playing. He is very virtuosic at times, but doesn't CONSTANTLY bombard the listener with high-velocity scaling and overenthusiastic hammond-bashing. Instead, there are moments of simplicity and warmth, naturally creating a wider dynamic range, and more balanced pieces of music as a result. Also, and most importantly, it fulfils the one requirement which I personally believe any concept album based on real people/things/places should have. And that, is inspiration. The music is INSPIRED by the wives, not ABOUT the wives. I value that attribute in music very much. If we want a story or a description of something, we can read books or watch documentaries. Music is about creativity, influence and inspiration. Wakeman interprets the six wives and reveals them in a new medium, that's why no lyrics are needed.

So, the first and potentially best concept effort from the keyboard wizard is something anybody's prog collection should not be without, whether you intend to buy more of his vast collection or not. Indulge yourselves with these women, just as Henry VIII did.

4.99999999999 stars.

thehallway | 5/5 |


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