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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

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Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars Rick Wakeman has realised his long time dream by playing the complete six wives of Henry VIII album 36 years after his release. He his accompanied by the English Rock Ensemble, the Orchestra Europa and the Englisg Chamber Choir. Naturally the music is classical oriented with many keyboards sounds plays by this excellent musician. The stage settings and the light show are impressive and add to the value of this Blu-Ray. The picture quality is stunning and the DTS sound excellent by capturing the sound of the choir and orchestra. In 1973, some songs of that album had to bet cut to fit a 40 minutes album, but here we have the complete songs. One of the highlights of the show is when Rick plays his organ elevated in the air. But most of all, the quality of the music is so good that you can enjoy the show without all the theatrical effects. The only problem that i had was getting throught the necessary narration between songs, but you can skip those with your remote control. The extras are short with a 20 minutes making of that show where Rick present with good humour the musicians. Highly recommended!
Report this review (#244600)
Posted Wednesday, October 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Long live King Rick

Something I accepted with hesitation is the new image of RICK WAKEMAN in his DVD'S, of course his musical performances were always impeccable and even the new arrangements were good enough, but there was something missing, when playing with the ENGLISH ROCK ENSSEMLE, his music was too Rock oriented, loosing that Baroque atmosphere I enjoyed so much, and the piano DVD's were correct, but I always missed his excesses and the pomp his first releases had.

Well, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Live at Hampton Court Palace" is not only Rick's dream made real, but the dream of every long time fan. From the moment I saw him entering to the Palace court dressed with a royal cape, followed by six women in the role of Henry's wives, I knew the Cape Crusader was back, of course looks older, more calmed, but it was a trip to the 70's and at last the chance to see a concert with all the abusive exuberance he displayed almost four decades ago.

The music is simply delightful, he managed to keep the original spirit of the album but at the same time make some additions that don't affect the atmosphere we all expect from his masterpiece.

The new songs like "Henry's Fanfare" and "Tudorock" could easily have been part of the original album, but the best moments are when he plays "Kathryn Howard" and Jane Seymour", just perfect as in his best days.

His performance of Jane Seymour on a Church Organ, (placed on a higher level because the pipes and tubes usually go in the basement of the churches) is simply delightful, and the moment when he changes the red for the famous golden cape is a touch of nostalgia from the original album's photo.

As usual, THE ENGLISH ROCK ENSEMBLE, THE ENGLISH CHAMBER CHOIR and THE ORCHESTRA EUROPE conducted by Guy Protheroe, were perfect for the show, and the general atmosphere was incredible, everything was almost perfect.

And I say almost perfect because RICK has always selected great narrators, David Hemmings of "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" was extremely correct and Patrick Stewart in "Return to the Centre of the Earth" even better, but the veteran actor Brian Blessed was a mistake, a good narrator enhances the story, doesn't steal the show, and this guy with his jokes and shouts kills the atmosphere.....thanks God for the skip button.

If it wasn't for the narration, I would had gone with 5 stars, but I will have to go only with 4, due to the fact that because Mr. Blessed, it's no longer a perfect masterpiece.

Report this review (#252252)
Posted Sunday, November 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Simply put, one of the most monumental performances in the history of progressive rock.

It's difficult to decide where to begin with my praise for this DVD - Performance, atmosphere, sonic quality, the lovely brief interludes by Brian Blessed (English TV actor) or the very fact that this is the first performance in which Rick's magnum opus, The Six Wives Of Henry The Eighth, has even been played OR recorded. When you also factor in that this recording features B- sides which have never previously been played or released, you see the perfection this package strives for.

The overall atmosphere is set by the location - Hampton Court Palace. As the DVD states in it's intro, Rick requested permission to play his crown jewel at the palace shortly after its conception, and he was granted his request.... 36 years later! The stage is perfect for such a bombastic and royal-feeling album. After all, it is based on the life King Henry the 8th, who spent a majority of his time as king living and ruling from Hampton Court Palace. The show it performed the way it is meant to be performed - With a full orchestra and choir, but more on the performance later.

The introductions to each track about the history of the wife in question, presented by Brian Blessed, create a truly magnificent atmosphere in which Rick can build on the set up and display the characteristics of eMyach wife through the dynamics and effects used to play. Without these interludes, I doubt this DVD would be a five star for me. They make this DVD stand out from others, and make it truly unique.

The sonic quality of this disc - as is expected of all Blurays - is truly phenomenal. The concert sounds and looks 3D, with massive dimensional insights and bounces, creating true audiogasms throughout the entire concert. The crowd noise is maintained, and literally everything which accompanies rick, from the choir to the acoustic guitar, is perfectly audible at all times.

The performance is truly epic - Its awe-inspiring to see a musician play his best album, and one of the most technically challenging, several times better and more proficiently than when he was in his supposed prime... Over 35 years ago. There are some small additions to the score, which come from the orchestra, but these are more than welcome, as they only add to the overall experience. The playing is perfect, and I have absolutely no complaints in this department. The only possible addition I could have thought of would have been to have Steve Howe, Alan White and Chris Squire in the backing band, but I'll take what I'm not complaining!

My one complaint is the camera angles... We rarely see Rick's hands in this one, which is a very, very big disappointment. It doesn't detract from the overall experience too much, although there were moments when both my father and I were just about ready to scream. The majority of the filming is good, and some people may not even find this to be a problem if they're set on the experiencing the concert as the whole band, orchestra and choir, but some more key shots would have been nice. Also, some shots are just random and useless... I mean, really, who wants to see the edge (and nothing else) of Rick's move when he's playing a solo?

This is near 5 star quality, although some major detractors pull it down to 4. Still more than worthy of addition to your collection, though. -Joel

Report this review (#254054)
Posted Thursday, December 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars A royal concert!

As something of a Rick Wakeman fanatic, I own most of his concert videos. Some of his most recent, and also best, include The Legend Live In Concert 2000 (featuring his one man show), Live In Buenos Aires (from 2001, with full band) and Made In Cuba (from 2005, with full band). Now, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII - Live At Hampton Court Palace has arrived and I must say that it fits very nicely into the family of the previously released videos. As indicated by the title, this is a performance of Rick's classic 1973 album Six Wives Of Henry VIII in its entirety and this is a very big performance. There is a narrator, a percussionist, a full orchestra, a choir and a full Rock band!

The core of Rick's band, which is, as usual, called The English Rock Ensemble, is pretty much the same as it was on previous releases; drummer Tony Fernandez is back again and Dave Colquhoun once again plays electric guitars. A new addition is bass player Jonathan Noyce who previously has played with Jethro Tull since the mid 90's, I think. There is also an extra guitarist, who plays acoustic guitars, and Rick's son Adam helps out on extra keyboards. Of course, Rick himself plays an extensive array of different keyboards including a real church organ on Jane Seymour! Needless to say, this is a very massive performance. It is absolutely over-the-top and bombastic, but it is done with humour and charm preventing it from being too overblown and pretentious.

In addition to the six tracks of the original album, there are also three new songs written in the style of the original album, one of which represents King Henry himself and was, according to Rick in the bonus interview, intended to be included on the original album but could not be because of the time restrictions for vinyl records. These new songs fit in very well. The original songs are also expanded a bit with new sections making them possibly even better than they ever were! Rick's performance is flawless and everything works out for the best. No other Wakeman concert I've seen is as near-perfect as the present one. The packaging is also very nice and it comes with a very informative 25 page booklet.

On the negative side, I do think that the narration, even though it is very good and interesting the first couple of times, will tend to get boring after repeated listens. There is a CD version of this concert without the narration that is preferable for that reason. Also, personally I prefer the smaller band performances of Made In Cuba and Live In Buenos Aires DVDs. Those smaller venue performances have a bit more Rock power and they are more "cozy" as the audience gets much closer to the band.

Still, this is a very nice release that will please many Prog fans.

Report this review (#256911)
Posted Saturday, December 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#258627)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I Borrowed this release from a friend last week, since then I gave it a lot of spins, even got the audio extracted and put on CD to listen in the car. Although I'm a RW fan, I rate only a few albums of his solo output as good or great. Six Wives, Journey, Unearthly Connection, Criminal Record re the best in my opinion. And of course his contribution to YES, with a great highlight on Going For The One. Live albums I find mostly mediocre, mostly because of soundrecording or bandquality. RW is always playing very nice. This albums is in my top 3 of RW live albums and I think it's going to be number one in time. The other two will be Out of the Blue and Live at Hammersmith. The setting for this particular concert is really great, as was intended to be back in 1973, when Six Wives was released. And oh boy, I love it. It's majestic, bombastic, emotional even humurous at times. RW is playing very inspirated, and of course very fast in soloing, but the band, orchestra and choir are also in great form. The soundrecording is great.... well what else can I say about this one.. Highlights are Jane Seymour (great organ!!!) and the Henry VIII track Defender Of The Faith. Very much recommended! 4 stars.
Report this review (#265379)
Posted Thursday, February 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Just finished watching the Blue Ray version in gorgeous HD. Six Wives has long been one of my favourite keyboard albums notable not just for Rick's superlative technique but also for the quality of the compositions. The original album is possibly the only truly succesfull classic/rock crossover with Yes drummers (Bill Bruford and Alan White) supplying powerfull support along with other great musicians such as Chas Cronk. For this particular live interpretation Rick settled on good quality if not very exciting musicians such as the solid Tony Fernandez on drums and his son Adam supplying extra keyboards. Adding orchestra and choir adds a sense of occasion but also seems to dilute the power as everything is played at a stately pace.Perhaps therein lies the problem. This is a great concert with proper classical credentials but sadly the real dynamics and power contained on the 1973 studio album have flown out the window .Its certainly fun in places but also a little creaky.There is also just too much settling into a repititive groove on some extended parts that feels like padding. My personal reservations aside this is an extremely polished and well recorded live DVD and I doubt very much whether there is anything else out there that can satisfy fans of symphonic keyboard based prog as well as this does.
Report this review (#266936)
Posted Thursday, February 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Woo. I was there!

Easily 5 stars for the show itself. But the dvd? Only 4 I'm afraid. I understand this is probably because no dvd EVER can give you the same feeling as experiencing a live concert, but I think even with that in mind, this film isn't perfect. Everything about the performance is great; the tight band, the atmospheric orchestra, the very 14th- century choir (how indulgent!), Rick himself with his "castle" of keyboards, the extrodinarily entertaining Ray Cooper, and especially the larger-than-life Brian Blessed, who narrates each wife with genuine interest and occasional humour.

BUT, its the mixing and filming of this seemingly-rushed package that lets it down. There are some odd camera angles here, probably set up in such a way to capture the stage and the castle, lighting and all. But it seems a little tacky, in a way that definately WASN'T true of the actual show. And the sound is rather poor at times, not in quality, but in the mixing of certain instruments. Some of Rick's keyboards are considerably louder than others, and the orchestra is pretty quiet throughout. The choir is almost silent! You can see their mouths opening though.

Overall- a wonderful show but a fractured video. Still worth buying it though, as no other dvd will ever capture a performance of this classic album in all it's "medieval" pompous glory.

Report this review (#279268)
Posted Saturday, April 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Six wives is one of my favourite records of all time. A near perfect keyboard-fest that was both inspired and inspirational. The timeless sounds, the pomp, the audacity. It felt like it belonged to Fragile and Close To The Edge era of Yes-greatness. It still cannot be faulted.

So why then, does this visually stunning DVD, featuring my favourite keyboard album of all time fall so flat for me? Unfortunately it's the very same things that have had me exiled from the court of King Rick for the last twenty years.

His bloody sounds.

Rick is a musical anomaly. A gifted writer and a peerless player who seems to have no taste whatsoever. This gorgeous album, with every song doing exactly a it should is stretched, mercilessly, as if on a rack in Henry's own Tower of London. I have no qualm with extended solos, but some of these are so drab and uninspired... it's hard to believe the same man did them.

Firstly, no Mellotron. A vital component to the sonic landscape of the original LP is entirely gone. Largely negated perhaps by the large choir and orchestra, but just not necessary. I watched the Melbourne 1975 DVD of Journey and saw a true keyboard master with tasteful sounds. Damn that silicon chip.

The next thing is the soloing on horrible modern keyboard patches. When you have a minimoog next to you, this is unforgivable. The extended V-synth solo in Catherine Howard is utterly horrid, goes nowhere and sounds like a cheap techno preset. Replacing or layering the pianos with fantasy pads like a cheap 1980's casio is blasphemous. Jane Seymour comes the closest to replicating the original's atmosphere but still the organs just sound a little too cheesy and digital.

The guitarist's Iommi like shred in the lamentable overture (5 minutes of arpeggios with no direction) is bile-inducing, the new compositions stick out against the old (I don't care what he says, Defender Of The faith is not an old arrangement- it smacks of modern Wakeman, devoid of the melodic and inspirational music that made him my hero in the 1970's.

It's the same reason I hated Retro 2. The arrangements have gone to pot. Shame, as it's a visual tour-de-force.

Report this review (#537058)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I bought both DVD and the CD I was a little skeptic at the time. I must admit that usually I am not keen on new releases. I rather prefer the old stuff, but certainly was a surprise when I Watched and realised the masterful performance put by Wakeman with his guests. What a superb show! The DVD/CD sound, the production, the recording, the presentation about the wives by Brian Blessed, the band, the orchestra...everything is excellent. Some songs really stand out, such as "Jane Seymour", "Catherine Parr" and "Anne of Cleves"... they sound stronger than the studio recordings. I strongely recomend not only to Wakeman fans, but also to any fan of classical music or rock.

Ratings: 1. Henry's Fanfare 2. Tudorture "1485" *- 7/10 3. Catherine Of Aragon - 9,5/10 - the orchestra make a nice adiction to the song. 4. Kathryn Howard - 8/10 5. Jane's Prelude 6. Jane Seymour - 9,5/10 - Beautiful work by wakeman in the church organ, better than the studio version. 7. Defender Of The Faith - 8,0 /10 8. Katherine Parr - 9,5/10 - better than the studio version, with a great performance by drummer Tony Fernandez. 9. Anne Of Cleves - 9,5/10 - also better than the studio recording, the keyboard in this track is awesome. I really like the percussion in this music... Kudos to the great Ray Cooper! 10. Anne Boleyn 8/10 11. Tudorock * 12. Tudorture "1485" Reprise * - 7/10

Report this review (#1691664)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2017 | Review Permalink

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