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Rick Wakeman

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Rick Wakeman The Six Wives of Henry VIII album cover
4.12 | 904 ratings | 77 reviews | 41% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Catherine of Aragon (3:45)
2. Anne of Cleves (7:50)
3. Catherine Howard (6:36)
4. Jane Seymour (4:44)
5. Anne Boleyn (incl. "The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended") (6:31)
6. Catherine Parr (7:00)

Total Time 36:26

Line-up / Musicians

- Rick Wakeman / Steinway grand piano, RMI electric piano, Hammond C3 organ, acoustic & electric harpsichord, Minimoog, ARP synthesizer, Mellotron 400D, Cripplegate St. Giles church organ (4), arrangements & production

- Mike Egan / guitar (1,2,5,6)
- Steve Howe / guitar (1)
- Dave Lambert / guitar (3)
- David Cousins / electric banjo (3)
- Chris Squire / bass (1)
- Dave Winter / bass (2,6)
- Chas Cronk / bass (3)
- Les Hurdle / bass (1,5)
- Bill Bruford / drums (1,5)
- Alan White / drums (2,4,6)
- Barry de Souza / drums (3)
- Ray Cooper / percussion (1,5)
- Frank Ricotti / percussion (2,3,6)
- Judy Powell / chorus (1)
- Barry St.John / chorus (1)
- Liza Strike / chorus (1,5)
- Laura Lee / chorus (5)
- Sylvia McNeill / chorus (5)

Releases information

ArtWork: Ken Carroll (design) with Michael Doud (Art Direction) & Bruce Rae (photo)

LP A&M Records - AMLH 64361 (1973, UK)
LP A&M Records - SP-4361 (1973, US)

CD A&M Records - 393 229-2 (1987, Germany)
CD A&M Records ‎- UICY-94235 (2009, Japan) Remastered SHM-CD

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RICK WAKEMAN The Six Wives of Henry VIII ratings distribution

(904 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(41%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(44%)
Good, but non-essential (12%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

RICK WAKEMAN The Six Wives of Henry VIII reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
5 stars Outstanding stuff as Wakeman should've stuck to this one and never more disgress from Yes. This is a showcase for all the synthetisers from the era from the Mellotron to the Moog to the Hammond and everything to do with KB . This is were Rick became the Wizzard and the major success got to his head and started wearing stardust sprinkled capes and the whole "shabam" and quickly became pompous .

But still none of that on this album, as the six tracks (all instrumentals) are incredibly head-twisting (even some 30 years later), and strangely enough, as one could fear for such albums reflecting the technology of the the era, the music has not aged badly, quite on the contrary. But is this not the primùe quality of excellent music. Wakeman's keyboards are hovering, fluttering, nose-diving twirling around your ears like you were simply not on this planet anymore.

The only Wakeman solo album I still own as I got read of all the others fairly q=uickly and i finaly gave up in the early 80's

Review by loserboy
4 stars Without a question "6 Wives" would be one of my all time Desert Island picks. For those who love superb analog keyboard work may I highly recommend this album. Filled with loads of Classical Progressive rock moments, "6 Wives" is an essential album to have in your collection. Guest musicians include Alan White, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford, Chris Squire and Dave Cousins. Throughout the album we are reated to a host of keyboard sounds including Steinway Grand Piano, Hammond Organ, Electric Piano, Harpsichord, Mini-Moog, and loads of Mellotron. "6 Wives" is a completely instrumental album of the highest calibre and is perfectly suited for the 'ol headphone evenings...
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Divorced, beheaded died; divorced, beheaded, survived

Wakeman's first solo outing (excepting the little known "Piano vibrations") was an ambitions concept album with six tracks, each being inspired by one King Henry VIII wives. Wakeman himself has said that the tracks are not intended to describe their subjects as such, but to reflect his interpretation of their characters.

As the entire album is instrumental, only Rick really knows how the music actually relates to the characters it depicts. In truth from the listener's perspective, it could just as easily have been "The six best breakfast cereals made by Kelloggs" or "The last six victims of Jack the Ripper". There's nothing in the music which explicitly suggests beheadings, divorces, etc.(!)

Wakeman's relatively new found fame as Yes' keyboard wizard meant that the album had a ready and willing audience, anxious to acquire anything with a connection to the said band. I do not intend to imply by this that the album did not warrant the success it gained, but had it been record by an unknown keyboard virtuoso, it would probably have been considered eccentric and indulgent, achieving only a fraction of the sales it actually gained.

Rick used the services of most of the members of Yes, plus the some of his previous band The Strawbs, along with numerous others throughout the album. For obvious reasons, keyboards feature predominantly, but there is a great variety of sounds, from classical piano, to (at the time unheard) synthesiser creations. There are many fine, strong melodies, including references to classical pieces and to hymns. A couple of the tracks tend to wander slightly, especially when accompanied by the occasional weaker theme.

The best are "Anne Boleyn", a lovely softer track featuring the piano, and "Jane Seymour" with its memorable soaring moog section.

The original LP was well packaged, and included an informative gatefold sleeve. Many of Wakeman subsequent albums followed the formula established with the is album, but this was the first, and stands as an excellent first effort.

Review by lor68
4 stars Excellent album by Rick WAKEMAN, probably his best one, and naturally it has been performed a thousand times, in a few years, during the live sessions with YES. Of course nowadays it sounds dated, but as a music reference it's important within every "prog collection" and above all to me as a "progressive" keyboardist...
Review by daveconn
4 stars RICK WAKEMAN began work on his first solo album, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", prior to the release of YES' "Close to the Edge". This all-instrumental album purports to be, as the artist himself states, "my interpretations of the musical chracteristics of "the wives of Henry VIII". It's an interesting goal -- one worthy of the progressive rock genre it fits into -- with the keyboardist conjuring various personalities through sentiment, devoutness and drama. Despite the presence of several YES bandmates (including ALAN WHITE, who had yet to appear on a YES album), "Six Wives" doesn't recall the work of YES in any direct sense. WAKEMAN, though a pioneer of the synthesizer and mellotron, is well attuned to the keyboard's history, and his melange of sounds both old and new is unique. Having revealed himself to be something of a history buff, WAKEMAN is also outed as an Anglophile, not just in his choice of subject matter but in his decidedly structured approach to songwriting. The music is steeped in English idioms, from the staid religious passages (going so far as to emulate a church organ on "Jane Seymour") to the rural quality of his melodies (which achieves a lovely effect on "Catherine Howard"). Perhaps most impressive is WAKEMAN's ability to fuse different sections together using a variety of sounds, without making the music feel unnatural or forced. "Catherine of Aragon" and "Catherine Parr", for example, cover a wide range of emotions and actions in a relatively short span of time, yet WAKEMAN avoids overwhelming his listeners by creating respiteful passages in between the more active sections.

"The Six Wives of Henry VIII" is regarded by many as WAKEMAN's best solo album. His animated arrangements and sympathetic storytelling, tinctured with a sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic, should please both realists and escapists.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars According to most fans this is Rick's best album, probably they are right, perfect balance, unique style, the most original album, but still not my favorite.

There are two main problems with this great album, the first one is that the songs don't capture the mood or the character of Henry's wives, the music is outstanding but tells me nothing about the main theme.

The second problem is that the album is too clean and perfect for reality, maybe it's overworked, but this of course is a very subjective opinion.

If I had to choose, would stay with the far more human and clearly conceptual Myths and Legends, not as perfect, with a terrible vocalist, but reflects more Rick's personality and describes clearly the plot of the story.

Of course it's an essential masterpiece and I recommend it without doubt, but there are other Wakeman's works I like more.

Review by richardh
5 stars Easily the best of Rick's early albums .Here he does what he does best by deploying a veritable arsenal of keyboards to assault your ears and is ably backed by the 2 Yes drummers White and Bruford plus some excellent session players.I absolutely love 'Ann Of Cleeves' ,White and Wakeman play off each other brilliantly but there isn't a single bad track.Lots of melody and the feeling the music creates transports you back in time.LOVE IT!!
Review by Fitzcarraldo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I eagerly bought the LP when it was released in 1973 and was not disappointed: lots of keyboards, including the synth sound I liked so much. The concept of an album about Henry 8th's wives is clever, although the order of the tracks does not match the order of the marriages (not that it matters), which was: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Kathryn Howard and Katherine Parr.

Quite a lot of the music does have a medieval feel to it, thus in keeping with the concept. In the album's liner notes WAKEMAN states that the style of music may not always be in keeping with each wife's individual history but it is his personal conception of their characters in relation to keyboard instruments. With the exception of Track 2 ('Anne of Cleves'), which to me sounds absolutely nothing like her character (my vision of her is a quiet, unsophisticated, somewhat dowdy person), I think WAKEMAN has not done a bad job of representing musically the women.

The 1st track ('Catherine of Aragon') does bring to my mind an intelligent, strong willed, pious woman.

The 2nd track ('Anne of Cleves') doesn't sound to me at all like my image of Anne of Cleves: it is upbeat, boppy, fast tempo music, much more like my image of Kathryn Howard, or perhaps Anne Boleyn. Nevertheless it's a good track musically; a little jazzy in places, in other places quite a rock feel: prominent guitar and drums.

The 3rd track ('Catherine Howard') is a good track: a calm piano intro with a simple but very pleasing almost hymnal tune leading into a more boppy middle part with synth sounding quite majestic, followed by a stretch of pure honky tonk piano before slowing down again. The whole thing does bring to mind a vivacious young woman, although towards the end it sounds a bit too laid back to fit my image of Kathryn Howard; she flirted with the younger men of the court (perhaps even going further), which was her downfall, and the track does not bring out that side of her enough. Although this track is quite a good fit, I think the 2nd track would almost have been a better fit.

The 4th track ('Jane Seymour') is a very church organ sounding piece - which I like very much - and sounds very medieval. It's a great track: the church organ playing some high then deep, deep notes. By the way, it's a real church organ from St. Giles Church in Cripplegate. Then there's some synth over the organ - bliss for organ and synth fans. WAKEMAN's writing and keyboard skills are very evident on this track. The only question mark in my mind is whether the track reflects the calm, gentle demeanor that apparently characterised Jane Seymour. In some ways it does - the church organ and harpsichord giving that feel of stability and calm - but the very calm piano intro and catchy tune of Track 3 (Catherine Howard) would almost have been a better fit to the woman in my opinion.

The 5th track ('Anne Boleyn') starts with a laid-back barroom piano (beautiful tune) and then ups tempo and flits about, bops for a while and then settles back down to piano. The piano is very good in this track, and gives it a sophisticated feel, perhaps like my vision of Anne Boleyn, who was fluent in French (having attended two French queens for several years) and liked French clothes, poetry and music. She held off Henry's amorous advances for several years and so must have been quite a shrewd woman, but her temper and sharp tongue are perhaps not brought out enough in this track. Her failure to produce a male child was her undoing. Overall, WAKEMAN's interpretation of the woman feels reasonable.

The 6th track ('Catherine Parr') is generally quite boppy, with some fast keyboard work in places, although it is quite a 'stable' track and fits somewhat - although not as well as I would have liked - with the image of the well educated, sensitive and caring Katherine Parr, twice widowed before marrying Henry, and the daughter of a modest country squire. She apparently soothed Henry's temper, nursed him and brought the family together. She arranged good tutors for Henry's children and they apparently saw her as a stabilising mother figure. These traits do come out in some places in the track, but perhaps not enough. As for the music itself, there is a good basic melody and some nice touches: I like the short peel of bells in the middle of the track.

Overall the music is good, and the concept excellent, but perhaps WAKEMAN's execution of the concept was not as good as it could have been. That said, it's still a classic of progressive rock in my opinion, and much, much better than his subsequent "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" and "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table". As my evidence of this, I finally bought the CD a few years ago to replace my long-gone LP, but did not bother to replace the other two. Putting the concept to one side, my only criticism of the music is that it is slightly souless, 'clinical' even. It seems to lack the warmth of YES' music when WAKEMAN played with them, or of PATRICK MORAZ's solo efforts. When I listen to the album I come away feeling that I have been through a session of heavy concentration and don't feel 'lifted' by the music, as I normally do if I have just listened to most other progressive rock music. But perhaps that's what WAKEMAN was aiming for: something heavier and more substantial than his previous music. However, I should say that this album does not strike me as being pretentious in any way. Ironically, I think this album would have been better as a live performance.

The rating of this album is a real conundrum: part of me says that it only deserves 3 stars (Good, but non-essential) but I felt compelled to buy the CD many years after having disposed of the LP, hankering to hear it again, and I do dig it out and play it from time to time and enjoy the sophistication of the music, and the keyboards. I do think that it should be part of any prog rock collection, so 4 stars it has to be.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A perfect time where audiences were receptive to sound such as Six Wives of Henry VIII. Rick Wakeman was getting maximum publicity with his keyboard theatrics, his involvement in Yes, Yes's incredible progressive wall of sound. Also his previous work with Strawbs as well helped his cause. I always consider this to be his debut album even though Piano Vibrations was released two years earlier. It is hard to fault the album and the only reason for not giving it a five star is that I cannot quite agree with the placement of the music to each individual character. Is that important? I guess not.' Catherine Parr' has to be my favourite on this thoroughly consistent album. Four and a half stars.
Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This progressive rock record is very keyboards oriented: this record is among the Yes keyboardist's best one. Wakeman imagines the biography of the 6 wives of Henry VIII through a beautiful, elegant, melodic, classic music. He uses tons of vintage keyboards: piano, organ & church organ, moog, mellotron, harpsichord among others. The style has nothing to do with the Yes' Close to the edge and Fragile albums: there are no lead singers: there are rather a couples of beautiful female choirs, very well suited for the album theme. There are some pleasant bells sounds. There are some electric & acoustic guitar parts, but they are very discrete and in the background, in order to yield the way to the spectacular keyboards. However, the drums and electric bass are very present, often fast and elaborated. The extremely progressive "Catherine Howard" is ABSOLUTELY outstanding from A to Z! Some members of Yes, especially the drummers Alan White and Bill Bruford, participate to the music.


Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This famous solo album by Rick has an imaginative theme from Britain's history. The portraits of this psychedelic warlord's wives are presented as nice instrumental keyboard driven prog rock tunes, and this is a quite accessible record. If your date for example likes classical music and old rock, playing this record shouldn't raise much objections. But I must admit that this album never grew as a big personal favorite of mine. Maybe there are not that deep emotions and essential ideas in it? But it's still a good and worthy classic album. There's also a big group of guest musicians visiting this record and at least fans of BILL BRUFORD should check this out, as he plays drums on many of the tracks.
Review by Tony Fisher
4 stars Rick Wakeman is a great keyboard player and he is capable of composing complex and interesting pieces of music. He managed to succeed with most of the pieces on this album, but Anne of Cleves is probably the weakest piece (not remotely reflecting her personality) and Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr the strongest, with dazzling organ work on the latter. The backing musicians read like a whos who of prog rock (mainly from Yes and The Strawbs) and the musicianship is consistently excellent. He avoids the temptation to add vocals, though there are some choral additions. Overall, a very worthwhile listen. If only he had called it a day with this one, because the next two were far too overblown and pretentious.
Review by Zitro
4 stars This is very close to a masterpiece. I have never heard a keyboardist in such early times compose this kind of keyboard based music so well. The compositions are brilliant, intelligent, full of imagery and moods. Rick Wakeman has described each wife of Henry VIII with his musical genious.

1. Catherine of Aragon 9/10 : this is a classic, and a demonstration of how one keyboardist can make symphonic music like if an orchestra is playing. The playing is superb all around, and has many changes while not seeming incoherent.

2. Anne of Cleves (7:50) 9/10 : this song is more like a jazzy jam. The keyboards and drums especially shine. While the songwriting might not be as strong as some of the other pieces here, the energy here still make this song a very exciting listen.

3. Catherine Howard (6:36) 9.5/10 : this is one of the best rick wakeman compositions and the most relaxing and melodic of this album. Nevertheless, the best moment for me is when the heavy synthesizers appear out of nowhere during the middle of the track. It is just timeless.

4. Jane Seymour (4:44) 7/10 : the church organ is what makes this song, that's why I always prefer the studio version of it. The ascending synth section is very well done too.

5. Anne Boleyn 'the day thou gavest Lord is ended (6:31) 8/10 : this is a mixture of many keyboard styles and has lots of changes. It is brilliant, and once you get the hang of it (it takes a while to get into) ... you will always love it. There are many solos here.

6. Catherine Parr (7:00) 8.5/10 : great keyboard intro riff, great synth riff, great drumming. It is a very satisfying closer of this album that brings back the energy of Anne of Cleves in a somewhat different form.

My Grade : B+

Review by erik neuteboom
5 stars The huge fold out inner sleeve picture from this album is taken from above and shows keyboard-wizard Rick Wakeman surrounded by two M400 Melotrons, two Minimoog synthesizers, a Steinway Grand piano, a Hammond C-3 organ, an RMI Electric piano and harpsichord, THIS IS KEYBOARD HEAVEN!! By the way, Rick was not only collecting keyboards but also Rolls Royces!

On this album Rick invited an impressive list of guest musicians including The Strawbs members Chas Cronk, Dave Lambert and Dave Cousins, Yes members Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White along Bill Bruford and Ray Cooper. Don't expect refined, elaborated or complex compositions, this album is a keyboard-self-indulgent, almost megalomaniac solo effort from our 'caped crusader'! I'm pleased with the dynamic rhythm-section on this album during the six compositions and I'm delighted about the keyboard excertitions from Rick Wakeman. He used his wide range of keyboards in a very tasteful, often impressive way: sparkling piano runs in "Catherine of Aragon", tender classical piano and wonderful violin-Mellotron waves in "Catherine Howard", impressive church-organ and sensational Minimoog flights in "Jane Seymour", sparkling piano, flashy Minimoog runs and lush Hammond organ in "Anna Boleyn" and amazing Hammond organ work, beautiful choir- Mellotron and Grieg-inspired Minimoog runs in "Catherine Parr".

For me this first solo album from Rick Wakeman is a masterpiece because it sounds so impressive and pleasant and it turned out to be a pivotal one for many worldwide future progrock keyboard players. THIS IS A VINTAGE KEYBOARD AFICIONADOS WET DREAM!!!

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars There are other more successful records that Rick Wakeman made, both with Yes (Close To The Edge and Tales Of Topographic Oceans) and as a solo artiste (the subsequent Journey To The Centre Of the Earth), but it is this, his "proper" debut album that is the greatest evidence in support of his "keyboard wizard" status.

Using a battery of state of the art keyboards (well this was recorded between February and October 1972!) Wakeman created a record that is very often spectacular, and has no slack to speak of. It stands alongside Gryphon's Red Queen To Gryphon Three as my favourite instrumental prog album. although like that other classic, I have to be in the mood for it.

He's got a few friends along ... the opener Catherine Of Argaon has Yesmates Howe, Squire and Bruford on it (although it is actually one of the more sedate pieces here!) and a few of his former bandmates from the Strawbs also make an appearance. But there is no doubting who is the star of this show, as Rick stamps his mark with some of his finest playing on some of his finest ever compositions.

A pedantic feller like myself may find fault with Wakeman having changed the running order of the wives (he's got it first, fourth, fifth, third, second and sixth), and Wakeman's interpretation of the characters can be challenged ... does Anne Of Cleves deserve the longest and one of the most vibrant songs?

But the moments of sheer brilliance are abundant, not least the (ahem) majestic opening to Cathrine Howard, the lengthy synth solo that begins halfway through Anne Boleyn and the exuberant runs that power Catherine Parr (almost enough to get this old progger dancing), and yes, most of the pulsating Anne Of Cleves. The sombre Jane Seymour (Wakeman went to St. Giles, Cripplegate to record the organ) and the afore-mentioned Catherine Of Aragon may not be quite as strong, but they also have their part to play in making this album a masterclass in keyboard-based progressive rock.

If you're only ever going to get one Rick Wakeman solo record, please make it this one. ... 91% on the MPV scale

Review by Menswear
4 stars The original sound that's been copied a thousand times.

Yes has created great stuff, but at the same time restrained so much the core of the musicians that albums like this one had to be liberating for Wakeman. And boy, to me it's a real surprise because I started with the imitations and threw the Grand Master on the other side of the room, claiming not having to do with Yes.

But was I surprised when I heard it, well, this is a solo project with limited Yes atmospheres!

Wakeman had the luxury of knowing some of the best rock musicians of the early 70's, so he called pals and got major back-up, especially in the bass and drums departement. The concept is very appealing and original, althought he precised that he played by a personnal conception of the characters in relation to the keyboard instruments. So it's not completely historical after all...quickly forgiven as soon as it plays!

I started by Trace, then moved to Triumvirat then switched to Pär Lindh Project. Honestly, I could frankly pinpoint precise sequences that proves that all three had their influences with this album.

More accessible than Trace, more challenging than Triumvirat, Wakeman's Six Wifes of Henry VIII has charm and for such a lower price!

Review by belz
4 stars 4.4/5.0

This is a great album! I just can't believe I never listened to that album before! The keyboards are AMAZING! I remember hearing song 1 and song 4 elsewhere (was it PFM? or maybe some other prog group...?) but really this is the original and it is marvelous! Wow! This is not a perfect album (hence I give 'only' 4.4/5.) mainly because I subjectively believe the second track is slightly inferior, but this is still a difficult choice between 4 stars and 5 stars. If you are into deep keyboards and mellotron ambiance, you have to listen to this!

Review by Australian
4 stars "The Six Wives of Henry VII" is Rick Wakemans's most accomplished solo album in my opinion and it displays his skill at using synthesizers and electric keyboards, but it also shows us that he is very well educated in classical piano. Of course, we all prefer the synthesizer side of Rick Wakeman (don't we?) which is why his classical solo albums like country airs are so unpopular on this site. With "The Six Wives of Henry VII" he was able to display that side of his music and still keep the audience enthralled. "Six wives" reached high places around the world.

The concept of "The Six Wives of Henry VII" is blatantly obvious, but just in case you haven't picked it up all the song titles are names of Henry VII's wives, but they aren't in order in the track listing, so my sister tells me. The concept really isn't important in "The Six Wives of Henry VII" because, unlike albums like 'The Snow Goose' there is nothing really specific to convey with the music. If you don't follow, basically I'm saying that Rick Wakeman didn't really have much to go, on if you what I mean.

In January 2005 I saw Rick Wakeman live on his farewell concert to Australia and I was lucky enough to be in the front row and I had a pretty good view of what was up. Unfortunately, due to a budget cut there was no backing so basically it was just Rick Wakeman up on stage playing away on a keyboard or two. He played "Catherine of Aragon", "Anne of Cleaves", "Catherine Howard" and "Catherine Parr" before moving on to other classics like "King Arthur" and "Journey to the Centre of the Earth." It was good to see Rick draw a full crowd, something which I didn't expect to happen in Melbourne.

Each song on "The Six Wives of Henry VII" explores a new theme and one song will usually be based around one keyboard instrument wether it be organ, synthesizers and so. The backing for "The Six Wives of Henry VII" is probably the best in of any of Rick's works and he has a full band. One very interesting sections is the electric Banjo solo (played by David Cousins) on "Catherine Howard" which provides a delightful change of course for the music, for a short period of time. There are several notable guests on "The Six Wives of Henry VII" which include Bill Bruford, Alan White and Steve Howe.

The two songs that stand out the most to me are "Ann of Cleaves" and "Catherine Howard", both of which are very proggy in sound and characterize Rick Wakeman's classic prog style tremendously well. You should also be aware that there are no worded lyrics on "The Six Wives of Henry VII", though there are some background droning vocals on tracks 1 and 5. The keyboard work on the album isn't always domineering and not the entire album is about synthesizers, as I have already mentioned. The guitar work is kept mainly to rhythm here, and it doesn't usually stand out amid the other instruments. There are a few occasions when the synthesizers can get little weird but it isn't anything any real prog listener would take any heed of.

The CD booklet to "The Six Wives of Henry VII" although quite short includes a list of all the instruments Rick Wakeman used. On the list are such instruments as Hammond organs, Mini-Moogs, D-400 Mellotrons and many others. It also includes a short biography of each of The Six Wives of Henry VII. The front cover of "The Six Wives of Henry VII" is an interesting one; it is like Rick took a casual step back in time and appeared in a photo or painting. Being Rick Wakeman, he is able to do such things on a whim.

1. Catherine of Aragon (4/5) 2. Anne of Cleves (5/5) 3. Catherine Howard (5/5) 4. Jane Seymour (4/5) 5. Anne Boleyn 'the day thou gavest Lord is ended (4/5) 6. Catherine Parr (4/5) Total = 26 divided by 6 (number of songs) = 4.33 = 4 stars (almost five) Excellent addition to any prog music collection

If you are serious about prog then The Six Wives of Henry VII is the album for you, it is a fantastic progressive album and is, I dare say Rick's greatest album to date. "The Six Wives of Henry VII" is a true Symphonic gem and it is a very accessible album to both acquire and to listen to. There is some fantastic keyboard work on the album which would interest the keyboard-orientated prog fan.

Review by fuxi
5 stars Is Rick Wakeman a great artist?

He is certainly one of the most controversial figures in prog, and his solo albums are often mentioned as painful examples of bad taste.

About THE SIX WIVES there can be little doubt. It's one of the freshest-sounding products of 1970s prog. I can think of no other prog-keyboard virtuoso who recorded a similarly convincing album which is 100% instrumental. Tomas Bodin recently came close with PINUP GURU. But Mr Wakeman was the ORIGINAL keyboard battery wizard!

Wakeman being Wakeman, certain moments on THE SIX WIVES sail close to kitsch. 'Jane Seymour' is one of Rick's best church organ pieces - but was it really necessary to overdub the siren-like scream of a synth onto its dramatic climax? Such a trick may have seemed brave in 1973, but to my modern ears it sounds cheap. 'Anne Boleyn' finishes with Wakeman performing (very prettily, I must say) part of an old English hymn, but the melancholic effect is spoiled by all too melodramatic back-up vocals. The main theme of 'Catherine Howard' must be one of Wakeman's most appealing tunes, but Rick's piano embellishments here seem tacky - he sounds like a forerunner of Richard Clayderman.

However, 'Catherine Howard' also makes clear what's so special about this album: in at least three of the compositions ('Catherine of Aragon', 'Anne Boleyn' and 'Catherine Howard' itself) the main themes are played on grand piano, after which Rick inserts Moog 'outbursts' or solos on other instruments (organs, mellotrons, honky-tonk-like harpsichords) and in different meters. These solos are usually surprising, sometimes humorous (e.g. that 'quacking' synth on 'Anne Boleyn') and always delightful.

To my taste, however, the most enjoyable tracks on the album are the ones where the noble Hammond organ predominates. 'Anne of Cleves' almost sounds like a jam session; it's wonderfully energetic. On this piece the bass player does a great job and Alan White is having the time of his life - in my view, his drumming surpasses the things he went on to do on RELAYER. The 'panic-signal' opening of 'Catherine Parr' is disconcerting, but the tune soon develops into a vibrant Hammond organ (and moog) showpiece. (I've heard Rick play 'CP' live and was astonished by the speed of his rendition.)

So in spite of its relative shortness, I truly feel we can call this album 'a masterpiece of prog'. But let's briefly return to my initial question.

A great artist is someone who expresses in his work the deepest emotions and/or the clearest insights ALL THROUGH HIS LIFE. It never fails to amaze me, when I listen to master pianists such as Keith Jarrett or Bobo Stenson, that they played only piano thirty years ago, are still doing the same thing nowadays, and most of the music they record is incredibly inspired. Rick Wakeman's career, on the other hand, looks rather different. When Wakeman started releasing piano-only albums in the 1980s, it turned out they contained nothing but mediocre New Age-stuff. On Prog Archives you'll find dozens of reviews by disappointed listeners.

Is it possible that the simple honesty of the grand piano is 'beyond' Mr Wakeman? Perhaps the main problem is that true improvisation is not Rick's forte? So even if THE SIX WIVES, with its multi-coloured sounds, could be considered a masterpiece, is it fair to say Rick is not a great artist?

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Rick Wakeman´s first ´real´ solo album (Piano Variations is only a little known experiment) is a superb efford. If you like keyboards sounds then you´re in prog heaven! I still think this album dated a bit, but it is also undeniably good. I remember how much stir this record made at the time. And being totally instrumental, this is no mean feat. Although there are some colaborators (notably his pals from Strawbs and Yes)make no mistake: this is a keyboards album. Not so much orchestrated as some of his next two works, but very much in classical vein.

Small wonder Rick Wakeman was considered one of the most influential figures in prog music to emerge in the 70´s. His work is quite groundbreaking, his technique is absolute fabulous and the songwriting is superb. He might be a little forgotten for some time, he may have released too many not so interesting albums, but this is one of those CDs anyone should hear if he is even lightly interested in prog music.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 3.5 stars...

One of the most important keyboardists in rock history,RICK WAKEMAN was born in 18th of May,1949 in Perivale,a West-London suburb and studied piano,clavinet and orchestration at the Royal College of Music in South Kensington.In early-70's he joins The Strawbs for a couple of years,before beginning a long career with YES,where his keyboard playing was one of the band's trademarks.During the recordings of YES' ''Close to the edge'' in 1972, WAKEMAN recorded his second personal album ''The six wives of Henry VIII'' (first one being ''Piano vibrations'' in 1971).

The album is split in six instrumental/thematic pieces,each of them dedicated to each of Henry VIII's six wives.It is worth notifying that this one sounds almost like a full-band effort,though WAKEMAN's keys are on the front.No unnecessary solos or over the top virtuosic music.''The six wives of Henry VIII'' is a very nice example of WAKEMAN's talent in both playing and composing.A variety of keys is used in here,from lush mellotrons, classical pianos and harpsichord, dominant organ and spacey moog synths,but every moment creating a different soundscape and atmosphere.About half of the compositions have a classical edge created by the beatiful piano,thrilling mellotron and great harsichord work of WAKEMAN with a strong rhythm section backing him in a series of tight performances. These classical-oriented arrangements are often supported by the distinctive choruses,making this an operatic and theatrical experience. The other half of the album is actually very complex at times with massive organ attacks,obscure synths and frenetic interplays,not unlike the complicated music created by E.L.P. around the same time.These demanding compositions have often a jazzy taste with superb drumming by Bill Bruford and Allan White,reminding me of GENTLE GIANT.What WAKEMAN actually achieved is to mix succesfully classical music's melody with progressive rock's complexity and the result is claimed as fully satisfying.

RICK WAKEMAN prooved to be over-productive throughout his career,recording over 80 (!!!) solo albums.Most of them are certainly of limited prog interest,but if you're looking for one of his most qualitive prog performances,this is a one to get.Strongly recommended, especially to freaks of keyboard-based prog!

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Six Wives Of Henry VIII is easily the best Rick Wakeman album to date! This statement might to be to comforting for anyone interested in exploring more that 80+ studio albums that Rock has released over the years, still it's the honest truth that even most of his dedicated fans seem to agree on.

The appeal of this release can be summarized in on simple sentence: the album has no vocal sections! Vocals have often completely ruined some of Wakeman's later releases by making the albums sound dated and unappealing to me. This doesn't happen on his debut and apart from a few choir section the music here is almost of classical nature. It sounds as if it could have been release during any decade, not counting the minor sound recording limitations of the early '70s.

Every single one of these performances are spectacular but my personal favorite is the forth piece titled after Henry VIII third wife Jane Seymour (makes sense doesn't it?). This composition is a Wakeman tour-de-force. The only section that I could have done without was the addition of the Alan White's drum fills since they are completely unnecessary here.

This is a great album, well worth both your time and money!

***** songs: Catherine Of Aragon (3:44) Jane Seymour (4:46)

**** star songs: Anne Of Cleves (7:53) Catherine Howard (6:35) Anne Boleyn/The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended (6:32) Catherine Parr (7:06)

Total Rating: 4,18

Review by russellk
2 stars I note how highly this album, and this artist, is regarded in ProgArchives. And while I respect the opinions of my fellow reviewers, and encourage you to read them, I want to offer a dissenting opinion.

Simply put, this music is showmanship without substance, a bewildering variety of keyboard sounds slapped together with no appreciation for the feel of a piece or the subject matter supposedly being considered. 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII'? It could equally have been called 'The Six Soft-Centred Chocolates' or 'The Six States of Matter' or something equally meaningless. How do any of these pieces express the tragedy and farce of that historical period? The nearest I can come to this mystery is the general baroque feel of WAKEMAN's over-elaborate playing, so baroque he needed to find a title from the period.

So let's forget any association with the title, any evocation of a particular place, time or person. Let's accept the album contains six instrumental pieces. How good are they?

Not very good, in my view. Don't get me wrong, the playing is flawless, but there's little compositional value in them. No distinct themes, therefore no progression from simple to complex. The only track that even hints of good songwriting is the last, but it's hard to tell under all the unnecessary frills. Even JOHN PETRUCCI in all his pomp and excess does less to obscure what might be good music than WAKEMAN does here.

And, let me tell you, this is the best of his hundred or so solo albums. Not that I've listened to them all - I'll bet I could count the number of people who have on the fingers of one foot. But it staggers me that he could construct something as egregiously flamboyant as this and then criticise YES for 'Tales From Topographic Oceans'. Compared to this, that album is a model of restraint.

It comes down to this. If I want to listen to virtuosity, I'll put on a Beethoven concerto and listen to a true master play wonderful compositions. If I want to listen to prog rock with stirring keyboards, I'll listen to RICK WAKEMAN - but only when he plays with YES. I'm not prepared to waste my time listening to a rock musician placing virtuosity above composition, whether he's named WAKEMAN or EMERSON. Or PETRUCCI, for that matter - I feel much the same about LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT as I do about this.

Remember, this is a dissenting opinion, and most '70s proggers rate this album highly. I don't. I hated it when I first heard it in 1974 - played to me by a keyboardist friend of mine - and I still dislike it intensely.

Maybe I'm the only one.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is not only the finest prog keyboard album ever recorded, it can also be lauded as one of the best outright prog albums of all-time. There has never been a similarly exalting keyboard offering from anyone that even dares to approach the sheer genius proposed here. We all know the story, the young conservatory trained wiz kid who cut his teeth as a session musician with such pop luminaries as Cat Stevens and Elton John, while also playing for the Strawbs. And yes, then there was Yes. The disc kicks off with the suave Catherine of Aragon, with some delightfully nimble piano work, some choppy Hammond, chirping synths and some fascinating choir work that explodes into a crescendo that blows the mind. Anne of Cleves gets a little funkier, rollicking organ, buzzing bass and some terrific drumming from Alan White. This is a more jamming like piece that has plenty of chopzilla for those who like technical bravura. Catherine Howard offers up a typical English piano etude, full of pastoral flourish, a highly melodic voyage and extremely expressive with the Strawbs crew on board (Lambert on guitar, Cousins on banjo and Cronk on bass), "skiffling" off into a very folky environment. A resounding piece of joyous symphonics, a tubular bell toll signals its appeal (sic!). The bitchy Jane Seymour displays that lush trait inherent with the person, full of sultry passion and fire, blasting that now famous booming church organ intro, harpsichord in tow and providing the platform for that monstrous "from the belly" Moog surge that gets me every time even 35 years later.

The number of times I played that in my mind and on my lips, I cannot even count. Simply masterful, no way around it. Anne Boleyn gets briefly very melancholic, before veering off into some spirited piano finger work at breakneck speed, synths asunder with Les Hurdle's bass buzzing incredibly, aided by Bruford's magical drum work, splendid choir work. Then the Moog starts spitting fire and really shoots this piece into the upper reaches of Prog Heaven. The Hammond IIIC puts in its 2 cents worth, some more deft grand piano and an imposing piano/choral finale worthy of fame. Bass man Dave Winter propels "Catherine Parr" with vibrant glee, another Wakeman showcase this time tossing in some majestic mellotron blasts, more Mini-Moog twirls and some adventurous tubular bell percussion that would have made Oldfield proud. The multiple melody lines are memorable and exhilarating. What a recording. This was the first "rock" record my dad acknowledged as worthy of his "Classical" ears and that is some fierce recognition. An absolute icon of what prog keyboards are all about, Book 1, Chapter 1. In my top 20 all- time with no hint of discord. 5 wives.

Review by The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Definitely an album worth having, even if it's not the masterpiece I thought it was.

The main problem with this album, for me, is that, at times, it feels like a long, extended solo to showcase Rick Wakeman's obvious keyboard abilities. And it's not that varied at that. Most of the time one's dazzled with endless downward-upward scales that appear to try to reach for the infinite. In the end, the melodic and thematic work seems to have been pushed aside in favor of a sheer display of skills. Call it pretentiousness if it's necessary for better understanding. The thing is that at times it is difficult to think of a memorable theme, tune or passage in the record that is not related to Wakeman's mighty fingers. It would've been great if we could've marveled more often about Wakeman's compositional skills, too.

Another little issue that I have with this album, although a very minor one, is that the music doesn't seem to match the characters of the six wives of Henry VIII at all. I know, this is an extra-musical matter but it would've enhanced the album if it would have had a more "programmatic" feel to it. Wakeman himself recognizes in the liner notes that his vision of each queen is related to the sound of the keyboards more than to the music itself, but it's weird that the most, say audacious of the wives have the more relaxed music. I think it would've served the work as a whole to have more connection between music and imagery.

But, of course, there are plenty of redeeming features in this record. For one, the splendid playing by Wakeman, who confirms he's one of the best keyboardists around. Also, there are brilliant moments, like the movement/song (they're not really sung) that draws straight influence from Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata y Fuga in D minor" for organ. The music is magical here, with hardly any intervention by the rest of the instruments, and only Wakeman's ethereal organ/synth to dazzle us and take us to another rock level.

All in all, a very good album that should be in every progressive-rock fan's collection, as a piece of great historical significance, as well as like an album of fantastic music. It's not perfect and it gets 3.5 stars from me, which force me to round up this time to a 4.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars From the first time my dad put a tape with this record in casette player, I knew that I will love it. These five stars doesn't mean that it's better than for example Dark Side of The Moon, but in it's category, instrumental prog music, or to be more specific, keyboard/synth, is's one of the best. It has quiet passages, louder ones, normal ones, nice ones, weird ones. This simply has all kinds of things this genre should have. And while listening to Catherine Parr, last song on this album and thinking that's great to know that so many others feel it in same way as I do.


EDIT 10/05/14 - And so it holds. After many listens, after long time with this album, it still feels good to listen it. Many Classical music composers probably would want to sound like complex arrangements on this record (of course, they didn't have needed equipment). Atmosphere reminds Renaissance very well, faithfully. There are no mistakes or weaker parts, everything is enjoyable. It's like Prog utopia.

Review by The Quiet One
3 stars The Six Keyboards of Rick Wakeman

This album as very much any Emerson, Lake & Palmer album, is led by the keyboards, yes the whole deal: synths, piano, church organ, hammond organ, harpsichord and mellotron(they're SIX! haha). So don't expect guitars nor your usual Prog Rock album. While the musicianship is top-notch however the songs as compositions are, while musically virtuosic, mainly aimless which is the only, though big, weak factor.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII should be for Prog keyboard players their 'holy grail', this album is repleted of stunning solos from all the already mentioned variety of keys, as well as featuring very demanding piano pieces. However for the common Prog listener, while the music may sound Symphonic and sometimes similar to that from Yes, it's by no means an easy ride since the songs are lacking direction and in almost all they end nowhere, despite having been amazed by the playing, that alone does not make much of a great album.

Anyone looking for an album full of outstanding keyboard playing, this album should be the one. This album and one from ELP, should be fighting in the #1 position of most innovating keyboard playing and virtuosism of the instrument, however in respect with the already mentioned song-writing, this album is also pretty much like an ELP album, in which the band(in this case the artist) decides that musicianship goes first, then composition in last place.

As for musicianship: 5 stars. As for songwriting: 2 stars Average: 3.5 stars rounded down because I truly consider that good songwriting should go first, while musicianship if the songs are well composed, then I really don't care if they're not technical or anything outstanding.

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Style over Substance

I am in full agreement with Bryan and russelk on this one - this is an inconsistent album, full of highly decorated, very simple ideas with no compositional substrata to hold it all together or produce any kind of dynamic ebb and flow.

It's also highly derivative, and the bedrock of the music is simple chord progressions underlying repetitive groove-rock jams, with many, many moments of self-indulgent noodling and some flashy bluff based on one or two motivic ideas taken from classical music - certain pieces standing out shamelessly.

That said, it is not an altogether unpleasant listen - easily the best solo album (inverted commas!) that I've heard from Rick. Mind you, the only other one I've heard is the follow-up to this, which is quite dreadful.

There are moments when the music is engaging, and other moments where the music is proggy in style and good fun, and this is quite evenly balanced with moments of cheesey sounds and meandering nonsense, working out at a 3 star rating overall - mainly due to the strong Prog connections rather than any sense of progressiveness in the music.

However, after reviewing, I realised that 3 stars was just being too generous - I cannot bring myself to say that this is a good album. It has a few good moments and that is all.

PiIing in straight away with something that sounds a little ELP light, with a large helping of Mike Oldfield thrown in for good measure - and hints of Bach's famous Toccata in D minor, the music insinutates that it will drop us into something really heavy, then spectacularly fails to deliver - wimping out instead.

Catherine of Aragon continues with this Bach theme, overlaid with Oldfield type sounds and underpinned by Chris Squier's unmistakable bass sound, but does not develop it, instead, it dives off onto a completely different tack, with a nasty squelchy Moog underneath some more pleasant sounds - then abandons this completely for a gospel piano driven section, quite strongly reminiscent of The Great Gig in the Sky.

This in turn is abandoned for some reasonable piano bluff, then back to what I shall call the Toccata theme before ending lamely.

Anne of Cleves begins with something that could have come from a Hawkwind track - it's much darker than the earlier music, and the Hammond adds a nice texture. This all collapses into some dischordant nastiness before moving on to an ELP styled repetitive riff.

I think that's all the basic elements covered - we move on through repetitive funky/boogie riffs and aimless, smudgy noodling, through simple, repeated ideas and more noodling, which produce a reasonably compelling jam section before it all descends into noise, and an apparently detuned church organ.

Watch out for the guitar solo, which has to be the most horrible one I've ever heard - and, surprisingly, Steve Howe has put his name to it. Nigel Tufnel would have been PROUD of this one in it's we-are-not-worthy awfulness. And I'm not exaggerating.

Catherine Howard begins with a theme I've heard very recently on Clouds' 1971 album, Scrapbook - and it dawns on me that this entire album seems to be a kind of dumbed-down interpretation of what Clouds were doing years before!

A couple of arpeggiated piano ideas are presented, and these are picked up by what sounds like a guitar, but could be an electric banjo for all I know. The dreaded squelchy Moog returns - and I guess that this sound is a matter of taste, but I despise both it, and the repetitive themes.

Again, we are hit with tangential idea after tangential idea, even going into a kind of wacky hoedown kind of thing, which has me glancing longingly at the Skip button.

Some semi-interesting ideas and some horribly dischordant ideas follow this, before the 1st Clouds idea returns - although this is a highly simplified almost nursery-rhyme version of this melody. The underlying harmony is far simpler, and shifts syrupilly over a bass pedal, before the SAME melody is represented on the flute. This repetition only serves to make me wish it would go away, or at least develop (read Progress) a bit.

Jane Seymour returns to Bach's Toccata in D minor, taking phrase fragments from that great work and reducing them to something altogether more horrible.

The organ picks up, then the harpsichord, throwing phrase fragments backwards and forwards - with some quite impressive speed in the runs, but again, no sense of underlying harmonic rhythm and phrasing, just a sense of what comes across as dramatic in a showy and blustery way.

The constant return to the suspension, obvious bluff and careless modulations indicate a complete lack of craft in a manner whose audacity suprises me - people actually paid good money for this?

Anne Boleyn is more of the same but different really - the precise and fast runs are technically impressive, but the composition is annoyingly cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof, with idea after idea being tossed about in what seems to be an attempt to hide any overall grasp of the basics of composition by flummoxing the audience with lots of different ideas and sounds.

Catherine Parr seems like a continuation of Anne Boleyn with added Hammond, using a similar falling chord progression to open, then going off at a massive and quite unpleasant tangent into a 2 chord noodle-fest.

Grieg's Peer Gynt is occasionally dipped into - you know, the one famous theme that everyone knows, but apart from that and a few changes with frilly bits, another vacuous composition to end the album with.

When I first heard this album, I quite liked bits of it. Having sat down and listened really hard in order to evaulate its qualities in terms of Progressive Rock, I find it very lacking - but it's not as bad as the follow-up; The Knights of the Round Table, because the awful bits really are not quite as awful here.

If you're a fan of Rick's music, then it's an obvious one to have, as it's the highest rated by fans.

If you're a fan of Progressive music, then I would advise a single hearing only. The payback on repeated hearings simply isn't worth it - this is not quality music. Frankly, the esteem with which this album is more widely held is quite astonishing to me.

Viva la difference!

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars Absorbing in equal measures his favourite classical composers and his prior groups STRAWBS and YES, Wakeman clearly enunciates his own vision for keyboard oriented rock music on his debut solo work. The buzzing moogs and effervescent organs sound both dated and fresh, as though what goes around comes around. Perhaps most miraculously given Rick's own dominance of the proceedings and the use of a wide array of guest musicians, this could pass muster as a tight ensemble better than a lot of so-called band efforts.

Members of his first group Strawbs are rounded up for the best and most melodic track, "Catherine Howard", which has more than a whiff of the Strawbs eerie folk circa Witchwood thanks to Dave Cousins' banjo playing and some of Rick's own honky tonk piano work. "Anne of Cleves" is almost like an extension of his work on "Where is this Dream of Your Youth" and owes as much to jammy early 1970s artists as to the progressive scene.

The use of YES brethren also provide continuity, especially in Bill Bruford's masterful drumming, but Alan White's work on the album closer "Catherine Parr", is perhaps the strongest of all. Everywhere are unmasked clips from his long-buried heroes, that serve to endear more than incriminate. Acoustic piano in healthy doses helps to rein in the electronic excesses that occasionally step over the line, but even these can be forgiven.

The church organ solo of "Jane Seymour" is yet another highlight, as sweet a marriage of classical finesse and rock potency as you'll find, and some 7 years before SKY. The combined sense of both reverence and fun are brought into focus here and elsewhere.

While Wakeman has produced other strong solo works, "Six Wives" remains the most likely to appeal to a broad segment of the progressive audience. It comes from a time before keyboard players thought they could approximate every needed sound behind the curtain, a la "Dream Weaver", and is indeed worth losing your head over.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I've never risked myself beyond Wakeman's first few solo albums. My brother had them in his collection, which turned out to be really awesome as it meant I never had to waste any money on them myself. A few flashes of brilliance with Yes aside, Rick Wakeman, together with fellow keyboard batterist Keith Emerson, stands for everything that can go wrong with prog for me. It's the moment when technical skills become an end to themselves and when a musician gets more excited from hearing himself play then from trying to do anything with actual meaning. Many have pointed it out already. Style over substance to put it gracefully, sonic wankery to say it less friendly.

That general remark aside, this album has some enjoyable moments. I couldn't tell you what any of these songs has got to do with the wives depicted, but judging from the pompous nature of the music they must sure have suffered from serious overweight.

Catherina of Aragon is a bit cheesy but still listenable. To my big surprise, Alan White manages to raise the bar on Anne Of Cleves, spectacular drumming here, I always thought it was Bruford, never checked the credits properly. Wakeman adds some brooding organs and teapot sunth noises. I would have liked to find a similar drive on all tracks here, alas, Catherine Howard mixes an elevator prog muzak main theme with equally annoying uptempo bits. Jane Seymour is an impressive piece for organ. I like the moog that sits in the middle of it, it's awkward and out of place but somehow it adds a nice twist to it. Anna Boleyn is another prime example of dated prog, but that is understandable for album from 1473. Catherine Parr is possibly worse, the ending part saves it from going under.

I agree with all fans here. This is Wakeman's best solo effort. (Or is that just because no one dared to listen to the other 85 solo album entries for Wakeman?) But rating it is more difficult then stating it is his best. 2 stars seems a bit low but it's too uneven to rate as good for me. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone but to the most ardent classic prog fans, but those already own this album anyway. 2.5 stars

Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars For me, Wakeman's style and playing has exuded a sort of bloated, saccharine stink which ruins most everything he's been associated with. With the obvious exception of his excellent contributions to the seminole Yes albums, his keyboard's have always sounded remarkebly corny and juvenile, especially when used to emulate acoustic classical instruments.

But "Six Wives" is a Wakeman album I can be proud to own. This is iconic prog keyboarding at its highest, sounding exceptionally refined, focused, and exciting; this is the pioneering Wakeman of legend which we hear about (or remember), performing a monstrously arranged set of songs with style. While not quite as creative as some of ELP's experimental songs or as lush as Yes' "Topographic Oceans", "Six Wives" is fautless for its sheer enjoyability and demonstration of talent.

An essentual album for any fan of classic Yes, of which "Six Wives" sounds very a kin to, as well as for fans of classic prog in general.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: NA Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Review by friso
2 stars Rick Wakeman - The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1972)

Fooled again..

I don't like pure keyboard extravaganza's, unless the music has some vision and good lyrics. This records represents the technical extremes of key-playing. Rick Wakeman plays on a dozen of different key instruments placed all around him, as the inner sleeve shows. His compositions are constructed from a combination of classical music styled rock and some progressive tendencies from his Yes period. Both his playing and his compositions are of high quality in a technical way, but I tend to miss the human thing on this album. I can stand records without vocals very well, but this just doesn't touch me at all! This record keeps playing without leaving traces on my mind.

Now I can understand that this might be a great record for people who can enjoy the masterful keyboard parts in a high dosed way without further band-members playing important parts, and I think this is a great record for those people. I myself didn't like this at all and I have decided not to buy any keyboard oriented (or guitar oriented albums for that matter) any more. I like complete bands giving me the full experience of cooperation between instruments, I don't want one lead. I give it two stars. This is only for fans of the symphonic prog genre, and they will find six great enjoyable compositions (not songs).

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Here's a guy who gave the finger to almost everyone. A finger he should proudly present, by the way, to the authors of the highbrow and mean-spirited write-ups this 1973 album often garners.

Screw 'em, I say, and if they want to pretend Six Wives of Henry VIII should have been something else; something other than a combining of rock with Baroque stylings, or God forbid something more "progressive", then what the Hell are they doing here? It's like walking into a gallery and claiming Jackson Pollock was a hack who did little more than vomit colors on to canvas. Or deciding Gene Roddenberry didn't really 'create' Star Trek, he just lifted ideas from a then fledging space program, cleverly seducing a gullible and witless audience. Yeah, I smell sour grapes, and it isn't pretty.

Maybe it's not just the music, either. Maybe some just don't like Wakeman, this yellow-maned Morlock of a man with the temerity to release so many albums, and worse; someone with the nerve to have left one the prog scenes' most beloved groups at the height of their glory (having of course unselfishly provided them with one of the most distinctive and rich elements in their sound). Who does this meat-eating troglodyte with more vigor in his lower lip than his wan, emaciated vegan ex-bandmates have between them think he is?--

I'll tell you: he's a working musician who wants, more than anything else, to make music.

So he does. A lot of it. Some of it good, some of it not so much. This release was one of the good'ns, and I can't see it disappointing too many progophiles. I mean what is there not to like? The ambition, vision, musicianship, planning, all more than commendable. The only weakness is perhaps the creaky production. But it's rock 'n roll for crying out loud, not the Mills Brothers. I want a little dirt on my flowers, it adds to the authenticity and reminds me where they came from. 'Catherine of Aragon' pops with familiar quotes and Wakeman's seasoned hands, warming with the soft voices of a choir, each measure rising and arriving at 'Anne of Cleves' with Rick's street-savvy piano and eager band - including several Yes alum - kicking out the rock rhythms for eight minutes of classic prog power, pure, and unashamed. Some Copland for 'Catherine Howard', an unusually sentimental tribute to a long-dead Queen (and Henry VIII's fifth wife)-- but the hoedown is corrupted beautifully by Wakeman's starship synthesizer sounds and neat jumping between styles, from Romantic to Heroic to Pastoral, all presented with rigor by a master. The deep dungeon sounds of Bach's 'Toccata & Fugue' and its improvisatory school of German organplay open and close 'Jane Seymour', transitioning to harpsichord and back to the cold mist of Rick's pipe organ [a Hammond C-3 actually] and Minimoog. Lush and capricious 'Anne Boleyn' distantly echoes Pink Floyd that same year but keeps changing; from bouncing dance rock to great funky vamps, space oddities, Americanism, all resolving to a tender salute at the end on solo piano. And 'Catherine Parr' - our third Catherine - finishes with gusto a record that defines the word "classic".

I'm sorry, this is a great f*cking album, and any fan who deprives him or herself of it because of bad press or surly word-of-mouth is missing out on one of the great moments of Prog's all too short peak years. Six Wives is our heritage and we should warmly embrace it as often as our busy schedules allow. Get it, love it, live it. And thanks, Rick, we owe you at least one.

Review by thehallway
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.

Review by tarkus1980
3 stars Rick Wakeman's first solo album (at least. the first one anybody cares about) is usually considered his best, but it's an album that I don't especially love. Don't get me wrong, I find it basically enjoyable, and some parts are great. Rick is of course, an absolutely phenomenal keyboardist (if one of often dubious taste), and it's interesting to hear him essentially have a whole album to himself. The thing is, though, I can't quite call this album that much more than interesting, and even then it's only from a "scientific" perspective at times. To put it another way, a Rick Wakeman solo passage can be absolutely stunning and breathtaking - but only in small quantities, maybe five minutes at a time. After all, melodies are not the point of this album - it's arrangments and the way Rick attacks his keyboards.

Naturally, some passages are fairly entertaining. The opening track, "Catherine of Aragon," has all of the 'classic Yes' members playing on it (except Anderson, of course), and was even briefly displayed on Yessongs. It actually has a very interesting main theme, simultaneously complex and somewhat catchy. It is truly quite enthralling the way Rick winds his way through passages of varying speed, mood and intensity, making them flow almost seamlessly into one another. Plus, his pallette of keys on the track is highly diversified, so there are plenty of interesting tones to be found. There's even some nice, plesant humming/chanting on the part of some backing vocalists, and they help further establish the number as a minor classic.

The rest of the album, though, seems impressive when on but doesn't have much in the way of staying power. There are good moments and aspects, of course; "Anne of Cleves" has those ominous scales, "Catherine Howard" stands out by being almost totally piano- based, "Jane Seymour" has some really ominous passages, and the other two have their charms. And yet, they're not especially memorable, and they definitely don't leave any sort of lasting impression in mood or atmosphere or anything like that.

In small stretches, with individual tracks striking my fancy from time to time, this stuff can be friggin' awesome, and for that reason it's able to get as high of a grade as it does. On the whole, though, I'll pass.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars Without question this is Rick Wakeman's best album. He has a great group of guests helping him out here including the membes of YES minus Jon Anderson. Rick puts on an amazing display here on a variety of keyboards.The topic is of course Henry VIII's six wives. He recorded this while he was still with YES.

"Catherine Of Aragon" opens with piano and drums standing out before we get some added organ. Nice bass from Squire early on. He and Howe appear on this track only. I like when it settles a minute in until the vocal melodies arrive 2 minutes in. More piano later. "Anne Of Cleves" is more dynamic and uptempo. Alan White is active on the kit. Church organ 5 minutes in dominates everything briefly then it kicks back in.

"Catherine Howard" is slower paced with piano early but then it picks up.Contrasts continue. Some crazy synths and mellotron too. "Jane Seymore" is very Classical sounding with harpsichord too. Church organ and synths follow. Not a fan. "Anne Boleyn" opens with relaxed piano melodies then it kicks in with some good piano and synths runs. Mellotron later. "Catherine Parr" opens with drums, bass, organ and a more Rock flavour. Rick then lets it rip on the keyboards. Love the mellotron 2 1/2 minutes in as it settles. The tempo continues to change.

Man if your into keyboard dominated music check this out. 3.5 stars.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is an album that I gave quite some attention to because it was, at the time, number one on the local pop album chart! I simply had to see what all the fuss was about. Since I had been able to find great enjoyment from other Top 10 charting non-pop records from non-pop artists (like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Yes Fragile, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, and Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy) I decided to give this one a shot. It was good but perhaps a little over my head (having paid very little conscious attention to classical music up to this point). I remember enjoying "Catherine of Aragon" and the melodic, RENAISSANCE-like "Anne Boleyn" a lot. Hearing it today I find that I still like "Catherine" (3:44) (10/10) and "Anne" (6:32) (8/10), but am also enjoying "Anne of Cleves" (7:53) (8/10), the wonderful organ on "Jane Seymour" (4:46) (9/10) and the ELP-like music (but not sound engineering) of "Catherine Parr" (7:06) (8/10). This album stands up fairly well to the test of time though the sound recording is inconsistent. Rick Wakeman deserves all of the accolades and acclaim that he receives--as does this album.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Oh my God ... How come I have not reviewed this seminal work by the keyboard maestro? It happened when I planned to cut and paste the review of this album to my 'Music for Life' blog but I found none from me. I was surprised that I really missed this album from my review because actually this album is a...

True masterpiece of all time ...

....where I usually spin in balance with other new prog bands for refreshment. But when I was aware last week that I had not given any word or rating about this album. This album really BLEW me away the first time I listened to it in the seventies. I was at that time actually did not quite favor anything full instrumental album; but ths one for me was different because it's so dynamic and many changes in terms of style from opening track until the album finishes. It's really great, I tell you. As this was an ambitious project, all members of Yes except Jon Anderson took part in the studio work.

One thing so obvious about this album is that the music is so dynamics; Rick is really an innovative musician who can create wonderful compositions that stimulate our adrenaline and inquiring the mind. Yes, of course he made it based on his thorough study on the characters of Henry VIII's wives. But that's not really important to me because I know nothing about history. Thing that matters to me is how innovative he was composing nice melodies, harmonies and structural integrity of each song so that altogether the 6 tracks form one single story that is cohesive as a whole album. Perfecto!

"Catherine of Aragon" (3:45) opens the album with a nice and complex keyboard work with great piano fills as well as a bit flavor of guitar fills. The keyboard solo reminds me to the Yessongs album where Rick performed his solo work. And flows dynamically into second track "Anne of Cleves" (7:50) with dynamic drumming. This second track has become my best favorite track since I heard this album for the first time in mid seventies. I like the way the music flows in its dynamic style combining inventive keyboard and jaw dropping drum work. Oh man ...this track is really rocking and progging! Two thumbs up for Rick for having composed and performed this track wonderfully! All remaining tracks are at the same excellence as the opening two tracks. "Catherine Howard" (6:36) starts mellow with piano touch in classical music style; and then moves wonderfully through great transition pieces with piano fills as well as acoustic guitar. It then moves dynamically with keyboard work and solo. It's really great!. "Jane Seymour" (4:44) is really classic symphonic as Rick explores his inventive keyboard and organ works dynamically. The music flows beautifully with a piano touch in "Anne Boleyn (Incl "The day thou gavest Lord is ended")" (6:31). "Catherine Parr" (7:00) concludes the album wonderfully with great music dynamics combining keyboard and excellent drumming. Wow! what a great concluding track!

It's a masterpiece!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Warthur
5 stars I've made a good faith attempt to get into Rick Wakeman's solo work, but I have to say that much of it took a while to grow on me. Rick is an excellent keyboardist, but an extremely poor editor; if he were more careful about which compositions or elements of compositions he allowed to make the final cut for release and which he held back for more work, he'd be making less releases but I think the overall quality would improve.

That said, this album is clearly a standout when it comes to technical execution, and after a long period of being a bit ambivalent about it I've found it's ended up growing on me, Made at a time when he felt that his own creative contributions were being sidelined in Yes, the album gave Rick an outlet for his own compositions which he couldn't find in his band work at the time.

Part of what previously turned me off is that there's a lot of showing-off of the technical capabilities both of Rick himself and his array of synthesisers, though to be fair, in this respect there's a lot to show off. I have to admit that I prefer the sort of original compositions Rick devises to the "rocking the classics approach" of the likes of Keith Emerson or Wendy Carlos, simply because he's composing with a thorough understanding of his instruments in mind, rather than taking material composed for other instrumentation and then trying to use keyboards to fill in for as much of the orchestra as possible.

There's also a certain playfulness and a range of influences which weren't so widely-embraced in Yes by this point - at points there's even a certain funkiness to proceedings which the Close to the Edge/Tales From Topographic Oceans era of the band would have simply never contemplated. It's that playful side to the album, balanced very capably with its more serious aspects (the transitions between sections always make some sort of emotional sense, rather than feeling abrupt) which represents Rick's big accomplishment here, and is the reason the whole endeavour works so well.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars I haven't heard all of Rick Wakeman's 17,243 albums to date (I doubt anyone has, including Rick himself), but I think I've heard enough of them to boldly state that this, only his second solo album, is still easily his best. In the ever ongoing Emersion vs. Wakeman debate, this album is where those in the Wakeman camp should point if they are looking for credible proof of their hero's superiority. Emerson may be the better showman, but he never came close to producing an album as great as this one.

Each piece showcases Wakeman's skills on the keys, whether he is playing bachlike classical, honky tonk, or rock. And his compositions are all complex and interesting, not just simple vehicles for flashy solos. He has quite a few guest musicians along for the ride, including four from the ranks of Yes, but no one outshines the keyboards on this gem.

Review by Sinusoid
2 stars Add me to the list of those that never quite got the hype surrounding this album. Often celebrated as one of prog's greatest excesses, SIX WIVES sounds like a cluster of ideas that never gel nor rise to something of a dynamic level. Ho-hum might be the most extreme response I get from this album.

And it's such a shame too considering the skill of one Rick Wakeman. I think the majority of those coming in here will have discovered Wakeman through his work with Yes, and his work there is extraordinary. The man's true talents really shine whenever there's a band to put a limit as to how much Wakeman can show off. Here, Wakeman is the star, and most restraint is left unchecked.

There is the occasional motif that strikes my fancy, but it's usually the accompaniment that can deliver a smile on my face. It was nice enough for Wakeman to collect members of Yes and Strawbs (bands he played for), but a lot of times I'm more intrigued by what they're doing than Wakeman. Other than a few jazz excursions, most of the keyboard parts are techno-babble; after a whole album, these spectacle solos just blur into the back of my mind to the point where they're indistinguishable. Half of the synth lines come and go without any semblance of meaning.

I wouldn't call this an overly soloist album, but SIX WIVES clearly bit off more than it could chew. There are songs like ''Jane Seymour'' that really sound like solo diarrhea, but others like ''Anne of Cleves'' deflect into stale jazz fusion. Worth it for the backing instrumentation of the opening and closing tracks, but SIX WIVES is way too top heavy.

And this album still couldn't teach me the names of the six wives of Henry VIII?

Review by J-Man
4 stars Although Rick Wakeman has had one of the most prolific solo careers in progressive rock, it is still this debut offering that is widely regarded as his finest. Released in early 1973, The Six Wives of Henry VIII came out during the height of symphonic prog and also during one of the most creative eras for his main gig in Yes. The prog scene, especially in his native England, was bursting with imagination and ambition, and Wakeman's first solo contribution (barring 1971's Piano Vibrations, which even he doesn't consider a Rick Wakeman album) had no shortage of these traits. An instrumental concept album of sorts, The Six Wives of Henry VIII aims to describe each of Henry VIII's wives through different keyboard sounds and musical arrangements. It's an interesting idea that hadn't really been attempted before, and although one can easily ignore the concept if it seems too pretentious, I think Wakeman's attempt to bring this story to music is fascinating. It also doesn't hurt that the compositions here are among the keyboard maestro's finest, and the end result is an album that still sounds fresh forty years later.

It could be argued that all progressive rock is indebted to classical music, but The Six Wives of Henry VIII is one of the most classically-inspired prog albums you're likely to hear from this era. Almost like a romantic piece of classical music played using rock instruments, this album showed progressive rock's viability as a modern output of classically-inspired songwriting. The totally wordless compositions may not appeal to all Yes fans, but those who appreciate tremendous keyboard work and spectacular arrangement are likely to enjoy the hell out of this one. Some of Rick Wakeman's most stunning playing is found here, whether it be in the dazzling church organ in "Jane Seymour", killer Hammond and grand piano work in "Catherine of Aragon", or the cutting edge analog synthesizers in "Catherine Parr", all of Wakeman's playing here is enough to make any keyboard geek drool. A vast array of pianos, mellotrons, organs, synthesizers, and harpsichords are used throughout the album, and Wakeman's ability to blend all of these different keyboard textures together seamlessly is a large portion of what makes this album so great.

Fortunately, Rick also brought some excellent musicians along to complete his musical vision; many members of Yes and Strawbs (including, but not limited to, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Alan White, Steve Howe, Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert, and Chas Cronk) deliver spectacular performances here, so the musicianship is not exclusively focused on Wakeman by any means. The Six Wives of Henry VIII is simply a blast to listen to, and while it is a bit on the excessive and pompous side, I have a great time whenever I give it a spin, even if it doesn't move me on the same level that a masterpiece like Close to the Edge would. As overblown and pretentious as it may be, The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a bold and consistently excellent entrance statement from this mighty keyboard wizard.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars It's curious how the perception of music can be subjective, especially when it's about an instrumental. Before starting this review I have given a quick read to what the other reviewers have written.

One says that he doesn't see any relationship between the music and the six Queens in terms of characters and historical period. In brief nothing can remind him the Queens or how, knowing the story of Henry VIII, he imagines them. Another (and I usually trust both) has based his review on how much the music is concerning the characters....

I have some reminds about Henry and his wives from my long time gone schooldays and I haven't searched for any relationship between the music and the track's titles. This because I have discovered this album when I was very young and still not into Progressive Electronic and ambient instrumentals.

So what I heard was just a sort of YES album of the golden period without vocals and of course, for this reason, without Jon Anderson.

Ignoring the Queens, the music can appear as "cold and only technical" to somebody, but this somebody would have the same impressions from most of the YES albums. Respect to the YES music of that period, the links to classical music are more frequent, but not so strong as it was for Keith Emerson (actually there were big discussions between the fans about who was the world's best keyboardist).


Today this is still a very good album and as many have written, the best Wakeman's release. I have to say that there are other albums from Rick which had a bigger impact on me, but this surely deserves its 4 average stars. Probably if Rick had left more freedom to his actual bandmates it would have been a real masterpiece.

In any case it's an excellent album which maintains its appeal intact even after 40 years from its first release.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I would suggest "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" is about as good as Wakeman gets in his solo mode. The album brims over with innovation and lots of proggy extended guitar and keyboard breaks. The time sigs are off kilter and there is always a sense of refreshing inventiveness in each track.

Opening with the sublime Catherine of Aragon the album peaks immediately with the outstanding drumming of Bill Bruford, a massive presence on this and the 5th track. The guitar work of Steve Howe is wonderful as is expected and Chris Squire's bass is welcome, the Yes members one and only stint on this album, but nevertheless a memorable cameo. Anne of Cleves follows with Alan White on drums, then Catherine Howard replete with Wakeman's grand piano runs. Jane Seymour has symphonic nuances with glorious organ stabs and bombastic orchestration. Piano flows lucidly on Anne Boleyn (Incl "The day thou gavest Lord is ended") and the album closes with a drum and keyboard powerhouse performance on the sensational Catherine Parr.

Overall there is some extraordinary musicianship on the album that Wakeman has revisited recently in a reunion of the music live captured on DVD.

I have the vinyl and always loved the artwork and the seriousness of the information included with pictures of each wife. As far as a concept album, the music works beautifully and Wakeman proves he is a force to be reckoned with even without the Yes Machine.

Review by lazland
4 stars This is an album born of its time. Listening to it again as I write this review, I am struck by how much I still enjoy the music and themes, at least 30 years after buying it, but one thing strikes me above all else.

In 1973, even with a damned lucky break when half the country tuned into The Old Grey Whistle Test, having been let down by ITV pulling a controversial film, featuring the blond maestro performing parts of this, his debut solo album, the world seemed curiously receptive to an album based upon the six wives of England's most colourful, and perhaps controversial, King which featured absolutely no lyrics whatsoever, and, in reality, did not even seem to be easy to decipher the characters of said wives from the score itself.

Put it another way. If a musician, no matter how brilliant, were to attempt a similar feat in 2014, the album would die a commercial death, and be consigned to the dustbin of history. Actually, it probably would never be funded in the first place by any modern record company. Even then, A&M thought it would bomb.

Wakeman was assisted by his new mates in Yes, and his old ones in The Strawbs, in making this, and the performances are uniformly excellent, and the music really rather moving in places. I still shiver when I hear Catherine Howard, and the gorgeous prayer, The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended, in Anne Boleyn, easily the mist tragic of old Henry's Queens. The end track Catherine Parr rollocks along at a fair old pace, and, yes, the modern live performances, either solo at Hampton Court, or during Yes gigs, are far better produced and modern, but for its day, this album was right at the cutting edge of musical technology and thinking. It is a testament to its genius that it still holds up extremely well now, 41 years after its initial release.

Quite excellent, and a must buy for all you youthful keyboard aficionados to see where it all really kicked off.

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Rick Wakeman's most famous solo album is a solid example of classic symphonic prog. Spanning six tracks, each bearing the name of a different wife of that 8th old man named 'Enry (as Herman's Hermits would say), this wholly instrumental album is a consistent, well-composed and well-performed collection of classic keyboard sounds. From a technical standpoint, this checks just about all of the boxes for the 70's English symphonic ideal. The mood ranging from spacey and heavy psychedelic rock in "Anne of Cleves" to the light, pristine, and pastoral "Catherine Howard" and just about everything that can be heard in the discographies of Genesis, ELP or Camel. Unfortunately, though, as well done as the album is, none of the melodies really mesmerize or stick with you for too long. In that sense, I can't give it any more than a "non-essential" 3 star rating, but it is an album that will consistently keep you interested (or at the very least awake) while it's playing.
Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nº 125

"The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" is the debut studio album of Rick Wakeman and was released in 1973. This is true, if we don't consider "Piano Vibrations" released in 1971 as his debut studio album. However, his contributions on that album were limited to performing as a session musician and he didn't compose any of the tracks on it. "The Six Wives Of Hery VIII" is a very ambitious and risky conceptual album about the six wives of Henry VIII. It's an album with six tracks, each one inspired by one of Henry VIII's wives. As Wakeman said, this album is based around his interpretation of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. Although, the style may not always be in keeping with their individual history, because it represents his personal conception of their characters in relation to keyboard instruments. However, always was a mystery to me, why Wakeman doesn't treats the ladies in the chronologically correct order on the album.

Wakeman chose to participate on the recordings of the album the presence of some of the members of his current band Yes at the time and also some members of his previous band the Strawbs. So, we can see on the album the presence of the bassists Chris Squire of Yes and Chas Cronk of the Strawbs, the guitarists Steve Howe of Yes and Dave Lambert of the Strawbs, the drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White of Yes and the leader of the Strawbs, Dave Cousins, on electric banjo. Beyond these musicians, many other artists participate on this working too. However and despite the presence of several Yes and the Strawbs' members, it doesn't recall the work of any of those bands, in direct sense.

"The six Wives Of Henry VIII" has six tracks, as we can expect, and all the songs were written by Wakeman except "Anne Boleyn 'The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended'". "Anne Boleyn" incorporates the hymn "The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended" written by Rev. Clement Cotteril Scholefield, arranged by Wakeman. The first track "Catherine Of Aragon" is one of the best and most easily recognized musical pieces of the album. It's the song most close to classic Yes' sound, with some complexity and at the same time catchy, and where the music flows with passages of varying speed, mood and intensity. It's the demonstration of a perfect marriage between a keyboardist and an orchestra. The second track "Anne Of Cleves" is a song more in the jazz/rock style and where the sound is predominantly of keyboards and drums. It's the most strong and energetic song of the album, making it the most exciting song to listen. Despite be an intricate song with some complexity it's a very simple song to listen to especially for those who aren't so familiar with progressive rock. The third track "Catherine Howard" is on the contrary a more complex and difficult song to hear. It's one of my favourite compositions created by Wakeman. It's the most calm, relaxing and melodic song of the album. It's a song with musical changes and rhythms that moves gracefully and wonderfully through several short musical pieces. This is really a great track. The fourth track "Jane Seymour" is a classical symphonic piece of music composed for a church organ. It's a fantastic musical piece where Wakeman demonstrates how great his virtuosity as a keyboardist. Here we can see clearly the influences of Johan Sebastian Bach, the master composer of the classical music of the Baroque period. The church organ was recorded at St Giles-without-Cripplegate church, in London. The fifth track "Anne Boleyn" is another fantastic and brilliant melancholic song with a mixture of many keyboard styles, played by several keyboard instruments, with lots of changes and a splendid choir work, and where the music flows beautifully. This is a lovely and soft song especially performed by acoustic piano that gives it a more sophisticated feel and a certain type of class. In the end, Wakeman plays a lovely piano rendition of the hymn "The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended". The sixth track "Catherine Parr" is the song that completes perfectly and wonderfully this album. It's a very dynamic song combining magnificently the keyboard working with an excellent drum working. I also want to highlight the presence of the mellotron with its majestic sound which gives an ambient of a choir all over the song.

Conclusion: "The six Wives Of Henry VIII" is a classic progressive album and an unavoidable evergreen presence of the progressive rock of the 70's. It's usually accepted that this is his better and most fine musical work in his huge and prolific solo career. It's also one of my first contacts, in the 70's, with his music, together with "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth", "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table", "Lisztomania" and "No Earthly Connection". As I said before, this is Wakeman's personal interpretation of the musical characteristics of the six wives of Henry VIII. As I don't know exactly the personality traits of those historical figures, I'm not sure if he could interpret them well or not, with the keyboard instruments. So, the only thing I can say is that "The six Wives Of Henry VIII" is a completely instrumental musical work of the highest quality and an indispensable album especially for those, like me, who love the superb analogue keyboard workings. This is really an album with a very impressive set of tracks.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by patrickq
3 stars Yes is a truly great band, and by definition, much of its greatness is a product not of the talents of its individual members, but of the synergy among them. Not surprisingly, there are only a few gems among the dozens of solo albums by Yes members, and these standouts usually include more than one member of the group; Steve Howe's Turbulence and Chris Squire's Fish out of Water are the prime examples.

Keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman is no exception; despite the participation of Howe and Squire on one track and Yes drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White across the LP, The Six Wives of Henry VII is somewhat one-dimensional when compared to contemporary Yes music. Of course it's a keyboard-driven album, but that's not the problem. The problem is that Wakeman is trying to create an album that will appeal to Yes fans without directional or compositional input from the rest of the band; furthermore he produced the album himself, whereas the recent Yes albums had been produced by in conjunction with Eddie Offord. Add to this the fact that from its first seconds, Six Wives invites comparisons to the guitar-based work of Yes, and it's clear Wakeman had a tall order to fill.

Nonetheless the album was a commercial success, making the top 10 in the UK and earning a gold certification in the US. Artistically, it was superior to Yes's own 1973 album, Tales from Topographic Oceans - - indeed Six Wives is rated higher than Tales even on - - but it was not an artistic triumph.

It was, however, a decent album, and the best of the Wakeman solo albums I've heard (which admittedly account for under 10% of his 90+ albums). The strengths of Six Wives are in the performances and in the overall sound of the album, both of which are fabulous. The weakness is the compositions; Six Wives reminds me of a Def Leppard album insofar as there are three or four great motifs presented over the first five minutes, which are then reduced, reused, and recycled to comprise the rest of the record. Sufficiently clever recycling - - say, in inventive rearrangement or recapitulation - - can lend cohesion and consistency to an album. Unfortunately, that's not the kind of recycling I'm talking about here. Wakeman doesn't blatantly reuse melodies or chord sequences, but he employs a very limited palette of transitions and themes. Perhaps that's because of similarities inherent in his subject matter - - the titular Six Wives.** Whatever the reason, a monotony sets in far too soon for my taste.

It might be observed that it would've been pointless for Wakeman to produce a Yes album on his own, and I fully agree. In fact, I admire Wakeman's drive and resourcefulness in producing a solo album this early in his career,* and judged on its own merits, Six Wives is a pretty good debut. I do wish, though, that he had held on to his key motifs for a few months and submitted them to the other members of Yes when the group was composing Tales from Topographic Oceans.


*He had recorded one previous album, Piano Vibrations, as a soloist, but arguably it wasn't a "solo album." **Oh, who am I kidding?

Latest members reviews

5 stars This album is a special one, because not only it is fantastically GOOD, but also because it serves for someone new here in progarchives to understand what makes a five star album for some of the members First, it came in 1973, when Progressive movement was already consolidated. In the Court of ... (read more)

Report this review (#2883309) | Posted by Antonio Giacomin | Sunday, February 19, 2023 | Review Permanlink

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 contri ... (read more)

Report this review (#2418691) | Posted by iluvmarillion | Saturday, July 11, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars According to most fans, this is Rick Wakeman best work in his solo carreer. In fact, there is not a single weak track in this masterpiece. I can only imagine if Wakeman had recorded this with Jon Anderson as a Yes album... could it be even better? Anyway, the team he assmbled to this recording i ... (read more)

Report this review (#1691641) | Posted by Andre the Aeropagite | Saturday, February 11, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Rick Wakeman's 'The Six Wives Of Henry VIII' sounds very much like the love child between Yes and ELP. And let me tell you something - this album is so much fun! I can't think of a single progressive rock fan who wouldn't have a blast listening to this album, there is just so much to explore he ... (read more)

Report this review (#1433158) | Posted by AndyJ | Wednesday, July 1, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Meh... That's what I think when this album comes to mind. I play it in the car on a fairly consistent basis as it makes decent background music I don't mind breaking up on little day-to- day trips, but it really doesn't stand out as anything special and doesn't leave me feeling floored or inspi ... (read more)

Report this review (#966969) | Posted by Neo-Romantic | Thursday, May 30, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of four Wakeman albums that I own, and the only one I'll review. This is a quintessential prog album, easily Wakeman's best. In fact, anytime that he's with Yes on the road, he plays excerpts from here as his solo showcase - and for good reason. This is not only his best, but his most lyr ... (read more)

Report this review (#904269) | Posted by wehpanzer | Friday, February 1, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Rick Wakeman's The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a keyboard, moog and electric piano driven record with six compositions. It's mainly a one-main show accompanied with some great (background) musicians. Rick Wakeman was already famous for it's membership of Yes and so this record became directly p ... (read more)

Report this review (#641437) | Posted by the philosopher | Sunday, February 26, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I really like Rick Wakeman. I enjoy the grandeur that some call over the top, and I can see their point when they say that. I love the tapestries of sound he brings to his best work, I love his relaxed and free technique, probably the best of any keyboard player in the whole rock era. The prob ... (read more)

Report this review (#437086) | Posted by giselle | Thursday, April 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars "The Six Wives Of Henry VII" is an instrumental with chorus concept album based on the personal interpretations of musical characters of the wives of Henry VIII, is one of the 70's evergreen in music and one of the more balanced albums between virtuosity and melody. In my opinion "The Six Wive ... (read more)

Report this review (#399750) | Posted by 1967/ 1976 | Sunday, February 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Of the several hundred CDs that I own this one stands out from the rest for one reason: ***** The Rodney Dangerfield of Prog ***** This is BY FAR the finest solo project by any of the Prog keyboard masters. Emerson, Moraz, Rudess, Jobson or [insert the name here] have NOT created a masterpi ... (read more)

Report this review (#293180) | Posted by wbiphoto | Monday, August 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Prog at 100 miles an hour, with twisting, swirling magical melodies by Rick Wakeman. Very well structured and developed, but sometimes seems to go overboard with this speedy, keyboard oriented prog. This leaves a bit to desire, since it is a constant flurry of incessant musical information, being ... (read more)

Report this review (#242034) | Posted by EMLonergan | Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars SIX GREAT REASONS why this is an essential master piece. 1.- First attempt for a hi fidelity sound in a rock album (I have the Quadrasonic version in vinyl). 2.- The extraordinary line up of musicians participating in the album. 3.- The picture of Rick in the centerfold of the album showing his ... (read more)

Report this review (#182554) | Posted by Yes I am | Tuesday, September 16, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Reviewing & Rating any particular piece of art after 35 years , is not so easy at all . Still , taking into consideration the time factor gives more accuracy to such reviews . If i've got the chance to review & rate the Six Wives 30 years ago , i would proudly give a 5 stars & ... (read more)

Report this review (#169139) | Posted by trackstoni | Wednesday, April 30, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Every two or three years I put the Six Wives of Henry VIII on the turntable ;-) and it's still a delight, even after twenty years now. It's an incredibly fascinating album, blending some many modern styles with 16th century music and it's not cracking at the seams. The only comparison I can find ... (read more)

Report this review (#162810) | Posted by strayfromatlantis | Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars There are two kinds of composers, those who compose music to be auditioned and those who compose music to be studied! From its very opening bars the "Six Wives of Henry VIII" naturally invites attention to this distinction. The formidable compositional challenge which essentially defines "Prog ... (read more)

Report this review (#115386) | Posted by Landaughost | Friday, March 16, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars $9.99 CDN for a piece of brilliance... I had no idea this album would be so good. Perhaps it's due to the surprise, but I loved this album. Rick Wakeman is among the best Keyboardists in prog, and outside it. He proved this with his work with Yes, but here he truly confirms it. There is some ama ... (read more)

Report this review (#89900) | Posted by Shakespeare | Sunday, September 17, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars In a word: "sweeeeet" Wakeman's debut is fresh and enticing - a dazzling display of keyboard wizardry with the weight of a gifted band of musicians behind him (including Yes colleagues Squire, Howe and Bruford). Even given the hit-and-miss songwriting found on later Wakeman albums, "6 Wive ... (read more)

Report this review (#82094) | Posted by coldsun | Tuesday, June 27, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, this album rawks! Seriously, this disc is an excellent slab of keyboard-dominated, instrumental prog rock. With a total of five Yes members playing on the disc, you'd think it would be practically a lost Yes album. But there's more of a "jam" feel to some ... (read more)

Report this review (#78920) | Posted by MorgothSunshine | Sunday, May 21, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Rick's first solo effort and considered his best by many. Entirely instrumental and with a higher quality of composition and arrangement and backed by better accompanying musicians than on some subsequent ventures. He shows off his prodigous keyboard talents imaginatively, and without the bombast ... (read more)

Report this review (#52565) | Posted by Phil | Friday, October 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Surrounded by pianos, harpsichord, organs, moog and mellotron, Rick it is unfolding an irregular disc with absorbent passages of exciting instrumental development and good tact in melodies, special developed in the precious and variable "Catherine Howard" (which it presents/displays an electri ... (read more)

Report this review (#41642) | Posted by MANTICORE | Thursday, August 4, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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