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


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 834 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
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.

russellk | 2/5 |


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