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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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5 stars Review Nš 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*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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