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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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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.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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