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Rick Wakeman - The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Live at Hampton Court Palace CD (album) cover


Rick Wakeman


Symphonic Prog

4.17 | 60 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Henry's Wives get a makeover

In May 2009, Rick Wakeman resurrected his de facto début album for a one off performance in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace near London UK. The setting was significant as Henry VIII was responsible for the transformation of the site into the magnificent building which now stands there. (It also meant that Rick would not need to venture too far north, something he appears to have an aversion to these days!).

This album captures the resultant performance, presumably selecting the best recordings from the two nights. As the DVD runs to over 2 hours, we can safely assume though that a significant part of the gig (and all the narration) has been omitted from the CD release which contains the six tracks from the album plus three others. The set is bookended by "Tudorture 1485" and "Tudorock", a couple of pieces which appear to have been written especially for the concert. They are decent enough pieces which draw in themes from the six key pieces, but simply serve to whet the appetite for the main course.

With a full orchestra and choir present, Rick takes the opportunity to flesh out most of the Wives mainly by adding new sections rather than simply repeating existing ones. Both "Kathryn Howard" and "Katherine Parr" thus become 12 minute plus pieces, and "Anne Boleyn" runs to over 10 minutes. On the other hand, tracks such as "Jane Seymour" remain largely faithful to their 36 year old ancestors.

For much of the time, the orchestra and choir are to these ears, too far back in the mix. While I appreciate that it is the talents of Mr Wakeman are what we are here to appreciate, the synth and organ often overwhelm those supporting him.

The third additional piece is entitled "Defender of the faith", a reference to the title first bestowed on by King Henry VIII by Pope Leo X (and then revoked and subsequently restored by parliament). Once again, this is a typical Wakeman synth number, but here enhanced through the support of the English rock Ensemble, the choir and the orchestra.

In summary, a fine document of what must have been a magical evening. Clearly, the DVD version will serve to recreate the event far more satisfactorily, but as an audio experience, this is a very good album.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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