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


Rick Wakeman

Symphonic Prog

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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.

Report this review (#245008)
Posted Saturday, October 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars A royal event!

As indicated by the title, this is a performance of Rick Wakeman's classic 1973 album Six Wives Of Henry VIII in its entirety and this is a very big performance. There is a percussionist, a full orchestra, a choir and a full Rock band and on the evening there was even a narrator describing the historical background of the different wives. On this CD version, however, as opposed to the DVD version of this show, the narration has been edited out and that is the reason why I prefer this CD. The narration, even though it is very good and interesting the first couple of times, will tend to get boring after repeated listens. The CD version thus has more staying power. I usually abstain from rating the same material more than ones, but here I make an exception as I give this an extra star compared to the DVD.

The core of Rick's band, which is, as usual, called The English Rock Ensemble, is pretty much the same as it was on other recent Rock releases; drummer Tony Fernandez is back again and Dave Colquhoun once again plays the electric guitars. A new addition is bass player Jonathan Noyce who previously has played with Jethro Tull since the mid 90's, I think. There is also an extra guitarist, who plays acoustic guitars, and Rick's son Adam helps out on extra keyboards. Of course, Rick himself plays an extensive array of different keyboards including a real church organ on Jane Seymour! Needless to say, this is a very massive performance. It is absolutely over-the-top and bombastic, but it is done with humour and charm preventing it from being overblown and pretentious.

In addition to the six tracks of the original album, there are also three new songs written in the style of the original album, one of which represents King Henry himself and was, according to Rick in the bonus interview on the DVD, intended to be included on the original album but could not be because of the time restrictions for vinyl records. These new songs fit in very well among the classics. The original songs are also expanded a bit with new sections making them possibly even better than they ever were! Rick's performance is flawless and everything works out for the best.

Report this review (#306844)
Posted Wednesday, October 27, 2010 | Review Permalink

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