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Rick Wakeman: The Six Wives of Henry the VIII

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: A&M Records
Released: 1973
Category: Symphonic Rock
Producer(s): Rick Wakeman
Rating: ********.. (8/10)
Media type: CD
Web address: www.rwcc.com
Appears with: Yes
Purchase date: 2001.03.02
Price in €: 10,99

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] Catherine of Aragon (Wakeman) - 3:44
[2] Anne of Cleves (Wakeman) - 7:53
[3] Catherine Howard (Wakeman) - 6:35
[4] Jane Seymour (Wakeman) - 4:46
[5] Anne Boleyn / The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended (Hopkins) - 6:32
[6] Catherine Parr (Wakeman) - 7:06

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

RICK WAKEMAN - Keyboards

DAVE WINTER - Bass on 2 and 6
CHRIS SQUIRE - Bass on 1
LES HURDLE - Bass on 1 and 5
STEVE HOWE - Guitar on 1
MIKE EGAN - Guitar on 1,2,5, and 6
DAVE LAMBERT - Guitar on 3
BILL BRUFORD - Drums on 1 and 5
ALAN WHITE - Drums on 2,4, and 6
BARRY DE SOUZA - Drums on 3
RAY COOPER - Percussion on 1 and 5
FRANK RICCOTTI - Percussion on 2,3, and 6
DAVE COUSINS - Electric Banjo on 3
LIZA STRIKE - Vocals on 1 and 5
LAURA LEE - Vocals on 5
BARRY ST. JOHN - Vocals on 1
SYLVIA MCNEILL - Vocals on 5
JUDY POWELL - Vocals on 1

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

Vinyl LP AMLH 64361 A&M UK
Vinyl LP SP4361 A&M USA
Cassette 393 229-25 A&M UK

The Six Wives of Henry VIII is the title of a 1973 concept album by progressive rock keyboard player Rick Wakeman. It was his first solo album released in the US, though several other members of the band Yes, to which Wakeman belonged at the time, appeared on various tracks. While the music has little to do with Henry VIII's six wives, the album performed respectably on the charts, and is viewed as one of Wakeman's strongest solo works. Wakeman explains the title and visual themes in the liner notes: "This album is based around my interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. Although the style may not always be in keeping with their individual history, it is my personal conception of their characters in relation to keyboard instruments". During live performances, each member of Yes was given time for solo works, and Wakeman frequently performed sections from this album live. Excerpts from the album (mostly "Catherine of Aragon") appear on a single track of Yes' triple live album Yessongs, interspersed with pieces of other works, including the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah. In the Yessongs video, he instead added a jazzy version of "Jingle Bells". As he does with Yes, Wakeman plays a variety of keyboard instruments on the album.

The inner sleeve of the vinyl issue features Wakeman surrounded by his equipment: 2 Mini-Moog Synthesizers, 2 400-D Mellotrons (one for vocals, sound effects, vibes, the other for brass, strings and flutes), a frequency counter, a custom mixer, a Steinway 9' Grand Piano, a custom built Hammond C-3 Organ and an RMI Electric Piano. Featured, but not photographed, were also an A.R.P. Synthesiser and a Thomas Goff Harpsichord.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"I was also working on my first solo album for A&M Records which I was recording on the odd days that Yes aren't touring - not very many as the band was in great demand all over Europe as well as America. In January 1973 my first solo album, The Six Wives of Henry the VIII, was released. The reviews were dreadful. The hierarchy at A&M Records in London hated it because it was a concept album and had no vocals. They told Brian Lane, my manager, that they were going to press up to twelve and a half thousand copies and hope that they could sell them somehow in order to get the money back that they had laid out on the production costs. The record sold in excess of six million copies over the next five years alone."

Rick Wakeman's Autobiography "Say Yes", page117.

Wakeman's first solo album is also his least pretentious work and, in many respects, his most effective. Essentially a selection of six electronic tone paintings done on a multitude of synthesizers, Mellotrons, and other keyboard instruments, all of the material here is beautifully melodic and excitingly played and arranged, based on the lives and perceived personalities of Henry VIII's six spouses. Some of the music comes off as trite 19th-century Romantic meanderings, but the running times are held in check, and besides, that seems to be exactly what Wakeman was aiming for.

Bruce Eder, All-Music Guide

What is the exact connection with Henry VIII and his wives? Hard to say. Why does the track dedicated to Anne of Cleves resemble the Hollies' "Bus Stop?" Who knows. It sounds to me like Italian horror film soundtrack music. Here is Wakeman's solo debut in 1972 in all its glory: state-of-the-art keyboard technology running free in the dandelion-strewn meadow of the classical-rock pastiche. Did Wakeman directly or indirectly influence Spinal Tap's Viv Savage--listen and decide. Next stops: Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur.

David Wolf, Amazon.com

At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, this album rawks! Seriously, this disc is an excellent slab of keyboard-dominated, instrumental prog rock. It's a shame that Wakeman never got close to putting out anything else this good (well, I guess I shouldn't say that since I haven' heard all 693 albums he's put out, but the only other RW album I've heard that's in the same ballpark as this is Criminal Record). With a total of five Yes members playing on the disc, you'd think it would be practically a lost Yes album. But there's more of a "jam" feel to some of the tracks here, with the musicians blowing along like they're trying to impress each other as much as they're trying to impress the listener. And Wakeman himself does some of the best playing he's ever done, on everything from piano to pipe organ to all manner of electronic keyboards. There are also tracks that are more tightly composed, and those are also some of Rick's best work. What, did he blow all his good ideas on this one album? As with just about every Wakeman disc, this is a concept album. Each of the six tracks were supposedly inspired by one of Henry VIII's six wives. The liner notes describe the six women, so if you want to really get into that aspect of things, you can. But it's just as easy to enjoy the music without giving the overall concept any thought at all.

Bob Eichler

Rick Wakeman is best known as the keyboardist for much of Yes' progressive output. Unfortunately his solo work does little to match the quality of much of the Yes material. As a composer, Wakeman is not terribly original, relying on the same musical bag of tricks to get the job done. When pounding out arpeggio, arpeggio, arpeggio over forty minutes he leaves the listener waiting for the good parts to start until the end of the album. Ultimately, I find Wakeman to be the most tasteless keyboardist in progressive rock aside from Keith Emerson, and here without anything controlling his noodly urges the listener suffers the consequences. I have little doubt some Yes fans will be able to find something to be happy about here. I'm left shaking my head, wondering what went wrong around the time of Tales from Topographic Oceans that caused Rick to decide to unleash this monotony on the public. You can buy a CD full of ocean sounds for half the price and it will hold your interest equally well, so you know my recommendation.

Sean McFee

Rick Wakeman's solo debut, and like so many other prog rock artists, he peaked with his first album. And some people don't even like this one! Still, it helps that the young superstar got some strong assistance from his bandmates in Yes (Squire, Howe, Bruford, White), and the then-current line-up of his former band The Strawbs (Cousins, Lambert, Cronk). "Catherine of Aragon" should be instantly familiar to anyone who owns Yessongs. It's really a taut and well-put together composition, the kind of stuff one wishes that Rick could have written consistently. "Anne of Cleves" has the less exciting, more familiar prospect of Rick soloing away over stretched-out, uniform chord passages. However, to its credit, it has some great energy and impressive playing on his part, and the composed passages have some uncharacteristically dissonant runs that show him to be off auto-pilot mode. Also, Alan White is a monster here. "Catherine Howard" might sound familiar, since a variant of the basic theme was used as the piano melody of Cat Stevens' "Morning Has Broken," on which Wakeman played. The rag ill-placed in the middle section aside, this is probably the single, best thing Wakeman ever wrote as a solo artist. The tune's fadeout with the piano and mellotron drifting into the sunset is a rare, true moment of craft over wankery. The second side isn't quite as consistent to me, though I do like the scurrying organ runs and in-your-face moog leaps of "Jane Seymour," another prominently featured segment on Rick's Yessongs solo. Out of the handful of Wakeman's solo work I have heard so far, this is easily the best one (Criminal Record is also supposedly a top Wakeman album, but alas it is not currently in print). So, I would say, if you can only get one Wakeman CD, look no further. And if you don't like this at all, also look no further.

Joe McGlinchey

This is the Yes keyboardist's 1973 instrumental release, inspired by Henry VIII and his wives. Wakeman is obviously an accomplished player and the music is excellent, although some of the passages sound dated. His fellow bandmates Squire, White, Bruford, and Howe lend support along with other musicians which give some of the tracks a Yes feel to them. You can hear Wakeman's influence on Yes by his writing on this record. There is a variety of piano, organ and synth, so whichever instrument you like is well-represented. Wakeman's technical ability blows away most of the neo-prog genre, but as seen on this disc he is capable of writing good songs with some great melodies as well.

Eric Porter

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