Rick Wakeman
The Six Wives of Henry VIII


4.5
superb

Review

by vanderb0b USER (63 Reviews)
September 1st, 2010 | 19 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of the rare instances that ambition and quality manage to coincide.

It’s impossible to deny Rick Wakeman’s significance in the field of progressive rock. One of the major forces that pushed Yes, one of prog’s most lauded ensembles, from mediocrity into greatness (after his departure from the band, one can argue that back into mediocrity they fell), he was one of the most important characters during the genesis of the genre. However, despite his importance, much of the general public is entirely oblivious to his extensive solo career, a shame, because within, one can find many, if not most, of his greatest opuses. The Six Wives Of Henry VIII is one of them.

Arguably his greatest moment (at the very least, it’s his best solo release), The Six Wives Of Henry VIII is a work as ambitious as it is fascinating. Every weapon in Wakeman’s large arsenal is used, and the songs find themselves filled with impossibly lush arrangements. Harpsichords, synths, organs, pianos, guitars, and atmospheric vocals converge to create sweeping, majestic compositions which, despite the incredible amount of simultaneous sounds, never turn into indiscernible walls of sound and always stay focused, and the pianist’s unique blend of classical and progressive music makes this album’s melodies some of the most rewarding in the genre.

What’s most interesting about The Six Wives Of Henry VIII is arguably not the melodic content (although all of the melodies are exceptionally well-written), but the concept. The album strives to create character sketches of each of King Henry VIII’s six wives, as the title implies, but what truly makes this concept so fascinating is that these portraits are entirely instrumental. Not a single word is spoken throughout the album’s duration, and yet, by it’s end, the listener is able to completely understand Wakeman’s interpretation of each woman’s many-sided character.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of these character sketches is Wakeman’s manipulation of subtle details. Take for example Catherine of Aragon and Catherine Howard: the two women both display a playfulness and tenderness, but the former’s character is milder and tinged with a slight sense of mystery, while the latter’s is joyously triumphant and open. Such small differences make the two pieces sound radically different, thus showing the finer difference between the wives.

The tone of each piece differs from that of the next: whereas Jane Seymour is harsh, cold and domineering, Anne Of Cleves is mysterious, chaotic, and often historical, and Catherine Parr is graceful, yet also jovial and strong. The personalities of all of the five women discussed above are united in one composition: Anne Boleyn. The elegance, mystery, joy, disorder, and rigidity seen in the other pieces combine into one monumental, multifaceted composition that may just be the twentieth century’s greatest musical interpretation of a historical character.

Thus, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII can easily be seen as progressive rock’s most interesting instrumental opus. Every single melody is finely crafted with the greatest care, and all of the useless, meandering fat so commonly associated with the genre (and with many of Wakeman’s weaker works) is trimmed, which makes this an essential release for all those interested in contemporary instrumental music.

4.5/5



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Comments:Add a Comment 
vanderb0b
September 1st 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sputnik's rating for this is oddly low, album is awesome.

IAJP
September 1st 2010


378 Comments


i used to really love yes. as such i bought this. funny shit, really good though actually on the whole.

Jethro42
September 1st 2010


12481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Man, your review is very good! I am sure you could get the approval of Wakeman himself in your description of each woman of Henry VIII.
The fact that you are a musician makes you understand more about the emotions brought to each and every of the tracks, even with no lyrics at all. Through the review, you really seem to discern individual characters and personalities of each and every women, bravo!.. Wakeman seems to have partially solved the thousand and one mysteries of women through the inscrutable language of music. Have a pos, Vander.

Nagrarok
September 1st 2010


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Very nicely done Andrew, especially the part about the wives that Jethro already mentioned. This seems interesting though I am not in the mood to check it out. You've become a very good writer, and this earns yet another pos.

vanderb0b
September 1st 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you! Being a pianist probably did help me in analyzing the music, and trying to learn some of this stuff certainly helped me appreciate Wakeman's ability as a performer. I'll probably do some of his other stuff later, perhaps Rhapsodies or Journey To The Center Of The Earth. Edited the summary because, as Jethro pointed out, it was rather misleading.

Jethro42
September 1st 2010


12481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Summary is alright now, my friend. Have you noticed that ex 'Yes' Bill Bruford is drumming on this album?
Look at what I just found on You tube. Grandiose.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a7oiG-Ey80


Lakes.
September 1st 2010


28433 Comments


When you gonna do your Thick as Brick review man? I got a funny jpg I'm gonna post when you do it.

Digging: Scott Walker and Sunn O))) - Soused

vanderb0b
September 1st 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Have you noticed that ex 'Yes' Bill Bruford is drumming on this album?


Haven't noticed that, awesome video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEfFbuT3I6A One of that song's main themes is taken from here.

When you gonna do your Thick as Brick review man?


If all goes well, it will be up no later than Monday!

Jethro42
September 1st 2010


12481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn straight, awesome video, the man is an incredible classical guitarist!

Nagrarok
November 18th 2010


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Listening to this now and liking it. Who is drumming on Anne of Cleves?

Jethro42
November 18th 2010


12481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Allan White. It shows at the very first notes. (The way he rolls tomtoms, the dynamic of his beat...)

Nagrarok
November 18th 2010


8259 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I knew I recognized a Yes drummer there.

Jethro42
November 18th 2010


12481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Catherine Parr is performed by Bill Bruford. Recognizable by the famous, distinct sound of his snare. I'd also recognize his playing from miles around.
edit: I'm glad you like it Nag btw.


Jethro42
February 24th 2011


12481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Of course, this is Wakeman the wizard, keyboardist of Yes.
Try this;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4eNnsABSbg

KILL
April 24th 2012


71955 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sweet jammin jams

Digging: Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
August 28th 2012


16057 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wakeman is great, he's got a great sense of humour too, real comedian.

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

Ire
July 7th 2013


41803 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

album wags

Ire
July 7th 2013


41803 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Bruford, Squire and Howe on the first track damn

eddie95
May 12th 2014


363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sweet album and great review. I totally agree with it. Pos'd

Digging: Weezer - Maladroit



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