Rick Wakeman
The Six Wives of Henry VIII


5.0
classic

Review

by e210013 USER (110 Reviews)
October 8th, 2018 | 26 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is perhaps one of the most original and risky prog albums ever. It’s probably Wakeman’s least pretentious and still very ambitious and risky.

“The Six Wives Of Henry VIII” is the debut studio album of Rick Wakeman and was released in 1973. It’s true, if we don’t consider “Piano Vibrations” released in 1971 as his debut album. However, his contributions on that album were limited to performing as a session musician and he didn’t compose any of the tracks on it. Rick chose to participate on this album some members of his ex-band, the Strawbs, Cousins, Lambert and Cronk and of Yes, Squire, Bruford and White.

“The Six Wives Of Henry VIII” is a very ambitious and risky conceptual album inspired by the six wives of Henry VIII. As Wakeman said, the album is based around his interpretation of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. Although, the style may not always be in keeping with their individual history, as Rick said. “The Six Wives Of Henry VIII” represents his personal conception of their characters in relation to the keyboard instruments. However, always was a mystery to me, why Wakeman doesn’t treats the ladies in the chronologically correct order on the album.

“Catherine Of Aragon”, the first wife, was married at the age of 16, to forge a stronger alliance between England and Spain. Catherine’s life at the side of Henry was mainly influenced by numerous miscarriages and the “inability” to give birth to a male heir. The marriage ends in divorce, which will never be accepted by Catherine, she died of cancer. Musically, the track has something dramatic, partly also hunted, chasing them from pregnancy to pregnancy. The quiet central part sounds then almost a little resignedly. It’s one of Rick’s most easily recognized pieces and it’s a classic.

“Anna Of Cleves”, the fourth wife, was strictly conservative educated, could embroider and sew, but dominated any foreign languages. She was probably not as good looking as Henry had assumed because of a portrait painting. After a few months, in which the king had again turned to other mistresses, the marriage was cancelled. Musically it’s more like a jazzy jam with a rock feel, with prominent guitars and drums. It’s more close to the usual Yes’ sound. The song writing might not be as strong as some other pieces on the album, but the energy here still makes of it a very exciting listening.

“Catherine Howard”, the fifth wife, about 30 years younger than Henry, had probably not too much fun with the king, which was perhaps why she had an affair with a valet, and was unceremoniously beheaded for adultery. Musically, Wakeman do a constant alternation between quiet parts, partly almost a little sad, and eruptive, defiant and rebellious moments. It’s a typical English track full of pastoral flourish, a high melodic voyage extremely expressive, with Strawbs giving a folk ambient to the track. It’s a truly successful adaptation that brings to my mind a vivacious young woman.

“Jane Seymour”, the third wife, gave birth to her husband, his only son, the future King Edward VI, but she died after a few days on puerperal fever. Later Henry said that Jane was the wife that he loved most of all his wives. Musically, it’s a very church organ sounding piece. It’s a classical symphonic piece composed for a church organ, the St. Giles Church in Cripplegate. It’s a fantastic piece where Wakeman demonstrates how great his virtuosity as a keyboardist. Here we can see clearly the influences of J. S. Bach. It reflects the calm, gentle demeanour that apparently characterised Jane.

“Anne Boleyn”, the second wife, was considered the most elegant and accomplished women at the court, bore him a daughter, the future Queen Elisabeth I. Anne wasn’t beloved, was ambitious and often jealous and made many enemies. When she didn’t give Henry a son, he let her to death on trumped accusations. Musically, the piece moves between the piano and the minimoog, showing the sophistication of Anne. The awesome choir from the first track makes another appearance. In the end, Wakeman plays a lovely piano rendition of the hymn “The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended”.

“Catherine Parr”, the sixth wife, was a Protestant and had modern religious views. She apparently soothed Henry’s temper, nursed him and brought the family together. Apparently she was seen as a stabilising mother figure. Musically, these traits come out in some places on the track, showing her role as the family stabilizer. It shows Rick’s keyboards prowess. The mellotron gives us a choir, lending to it a dreary feel and the synthesizers play the main theme. Rick drives the remainder of the track with inspiring piano and a happy organ section. It’s a grandiose ending for this album.


Conclusion: “The Six Wives Of Henry VIII” is a great album. It’s probably the Wakeman’s least pretentious and his best work, and in many aspects his most effective too. It’s a selection of six electronic tone paintings made with a multitude of keyboard instruments. All the material here is beautifully melodic and excitingly played and arranged, based on his view of the lives and perceived personalities of Henry VIII’s spouses. However, the album isn’t only about Wakeman. Rick also brought some excellent musicians along with him to complete his musical vision. So, the musicianship on the album isn’t exclusively focused on Wakeman. I really think that it should be part of every progressive rock collection.

Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



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Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
October 8th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

After some reviews about solo albums of the guitarists of Yes, it's now time for the keyboardists. Since their first keyboardist Tony Kaye hasn't any solo album, Rick Wakeman is the following Sir and nothing better than begin by his debut solo and the best work, for me.

I've this review already finished to be published two yeras ago, I think. Sincerelly, I never wasn completelly sure about it, because I decided to write it, like the other reviwer, trying to express what were my preceptions about were the feelings of Wakeman about the personalities of all those ladies. I was trying to show the diiferent moods of the music on the different tracks with the so different personalities of all those women. I always thought that for a so risky work of Wakeman, there should be be an equal risky on my review. But I always had a problem. Unlike the other reviwer, I'm not a musician as he is. So, I've never been absolutely sure if my emotions and perceptions about the music on the album were able to express correctly the perfect work of Wakeman.

However and anyway, finally I decided published it whithout any kind of changes on my path about Yes. So, the final result is a bit different from what I usualy do. I really don't know if this was the right path to make my review. Still, I hope I have made a good job. Tell me something later, if you want.

zakalwe
October 8th 2018


26672 Comments


Superb effort mate

Digging: OLD - Formula

e210013
October 8th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks zakalwe. I really appreciated.

Divaman
October 8th 2018


3370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I love the way you wove the history of each wife into your review. And when I think about it, you're right --it's not my favorite Wakeman album, but it is probably the least pretentious, or bombastic. Good job.



(And as it happens, I'm working my way through Yes' discography over the next few months, so I'm sitting here and reading this as I listen to "Time and a Word".)

Digging: Seahawks - Eyes of the Moon

e210013
October 8th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks Diva. I appreciated your comment, really. It seems I was right in not change the text of my initial review.

(And as it happens, I'm working my way through Yes' discography over the next few months, so I'm sitting here and reading this as I listen to "Time and a Word".)

Nice. This is really a very nice album.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2018


11546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album and a very interesting review.



There is also a really nice Blackmore's Night song about Catherine Howard, called "Catherine Howard's Fate" which came into my mind while reading your review.

Digging: Praying Mantis - Forever in Time

Divaman
October 8th 2018


3370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, I was thinking about that song too, manosg.

e210013
October 8th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I didn't knew that manosg. I'm going to check that song, surely, because I'm a great fan of Blackmore's Night too. Thanks for the information and thanks for you comment and pos too.

Casavir
October 8th 2018


3134 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album and good review.

SandwichBubble
October 8th 2018


9335 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Siiiiiick love this album

Digging: Samara Lubelski - In The Valley

manosg
Staff Reviewer
October 8th 2018


11546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Diva: Such a lovely tune. Candice sounds so fragile on that song. It's on Under a Violet Moon, e.

e210013
October 8th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@ Diva

Since you know very well Blackmore's Night, can you tell me what is the band's album with that song?



e210013
October 8th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks to both of you Casavir and Sandwich.

Jethro42
October 8th 2018


15635 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's a pleasure to relisten to this one. i have more enjoyment to listen to King Arthur, but this album is also up there with his very best. My favorites here are Catherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour.

Will read your review later, mate.

e210013
October 8th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ok, Jethro. Tell me something later.

Jethro42
October 8th 2018


15635 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Once again, Rick the wizard Wakeman proves to amaze and to master a huge amount of styles, such as classical, jazz rock, prog and folk. We could recognize his style and his touch among 50 other keyboardists. He's also the man to describe the king's wives strictly instrumentally. Only him can detect these characters and movements since there are no lyrics. Personally, I cannot feel he actually describes his wives, but I can see his skills as a composer. If there were no theme, I wish he would have created a long epic suite with it all, and he proved to be great at it. Maybe it would have had more impact, but hey, the actual concept is appealing.

I'm pleasantly surprised about the guest appearances. He even invited Dave Cousins to play banjo for a track, and other Strawbs members and ex bandmates... And it's probably the only album where we find Alan White and Bill Bruford under the same roof!

Your review has a cool format with the descriptions of each wives and the musical feelings it's related to. Good work dude. Pos'd



e210013
October 9th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks mate, I'm glad you liked it.

And yeah, the guest appearances are really impressing. Even Cousins. If Cousins was very upset when Wakeman left Strawbs to join Yes, soon the problems between both appear to have been rapidely solved, thankfully.

MrSirLordGentleman
October 9th 2018


12359 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wankery at its best

e210013
October 9th 2018


2207 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Absolutely. Thanks for your comment SirLord.

vonseux
October 10th 2018


312 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Good review by telling about each wife will help readers listen to the album once more.

This album never clicked with me, already gave a couple turns but Center of The Earth and Excalibur have much more earcandy.



*ps: least pretentious and still very ambitious and risky? ;)



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