Rick Wakeman - The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Album cover

  1. Catherine of Aragon (3:46)
  2. Ann of Cleves (7:54)
  3. Catherine Howard (6:36)
  4. Jane Seymour (4:50)
  5. Anne Boleyn ('The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended') (6:36)
  6. Catherine Parr (7:02)

A&M, 1973

Excuse the patronising start to this review, but this is actually a half decent Rick Wakeman solo album. This set of instrumentals lies a safe distance from the horrors of "King Arthur" and "Journey to the Centre of the Earth". Henry's wives function only as a convenient set of titles, with no attempt to develop a camp theatrical concept.

It's mainly a showcase for Wakeman's perpetual-motion finger twitching on the piano and organ. His fingers just go where his whims take him, ending up with a bastardised fusion of classical, baroque and jazz stylings. There are decent tunes scattered around the place, but it doesn't keep still long enough to let the music breathe. "Catherine of Aragon" is the strongest, packing lots of musical ideas tightly into its four minutes. But the longer pieces lack coherence. On "Ann of Cleves" he does a few random noodles and plonks, befores settling down into an average jazz jam. "Catherine of Howard" starts of with an attractive piano tune, and develops in a restrained way, until the gratuitous unnecessary ragtime in the middle. "Jane Seymour" is a kind of Bach toccata pastiche on a church organ.

As his bandmates here are his bandmates from Yes, this will appeal to fans of the more hyperactive and rambling of Yes's work. Though it's often closer in sound to Emerson Lake and Palmer, with playing dominating over composition.

October 13, 2004

6 out of 10

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written and maintained by Christopher Jackson
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