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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Rick Wakeman

The Six Wives of Henry VIII Live At Hampton Court Palace

Review by Gary Hill

Rick Wakeman’s Six Wives of Henry VIII album was his first solo release and many would argue his best. He’d never performed it live in its entirety until this year. The concert captured here (and in the companion DVD) was recorded during two performances earlier in 2009. It is arguably his strongest live album ever. The track listing here includes not only the six songs from the original discs, but three tracks that didn’t appear in that showing. Anyone who enjoys keyboard oriented instrumental rock should seriously consider picking this one up. It’s a great disc.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Tudorture "1485"
A dramatic old world processional sound opens this piece. It shifts out to a killer keyboard dominated jam from there. This is trademark Rick Wakeman in terms of the keyboard soloing. The arrangement is very much the kind of thing he delivered on the Six Wives... studio album, too. This gets symphonic and bombastic as it continues. There are shifts and turns as thing works forward. Parts of it are more rock music oriented. Wakeman really shines throughout, but what else would you expect. There are definitely some powerhouse sections of this thing. It works well as introduction to the show.
Catherine of Aragon
Yes fans will recognize this as being used pretty heavily in Wakeman’s solos live over the years. It’s a powerfully dramatic and beautiful piece of music that combines a killer rock texture with some strong evocative and emotional classically styled music. There are sections here that didn’t make the cut into Wakeman’s solos with Yes, particularly the mellower motifs that manage to convey a lot of the emotion of the piece.
Kathryn Howard
While the first two pieces were in the neighborhood of five to seven minutes in length, this one is over twelve. It opens with beautiful and dramatic, nearly classical music and begins to grow from there. A killer synthesizer riff at around the three and a half minute mark, and the mellower section that follows is another segment that has been commonly used in Wakeman’s Yes concert solos through the years. So is the ragtime section later. This cut might not have the sheer power of the first two numbers, but it is arguably more poignant and beautiful. 
Jane Seymour
A killer keyboard solo (with lots of organ sounds) starts this off and carries on with a classically based motif. This is another track that has been well represented in Wakeman’s Yes concert solos. This isn’t (in terms of musical progression) an exceptionally dynamic cut. Instead we get the same general line of music (or at least chain of lines of music) repeated with variations being gradually created to the methodology and instrumentation and overall sonic structuring of the music. This gets some of the more processed showings here – and some of the most intriguing and unusual. The actual progression is very classical in nature. 
Defender of The Faith
Here’s another cut that wasn’t on the original release. It starts with some of the harder rocking music on show (but still with a symphonic bent). Further down the road Wakeman takes us on a jazz like journey through his keyboard solo and then we get some more modifications and alterations as it continues. There’s also a very Steve Howe-like guitar solo on this piece. 
Katherine Parr
After a dramatic and powerful introductory section this launches out into a faster paced, rather playful motif. The cut rocks, rolls and really grooves. It’s another that will feel familiar to those who have seen Yes live – at least in part. There is a more pronounce symphony presence at times here and there’s also a tasty pretty mellow keyboard solo movement. When this moves out into a more expansive and jazzy jam later the percussion seems a bit too far up in the mix for my tastes, but Wakeman’s soloing is quite strong. The track goes out into some powerful prog rock jamming later in its run. From there a number of changes and alterations take us through more killer territory.
Anne of Cleves
I’ve always loved the dramatic and powerful, introduction to this piece. It is synthesizer and rock instrument oriented, but yet has a classical, rather symphonic bent to it. Eventually we’re taken out into some more open jamming with some killer keyboard soloing. This even begins to feel a bit like world music at times. It’s one of the more dynamic pieces on show here. 
Anne Boleyn
This one’s quite dramatic and synthesizer based. It’s also got some music that’s been quoted in Wakeman’s solos over the years. It has a lot of varying musical moods and textures, too – and is overall a great piece of music. It’s one of my favorites on the set. The arrangement here with symphony and choir really does suit it well. It wanders at times towards mellower chorale sorts of music and really is one of the more dynamic ones on show. At over ten minutes in length its one of the longer ones, too. 
Tudorock
The set is closed with a bookend that is another not from the original studio release. This track seems to quote some of the music we’ve heard to this point and is a killer jam that’s one of the more hard rocking pieces on show here.
 
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