Rick Wakeman - The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Live at Hampton Court Palace (DVD/CD)
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Instrumental Progressive Rock
12 songs (125'00)
Release year: 2009
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Reviewed by Marty
Rick Wakeman's The Six Wives of Henry VIII was originally released in 1973 and was a milestone not only for him (his very first solo album) but also, for progressive rock music in general. Rick was still under contract with A & M Records due to a deal that The Strawbs had signed a couple of years earlier and was currently touring the world with Yes when the call came from A & M that they wanted a solo album from him. Recorded between Yes tours and in between the making of the Fragile and Close To The Edge albums, fellow Yes members Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Bill Bruford all eventually contributed to the making of the album. After many hours of Rick racking his brains for a subject to get his musical inspiration rolling, he was drawn to a paperback he found at an airport gift shop that chronicled the life of King Henry VIII and his wives. While reading the book, stories of the very sordid, troubled and often tragic existence many of the wives had to endure stirred melodies and musical ideas that would eventually form the basis of the album. He had finally found his concept. Later on, during a listening party at A & M headquarters, record execs proclaimed that progress on the album seemed to be going well and that they wanted to hear it again after the vocals had been added. The look of horror on their faces after Rick proclaimed that the album was indeed finished and was an instrumental keyboard based album must have been priceless. It was deemed unmarketable yet was released to try to at least sell 12,000 copies to cover recording costs. It went on to sell 15 million copies world wide. To launch the album A & M wanted Rick to perform the album in its entirety and he agreed but only if it could be at Hampton Court Palace, one of King Henry VIII's favorite palaces. Their request was denied. Fast forward some 36 years later to 2009 and Rick finally gets his wish. Backed by the English Chamber Choir, Orchestra Europa and the English Rock Ensemble (including Rick's son Adam), the entire album was performed for 2 very special evening performances in May, 2009 at Hampton Court Palace commemorating the 500th anniversary of King Henry VIII's accession to the throne.

In viewing the behind the scenes segment of this DVD, it's evident that literally hundreds of hours of preparation and rehearsal was required to make this one of a kind event come to fruition. With a massive stage, huge lighting effects and a cast of literally hundreds if you include the entire Orchestra Europa and English Chamber Choir, Rick Wakeman finally brings his life-long dream to life. Beaming as he takes the stage in a king's robe from the Tudor era, he is flanked by the "Six Wives" in full period costume. Getting underway with a medley entitled Tudorture 1485, this piece of music links together all the main themes of the tracks Catherine of Aragorn, Kathryn Howard, Jane Seymour, Katherine Parr, Anne Of Cleaves and Anne Boleyn. In between each piece of music, narrator Brian Blessed offers a brief look at the lives of King Henry and his six wives. Even with a few pages of notes, Brian Blessed seems to be more inclined to improvise his introductions with some funny moments to lighten things up. The six main pieces of music here contain some of the most haunting and emotional melodies that Rick has ever written. Between Yes' Fragile and Close to the Edge albums, Rick discovered the wonderful world of synthesizers and some of the best melodic moments come with his amazing use of these wonderful instruments. Not one to embrace technology, Rick surrounds himself with no less than 10 different keyboards; often playing 2 different ones at once. With the massive orchestral accompaniment and the haunting voices of the English Chamber Choir, this musical odyssey has never sounded better. Along with the 6 pieces; dedicated to each of the Six Wives we get a piece entitled Defender Of The Faith, a track that was written for the original album and was dedicated to King Henry VIII but had to be cut from the final pressing due to space/time limitations with vinyl records at the time. It is performed here for the every first time. Another highlight is when Rick removes the royal robe and dons the "glitter" cape he used on the early Yes tours and climbs the staircase mid stage to the massive pipe organ he plays for the track Jane Seymour

The whole show comes to a stunning climax with a reprise of the opening movement Tudorture 1485 complete with Rick and his son Adam engaging in a massive synthesizer dual using the hand held units made popular by bands like Angel in the 1970's. Rick stated in the program for the show that he hopes that there are no close-ups of him at the end of the concert because he hates to see a grown man with tears in his eyes. Well that part of the "wish list" didn't materialize as it's clear that Rick is welling up at show's end and rightfully so. To have a lifelong dream finally come true would be magic for anyone. He's since stated that these 2 shows were the absolute highlight of his entire musical career and it is all captured in its glory on this DVD release. A must for Rick's fans....

Killing Songs :
Katharine Howard, Catherine of Aragorn, Jane Seymour and Tudorture 1485
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