Rick Wakeman: The Six Wives of Henry VIII

March 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Music, Top Story

I went to Cheapos yesterday in search of Liz Taylor titles, but could find nothing. The clerk told me whenever someone famous dies, they were cleaned out for that artists` titles. This made sense to me. I did, however, happen on a `70s classic of progressive rock, that I`ve privately wanted for some time. That`s Rick Wakeman: The Six Wives of Henry VIII. For five bucks I got a vinyl copy in mint condition. Okay, there are a few pops on the A & M Record, but this platter dates from 1972.

This was Rick Wakeman`s first solo album and was recorded when he was still in the band Yes. There are six tracks, and each track is a musical simulation, on keyboards of course, of one of King Henry VIII`s wives. They are: Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr. I favor either track I or track IV, depending on what kind of mood I`m in.

The pic in the middle of the album (when you open it) gives you all the keyboard instruments employed in this monumental production. They are: Custom Built Hammond C-3 Organ, RMI Electric Piano and Harpsichord, Mini-Moog Synthesizer, Mellotron 400-D Brass, Strings, Flutes, Mellotron 400-D Vocals, Sound Effects, Vibes, (another) Mini-Moog Synthesizer, Custom Mixer, Frequency Counter and Steinway 9 Grand Piano.

The story of how this unusual record was put together, the inspiration derived from a book on the private life of Henry the VIII, read on an airplane flight, has been widely documented in the press. For me, a reciprocal relationship exists between studying the wives, then wanting to hear the record, and listening to the musical biographies of each wife, then desiring to study up on the wife to see if Rick got it right. Boy, he nailed Catherine Howard, from the park bench I`m sitting on!

‘Close To The Edge’ By Yes Is A Pivotal Moment In Rock History

June 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Music

“Close To The Edge” by Yes was released September 13, 1972, on Atlantic. This was the fifth record by this sumptuous, thoroughly modern British rock band. I had seen Yes open for Jethro Tull in 1970 sometime, and they definitely upstaged Jethro Tull, who was my favorite band at that time. The guitar wizardry of Steve Howe was unbelievable! On these hot, still summer days of Texas memories come flooding back to me of marvelous listening sessions, mostly of Yes. Many of my acquaintances in those days thought that Yes was the ultimate answer to the dilemma of ‘where should rock go?*(illegal punctuation, I know).’close-to-the-edge

The last few days I`ve just had to revisit those hazy moments more closely. I found a vinyl copy of “Close To The Edge” for just $3.99 the other day. It sounded very foreign to me on the first few listens. This was the classic lineup for Yes: Jon Anderson on vocals, Bill Bruford on drums, Steve Howe on guitars, Chris Squire on bass, and Rick Wakeman on keyboards. Incredible lineup (God-like, really)! The songs are longer, the whole thing is fitted together like a symphonic work, where several varied suites are inserted within the same song-“Close To The Edge”…”And You And I” are gigantic songs essentially. You are required to listen very carefully to see where all of this is going.

With this lineup, Yes becomes a Super Group that forges all the resources of the times, and even morphs to mysticism. Jon Anderson`s lyrics explore themes of Herman Hesse`s Sidhartha (see Wiki page). And Rick Wakeman, along with Keith Emerson, unites classical motifs with progressive rock constructions, to create something new. The way that Howe and Wakeman work together is transcendent. Again, the question arises, did Yes contribute to the over-flowering of rock in the 1970s? Perhaps. Was a rock elitist mentality catering to the upper crust exclusively? Perhaps, my friend. So punk rock comes along and caters to the blue collar class once again. Perhaps? *(An afterthought) Maybe it`s best to just leave a free-space (its own parking lot) for Yes in the ‘Big Picture of Rock!’