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!