Famed Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman is one prolific guy. Starting out in the early 70s and continuing to this day, Wakeman has consistently written and recorded his own music. A brief look at a list of his albums will boggle the mind, there are 40+ of them!! It would take years to review them all, and I doubt I would be the right guy for it. I do want to take a minute though to steer you towards one of his best and suggest it as a great entry point into his catalog.
Wakeman's first solo outing, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, is a lyric free concept album that focuses, as you can guess from the title, on Henry's six wives. A different piece of music is presented here for each. Rick's classical upbringing is in full view on all the cuts. This album is like modern classical played with a variety of electronic and acoustic boards. Moog, mellotron, piano, pipe organ, harpsicord and more adorn these tracks. If you are a sucker for the 70s keyboard sounds, you will be in for a feast here!
The opening cut "Catherine of Aragon" is probably the best known of all the cuts here as it is usually the opening segment of Rick's solo spot at any Yes show. Steve Howe, Bill Bruford and Chris Squire all appear on this track, though I could swear I hear them on others on the cd- though the parts are credited to other people. Rick managed to find some people to conjure up their vibe I suppose. This is a lovely track that moves from a cool syncopated opening to a very nice choral section and then into some great cascading piano work.
The second cut, "Anne of Cleves", is a fast paced number with some brisk changes. The bass groove that kicks in about a minute and a half into the tune is one of my favorite bits on the whole album. Really funky. Wakeman unleashes a torrent of notes atop all this. The drummer on this cut is none other than Alan White. This track encapsulates a lot of what the best (symph) prog and fusion of the early 70s was about.
Another well known bit from Rick's live Yes solo spot is from track three, "Catherine Howard". This is a reflective piano part that builds and builds. The choir is used to great effect here. One of the most melodically memorable cuts on the album.
I won't describe the rest of the cuts as I want to leave a few suprises for you to discover. Suffice it to say, the remaining cuts are just as intricate and memorable, "Catherine Parr" in particular stands out. If you could have just one album from Wakeman this would be the one to have. Essential for Yes fans or prog fans in general.
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