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Six Wives Of Henry Viii-Live At Hampton Court Pala
Six Wives Of Henry Viii-Live At Hampton Court Pala
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The Six Wives of Henry VIII is the debut studio album by English keyboardist and composer Rick Wakeman. Released on 23 January 1973 on A&M Records, it is an instrumental concept album based on his interpretations of the musical characteristics of the six wives of Henry VIII. Wakeman plays a variety of keyboard instruments on the record, including piano, Mini-moog synthesizer, mellotron, harpsichord and organ.

The idea for the record came about in early 1972 as Wakeman toured the United States with the progressive rock band Yes. While reading a book about the wives that he bought, melodies that Wakeman had written earlier came to him. The concept of the wives gave him the link to assemble a piece of music about each one together. The album took eight months to produce throughout 1972, and musicians from Yes and Strawbs, who Wakeman performed with earlier in his career, contribute to the record.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII was overall well-received by critics, and reached No. 7 and No. 30 in the United Kingdom and United States album charts respectively. A total of 15 million copies of the record have been sold. The album was certified Gold in 1975 by the Recording Industry Association of America. In 2009, Wakeman performed the record its entirety for the first time, which was subsequently released as The Six Wives of Henry VIII Live at Hampton Court Palace.


In early 1972, Wakeman was touring the United States with the progressive rock band Yes. He bought four books at an airport bookstall in Richmond, Virginia, among them The Private Life of Henry VIII by Nancy Brysson Morrison. As he read about Anne Boleyn on the subsequent flight to Chicago, a theme he recorded in November 1971 began to run through his mind. He often scribbled down pieces of music while travelling, but could not find a theme to put them to. "The six wives theme gave me...the link I needed to give me a reason for putting these pieces of music together", said Wakeman. He explains the album's concept in its liner notes – "The album is based around my interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. Although the style may not always be in keeping with their individual history, it is my personal conception of their characters in relation to keyboard instruments".


StGilesCripplegate.jpgthumbright190pxThe organ on "Jane Seymour" was recorded at St. Giles-without-Cripplegate in London.

With an advance of £4,000, the record took eight months to produce. The final cost totalled around £25,000.Wooding, p. 107. The cover photograph was taken at Madame Tussauds London. A figure of Richard Nixon can be seen in the background as the curtain was not fully closed.Wooding, p. 104. Seven musicians from Yes and Strawbs, the rock group Wakeman performed with earlier in his career, contribute to the record.

The basis of the opening track, "Catherine of Aragon", was originally titled "Handle With Care", a piece that Wakeman originally wrote for the Yes album, Fragile (1971).Wooding, p. 100. Recorded at Trident Studios in London, guitarist Steve Howe and bassist Chris Squire perform on the song, including percussionist Ray Cooper.Wooding, pp. 101. While recording "Anne Boleyn" at Morgan Studios, which features Bill Bruford on drums, a dream about attending the execution of Henry's second wife caused Wakeman to add "St. Clement", the tune to the hymn of "The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended" by John Ellerton.Wooding, pp. 100-101. Though E. J. Hopkins is credited on the track, the piece was in fact composed by Revd. Clement Scholefield.

By the time work began on "Catherine Howard", the album's third track, engineer Paul Tregurtha had replaced Ken Scott.Wooding, p. 102. The organ on "Jane Seymour" was recorded at St Giles-without-Cripplegate church in London.Wooding, p. 103.

Release and critical reception

The Six Wives of Henry VIII launched on national television in the United Kingdom on 16 January 1973, with Wakeman performing excerpts of the album on the BBC 2 music show The Old Grey Whistle Test.Wooding, p. 98. An audience of around 10 million planned to watch a controversial film about American pop figure Andy Warhol on ITV, but was temporarily banned for screening. As Wakeman noted, "It seems most of them, rather than watch repeats, switched over to Whistle Test and saw my preview of "Henry"...and suddenly it seemed as if the whole country had discovered my music...it was a tremendous break".Wooding, p. 99.

The album made its general release on 23 January 1973. It topped the album charts in four countries, and went on to sell 15 million copies in total. The record was overall well received by critics. Time magazine named it one of the best pop albums of 1973, describing the album as "an astonishing classic-rock hybrid".Wooding, p. 106. Rolling Stone noted Wakeman had "a brilliant feel for tasteful impressionistic composition", having made "an exceptionally interesting instrumental album with superb production". Mike DeGange of Allmusic described Wakeman's use of his synthesizers as "masterful" and "instrumentally stunning", and rated the album 4.5 out of 5.

Live performance

Each member of Yes was given time for solo works during live performances, and Wakeman frequently performed sections from the record. On the band's 1973 live album Yessongs, he performs what is titled Excerpts from 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII which features snippets of "Catherine of Aragon" interspersed with pieces of other works, including the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Messiah by Handel. In the Yessongs concert film, a rendition of "Jingle Bells" is played.

Wakeman fulfilled a life-long ambition by performing the album in its entirety at Hampton Court Palace on 1 and 2 May 2009. Longing to do it for 36 years, he performed with his band, the English Rock Ensemble, the English Chamber Choir and the Orchestra Europa to produce the live album, DVD and Blu-ray release titled The Six Wives of Henry VIII Live at Hampton Court Palace.

Chart performance




;Wakeman's instruments

*2 Mini-Moog Synthesizers

*2 400-D Mellotrons (one for vocals, sound effects, and vibes; the other for brass, strings, and flutes)

*Frequency counter

*Custom mixer

*Steinway 9' grand piano

*Custom-built Hammond C-3 organ

*RMI electric piano and harpsichord

*ARP synthesiser

*Thomas Goff harpsichord

;Additional musicians

*Bill Bruford – drums (A1, B2)

*Ray Cooper – percussion (A1, B2)

*Dave Cousins – electric banjo (A3)

*Chas Cronk – bass guitar (A3)

*Barry de Souza – drums (A3)

*Mike Egan – guitar (A1, A2, B2, B3)

*Steve Howe – guitar (A1)

*Les Hurdle – bass guitar (A1, B2)

*Dave Lambert – guitar (A3)

*Laura Lee – vocals (B2)

*Sylvia McNeill – vocals (B2)

*Judy Powell – vocals (A1)

*Frank Ricotti – percussion (A2, A3, B3)

*Chris Squire – bass guitar (A1)

*Barry St. John – vocals (A1)

*Liza Strike – vocals (A1, B2)

*Alan White – drums (A2, B1, B3)

*Dave Winter – bass guitar (A2, B3)

;Production and design

*Ken Scott – engineer (A1, B3)

*Paul Tregurtha – engineer, mixer (A2, A3, B1, B2)

*Pete Flanagan – assistant engineer

*Dave Henshall – mixer (B3)

*Michael Doud – art director

*Ken Carroll – design

*Bruce Rae – cover photograph

*Ruan O'Lochlainn – inside photograph




Category:1973 albums

Category:Debut albums

Category:Rick Wakeman albums

Category:A&M Records albums

Category:Cultural depictions of Henry VIII of England

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