Thirty six years after its initial release Rick Wakeman has returned with a live DVD version of his classic album The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Wakeman’s dream of performing this work live at Hampton Court Palace was realized on May 1 and 2, 2009 before a sold out audience of about 5000 for each show.
Rick Wakeman has been an on and off member of Yes since 1971 and was a part of such classic releases as Fragile and Close To The Edge. His latest tenure with Yes ran from 2002-2006. He began his career as a member of the group Strawbs and if I have one gripe with this release it would be the exclusion of their acoustic set which preceded his performance. It would have been nice to have seen his pre-Yes group in action.
Let me say that I played my vinyl copy of this album to death when it was originally released and I was not the only one, as it was a huge hit selling close to fifteen million copies worldwide. It was a unique album in its day. It was the first of several concept albums for Wakeman, but more importantly it also expanded upon the electric keyboard sound that Wakeman had helped to popularize as a member of Yes. Nearly four decades later it is easy to forget just how influential he was in the development of various keyboard instruments as a dominant sound in rock music.
He was wise enough to make this presentation a spectacle as well as a performance. The English Rock Ensemble, Orchestra Europa, and The English Chamber Choir are all on board for support which helps fill out and expand the sound and serves to enhance to music. Wakeman also wrote new opening and closing pieces, but the highlight is the inclusion of the song “Defender Of The Faith” which was cut from the original album for space reasons.
In the final analysis, however, it all comes down to the music which remains as good as ever. Wakeman is still a keyboard wizard and he moves smoothly through the movements. Whether you are familiar with the music or experiencing it for the first time it is a treat.
Its nice that a complete performance of this classic work has now been recorded and issued. It is a must for fans of Wakeman, Yes, keyboards, or better yet good music.