At a time when Britain were quite vulnerable in the “keyboard maestro” stakes, this album came as an revelation. Supposedly.
Rick Wakeman: “Six Wives Of Henry VIII”
(A&M AMLH 64361)
By Penny Valentine
Although Wakeman has been chalking up success as a keyboard musician through every band or session he`s ever worked on, this is really the first chance people have been given to hear what he can do off his own back both technically and as a writer. The result is a very attractive album based round the separate personalities of the, by large, rather unfortunate succession of ladies who came to court in the 1400s. Some people have said that this album brings Wakeman up to rival Keith Emerson. I personally think it finally brings him to emergence as the only other keyboard maestro that Britain possibly possesses aside from Emerson. If you are going to compare him to Emerson then I think it bears saying that his work – as shown here – has a more gentle touch than Keith`s and equally Keith scores better in the passages of direct light and shade. Anyway the rivalry and comparisons should be aside from the product – the thought of a barrage of letters about who`s better than who imitating “The great guitar war” is something I shudder about. On this album Rick plays two mini-Moogs, two mellotrons, a Hammond organ, grand piano, electric piano, harpsichord, ARP synthesiser and the church organ of St. Giles Cripplegate. Backing him on his selections are four bass players, three guitars, three drummers, two percussionists and a five girl vocal back-up team (the latter brought in particularly effectively I felt on “Catherine Of Aragon”). The whole collection here and indeed the liner notes on the Queens compliment each other very well. The album itself is a mix of the emotional flash, the calm and gentle, the grand and the simple. A good mixture. And while my own favourite is “Jane Seymour” particularly because I have an affection for the sound of a beautiful church organ, I think this is an album that is both an excellent showcase for Wakeman and a well presented musical work.
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This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Dave Lambert, Beck, Bogert & Appice, Isaac Hayes, Peter Frampton, Rory Gallagher, Dusty Springfield, Syd Barrett, Stevie Wonder, Badger, Judy Sill, Jennie Hahn, Help Yourself, Ian A. Anderson, Pete Townshend.
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