(30 May 2009) Rick Wakeman know as one of the finest keyboard players in the world finally had his dream come true on May 1st and 2nd, 2009. Rick had tried back in 1973 to stage a live performance of his infamous debut album The Six Wives of Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace. The album went on to sell 15 million copies worldwide and is considered to be one of the finest progressive rock albums of all time. Unfortunately Rick wasn't granted permission to play the album live at Hampton Court Palace back in 1973.
On May 1st and 2nd at Henry VIII's palace at Hampton Court Rick Wakeman played the entire album for the very first time. The live performances have been captured as a double CDR entitled Rick Wakeman: The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Live at Hampton Court Palace (Concert Live (UK), 2009). Joining Rick on stage was The English Rock Ensemble, the English Chamber Choir, the Orchestra Europa, conductor Guy Protheroe and actor Brian Blessed, who provided narration throughout the show. Rick also composed three new pieces for this historic event. These were "Tudor Overture," "Defender of the Faith" and "Tudor Rock."
The show opened with the fabulous "Tudor Overture," one of the three new compositions written for this event. Spectacular in every way and featured the Orchestra Europa along with Rick and The English Rock Ensemble. It was a perfect start to this wonderful concert. Brian Blessed, perfectly suited for the event provided historical background for each of the wives.
"Catherine of Aragon" came next and was played to perfection. Rick's keyboards sounded great and with the addition of the Orchestra Europa and the English Chamber Choir this track was brought to a whole new level. Swirling strings, powerful brass and wonderful vocal"s from the choir make this a highlight of the show. "Catherine Howard" opened with a piano introduction and then quickly switched to the full band. Wonderful brass parts from the Orchestra gave a new punch to the song. Rick's extraordinary keyboard runs throughout the track never sounded better and the song ended beautifully with just piano and choir.
"Jane Seymour" has never sounded better. This was the highlight of the show. Rick climbed up a lit staircase to play a full size church organ. Rick has never been in better form. The sound clear and powerful and Rick"s runs up and down the keyboard were flawless. Clearly Rick new this track was going to be the highlight of the show and delivered perhaps his best performance of the song to date. "Defender of The Faith" the second of three new compositions written for this show. A powerful synth led song which could have easily fit on the Six Wives album closed the first part of the show.
"Catherine Parr" a fan favorite with its massive organ opening leading into some of Rick's best keyboard runs as well as some of his best Moog work. The English Rock Ensemble has never sounded better on this track. Tony Fernandez provides some of his best drum work to date. "Anne of Cleves" rarely, if ever performed live gave the band plenty of room to shine. Plenty of rhythm changes throughout the track and Rick switching from one keyboard to another. Not an easy song to play live. Rick and the English Rock Ensemble pulled it off perfectly.
"Anne Boleyn," one of Rick's finest compositions, opens with Rick on grand piano. Wonderfully melodic piano leading directly into an all out jam with his band. The orchestra was perfectly suited to provide sweeping strings which enhanced the track and provided fullness to the song that only an orchestra can provide. Rick ended the song on piano with the English Chamber Choir providing gorgeous vocal"s to the songs slow wonderfully melodic ending. "Tudor Rock," the last of the three new compositions, closed the show. The song is a pastiche of the tracks from Six Wives blended in with the new composition and is a perfect close to a wonderful concert. Grandiose and powerful it brings all of the elements that define Rick"s legendary compositions and playing.
A once in a lifetime event that Rick has dreamt about for 36 years finally came true. Rick's shows have always been truly amazing to say the least. These two concerts are nothing short of spectacular. Concert Live recorded the shows and they did a fantastic job. Sound quality is excellent, a great mix of Rick, The English Rock Ensemble, Orchestra Europa and the English Chamber Choir-- not an easy feat when recording a live show on the spot and they managed to pull it off tremendously. These rare once in a lifetime shows are a must have for both fans of Rick Wakeman and fans of progressive rock. The CDR sets are limited edition. Order (here) early so as to not miss out on these once in a lifetime shows.--Scott Bassin in New York