Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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  • This outstanding 2-pack pair of pressings of Rick Wakeman’s first studio album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from beginning to end
  • The sound here is big, full, and rich with tons of energy, beautifully showcasing the diverse contributions of Wakeman’s synthesizers
  • This prog-rock collection is spacious and musical, thanks in part to the engineering of Ken Scott
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Not only did this album help pave the way for progressive rock, but it also introduced the unbridled energy and overall effectiveness of the synthesizer as a bona fide instrument.”

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album.

Audiophiles are often surprised when they hear that an LP can sound amazing on one side and mediocre on the other, but since each side is pressed from different metalwork which has been aligned independently, and perhaps even cut by different mastering engineers from tapes of wildly differently quality, in our experience it happens all the time. In fact it’s much more common for a record to earn different sonic grades for its two sides than it is to rate the same grade. That’s just the way it goes in analog, where there’s no way to know how a any given side of a record sounds until you play it, and, more importantly, in the world of sound everything is relative.

Since each of the copies in the 2-pack will have one good side and one noticeably weaker or at best more run-of-the-mill side, you’ll be able to compare them on your own to hear just what it is that the Hot Stamper sides give you. This has the added benefit of helping you to improve your critical listening skills. We’ll clearly mark which copy is Hot for each side, so if you don’t want to bother with the other sides you certainly won’t have to.

One of the two pressings has the original label and one has the reissue label.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1973
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Size

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

What We’re Listening For on The Six Wives Of Henry VIII

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Ken Scott in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Ken Scott

America’s debut was engineered by the amazing Ken Scott, the man behind classics such as Ziggy Stardust., Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, A Salty Dog, Magical Mystery Tour, All Things Must Pass and too many more to list.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Catherine of Aragon
Anne of Cleves
Catherine Howard

Side Two

Jane Seymour
Anne Boleyn “The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended”
Catherine Parr

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Not only did this album help pave the way for progressive rock, but it also introduced the unbridled energy and overall effectiveness of the synthesizer as a bona fide instrument. Six Wives gave Wakeman his chance to break away from the other instrumental complexities that made up Yes and allowed him to prove what a driving force the keyboard could truly be, especially in full album form.

More than just synthesized wandering, Wakeman astoundingly conjures up a separate musical persona by way of an instrumental ode to each of Henry VIII’s wives through his dazzling use of the Mellotron, Moog, and Hammond C-3 organ. For example, Wakeman’s fiery runs and fortissimo thwarting of the synthesizer throughout “Anne Boleyn” is a tribute to her feisty temper and valiant courage that she maintained while standing up to her husband. With “Jane Seymour,” on the other hand, Wakeman’s playing is somewhat subdued and gentle, which coincides with her legendary meekness and frailty, as well as her willingness to cater to Henry VIII.

Wakeman’s masterful use of his synthesizers is instrumentally stunning, as is his talent of magically shaping the notes to represent behavioral idiosyncrasies of his characters. Yes bassist Chris Squire lends a hand on “Catherine of Aragon,” while guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Bill Bruford appear on a few tracks as well, as does former Strawbs member Dave Cousins, playing the electric banjo. The Six Wives of Henry VIII unleashes the unyielding power of the keyboard as a dominant instrument but also displays Wakeman at the beginning of an extremely resplendent career as a solo musician.

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