At that time (1972) Rick Wakeman had been introduced as the young keyboard wizard whose contribution to the sound of YES was at least as important as Steve Howe’s who joined the band a year earlier. Fragile and Close to the Edge came out 1972 and then, the next year came The Six Wives.
It was predictable that the album would have classical influences but the result was still more than anyone unexpected. The prog-scene was familiar with more or less straightforward prog-versions of classical compositions (excluding ELP) but Wakeman went further.
Naturally it's easy to find many classical influences in his music. The most obvious one is "Jane Seymour" - with Bach-like church organs and the main tune of Catherine Parr sounds very much like Edvard Griegs "In the Hall of the Mountain King".
But fortunately enough Wakeman’s “originals” make this album a classic. The opening, "Catherine of Aragon" is a stunning proof of Wakeman’s abilities in composing and musicianship with his impressive arsenal of keyboards. The music flows like a river in rapids, restlessly, to be calmed down in 3:44 time and leaving a feeling of pure amazement: now this is what the mixture of prog and classical music can really be !
Anne of Cleves is as close as Wakeman did ever go towards improvisational jazz and remains an interesting side-path in his long career. There are also weaker moments: Catherine Howard is a strange mixture of too many styles.
But the jewel of the album is "Anne Boleyn". The composition has the kind of a structure that really keeps you in it's grip and contains also some best solos Wakeman has ever played on a record. At very early stage of his career Wakeman unfortunately created a style to his solos which became a trademark - and even a bad habit. But the solo part of Anne Boleyn is something else.
This is the most progressive composition of the album and there lies the strength of it. Funny enough the song ends with the only melody quoted to be not from Wakeman’s brains. "The Day Thou Gavest Lord Hath Ended" by E.J. Hopkins ends the composition and really takes it’s place as an inseparable part of the tune.
All the Yes-members play in the record (excluding Anderson) but Wakeman was wise enought to use other musicians as well to make it clear who is in charge here.
After "Six Wives" Wakeman went on to get himself occupied with dinosaurs, knights, symphony orchestras and some serious beer drinking - some times even simultaneously. The mannerism in his music grew more and more with some exceptions (for example "Criminal Record", 1977) but this debut album remains his best work in any measures.