Saturday, October 3, 2015

Solution - 1971 - Solution


01. Koan (7:50)
02. Preview (0:51)
03. Phases (12:19)
04. Trane Steps (10:19)
05. Circus Circumstances (7:03)

- Tom Barlage / saxophone, flute
- Willem Ennes / keyboards
- Hans Waterman / drums
- Peter van der Sande / bass, vocals
- Steve Boston / percussion

Founder members Tom Barlage (saxophone) and Willem Ennes (piano) had played together in the Dutch band The Keys. The band played a crossover of jazzrock and soul. The band changed its name to Soulution and in 1969 drummer Hans Waterman (Ex-Cuby & The Blizzards) joined the band. One half of the musicians wanted to play songs the other half wanted to improvise in a jazz fashion. Soon the band split and Barlage, Ennes & Waterman formed Solution.

The band signed to the small Catfish label and was joined by Peter van der Sande on bass. The quartet recorded their first self titled record in 1971. The influence on this record, a brillant example of early jazzrock, ranged from Frank Zappa and Soft Machine to John Coltrane and contained an adaption of a classical composition by French composer Jaques Ibert.

For their second record 'Divergence' (1972) the band signed to EMI's progressive subsidiary Harvest and Guus Willemse replaced Van der Sande on bass. Willemse brought not only a rockier side with his semi acoustic Höffner bass, but became also singer of the band. 'Divergence' is as good as the first record with a punchier side and amore pronounced soul influence.

Due to the military duty of Barlage and Ennes the band had to stop. At the same time the musical climate had changed from experimental to a more polished fusion and Solution tried to jump on the train. Their third record 'Cordon Bleu' (1975) was produced by Gus Dudgeon fom Elton John fame. Still a good record, it was nevertheless moving more into a soul jazz direction with smooth ballads. The fourth record, 'Fully Interlocking' (1977), again produced by Gus Dudgeon, now for CBS, followed the same direction, alternating soul and jazzrock still with interesting instrumental passages.

In the meantime Disco had arrived and Solution changed to a fullblown funk-soul outfit, and recorded 'Its Only Just Begun' (1980), their most succesful record, still with solid songwriting, but no traces of Prog left. Their last studio record 'Runaway' (1982), was co produced by Jim Capaldi (Traffic), who co-wrote also some of the tracks and the band was joined by guitarist Harry Hardholt. Apart from the awful cover the band drowned even deeper in uninspired soul-funk. In 1983 the band made a farewell tour, that was released as a record 'Solution Live' (1983).

An oddly shaped Dutch quintet from The Hague, Solution played an enchanting variant of mainly instrumental jazz-rock mixed with symphonic prog, not unlike Supersister, Focus, Earth & Fire, Finch and others?. I wouldn't speak of a Dutch school, but it wouldn't be so strange either, although Solution seem to lack some of the humour of Focus and Supersister. Lead by Tom Barlage on sax and flute and keyboardist Willem Ennes, Solution managed to release a few albums during the 70's, but mainly the early ones are of interest to progheads. With urban canal sleeve artwork, this album dates from 71 and was produced by John Schuursma and contained just four tracks. It was released on a small local label Catfish

The opening instrumental Koan is abased on a repetitive riff played on keyboards and sax, but it lies on solid layers of synths. The tempo changes rather often, lead by VanDe Sande's bass ruling over a strong drummer and a percussionist, and resting a while on a mid-tempo while Barlage's sax and flute take it away. After the all too obvious Preview as an intro to the 12-mins Phases, a slow developing spacey Floyd crescendo with a faraway flute until bassist Vande Sade sings (a bit in an early Peter Gabriel mode) a few lines before the track takes on a slightly menacing turn veering VdGG and Secret Oyster.

The flipside opens the descending riff of Trane Steps and first install a VdGG mood before Barlage does pay tribute to Coltrane, but he's showing that he's fully integrated this influence. Definitely my fave of the album,, especially before the almost brutal awakening of the French composer Ibert burlesque adaptation of Circus Circumstances, where for the first minutes the assault is a real drawback until the track gets into place and the tracks ends superbly. Again the sax and electric piano are reminiscent of Secret Oyster's Karsten Vogel and Ken Knudsen.

While certainly not perfect and essential as other jazz-rock fusion of the time (the movement was in full swing that year), Solution's debut album had the guts to mix in some more "symphonic" prog to its music and in itself it's definitely worth setting an ear on it.

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