Thursday, July 14, 2016

Focus - 1974 - Hamburger Concerto

Hamburger Concerto

01. Delitae Musicae (1:13)
02. Harem Scarem (5:52)
03. La Cathedrale De Strasbourg (4:59)
04. Birth (7:46)
05. Hamburger Concerto (20:19)
 i) Starter
 ii) Rare
 iii) Medium I
 iv) Medium II
 v) Well Done
 vi) One For The Road

Bonus track on CD releases:
06. Early Birth (2:54)

- Thijs van Leer / vocals, organ, piano & electric piano, flute & alto-flute, ARP synthesiser, harpsichord, recorder, Mellotron, vibes, accordion, organ (St. Mary the Virgin - Barnes), handclaps & whistling
- Jan Akkerman / guitars, lute, timpani, handclaps
- Bert Ruiter / bass, autoharp, triangles, Chinese finger cymbals, swiss bells
- Colin Allen / drums, congas, tambourine, castanets, cabasa, woodblock, Chinese gong, timpani, flexatone, cuíca

 Focus has always been a band with sense of humor, not only for the strange sounds and yodeling emitted by Thijs Van Leer but also for the jokes they made of sacred cows.
For example Hamburger Concerto is a play of words with Brandenburg Concerto by Johan Sebastian Bach (Not easy to find a bigger or more sacred cow anywhere), they work with the obvious Baroque influence in a delightful way just to make a Concert to.."the hamburger", something that only few and brave genius as Thijs Van Leer would ever dare to do.

But that's not the only reference as we'll see later. The problem is that many people still see Focus as a comedy band or just buffoons, because sometimes their weird sense of humor so intelligent and subtle (Not in the name of the album because it's obvious) that most people don't get it, but nothing more far from reality, this humor enhances a rare and unique exquisite sound, very well crafted and linking several influences with such a skill and beauty that seems hard to believe.

Lets start with Delitae Musicae, a rare inflection that resembles Latin or Medieval Italian (Not sure which one though or if it means delicate music or delicate whisper whisper-), in a reference to Claudio Monteverdi's: Madrigals, Book 1 delitae musicae, a name that describes perfectly this short introduction to Focus world in any of both senses because it's delicate music and at the same time a delicate whisper.

Delitae Musicae, is reminiscent of the late Mediaeval/early Renaissance using harps and some instruments from the 1500's or 1600's (Lute and harpsichord if I'm not wrong even when the first one is not credited) delicate and wonderful, as a travel in time.

Harem Scarem is a name that has tortured me for decades, can't find a right translation or what they meant, of course the extreme shouts and yodeling by Thijs give an idea of fear (Scare or maybe scream), a very Rock oriented track, frantic and breathtaking from start to end.

La Cathédral De Strasbourg as Thijs said in the DVD Masters from the Vault, is dedicated to the magnificent Gothic construction and the vivid image left in him for life, the track starts soft, dark, in other words Gothic and majestic at the same time, if you haven't seen a picture of the building or better been there, you can't really understand how perfect is the musical description, but then after a soft (and unusual) lyrics and whistle section the song turns towards a more jazzy sound, incredibly beautiful track, one of my favorites.

Birth is a unique song, the brilliant harpsichord introduction by Thijs is simply delightful, but a surprising drumming by Collin Allen (Who replaced Pierre Van Der Linden) changes the atmosphere of the song returning us to the classical Focus sound even when a bit stronger and more Hard Rock oriented than ever before, another outstanding piece of art that reminds me at some points of Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull.

It's now time for the feast, the central piece of the work, the self titled epic Hamburger Concerto, I almost fell to the floor in laughter when I read the name of the parts of this epic (Starter, Rare, Medium I, Medium II, Well Done and One for the Road) simply hilarious to blend Johan Sebastian Bach with Burgers King or Mc' Donald's.

But the music is no joke, simply wonderful 20:19 minutes of pure Progressive Rock, incredible mixtures of styles and genres that go from pure Baroque to the Dutch version of Flamenco (The Flanders region or nation went from Spain to France The Netherlands and part of Belgium, what explains the electric Flamenco style of Jan Akkerman and the use of such instruments as castanets or even hand clapping) with incredible Religious Choral sections and explosions of pure power, so well developed that I won't even dare to attempt to describe, because words are too cheap for the beauty and complexity of this epic, even Mr. Van Leer's usual vocal jokes contribute in this case to make the atmosphere perfect and to enhance the beauty of the music.

Just believe me, those who haven't heard this song will never imagine what Focus means and I can only describe this song in one word: PERFECT.

Focus - 1973 - Live At The Rainbow

Live At The Rainbow

01. Focus III (3:54)
02. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (11:38)
03. Focus II (4:27)
04. Eruption: (8:29)
 a) Orfeus
 b) Answer
 c) Orfeus
 d) Answer
 e) Pupilla
 f) Tommy
 g) Pupilla
05. Hocus Pocus (8:29)
06. Sylvia (2:48)
07. Hocus Pocus (reprise) (2:47)

- Jan Akkerman / guitars
- Bert Ruiter / bass, backing vocals
- Pierre van der Linden / drums
- Thijs van Leer / keyboards, flute, vocals

If you could only have one Focus album, this would be it.
The opening section of Answers Questions is pure magic and illustrates perfectly Akkerman's prowess as both a rythm player and a soloist in the space of a few bars. It still excites me as much now as it did when I first heard it at the age of about 15. Later, he occasionally loses the plot slightly, but this is because he takes risks.

Eruption has much more life than the studio version which sounds rather detached, OK they get out of step for a brief moment, but who cares? The prolonged guitar solo leading up to Hocus Pocus is sublime, if only the could have recorded the whole piece like this.

Hocus Pocus is remarkable both for is exuberance, and van Leer's introduction of the band, possibly the only example of recitative in progressive rock!

Focus - 1972 - Focus III

Focus III

01. Round Goes The Gossip (5:12)
02. Love Remembered (2:50)
03. Sylvia (3:31)
04. Carnival Fugue (6:09)
05. Focus III (6:05)
06. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (14:03)
07. Anonymous Two (Part 1) (19:28)
08. Anonymous Two (Conclusion) (7:30)
09. Elspeth Of Nottingham (3:15)
10. House Of The King (2:23) *

* Recorded in 1969, previously included on Focus 1st album

- Thijs van Leer / vocals, Hammond organ, piano, alto flute, piccolo, harpsichord
- Jan Akkerman / electric & acoustic guitars, lute
- Bert Ruiter / bass
- Pierre van der Linden / drums

- Martind Dresden / bass (10)
- Hans Cleuver / drums (10)
- Mike Vernon / backing vocals (1-uncredited), producer

2xLP Imperial ?- 1A 154-24753 (1972, Netherlands)
2xLP Sire - SAS 3901 (1972, Canada/US) Different cover art

After a solid debut and a better second release (Moving Waves), FOCUS had really crossed the borders of Netherlands and were gaining a solid fan base all along Europe and even in USA, so they had to do something specialr not to loose this popularity, instead they did something better, they took the risk and went for a double album.
"In and Out of Focus" presented us a band worried to make sober and solid music, with echoes from the 60's and a delicate style of jamming, then moved towards a more spectacular instrumental sound, using the voice almost only as an extra instrument in "Moving Waves", but in "Focus III" we find a more mature band that reached the balance between pomp and virtuoso attributes, a band with enough courage to go further to the past up to the Medieval era in search for their roots, but using a clear Flemish style or Hard Rock when required, in other words a band with the guts to be different, not just a bunch of guys following the model that came from UK, they took the best of both worlds to create something exquisite and unique.

The album is opened with "Round Goes the Gossip" a vibrant track that starts with a drum intro that leads to an elaborate and complex multi instrumental passage in which Thijs Van Leer uses his versatile voice to create strange sounds, part in joke part completely serious and complementary of the music. The peculiar way of playing the organ is shocking, les lush but extremely complex, jumping from melodic passages to jazzy cacophonies, just can describe this song with five words....Progressive Rock at it's best.

"Love Remembered" is the perfect contrast, instead of the usual aggressive style of Thijs flute, he goes for a delicate and melancholic melody, the drums play a crucial job supporting all the weight of the song and Ian Akkerman adds his subtle touch with the guitar, only three minutes long, but it's said that you'd better leave the listener with the taste of honey in the lips rather than saturated, again incredibly beautiful and melancholic song.

The story of "Sylvia" is quite original, before joining FOCUS, Thij's Van Leer was a chorus singer for a pair of well known Dutch crooners, as he tells in the DVD "Masters from the Vault", tired of making oohs and aaahs, he and Sylvia (another singer of the chorus) asked their bosses to allow them to sing one song each one, they allowed but Sylvia's song was terrible, so Thij's wrote this track for her, but the girl hated it and he just kept it hidden somewhere with all his music.

When the band was working on "Focus III", they were short of material, so Thijs remembered this track, searched for it, deleted the lyrics and recorded it with the band, surprisingly was one of their biggest hits.

But what to say about the song? Not specially complex or frantic, mostly a catchy melody with an excellent guitar work and some subtle yodeling, the Hammond touch is a perfect addition, but that's how things work, it became a world hit despite they have better tracks.

"Carnival Fugue" begins with a dramatic piano intro in which Thijs makes his formal training evident while Jan Akkerman adds soft and barely listenable guitar sounds, but then the classical influence gets evident, both piano and guitar start a tandem work with clear Baroque leanings, until out of nowhere a radical change happens and the band enters into Fusion territory in the vein of "Miles Davis", that leads to a humorous Psyche oriented passage with Bossa Nova hints, this guys keep surprising me, no matter how many years pass.

Now is the turn for "Focus III" an incredibly beautiful song where Akkerman creates a fantastic atmosphere working with Thijs as one man, dark, somber and mysterious is one of my all time favorites, and despite not being a very long track, seems that never ends because it morphs into "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!", one of the most dramatic epics that FOCUS has released, the pass of decades has not damaged it, by the contrary it has turned into a timeless classic that always makes me tremble. The incredible organ performance enhanced by the magical style of Jan Akkerman playing the electric guitar with the delicacy of a Flamenco guitarist is simply unbelievable, this track flows perfectly from start to end as a 1,000 pieces puzzle where everything fits in its right place.

Won't even attempt to comment it more because words can not describe the beauty of this epic, or how the psychedelic atmosphere of the first break, thick as the morning mist falls into the audience, almost a magical experience.

In the CD I got, "Elspeth of Nottingham" comes before the complete version of "Anonymous 2" something very adequate, because this travel in time to the 1300's with lute (I guess because is not mentioned) and piccolo prepares us for another epic that must nbe listened as a whole and not divided.

The album is closed with "Anonymous Two" which begins with the Hocus Pocus main section but immediately moves towards a frantic flute and drum section a la Jethro Tull, Thij's Van Leer proves us his dexterity rocking as an expert, while Akkerman, Ruiter and Van der Linden give a heavy Rock support, showing us how a band is supposed to work, one guy takes the lead in a semi solo and the rest keep working to enhance the effect.

But in this track not only Thijs is the star, there's a turn for each musician to shine with controlled solos, because even though they are essentially playing alone, they keep coordination among all the members to maintain the general atmosphere of the song intact.

In the original version the album is closed with the excellent "The House of the King" already released in their debut album, but IMO it would sound out of place in "Focus III.

After 70 minutes of great Progressive Rock, the album reaches its end, and always feel tempted to play it again immediately, a sign that it ever bores me.

Even though by my words everybody can notice I'm a FOCUS fan, won't give 5 stars to this fantastic album, because I believe their next release "Hamburger Concerto" is much more solid and I reserve the maximum rating for that one.

I'm sure some people won't enjoy this album as much as I do, because FOCUS is not for everybody, especially for people who grew listening British and Italian Symphonic exclusively, maybe because they are too eclectic or simply because it's not easy to get used to the Dutch masters' style, but the quality of the album is beyond any doubt as the fact that no Prog collection is complete without "Focus III".

Focus - 1971 - Focus II (Moving Waves)

Focus II (Moving Waves)

01. Hocus Pocus (6:42)
02. Le Clochard (2:01)
03. Janis (3:09)
04. Moving Waves (2:42)
05. Focus II (4:03)
06. Eruption (23:04)
-a. Orfeus, Answer, Orfeus
-b. Answer, Pupilla, Tommy, Pupilla
-c. Answer, The Bridge
-d. Euridice, Dayglow, Endless Road
-e. Answer, Orfeus, Euridice

- Thijs van Leer / vocals, Hammond organ, harmonium, Mellotron, soprano & alto flutes, piano
- Jan Akkerman / electric & acoustic guitars, bass
- Cyril Havermans / bass, vocals (6-b)
- Pierre van der Linden / drums, percussion

LP Imperial - 5C 054-24385 (1971, Netherlands) Initial edition entitled "Focus II" , later abandoned
LP Sire - SAS-7401 (1971, US) Entitled "Moving Waves" and new cover art (both adopted from then on)

Focus was pretty much a new band with the release of Moving Waves. Not only had the band completely restructured their rhythmic section but with it came a shift in direction. Thijs van Leer's vocals were used much sparsely, but the moments when he did bursts into song it sounded nothing like the voice that he depicted on the band's debut release. Lastly, Moving Waves is also the album where Jan Akkerman made his first prominent appearance as the guitarist that we know him as.
Hocus Pocus kicks off the album on an unusually rock style that was nowhere to be found on In And Out Of Focus and is a welcoming addition to the band's softer symphonic rock sound. It doesn't take Focus long to return to the more familiar ground and Le Cochard almost makes me forget any preconceived notion of the band's going into a Heavy Prog direction. First side of the album continues a very mellow phase with songs like Janis and the album's title track. Focus II is really not an exception to this rule but at least this one has a few sparks along the way. The guitar playing by Jan Akkerman reminds me actually a lot of Andrew Latimer's style, or maybe it was the other way around!

Side two consists entirely out of the 23 minute suite titled Eruption and is a loose conceptual piece depicting the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. I've honestly never payed much attention to the track's theme and just enjoyed the music as it is. Just like the few other lengthy tracks that Focus would produce in the early '70s, the material does feel a bit thin in comparison to its hefty time margin. At least this composition doesn't rely heavily on an instrumental jams between the band members, which is something that will become more prominent on the next release.

Overall, I'd say that this is another great album by Focus. It might be considered a step in the right direction after the much more commercially oriented In And Out Of Focus, but I'm not entirely convinced by that. This is nonetheless an excellent album that should be in every serious prog rock music collection.

Focus - 1970 - Focus Plays Focus (In and Out of Focus)

Focus Plays Focus (Dutch Version)

01. Focus (instrumental) (9:45)
02. Why Dream ? (3:57)
03. Happy Nightmare (Mescaline) (3:56)
04. Anonymous (7:00)
05. Black Beauty (3:05)
06. Sugar Island
07. Focus (vocal) (2:44)

In and Out of Focus (UK version)

01. Focus (Vocal) 2:44
02. Black Beauty 3:05
03. Sugar Island 3:03
04. Anonymous 7:00
05. House Of The King 2:20
06. Happy Nightmare (Mescaline) 3:56
07. Why Dream 3:57
08. Focus (Instrumental) 9:45

Note: The initial releases use the title "Focus Plays Focus", later changed globally to "In And Out Of Focus"; Worlwide there were 4 different covers, and the track list changed also on several editions. The CD reissues would finally include all 8 tracks, only found together before on Polydor LP editions.

- Thijs van Leer / vocals, organ, flutes (not confirmed: piano, electric piano, Mellotron, harpsichord, vibes, trumpet)
- Jan Akkerman / electric & acoustic (?) guitars
- Martin Dresden / bass, vocals (?)
- Hans Cleuver / drums, vocals(?)

Emerging from a wealth of Dutch bands Focus burst onto the scene in the late sixties and unleashed their debut album in 1970, firstly only in Holland but soon Focus started to make waves and the news spread and a second edition of the debut was released which was minus two of the albums important tracks ("House Of The King" and "Sugar Island"), and then finally the whole world, if they wanted, could hear the entire album just as it was meant to be. The album is tight and cohesive as initially the sound is very influenced by the sixties British scene with psychedelic overtures and most certainly in the vocals. "Focus (vocal)" is a gentle swaying opener with a neat organ beat from Hans Cleuver, also Focus' percussionist, as the band then pursue an adventure through a mix of eclectic instrumentation and styles, most notably Thijs Van Leer's sonic and ultra melodic flute playing. Especially on the semi prog/psycyhe and rapid flurry of the instrumental "House Of The King". Jan Akkerman's guitar playing is as exciting and refreshing as anything his band mate could come up with. At this early stage of Focus development the band were in the moment of taming their sound which they would define by Focus III, but here they were still working under the structure of the short tune. A few tracks do contain vocals, which somehow sound almost semi coherent almost stoned like yet under developed. "Black Beauty" is about one of the most accessible tracks in the Focus canon, along with "Sugar Island", a song with references to Castro's Cuba. Initially this track was lifted from the debut due to American disharmony with the communist country. Stupidly in my opinion. "Why Dream?" is an interesting piece of, again with a psyche element. It seriously rams home the mantra over and over in a hypnotic manner and is one of the better songs which has vocals but "Happy Nightmare (Mescaline)" is not. A tale of bad trips, LSD like, it comes across more annoying (a touch of filler maybe), even a tad instructive than pained and tinted with warning which is what I might have expected. Nevertheless Focus' debut effort is a fine album with a touch of hard rock, a hint of jazz, a splash of baroque all tied up in a very Focus like wit in a very progressive manner. Well worth a listen.

Ton Scherpenzeel - 1978 - Le Carnaval Des Animaux

Ton Scherpenzeel
Le Carnaval Des Animaux

01. Introduction - Marche Royale Du Lion - De Leeuw - Introduction - March Of The Lion 3:47
02. Fossiles - Fossielen - Fossils 2:07
03. Aquarium - Vissen - Aquarium 3:20
04. L'Eléphant - De Olifant - The Elephant 1:35
05. Le Cygne - De Zwaan - The Swan 3:44
06. Hémiones - Muildieren - Mules 3:00
07. Poules Et Coq - Kippen En Haan - Chickens And Cock 2:55
08. Volière - Vogels - A Viary 2:25
09. Le Coucou Au Fond Du Bois - De Koekoek - The Cuckoo 2:38
10. Tortues - Schildpadden - Tortoises 3:57
11. Personnages à Longues Oreilles - Ezels - Donkeys 1:18
12. Le Carnaval Des Animaux - Finale 3:07

Theo DeJong Bass
Addy DeWilde Harmonica
Hans Hollestelle Guitar
Irene Linders Vocals
Ellen Neefjes Vocals
Frans Peters Harmonica
Ton Scherpenzeel Bass, Keyboards
Claus VanMechelen Saxophone
Max Werner Percussion, Drums

A founding member of Kayak, Dutch keyboardist Ton Scherpenzeel was born in 1952 in Hilversum and received piano and contrabass lessons at the Music School of his homecity, where he met drummer Pim Koopman.They formed together High Tide Formation, which meant to be the seed of Kayak.In April 1978 Scherpenzeel recorded his first solo album at Frans Peters Studio in Hilversum, based on French composer's Camille Saint-Saens ''Le carnaval des animaux''.He was backed up by Kayak's Theo de Jong on bass and Max Werner on drums, featuring also ex-Ekseption and Spin Hans Hollestelle on guitar.Two female singers, Eddy de Wilde and Frans Peters himself on harmonicas and saxophonist Clous van Mechelen completed the line-up.The album was released on Ariola both in Holland and Germany.
Classical adaptions were not very usual at the time and Scherpenzeel's choice was a complete risk.He did it very well though, keeping Saint-Saens' delicate atmosphere throughout an album, where guitars and bass played basic roles and having a serene, beautiful atmosphere.The Dutch keyboardist played all kind of analog instruments in the album, maybe the only one missing is the Mellotron, and this is a significant reason the album sounds so rich and grandiose, featuring nice synth moves, symphonic harsichord and organ parts and mellow piano interludes.He gives space for some guitar work to Hans Hollestelle, most parts of which have a sensitive CAMEL-esque atmosphere.Overall this is a pretty THE ENID-like effort, there are long, Classical-drenched themes as expected with an orchestral mood, but the constant presence of the rhythm section and the electric guitar mark this one as a Symphonic Rock album.The adaption is thus pretty great, full of romantic movements, ethereal atmospheres and more dramatic textures.I am not impressed though by the most humourous-sounding passages of the album, those which feature some playful saxes and naughty keyboard exercises, as part of the consistency is somewhat lost.

Anyway, this is 100% Classical-oriented Progressive Rock, a very good idea by Kayak's keyboardist, which is filled with Scherpenzeel's mono- and dual keyboard showerings.Great find for all the fans of the style and certainly recommended.

Kayak - 1981 - Merlin


01. Merlin (7:23)
02. Tintagel (2:41)
03. The sword in the stone (3:21)
04. The king's enchanter (2:42)
05. Niniane (Lady of the Lake) (7:22)
06. Seagull (4:10)
07. Boogie heart (4:11)
08. Not that we've gone this far (4:39)
09. Can't afford to lose (3:19)
10. Love's aglow (6:03)

- Katherine Lapthorn / backing vocals
- Irene Lindner / backing vocals
- Edward Reekers / vocals
- Peter Scherpenzeel / bass
- Ton Scherpenzeel / keyboards, backing vocals
- Johan Slager / guitars, backing vocals
- Max Werneer / drums, percussion, vocals

The first half of this album is conceptual and revolves around the King Arthur legend. This is, as we know, hardly original because several Prog and Prog related bands and artists had already done this by 1981. Rick Wakeman's The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table from 1975 is just one example. But Kayak's version is, of course, quite different compared to Wakeman's.

The first five songs here (Merlin, Tintagel, The Sword In The Stone, The King's Enchanter and Niniane (Lady Of The Lake)) form this half concept album. These songs are all very good and have a strong classic feel. Merlin and Niniane (Lady Of The Lake) are particularly beautiful songs that really deserve to be heard. The music is often rather mellow and serene with a strong presence of piano and symphonic keyboards with occasional outburst of harder rocking passages and some good guitar work. There is also a very appealing folky sound and medieval feeling to some passages. Some excellent stuff here for sure!

The second half of the album is thematically and also musically unconnected to the first and has a much lower value. Boogie Heart is particularly painful to these ears, being, as the title implies, something of a Boogie song. Needless to say, this is best avoided. The rest is quite typical Kayak Pop Rock with little or no progressive aspects; tasteful but largely forgettable. The value of this album lies primarily in its first half.

In 2003 Kayak made a remake of Merlin adding the subtitle Bard Of The Unseen. While many people think that the remake constitutes a large improvement over this original version, I must here say something in favour of the original 1981 version. While I agree that the remake is an improvement in some respects, in other respects it is the opposite of an improvement. The new version is better recorded and has a much higher sonic quality but I feel that they turned these very good Merlin songs from the present album into some kind of "Rock musical" or Rock Opera that I didn't much like at all. Comparing the two versions side by side I must say that the original version is by far the one that I personally like best. This original has something special that I feel is not entirely recreated on the new version. And this is not an expression of nostalgia since, as I said, I heard the new version before I heard the original one.

Having defended this original version, I must point out again that it is by no means perfect and doing a remake was indeed a very good idea. However, I don't much appreciate what they did with these songs while re-recording them in 2003. The result was too bombastic, too theatrical and too orchestral. It comes across as a bit overblown and too "big" for my taste. But I should stop talking about the remake as this review is for the original version.

Now, how to rate this album? Had the second half of the album been as good as the first half, this would probably be a four star release. As it stands, however, with the second half being much weaker, I can certainly not go above three stars for the whole. Still, this is one of Kayak's best albums ever!

Recommended for the very good conceptual first half that is better than the 2003 remake of the same (unless you are into "Rock musicals" in which case the new version is probably preferable).

Kayak - 1981 - Eyewitness


01. Eyewitness (3:21)
02. Periscope life (4:09)
03. Ruthless queen (5:05)
04. Want you to be mine (4:48)
05. Lyrics (1:59)
06. Chance for a lifetime (4:22)
07. Who's fooling who (3:44)
08. Irene (3:12)
09. Only you and I know (3:12)
10. Winning ways (3:28)
11. Starlight dancer (4:58)
12. No man's land (5:32)

Bonus tracks
13. The car enchanter (Sikkens song) (2:36)
14. Ivory dance (2:51)

- Edward Reekers / lead vocals
- Peter Scherpenzeel / bass
- Ton Scherpenzeel / keyboards, backing vocals
- Johan Slager / guitars, backing vocals
- Max Werneer / drums, percussion, backing vocals

As Ton Scherpenzeel put it :"In 1981 we decided to make an album (which would turn out to be our last), that would differ from the ones we recorded up till then in the way that it would feature a number of old and new songs as they were played live". This album came out after having that idea. Unfortunately, short after the release of this live album, the band split up in early 1982. (But, as we know it, later they came back in 2000 with a groundbreaking "Close To The Fire" album).
As a live recording, minus the audience, this album is excellent addition to any prog collection. Recording quality is top notch. As for my listening pleasure, I always play this CD loudly, especially the opening track "Eyewitness" which is performed wonderfully! Some classic best tracks (there are more best tracks the band has, including "Daphne") are featured in this live recording. If you like Kayak, this is a great album. If you are new to Kayak, still I recommend you to have it!

Kayak - 1980 - Periscope Life

Periscope Life

01. Astral aliens (3:40)
02. What's in a name (4:10)
03. Stop that song (3:15)
04. If you really need me now (4:16)
05. Periscope life (3:25)
06. Beggars can't be choosers (4:41)
07. The sight (4:00)
08. Lost blue of Chartres (3:36)
09. Anne (4:19)
10. One way or another (3:20)
11. Sad to say farewell (4:26)

Bonus tracks:
12. Theme From Spelters (Part II)
13. Ivory Dance

Recorded between October and November 1979 at the Village Recorder, Los Angeles.
Track 12 & 13 recorded 4 January 1980 in the Soundpush Studios, Biaricum.

- Katherine Lapthorn / backing vocals
- Irene Linders / backing vocals
- Edward Reekers / lead vocals
- Peter Scherpenzeel / bass
- Ton Scherpenzeel / keyboards, backing vocals
- Johan Slager / guitars, backing vocals
- Max Werneer / drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Jim Gordon / saxophone
- Jim Price / horns
- Peggy Sandwig / backing vocals

Periscope Life is the most pop-orëntated album of Kayak. That absolutely doesn't mean it's a bad album! I can understand that this album came as a little dissapointment after the beautiful and succesful "Phantom Of The Night". Where that album had her symphonic and mysterious moments, this record only contents more "happy" tunes, uptempo songs and nice ballads. It's less emotional, but the sound quality is a lot better and the band plays really nice. Their sound is more "full" and balanced than before. Of course, the power of Kayak consists of strong melodies, and so they are on this album. "Stop That Song" is wonderful pop and "If You Really Need Me Now" is a very good ballad, with a strong melody in the chorus. The album also contains 1 instrumental: "Lost Blue Of Chartres" which was used as a theme in the Dutch movie "Spetters". With "Anne", Kayak created a beautiful single, that did not topped the charts as high it deserved. "Sad To Say Farewell" is another tricky ballad. Wonderful melody, and again, strong in the chorus. Note the excellent vocals of Edward Reekers, he is a great singer. This is no album with long symphonic tracks and exciting synth-work, but a poppy album, with great playing, melodies and highlights whick makes this album fitting pretty well in your progressive collection. Not Kayak's best album, but surely one of the most direct and balanced ones!

Kayak - 1979 - Phantom of the Night

Phantom of the Night

01. Keep the change (3:38)
02. Winning Ways (3:35)
03. Daphne (Laurel Tree) (5:06)
04. Journey through Time (3:24)
05. Phantom of the Night (5:03)
06. Crime of Passion (3:30)
07. The Poet and the Man Band (4:10)
08. Ruthless Queen (4:47)
09. No man's Land (4:00)
10. First Signs of Spring (3:39)

- Tom Scherpenzel / keyboards
- Edward Reekers / lead vocals
- Max Werner / drums, percussion, lead vocal on "No man's Land"
- Katherine Lapthorn / backing vocals
- Peter Scherpenzeel / bass guitar
- Irene Linders / backing vocals
- Johan Slager/ guitar

An album which made them famous .
Why do I say so? As far as I know, the band was not that famous until they released this album because it has successful and popular hit in my country : "Ruthless Queen". It quickly became one of favorites for vast majority of people in my country who love music. The radio stations played this song quite often in their regular program because it was so many requests about this song. People tended to know the band literally only from this one song. Not that many people knew that there were actually many excellent albums by Kayak. The discussion of Kayak is now even becoming one of hot topics in the i-Rock! mailing list where I'm participating.

I was at my first year as engineering student when I purchased the cassette version of this CD and I was in fact amazed with the music which was for me quite easy to digest. Everything about the music of Kayak sounds to me like a pop based music. They do not have jaw dropping fast speed double pedal drums nor distorted guitar solos. They play sweet music, I think.

Look at "Winning Ways" which has relatively fast tempo but in the corridor of pop music through a good combination of piano, drums and some guitar fills plus bass that accompany vocal line. This upbeat tempo track is quite good to open the day. "Keep the change" is also a song in similar vein like "Winning Ways".

"Daphne" is one of my best favorite tracks from this album. Oh man .. I like the intro part where the vocal starts the track in catchy melody. The melody is so nice that I keep repeating this track again whenever I play this album. As usual, this wonderful track starts with soft piano work with notes that makes your heart breaks! I mean it. Especially when vocal starts to sing backed with nice notes delivered by the piano. The song then moves into upbeat style in grandiose way using orchestra and guitar fills. Well, you must experience yourself. Play it loud!

"The Poet and The One Man Band" is another straight pop music. "No Man's Land" is a straight rocker with an upbeat music using a combined work of guitar and piano. "Journey Through Time" is a nice track with good grooves through out the song.

The title track "Phantom of The Night" is another great track which has powerful melody, tight composition and brilliant music flow. The music is mellow but the melody has been written in such a way that brings you seamlessly from one segment to another without any disorientation of chords or notes. All chords and notes blend nicely in a beautiful melody that brings your mind through a peaceful journey. The song is also enriched by light orchestra. The overall track is so captivating for me. It's really great!

Overall, I would consider this album is excellent as it has successfully blended catchy melody (the main strength of Kayak music) and tight composition that goes along nicely with the melody. As the music of Kayak is pop based, you would find many pop music throughout the album. But that's okay as the pop parts would still make yourself tolerant to accept it.

Kayak - 1977 - Starlight Dancer

Starlight Dancer

01. Daughter or son (3:38)
02. Starlight dancer (4:59)
03. Want you to be mine (3:38)
04. Letdown (2:49)
05. Irene (4:24)
06. Golddust (2:39)
07. May (4:42)
08. Turn the tide (3:36)
09. Dead bird flies forever (4:18)
10. Sweet revenge (3:33)
11. Where do we go from here? (4:40)

- Ton Scherpenzeel / pianos, synthesizer, organ, harpsichord, vocals
- Charles Louis Schouten / drums, percussion, marimba, vocals
- Johan Slager / guitars, vocals
- Max Werner / Mellotrons, percussion, vocals
- Theo de Jong / bass guitar

Guest musicians:
- Fred Leeflang / soprano saxophone
- Rick van der Linden / Yamaha GX1 synthesizer

As much as I love Kayak, this album clearly comes from their poppy rather than their prog period. Not that I find something wrong with that, but others will. For me, it is a 4 star recommendation as far as I'm concerned on the strength of the best songs (five score 9/10 or 10/10, this represents about 1% of all songs that score this high on the DP list). In a prog site, 3 stars should suffice though. 1. Daughter or son (3:38) A nice enough melody, but there is nothing special about this song. Not exactly a catchy opener. 7/10. 2. Starlight dancer (4:59) One of my all-time favourite songs. Bohemian rhapsody meets Star Wars. This is the one song that would have warranted a longer version, building upon the many gorgeous themes. Still 10/10. 3. Want you to be mine (3:38) One of the better tracks certainly, great vocal effects, good melody, good execution. 8/10. 4. Letdown (2:49) What's in a name. A song without much pretention, straightforward poppy, and utterly disposable. 6/10. 5. Irene (4:24) A beautiful instrumental, for me in the top10 instrumentals of all time. A melancholy melody, with instrumentation dominated by various keyboards, and beautiful electric guitar work. 9/10. 6. Golddust (2:39) An interesting interlude, more inventive than tracks 1 and 4. Short but effective. 8/10. 7. May (4:42) A beautiful little ballad, piano dominated. Gorgeous melody, great singing. Needed a lot more variation to score a 10/10 though. 9/10. 8. Turn the tide (3:36) One of the better up-tempo songs of Kayak (I seem to like them best in their ballads). Should have been a world-wide hit, really. A solid 9/10. 9. Dead bird flies forever (4:18) This is one of Kayaks best songs, and it is a pity that it is so little known even in Holland. It is a gorgeous ballad, more akin to early Pink Floyd than anything else. I still find it incomprehensible that it was cut from the album for the US release in favour of some older compositions. 10/10. 10. Sweet revenge (3:33) Back to up tempo, one of the more rocking tracks, great keyboards. 8/10. 11. Where do we go from here? (4:40) Reminiscent of Alan Parsons more than anything else. Beautiful keyboards intro promising a little more than the song eventually delivers. Still a solid 8/10. If you do not like your prog on the poppy side, better not venture here. If you have a more open mind in this respect, this is a great album to sample the poppier side of Kayak.

Kayak - 1976 - The Last Encore

The Last Encore

01. Back to the front (4:31)
02. Nothingness (3:57)
03. Love of a victim (2:50)
04. Land on the water (2:27)
05. The last encore (3:59)
06. Do you care (2:49)
07. Still my heart cries for you (4:32)
08. Relics from a distant age (4:54)
09. Love me tonight / Get on board (2:40)
10. Evocation (3:50)
11. Raid your own house (3:35)
12. Well done (0:52)

- Pim Koopman / drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals
- Ton Scherpenzeel / keyboards, mellotron, accordion, double bass, backing vocals
- Johan Slager / guitars, backing vocals
- Bert Veldkamp / bass, double bass, saxophone, zither, backing vocals
- Max Werneer / lead & backing vocals, percussion, mellotrons,

You might not want to waste your time on buying the cd, for it sounds like crap. I might never have like this if I had only had the cd version of this. You will need the vinyl version in order to enjoy this. Kayak has a sort of artistic sound on this album. Every song is quite complicated and now it sometimes reminds me of Italian symphonic progbands like early PFM. It just doesn't sound very English. You can hear a lot different instrument on the album including the Mellotron, accordion, guitars, drums, bass, saxophone, horns and all sorts of keyinstrument including a grand piano.

The tracks, one by one for this special review.

Back to the Front is a very abrupt start for a symphonic progrecord, within seconds you are in the middle of a song. The recognisable Scherpenzeel piano sound and the tension building rhythm make this a great starting song. The lyrics are touching. The main theme of the song is dark but light begins to shine on the bridge where the vocals and the piano parts are hopefull. The perfect vocal harmonies during the 'It's only love.." part complete the song and make it a perfect opening track. 9/10

Nothingness. A great symphonic piano ballad with a abnormal high masterpiecerate! After the great voice of Max Werner and the short silence starts one of the most beatifull vocal harmonies I ever heard. Spooky, warm.. It's hard to discribe. After this we get a Piano/mellotron theme in wich Kayak shows it's perfect symphonic capabilities. GREAT! 10/10

Love of A Victim. An uptempo rocker with great guitar riffs. The rhythms of the guitar during these solo's are very original, it gives the song a confronting edge. The keyboard parts on the bridge sound original, I've never heard such a keyboard sound. 8/10

Land on the Water was born as some hitpotential was needed for a Dutch band in other to survive. The song is gentle and short. The vocals of Max Werner still make it deserve a 7/10

The Last Encore is another ballad of grand stature. The main theme is very emotional, the lyrics theatric. I don't have words to discribe the beauty of this piecefull song. 10/10

Do You Care is a song that falls in between the masterpieces. It's a great symphonic tune with some nice moogs in the melody. Again touchy. 8/10

Still my Heart Cries for you. We've had some great songs, but the best is still to come. Opening with a melodic, vulnerable theme this is the epic of this album. After the short vocal parts the symphonic adventure starts. Kayak seems to have a lot of energy here. Especially the "The image of you shall always stay with me" part is one of the greatest Kayak achievements. Great symphonic rock. The end is as beautiful as the beginning. 10/10

Relics from a distant Age. Another masterpiece! The track starts with a 2 minute piano solo with classical influences. After the opening part one of the most magical songs ever recorded arises. This is so atmospheric. Intelligent composition skills are applied with the so called church keys. Again perfect vocals of mister Werner. 11/10!

Love me Tonight/Get on Board is a kind of joke. It has a '40 atmosphere of glamorous love-affairs. So have blamed this to ruin the atmospheres of the album. I just think it's a funny track. 6/10

Evocation. From here The Last Encore becomes very dark and a bit abstract. There is tension and the atmospheres are a bit unclear. For me this sounds really magical and it touches me. I find this song artistic. The special pianopart in the middle of the song is one of the highlights of this album. 9/10

Raid Your Own House. Another dark song. The lyrics are like a story being told, a sort of dialogue from a one person's perspective. 8/10

Well Done. Like the second and third record of Kayak there is a very short concentrated ending song. Didn't they have the time to make it a full song? However this a greatly inspired piece of music about someone who thanks his mother for what she has done for him. The fact that the song is short and the massages is concentrated make this a masterpiece. 9/10.

Conclusion. A complete record with a lot of different songs, going from symphonic to classical, from rock to dark moody progressive. The vocals are an acquired taste, but you might just start to like it intensely. One of my favourite records of all time!

Kayak - 1975 - Royal Bed Bouncer

Royal Bed Bouncer

01. Royal Bed Bouncer 3:55
02. Life Of Gold 3:24
03. (You're So) Bizarre 3:29
04. Bury The World 4:23
05. Chance For A Lifetime 4:12
06. If This Is Your Welcome 4:54
07. Moments Of Joy 4:00
08. Patricia Anglaia 2:12
09. Said No Word 5:16
10. My Heart Never Changed 2:31

- Ton Scherpenzeel / keyboards, vocal
- Johan Slager / guitars, vocals
- Bert Veldkamp / bass, vocal
- Max Werneer / lead vocals, mellotron
- Pim Koopman / drums, vocals

Yeaaah another great Kayak album! Referred at as 'the hyperactive album' by a friend of mine it starts of very speedy with title song 'Royal Bed Bounder'. The strange title refers to a royal wine taster who also had to jump on the beds of the royal family to find out wether there were knifes to be found under the pillows. And as they played the songs at a concert in 2005 wich I attended (ofcourse!) the song has proven to be timeless.
Actually this is an album in the line of See see the Sun, the Second and just one step away from the perfect The Last Encore. It has beatifull melodies, great rock moments, perfect ballads (I very much like the last short song 'My heart never changed') and above all it feels as a whole. The last argument being typical of Kayak. The first albums sound like they are totally completed. When the record is finished you get this warm feeling. The mixing of the songs on the album is like a composition itself.

About the music. Kayak can be complex, sometimes more like pop, or even abstract. Max Werner, original a drummer who had to sing in Kayak, does a great job. The sound of his voice needs some time to get comfert with though.

One thing is important about this record. You just have to buy the LP record instead of the cd! The cd sounds not half as good as the original LP record. This can also be said for all Kayak's first five albums. I think this is also the reason for all the underrated albums of Kayak. The digital sound ruins the Kayak vibe wich is so enormously strong on the LP records. Kayak is a mood, is has a special vibe nowhere to be found in other bands. One could find a connection with the early Genesis with loats of fantasy though.

Enough said. A great continuation of the Kayak story. The album also contains songs they still play live, so a musthave for the fan.

Kayak - 1974 - Kayak


01. A libi
02. Wintertime
03. Mountain Too Rough
04. They Get To Know Me
05. Serenades
06. Woe And Alas
07. Mireille
08. Trust In The Machine
09. His Master's Noise

10. We Are Not Amused
11. Give It A Name

- Ton Scherpenzeel / keyboards, vocal, accordion
- Pim Koopman / percussion, vocals
- Johan Slager / electric and acoustic guitars, vocals
- Max Werner / mellotrons, percussion, vocals
- Cees van Leeuwen / bass guitar, harmonica

Tracks 1 to 9: released in the Netherlands as EMI Bovema 5N 062-24993 in 1974.
Tracks 10, 11 (bonu tracks): A & B sides of single We Are Not Amused . Released in the UK as Harvest HSR 5099 in July 1975.

Kayak had always been a strange band. Leadsinger Max Werner was a music academy drummer, while drummer Pim Koopmans was a music academy keyplayer. Keyplayer Ton Scherpenzeel was also from the academy and so the circle was round. Max Werner didn't like his own vocals, often referring to the fact that the songs were to high in pitch and he had to use his second voice very often. A sound the fans, including me, still like very much. His high pitched voice and somehow warm pronouncing of the words give the music an emotional feel of strenght threw weakness. Most of the songs of Kayak were keybased, consisting of songs and some epics. On this record Kayak decided to add two long tracks; They got to know me and Trust in the Machine, making it one of their most progressive album. The sound of Kayak is between Yes and Genesis, but more songbased. The recording of this album is just good, but not near perfect.

Alibi is a heavy opener with some nice melodic compositions, the warm vocal harmonies in the chorus make the song complete. Wintertime has a serious couplet and a happy refrain, a good expample of the crossover side of Kayak. Still some of the melodies in this song sound very devoted and work very well. Mountain Too Rough is one of the most beautifull Kayak songs. Very melodic, very symphonic. Thet get to Know me has a heavy beginning, a sort of mysterious/psychadelic couplet and a 5/4 ending section that also sound very progressive. The solo's on the end are nice. One of my favourite Kayak tracks. Seranades, Woe and Alas and Mireille are classic Kayak crossover/symphonic prog songs with a diversity of moods within the songs and catchy vocals by Werner. Trust In The Machine is most progressive song of the record with a space feel, great use of senthesizors and strange time signatures. The ending section is very worthwhile with it's nice solo's. His Master's Noise, though shorten then two minutes this a essential song of this album. Pure beauty non-stretched, reduced to it's essence. I love these kind of Kayak songs at the end of the albums that are often very short.

Conclusion. Only the perfect The Last Encore album of Kayak is a bit better, but this is one of the best Kayak albums. Symphonic proggers must have this, as well as people who like crossoverprog/songwriting.

Kayak - 1973 - See See the Sun

See See the Sun

01. Reason For It All (6:29)
02. Lyrics (3:42)
03. Mouldy Wood (5:16)
04. Lovely Luna (8:19)
05. Hope For A Life (6:49)
06. Ballet Of The Cripple (4:39)
07. Forever Is A Lonely Thought (5:26)
08. Mammoth (2:57)
09. See See The Sun (4:13)

- Ton Scherpenzeel / piano's Synths, organ, harpsicord, vocals, accordion
- Pim Koopman / drums, percussion, Marimba, vocals
- Johan Slager / guitars, vocals
- Max Werner / mellotrons, percussion, vocals
- Cees van Leeuwen / bass, harmonica

KAYAK is a Dutch band, originating from the early seventies. The band began as a symphonic progressive rock act with an emphasis in songwriting, but from 1977 on KAYAK changed direction moving into crossover territories. KAYAK revived in the 21st century, recording new albums and touring again.

The original line-up of KAYAK was quite strange. Most members were trained musicians at the conservatoriums of Holland. Max WERNER was a professional drummer that had to sing and Pim KOOPMAN was a professional piano-player that had to play the drums (which actually was his true love). Luckily Ton SCHERPZEEL was able to play on the keyboards, which was his profession. Later on, from 1977, Pim KOOPMAN left the band and Max WERNER became the drummer. A long-time fan, Edward REEKERS became the new vocalist.

Their debut "See See The Sun" (1973) is often seen as their biggest contribution to the symphonic prog genre. Their mix of naïve, but very melodic symphonic songs is attractive and evokes early GENESIS, YES and some have mentioned SUPERTRAMP (which I never fully understood). KAYAK has two main composers, Ton SCHERPENZEEL and Pim KOOPMAN. The typical classical influenced style of SCHERPENZEEL remained recognizable throughout KAYAK's long career. The vocals of Max WERNER ('73-'77) are very distinctive because of his high-pitched voice that has a powerful strength-through-weakness appeal. KAYAK used many of the recognizable symphonic prog key-instruments, such as Moog and Mellotron. KAYAK's second album in 1974 was a good continuation of KAYAK's melodic/symphonic prog style, but it had a bigger focus on long compositions which was profitable for the music. "Royal Bed Bouncer" (1975) continued this course, whilst "The Last Encore" (1976) has a distinctive atmosphere with lots of great progressive songs that were perhaps the most original the band created in their progressive period. The first four albums of KAYAK are recommended to fans of the symphonic progressive rock genre.

After this the band wanted to have better sales and changed direction in to pop-territories with "Starlight Dancer" (1977), which only had the title track as a progressive song. The 1979 album "Phantom of the Night" became the biggest hit in the charts, but in the beginning of the eighties they disbanded after making their last progressive effort; the 1981 semi-prog/semi-pop "Merlin". Though KAYAK had made seven albums at this point, it's members had never seen a penny earned by it.

In the new millennium KAYAK was resurrected from a twenty years pause and came back with the strong symphonic crossover album "Into the Fire" (2000) with again Max WERNER on vocals. After the mixed bag "Night Vision" (2001) (with new vocalist Bert HEERINK of VANDENBERG fame) the band re-invented itself with a prestigious mediaeval/symphonic concept album called "Merlin - Bard of the Unseen" with assistance of real orchestrations and female vocals by the amazing Cindy OUDSHOORN. New guitarist Joost VERGOOSSEN also turned out to be a great addition to the already great guitars of Rob VUNDERINK. VUNDERINK was called "the secret weapon" of the band, because of powerful backing vocals - if not his part in lead vocals on KAYAK's rock-operas and live shows. The "Merlin - Bard of the Unseen" album is the most attractive KAYAK album of 21st century for fans of the progressive genre.

After that "Nostradamus - Fate of Man", their second rock-opera, saw daylight. In 2008 the band again changed direction and recorded the conventional symphonic rock album "Coming Up for Air". This time Edward REEKERS returned for vocal duties (before he had been replacement during the Merlin and Nostradamus theatre tours). He had to share his place as a vocalist with Cindy OUDSHOORN, whose performance on the "Merlin" album and tour was very well-received by fans of the band. After that "Letters from Utopia"(2009) was released with the same line-up. A big tour was planned to celebrate this brand-new 2CD album, but as a total surprise drummer/pianist/composer Pim KOOPMAN died. Since then KAYAK paused, not knowing how to deal with the much missed KAYAK pillar that was KOOPMAN. In the end of 2010 they found a new drummer and the band has decided to continue.
Biography written by Friso and edited by Ian Cownie

Kayak is one of Holland's major prog acts. The line-up of the band had always been a bit strange. Conservatory drummer Max Werner did the vocals/mellotrons and conservatory key-player Pim Koopman played the drums. Luckily conservatory key-player Ton Scherpenzeel played on his own instrument. Cees van Leeuwen en Johan Slager played bass and guitar.

The band was centered around the friendship of Koopman and Scherpenzeel who both wrote songs and compositions for the band. Some might argue that some of the stronger Kayak songs were written by Scherpenzeel, but I disagree.

The band-members of Kayak never thought about playing progressive rock, but the compositions were innovative and sophisticated at times. There are many classical music influences and some influence of Genesis and Yes (mainly some vocal parts). Besides these influences Kayak had it's own sound with tremendous songwriting, combining catchyness and innovation. The sound of Kayak has a focus on keys and vocals, but the band sounds as a whole. Most of the songs have instrumental parts with an melodic approach. The vocals of Max Werner have been a point of debate. It is one of my favorite vocalists because of his high pitched sound and his specific sound. It's strength threw weakness.

Reason for it All has some obvious Yes elements, but the songs has an original atmosphere and a good instrumental solo's section. Lyrics is a feel-good crossover prog track with nice melodic piano composition. Mouldy Wood is very very progressive with it's dissonant guitar parts and Jaw's like couplet theme. The melodic theme in the middle and end section make the song totally worthwhile. Lovely Luna is a symphonic rock masterpiece written by Koopmans. The intro of the song is abstract, but as soon the symphonic parts begin I'm amazed by this beauty. The distorted bass guitar with a melodic function during this symphonic parts is very innovative. The pastoral vocals of Werner are strong.

On side two Hope For A Life is another crossover prog song with lot's of different melodies. . Ballet Of The Cripple is an emotional composition with superb lyrics! The bridge section is very atmospheric and the main instrumental theme nostalgic. Forever Is A Lonely Though is perhaps one of Kayak most beautiful songs. A brilliant melodic couplet/intro theme and an adventurous refrain with great mellotron sounds. Mammoth was a bit hit in Holland and has an intro theme played on street-organ and some catchy strong melodies in the couplet and refrain themes. See See The Sun is also one of my favorite Kayak tracks. The adventurous intro/refrain with it's multi-layered vocals are superb! The couplet theme with only piano and vocals is intimate and effective. Listen to this song!

Conclusion. Kayak had this great debut that combined progressive music with some hit-potential. Kayak has an own sound and a fresh approach on symphonic rock. This record is recommended to fans of melodic prog, symphonic prog and crossover prog. It's a great seventies record with memorable songwriting!

Alquin - 1976 - Live On Tour

Live On Tour

01. Sunrise 2:35
02. Wake Me Up 3:40
03. L.A. Rendez Vous 3:30
04. The Dance 15:30
05. High Rockin' 5:45
06. Amy 4:20
07. I Wish I Could 10:20
08. Wheelchair Groupie 3:35

- Ferdinand Bakker / guitar, piano, vocals
- Ronald Ottenhoff / saxophone, flute
- Dick Franssen / organ, piano, wurlizter
- Michel van Dijk / vocals
- Jan Visser / bass
- Job Tarenskeen / drums, percussion & vocals

When Alquin called it a day in the late seventies, they left us with a live album. The album contains tracks from all the previous albums. The two things that make this album really interesting is the inclusion of their best progressive tracks: I wish I could and The dance. Especially the performance of I wish I could is excellent, this version is even better than on the studio album. All the tracks are performed very well. So luckily they ended with a great album, to make up for the two more funky albums they released before. But still, when you want to explore the music of Alquin you should get hold of the first two albums.

Alquin - 1976 - The Best Kept Secret

The Best Kept Secret

01. Fool In The Mirror (8:20)
 a) Sham Fight
 b) Stars End
02. Central Station Hustle (4:59)
03. L.A. Rendez-vous (4:39)
04. High Rockin' (5:27)
05. One More Night (8:59)
 a) Bootleg Ballet
 b) Laserlight
 c) Back To The Losing End
06. Take any road (5:48)

- Ferdinand Bakker / guitar, piano, vocals
- Ronald Ottenhoff / saxophone, flute
- Dick Franssen / organ, piano, wurlizter
- Michel van Dijk / vocals
- Jan Visser / bass
- Job Tarenskeen / drums, percussion, vocals

Guest musicians:
- Steve Gregory / horns (1)
- Buddy Beadle / horns (1)
- Martin Droner / horns (1)
- Geoff Wright / horns (1)

Only about half of this album could be considered "prog", but the whole album has a high degree of musicianship. The centrepiece of this album is "One More Night", which is most certainly "prog". The jazz influences, enhanced by their use of brass, are very obvious. They had also been listening to some of the other 70s jazz/rock/funk crossover bands, and the influences are easily heard. Alquin were a great live band (particularly in their early days), and I was privileged to see them live several times.
It's a good album, played by great musicians, but is obviously from a band in transition to other genres.

Alquin - 1975 - Nobody Can Wait Forever

Nobody Can Wait Forever

01. New Guinea sunrise (6:34)
  a) Sunrise
  b) Wake me up
02. Mr. Widow (3:30)
03. Stranger (6:38)
  a) Stranger
  b) You might as well fall
04. Darling superstar (7:57)
05. Farewell, miss Barcelona (2:56)
06. Wheelchair groupie (3:10)
07. Revolution's eve (7:25)
  a) Revolution's theme
  b) Nobody can wait forever

- Ferdinand Bakker / guitar, piano, vocals
- Ronald Ottenhoff / saxophone, flute
- Dick Franssen / organ, piano, moog
- Michel van Dijk / vocals
- Hein Mars / bass
- Paul Weststrate / drums & percussion
- Job Tarenskeen / drums (on 3 & 7), percussion & vocals
+ The Thunderthighs / backing vocals

Although less progressive than the two previous albums, this is by far my favourite ALQUIN record. This is the first album that feature vocalist Michael Van Dijk, his versatile performance in addition to the new approach of the compositions gives a powerful and overall fresher sound to the band. Highlights are the album opener, the almost hard-rocker Stranger and the album closer Revolution's Eve, coincidentaly the proggiest tracks on this record.
While most people may enjoy the two previous albums better, I prefer the less complicated compositions featured on this album, as I said before ALQUIN managed to sound really fresh and powerful but keeping their progressive influences.