Alquin

Reviews

Marks

Marks
(1972)

Alquins debut album is their most versatile album. You can hear snippets of calypso, circus music, Dixieland and country music. But most of it is progressive rock with a jazzy feel. It is largely instrumental, but there are some tracks with vocals. It is produced by Hans van Oosterhout who has earned his credits as a producer with bands like Supersister and Drama.

The album opens slowly with some nice flute playing by Ottenhof, half way the track the tempo goes up, we hear some guitar, a piano and suddenly we are in Louisiana. When the main theme returns, this is segued into the second track. Here the focus is on the sax. Soft royce starts laid back, with some nice guitar and organ playing. This is also the first track with vocals. Next is the circus of Mr. Barnum, very up tempo with violin, flute and sax.

The absolute highlight of this album is the long I wish I could. It is built up very slowly with a very spooky sound, after a few minutes the track sort of restarts. It contains great solos and several tempo changes. This is followed by a ballad and a Canterbury-ish track. The last track has again the electric violin as the main attraction.

(Agemo, Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

Alquin were the first Dutch band that I heard; I still remember the first time I played their "Mountain Queen" album, it was way back in 1972, Xmas eve. I subsequently saw them playing on the British TV programme "The Old Grey Whistle Test", they were playing a large part of the album, playing it magnificently.
Now to back track. "Marks" was their first release. The music can be complex at times but it's melodic with excellent flutes, sax, electric guitar, keys, Hammond organ and the occasional violin. Great examples of the melodic side of "Marks" are "Marc's Occasional Showers" and the tremendous opener "Oriental Journey" with its haunting flute and jazzy tinged late night keys. This track bursts into life halfway through in a style similar to early Camel. The theme of the opener carries forward into track 2; this really is quality music with some tremendous sax. As for vocals, there aren't many but when they appear they are perfect; check out "I Wish I Could" and "You Always Can Change".
The track "Soft Royce" is, in some ways, a taster for what was to come on Mountain Queen, it's quite complex but again melodic, let's mention that superb sax again, amazing.

(European Progressive Rock Reviews)

The Dutch band Alquin took influences from a wide range of various progressive rock bands. This can be heard on their debut "Marks" that reveals a technically competent and tight bunch of musicians. The opening instrumental "Oriental Journey" starts with some Camel-like flute, but transforms quickly into a jazzy piece with catchy melodies played on various horns. The opening part of "Soft Royce" has saxophone and el-piano reminiscent of their countrymen Supersister, but changes to a Latin part in the middle before the vocal part and an organ solo. The track then stabilizes itself with a laidback, jazzy beat with wah-wah guitar and a very cool telephone effect at the end. "Mr. Barnum Jr.'s Magnificent and Fabulous City" is a lengthy jam recorded live where the band lets loose. "I Wish I would" opens with some very spacey organ and guitar and also includes a slightly Pink Floyd sounding vocal part. Then they turn to another band from their own country in "You Can Always Change" that sounds like pop-oriented Kayak (even the title is very Kayak!). The best of the shorter tracks on the album is the instrumental "Marc's Occasional Showers" that starts very energetic and catchy before the soprano saxophone plays a beautiful theme over a chorale. The album then closes with another instrumental in form of the cheerful "Catherine's Wig" that is mostly dominated by violin. With all these different influences, you could perhaps say that and that Alquin lacked some focus on this album, but most of the songwriting is good and the musicianship is very solid.

(Tommy Schonenberg, Vintage Prog)

Very interesting debut album by Dutch band Alquin. On "Marks" they sound like a mix of fellow Dutch band Finch with Caravan, the latter because of the gentle style of the compositions and the use of saxes and flutes.

The highlight is the mini-suite "Soft Royce/Mr. Barnum Jr's Magnificent and Fabulous City" where you can hear passages that wouldn't have been out of place on Caravan's finest records. The album opener "Oriental Journey" is also very Caravan-like. The album ends with two nice instrumental tracks: "Marc's Occasional Showers" and the sax/violin driven "Catherine's Wig".

(Victor Josue, Progarchives)

The Mountain Queen

The Mountain Queen
(1973)

This album is probably their best. It was produced by Derek Lawrence, and the sound was heavier and more guitar driven than on their first album. References to Camel and early Roxy Music can be found. When you are interested in the music of Alquin, you must purchase this album. It is released together with their first album on one CD.

The album opens with the best track of their repertoire, and one of the best tracks that have come out of the Dutch progressive scene, The Dance. The intro has organ and some distorted guitar playing. It slows down so we can hear flute and vocals. After the verse the guitar is back. Halfway the track it changes drastically after another guitar solo, the track slows down again and it then sounds very loosely, jam-like with saxophone and electric piano. Soft-eyed woman is an instrumental track with mainly guitar. The next track is a strange but lovely track about the thoughts of a stewardess. 

The title song is another long track, it is cheerful with some beautiful melodic passages. The short Don and Dewey is the only cover song they ever recorded, it perfectly transcends in the last track. This is the studio version of the same track of the first album.

(Agemo, Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

Moving on to Mountain Queen; well, what can be said for this classic work of art. It's in your face with screaming guitars, Hammond organ, great key work and I haven't even mentioned the wailing sax and flute work yet. The opening 13min. track, "The Dance", still amazes me with the power that this song portrays. With just the occasional vocal thrown in, this track is perfection personified. Hold your breath though, that's not the longest piece. The title track appears and it's even better, superb vocals..... "It's good to be back, good to be back home" he sings, then the sax enters. It eventually ends with what can only be described as some of the most exciting and powerful music you're ever likely to hear. Yes, there are touches of jazz rock here but don't let that deter you, this is Progressive rock. The way this album winds itself up for the climactic ending will have you out of your seat shouting for more, phew; power and aggression, all done in a melodic way. Alquin are touring this year, 2003. I haven't seen them but if they play live as good as this then they must be something special.

(European Progressive Rock Reviews)

Alquin's second album is often considered to be their finest hour, and it pretty much brings together all the elements of the debut into a more unified sound. The 13-minute opener "The Dance" starts with a juicy and very typical progressive organ-riff that gets joined by a driving beat and horns. Some melodic flute and acoustic guitar builds up to the first vocal-part, before it returns to the opening section again that gets followed by some very catchy horn-riffs. The last vocal-part is pretty much in the vein of the debut. The relaxed and atmospheric instrumental "Soft Eyed Woman" reminds of Focus, but the flute is more in the vein of Camel. The short song "Convicts of the Air" features a catchy chorus in a slight Canterbury style. The complex and nearly 15-minute title-track opens with some fresh horns and a cheerful vocal-part before it turns into a quite traditional and melodic progressive tune, before turning into a jam where some distorted violin, saxophone and the el-piano duels a lot. It then slows down, before it yet again turns into a jam at the very end. A quite impressive and complicated tune this one. The album ends with a short cover of It's A Beautiful Day's "Don and Dewey" that is followed by a studio recording of "Mr. Barnum Jr.'s Magnificent and Fabulous City" from the debut. It's naturally a bit more polished here than in the live version, but benefits quite a lot from it. Especially the flute sounds great here.

(Tommy Schonenberg, Vintage Prog)

This time they dropped the Caravan sound and showed more of their own. Songs such as the title track and "The Dance" are played live even today. "The Dance" cointains some of the best music the band have ever done, specially on the instrumental first half of the track, the second half feature vocals and is softer, even "radio-friendly". "Convicts of the Air" revisits the vocal part of "The Dance" in a more up-tempo way. The title track is fantastic full of melody, solos and mood changes and keeps your attention throughout its 15 minutes. Another highlight is the ending instrumental "Mr. Barnum's Jr.'s Magnificent And Fabulous City" that features lots of organ and saxes solos. This record puts Alquin in the same league of the great Dutch bands such as Focus and Kayak.

(Victor Josue, Progarchives)

Not only is this the best Alquin album , it is one of the best albums of the 1970's period. The interplay between the musicians is superb , everyone a master of their instrument, and the playing is disciplined and without ego. It has been said that the vocals are the weak link in Alquin but I disagree, in fact I think they lost a great deal when they recruited a singer for the follow up album and thereby becoming another stereotype rock band .

They found their own identity with "The Mountain Queen " and it has to be said they lost their direction after this. We can be grateful they made this masterpiece, and I can testify their concerts at this time were marvelous and well received by audiences.

To the music itself. The album is divided between five tracks, and the themes are split between "The Dance/Convicts of the air " and "Mountain Queen".A nice instrumental called " Soft eyed woman" creates an interlude in the running order , and with a great blow at the end entitled "Mr Barnum Jr's Magnificent and Fabulous City " The album has a flow and plays like a concept album and by that I mean the music has a unified feel and the ideas are linked by the delivery of the vocals and the playing. This is why this album never works when these tracks are separated , they should be played as a whole, preferably in one sitting.

In the first part the singer seems to have fallen in love with an air stewardess , and the second part is open for interpretation but seems to be a story set in the guise of a folk tale. It's the delivery of the lyrics that counts though, the soft vocals lend something extra to the music which has great atmosphere, and that is what this album is all about, atmosphere.

The instrumentation include flutes, saxes, keyboards, aswell as guitar, drums and bass and the musicianship is first class throughout. It would be unfair to single anyone out here , all the playing is great. This is a wonderful , lyrical album and it is very emotive. The sleeve is excellent , very subtle and understated on the front, the image on the back is pretty hard but nonetheless still intriguing after thirty years, and the inside photo of the band on the gatefold album sleeve is very inventive and gives out a good feeling.

I recommend this album without any reservation at all , but try and get the vinyl , It is a lovely object. Happy listening.........

(Jeremy Dunn,  Progarchives)

Nobody can wait forever (Europe)

Nobody Can Wait Forever
(1975)

With the third album there were some changes. The band wanted to make less complicated music, and more rock, to achieve this they asked producer Rodger Bain. They also had a new vocalist, Michel van Dijk. He had a more powerful voice, than Tarenskeen, and this fitted the music.

The opener still sounds like the old Alquin, but after that one it is more straightforward rock as in Mr Widow and Farewell, miss Barcelona, or even hardrock in Wheelchair groupie. There are however still beautiful instrumental passages and great solos. The best track on this album and the most progressive is the last one.

(Agemo, Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

With the release of "Nobody Can Wait Forever" Alquin diversified their sound somewhat in that they mixed commercial heavy rock influences into their usual progressive style. The opening track is a prime example, pt. 1 is Alquin of old then pt. 2 sees a heavier direction with the flute sounding more like Tull of the period plus the vocals are more forceful than on past releases. This new direction is typified on track two, "Mr Widdow" and the opening section of "Stranger". I have to admit that this opening section is not too much to my liking, especially with the backing vocals by "Thunderthighs", although the ending of this song certainly makes up for it with typical Alquin aggression of the past.

"Darling Superstar" opens side two in a similar fashion by mixing instrumental sections with good vocals and the aforementioned backing vocals by "Thunderthighs". This song works so much better than "Stranger", it even has Dylanesque type lyrics with references to Siamese cats etc. However, "Farewell, Miss Barcelona" fails pretty badly on all levels, again with Dylanesque type vocals. Thereafter sit back and enjoy the remainder of this album with the vocal track "Wheelchair Groupie" and "Revolution's Eve pts. 1 & 2".
Yes, an album that is flawed due to the band moving to a more commercial framework but they just manage to capture enough of their old moments to keep me happy.

(European Progressive Rock Reviews)

Not very prog to my ears and this is why it gets a low rating (on another site, this might have gotten a third star). Actually, the music on this album is more of an early-FM rock that will be developed in the latter part of the decade. Alquin sounds like a slightly more inventive Foreigner because of a bigger use of flute and saxes but this all stays very basic (in terms of musical complexity) and the rhythms are your basic RnR patterns of the era. The tracks divided into subsection might get your attention , but there is not much there in terms of musical adventure. Don't get me wrong now , this is very correct rock of that era but just not really in the scope of this site- - a little bit like Styx or Uriah Heep.

(Hugues Chantraine, Progarchives)

ALQUIN...Dutch band..who laid in the shadow of the many other perfect prog outfits from HOLLAND.....EARTH & FIRE / FINCH / FOCUS / SANDY COAST / KAYAK....etc. This, in my opinion, one of the better offers from ALQUIN...show's their ability to play prog as well as powerfull jazzy-funk... Michel van Dijk...lead vocalist...show's maturity on " New Guinea-sunrise"....although track #2 : " Mr.Widow"..does nothing for me...it play's as a mediocre pop-funk-song!Track 4...with the... somewhat...eh....pop-title.....works well as a funky- prog song....with underlaying keyboards (courtesy of Mr. Dick Fransen)...and some very good guitaring by Ferdinand Bakker. Track #5 : Farewell..Miss Barcelona ( where did they get those titles from??)..another pop-funk song....as in nevermind! Next up: " Wheelchair groupie"..now there's a title !! And the track, plays like a forgotten GOLDEN EARRING number!!! "Revolutions eve" end's this album...which i suppose is for fans of DUTCH prog only!! Well ...please try this ALQUIN out, they are quite interesting!! Do check out their other albums.....as well!! In my opinion their best prog offering are: ALQUIN : " on tour".

(Tonny Larz, Progarchives)

This is the best Alquin album. On this album are some powerful tracks like New Guinea Sunrise, Stranger, Darling Superstar, Revolution's Eve and the single Wheelchair Groupie. Alquin plays progressive rock with some blues influences. Your hear the hammond organ, sax and guitar as the main instruments together with the beautiful voice of Michel van Dijk (ex-Ekseption). A good album is it's predecessor Mountain Queen.

(Harlod van Zessen, Progarchives)

Best Kept Secret

t Kept Secret
(1976)

This album continues what was started on the previous. This time they added some funk, as can be heard in Fool in the mirror and One more night. There is a nice ballad, L.A. rendez vous. And a rock song, High rockin'. A nice album, but not really for progressive lovers.

(Agemo, Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

This fourth album is the logical follower of Nobody but that also means that it out of the scope of this site as this is rather poor in Prog contents : I would diagnose less than 5% which means that you will never overdose of it but will likely get bored before reaching the fatal level. Don't get me wrong , this is correct FM rock along the lines of Foreigner (actually, they spring to mind quite often when I hear Alquin) . Even the longer tracks divided into subsection are relatively uninteresting for the proghead. Another comparison would be their great fellow Dutchmen Golden Earring (not any proggier but one hell of more adventure and inspiration , though). In another site , i might have given this a third star.

(Hugues Chantraine, Progarchives)

On Tour

On Tour
(1976)

The last Alquin is a live album, with 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.

(Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

Wheelchair Groupie (1999)

Wheelchair Groupie
(1999)

This Dutch formation is pure nostalgia for me, they were the first progrock band I ever witnessed! It was in the early Seventies, I was at about 13 or 14 years old and attended a school party. There I was mesmerized by Alquin (the large line-up almost overcrowded the stage!) who were playing 'Wheelchair groupie', a song that was often heard on the rock radiostations but failed to reach the legal charts. Later I bought their albums and I still like their unique progresssive blend of blues, jazz, soul and rock, featuring lots of saxophones, strong, distinctive vocals, often wah-wah drenched guitar work and powerful Hammond organ.

On this comprehensive CD-compilation (60+ minutes) you can enjoy the tasteful and varied Alquin sound from their four studio-albums (recorded between 1972 and 1976), including the single 'Wheelchair groupie' (catchy rhythm, strong and inspired vocals and great interplay between the Hammond and fiery electric guitar), 'Convicts of the air' (delicate STEELY DAN-like guitar sound), 'Revolution's eve' (delivering soli on saxophone, guitar, flute and Hammond organ), 'Soft-eyed woman' (very sensitive and moving electric guitar solo with lush organ waves and warm flute play) and the 15 minutes composition entitled 'Mountain queen' (a swinging rhythm featuring lots of saxophone soli along wah-wah guitar and flute).

(Erik Neuteboom, Progarchives)

One More Night (2003)

One More Night
(2003)

Who had ever thought that Alquin would decide to play again? And what an extremely good idea that is!! This album, which is the registration of a concert that the band played in the Dutch prog temple De Boerderij in Zoetermeer shows that Alquin is not forgotten nor outdated. The songs still stand out as landmarks in prog history. A seldom heard combination of melodic verses, rocky phraes, jazzy, melancholic or even hard-rock like instrumental parts, all these played with enthusiasm and humor that really stands out. Just listen to guitarist Ferninad Bakker, already far into his fifties (as is the rest of the band) but with a skill and variation that many, many recent guitarists wll envy. The only criticism may be Michel van Dijk's singing which is not as strong as it has been been far back in the seventies. The audience gives the band exactly what they deserve: a big applause. The album also contains a brand new song of epic length. 'Sweet surrender' reminds the listener to the seventies while the production is absolutely up-to-date. It is a varied song, with female (!) voices starting and ending the song while inbetween the band shows that they are still one of best prog bands that The Netherlands have ever had. This album is a very safe buy for everyone who likes prog at his jazziest! I just witnessed the band again in The Boerderij on their promotion tour for the new cd and Michel does not look too healthy. His age has really got upon him. But he is there, plays with his fellows and the audience and is enjoying himself enormously. Alquin is back and all progs should be very glad about it.

(Theo Verstrael, Progarchives)

Blue planet (2005)

Blue planet
(2005)

As I mentioned in my review about the compilation CD "Wheelchair groupie", Alquin was the first band I ever saw live, I must have been at about 13 or 14 years old. They played at a school party near my hometown The Hague, later I realised how lucky I was to witness this unique progrock band from The Netherlands. The enthusiastic reactions to their reunion a few years ago have turned into a new studio album featuring no less than five members from the original line-up, including lead vocalist Michel Van Dijk. In some tracks his distinctive voice reminds me of a 'crooner', like in the bluesy "Murder in the park" (howling electric guitar and fiery saxophone) and the melancholical "Enough=enough" (tender piano and fragile slide-guitar). On some tracks I hear the magic from their first two albums "Marks" and "Mountain Queen": a powerful and swinging sound delivering wonderful Hammond waves, flowing electric guitar and fiery saxophone, topped by the strong and distinctive vocals from Michel Van Dijk. But at others moments Alquin has a more polished sound, a bit too smooth for me although Alquin plays good and inspired with strong work on guitar, saxophone and keyboards. They are still an unique band delivering an entertaining and often swinging blend of prog, blues, soul, jazz, funk and rock, on two tracks supported by the Stylers Horns. And it definitely doesn't sound dated, just listen to the great final track "The beach" with a strong grand finale featuring howling guitar and fiery saxophone!

(Erik Neuteboom, Progarchives)

ALQUIN, fabulous Dutch progband ..whom delivered several fine albums in the 70'ties (of which my favorite album were: "Nobody can wait forever"). Has seen fit to reunite...and the result of that is new album: " Blue Planet" 2005.
This new effort opens with a track called: "Return to the blue planet". A sort of jazzy/bluesy theme spiced with som fine guitarplay. Next up are track 2 : " Murder in the park". With soothing voices....this track slides along as a pop song. mind you, a good one, A nice relaxed tune. Track 3: " Over and out" A slow tune creeping up on you.....actually it reminds me of their fellow Dutch countrymen: Golden earring. At their best!! Nice song!! "The Hitman" are track 4. With an intro build of guitars and sax, Nice voice....with some sax theme thrown in. Track 5: " Falling" Great tune.....but still slow.....building up to a storm...that never comes!!
Still i like this album...maybe im biased.....who knows!?? I used to love these Dutch guys...anything they did. They still strut their stuff...and i still like their sound. Prog ? Well maybe ?? But anyway. I like this album!! I like their approach to the songs and i like their musical ability.
I think this is more artrock than prog, but it is still a great album!! So, dear progfriends...go find out for yourselves !!!

(Tonny Larsen, Progplanet)

Sailors and Sinners (2009)

Sailors and Sinners
(2009)

Alquin is a Dutch band which has it's roots in Delft over thirty years ago. In the early Seventies they started as a jazz influenced progressive rock band with the albums Marks and The Mountain Queen. After these albums singer Michel van Dijk was attracted towards a more rock sound, however when their breakthrough did not happen Alquin disbanded in 1977. Some 35 years later they got back together in 2003. In 2005 they released the album Blue Planet and besides Michel van Dijk many members from the first Alquin were present. The only new member is bass player Walter Latupeirissa who replaces Hein Mars. Drummer Paul Weststrate was already replaced in the seventies by Job Tarenskeen who on the first albums played saxophone and some percussion. The saxophone is for me the instrument that makes Alquin unique, many progressive rock bands use a saxophone some times but not as much and up front as Alquin. With Job Tarenskeen behind the drums, Ronald Ottenhof is now the only sax-player in Alquin. Also a big part of the sound are the keyboards and organs from Dick Fransen, though these days not as significant as in the early days. Ferdinand Bakker is the main songwriter for Alquin and he plays the guitar, keyboards and violin, without a doubt he is the beating heart of the band.

Their first album after their comeback Blue Planet is a song based album and progressive rock lovers might find it a bit too much pop rock. I saw Alquin live at Symforce II in 2008 and they played many songs from that album. Some drunken teenagers, with Opeth T-shirts, were curious about this old Dutch band that played during a break in their metal dominated personal timetable. When they left Alquin for Opeth they were clearly impressed by the performance of these "old" guys, and drunk people always tell the truth. I was also impressed by their performance and now with this new album I am even more impressed. Sailors And Sinners is a logical next step after Blue Planet, a bit more progressive but they have stayed true to their sound.

The Mission is a song with two faces, starting very mellow and suddenly a heavy guitar creates a transition to a more lively part. Michel van Dijk has a very pleasant voice and when his bandmates kick in during the chorus they do not try to make it sound as smooth as possible, it sounds very soulful. Minnie Minoux is also a song in two parts with a comparable transition as in The Mission. The start of the song has many Pink Floyd influences and contains the voice of poet John Sinclair who reads from his book "We Just Change The Beat". The second part is uptempo with many great saxophone solos and Ronald Ottenhof presents his skills with style. Lillie's Notebook is a beautiful ballad with touching lyrics and many soulful parts from the keys of Dick Fransen.

Not In A Million Years starts like a simple pop song but this one really grew on me as it is just one of those songs you start humming on the bus - when you play it on your MP3-player. For some reason I dislike songs that have a girls name as title, for instance Pamela from Toto and Dutch band Kayak has a lot of those. In other words, Allyson is not my favourite on this album. Just like Not In A Million Years the song Money In The Bank starts as a happy pop song, I also have to restrain myself when I play this one on the bus. Both songs also have a happier tune than the lyrics imply. Kite Runner shows the more progressive side of Alquin and the threatening sound of the saxophone is brilliant. Behind The Trees shows that a bass player can simply take over the show. I do not think he plays a very difficult bass line but it sounds highly addictive and the saxophone melody in contrast with that bass line simply steals the show. It is not a song that will break the boundaries of progressive rock but it is just one of those songs where you cannot explain why you like it.

The album Blue Planet contained songs of an average length but Sailors And Sinners contains an epic. The songs Holland and Sailors & Sinners can be seen as one composition, on the other hand the title track is split up in several parts. That is what we do with progressive rock, we create long songs by glueing songs together and then split them up at a different position. In Holland the line "Sailors And Sinners" is sung repeatedly, during the song Sailors & Sinner however these lyrics are not present. They also could have changed this epic into separate songs but this is fine by me. Shineseethe ends the album but could also be the final part of the epic title track.

Blue Planet was already a good comeback album but they have surpassed that with Sailors And Sinners. This is certainly not a typical progressive release, the use of saxophone and the accessible overall sound of the band are not common in this genre. At first spin it does not reveal all it's beauty and some might classify this as a pop rock album, however, after several spins this album just won't let go of me and I keep coming back to it, finding more and more of interest. For me personally this album is definitely among my top albums for 2009 as it has been a while since I found an album like this that keeps surprising me. A funny side note is that the album comes in a casing I have never seen before, I thought I have seen them all, but the cover is also amongst the worst I have seen before. Thankfully by just flipping the booklet you get an alternative artwork that is much more interesting, if you look at their website it is also what they use as promotion, but I think the striped one is the "official" cover. Check out some sound samples and see if the music of Alquin is within your personal taste and if it is then Sailors And Sinners will be a perfect album for you

(Edwin Roosjen, Dutch Progressive Rock Page)

The Marks Sessions

The Marks Sessions
(2012)

Pseudonym continue the celebration of '70s Dutch prog with a release that may only appeal to a very limited audience. The band is Alquin, a sextet who really put the 'eclectic' in eclectic prog; and the album is Marks, the group's remarkable debut, adorned with letter-shaped potato artwork. However, this release doesn't contain the actual album itself, only the demos and a concert performance. To this reviewer who doesn't own the original album, this all seems rather perplexing. Still, the music is rather good!

Disc 1 - as with all Pseudonym releases, also called Chapter 1 - comprises of The Marks Sessions. Six songs are demoed in total, with the first five tracks demoed twice each, and with Catherine's Wig left in solitary last place. This does make listening slightly awkward; as we finish a track, it begins once more. Nevertheless, the two demos for a general track can be profoundly different: I Wish I Could comes in both 12-minute and 3-minute formats; Marc's Occasional Showers comes in 9-minute and 4-minute formats. The music is such that I have very little idea of what's coming next. My favourite track in the collection is the Soft Machine-inspired Soft Royce, followed by the epic I Wish I Could, which comprises of a long, tense build up, followed by a verse-chorus section. Marc's Occasional Showers also follows the Soft Machine vein, but in a more proggy light. Elsewhere, there are folky elements, soul and even Celtic influences. Quite the melting pot!

The live disc then crystallises these demos by allowing us to engage with the band. Most of the songs we've just heard are played live, giving us an idea of just how complete they were in the demo versions. It's a great set, and you can hear the band's confidence playing tracks like Hard Royce. While this double-disc set is chock full of interesting music, I can't help feeling it would be improved by the presence of the original album itself, to put things in context. Without it, this merely seems like an album of bonus tracks, disconnected from their source material. Nevertheless, the strength of these tracks has convinced me to get the original album - and perhaps its sequel too - from Esoteric Recordings. To summarise, this is surprisingly good music, but just a little out of context on its own.

(Basil Francis, Dutch Progressive Rock Page)