Bonfire Goes Bananas
CD Bonus Tracks:
Produced by John d'Andrea
Recorded at Morgan Studios, Brussels
Engineered by Mike Butcher
Album design by Cream, Amsterdam
Track 9+10 recorded at Crossroad Studios, Oss, Holland
CD Pseudonym CDP-1016-DD (1994)
Contrast (F. Witte) [3:38]
Circle (F. Witte) [2:48]
EMI 5C 006-25069 (1975)
When Focus suddenly ceased to exist, record company EMI was strongly looking for a decent replacement. They (thought they had) found it in Bonfire who not only got a record deal but was also given all of the Focus equipment, even including their tour bus!
Unfortunately Bonfire didn't make it, although their only album still stands as a nice example of Dutch progressive rock in the seventies, finding it's deserved place next to Focus, Solution and especially Finch. Bonfire's music at times is very reminiscent of Greenslade, especially when the Fender Rhodes piano sounds at its best. Then again "Chinese In Europe" has a lot of Camel elements from the Mirage-era.
Absolute highlight is the 18-minute long epic "The Sage Of The Running Nose" (which probably should've been "... runny nose" and therefore illustrates perfectly the literal translations from the Dutch!). Like with most of the Bonfire material, the composition is from keyboard man Frank Witte, whilst a lot of space has been reserved for ace guitar player Eugène Den Hoed. Guitar and electric piano often climb the scales together which results in some unique tension.
There are also four bonus tracks added. Apart from the edited single versions of the band's only 45 rpm, "Contrast" and "Circle", it contains two further unissued recordings, those being "There's Always A Reason" and "Ohne Wörte." Surely a very important re-release.
(John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, Progressive World)
Wonderful, all-instrumental jazzy progressive rock band. I'm not sure if they are Belgian or Dutch in origin , but their 1974 album Bonfire Goes Bananas (recorded in Brussels, but my copy was issued on Dutch EMI) is a real stunner, and still sounds fresh, inventive and frisky 22 years later! Although their music is almost certainly influenced by Hatfield, the Softs, and perhaps other 'Canterbury' bands, Bonfire's sound is very original and rewarding on its own terms. The playing is superb throughout, and compositions (mostly by keyboardist Frank Witte) are tricky, convoluted, full of musical puns, but are still very tuneful. Highly recommended!
(Dave Wayne, Gibraltar)
This was a band who tried to stun audience with well balanced use of usual chords and less usual ones (dissonant). Well they succeeded at least by few of us who like their results. Musically, they are a mixture of straight hard/heavy rock patterns with Cantebury style fusion, sort of music only Dutchmen can do. Groovy and complex (to some extent). They may be close to their compatriots Supersister or to Finns Wigwam (due to the heavy sounding organ) and are heavily influenced by Focus. They must have been listening to the Samla Mammas Manna as well, because there's a lot of similar sounding quirks on the album ("Vuurstaal part II.", "Chinese in Europe", etc.). If I'd have only blank CD (without credits, without titles, etc.) I'd swear these are the Mummies' Mana-collectors, trying to do straighter rock album (ha!). Also worth to mention is 18+' long "The Sage of the Running Nose", which reminds me of Hatfields. CD-reissue contains four bonus tracks, two shortened version of two LP songs, and two unreleased, which are of lesser quality and sound much like Focus on rockier side. Well, I could survive even without these two earlier efforts, but CD is from japanese source, and Japanese' seem to be pretty "omnivorous" regarding everything what comes from the West. The original LP tracks are fortunately in majority and are excellent. Do not let the Japanese price change your mind, when you'll see this in catalogue of your favorite distro-label. Recommended!!
(Nenad Kobal, Gibraltar)
Upon hearing this recording -most of which is a top-notch production and a really fine job soundwise for a 1975 release- one wonders why Bonfire is not more popular. A Dutch group in the instrumental rock genre of their peers Finch and Focus, with a sprinkle here and there of Gentle Giant and Rush, Bonfire plays truly rocking progressive music that is rhythmic, tight and grooving, and loud. Pieces like Circle feature relentless band interplay. Everything works and each player is 100% on. The riff of the up-front guitars sometimes has a bluesy feel. Drummer Cees Meerman is always on or ahead of the beat and has a huge drums sound, comparable to Phil Collins's. While Bonfire's music is more in the rave-up style than anything particularly experimental, their compositions are not without complexity. More importantly, though, their music is fun, and progressive should be fun.
So why isn't this recording more well known? There are several reasons. First, the silly title (they should have done better). Second, the cover art (a wretchedly unattractive parody of the Meet the Beatles / With the Beatles cover). Ouch! Third, there is another band called Bonfire, a terrible heavy metal outfit. And fourth, this disc contains atrocious, irrelevant bonus tracks cut by a letter lineup of the band many years after Bananas. This dreadful material sours an otherwise excellent example of a reissue done right and is probably the main reason for the group's obscurity.
(Bradley Smith, The Billboard guide to progressive music)
Bonfire is an all instrumental Dutch band whose music revolves around the intricate interplay between keyboardist Frank Witte and guitarist Eugene Den Hoed, both of which double on flute and recorder. The band combines elements of Focus, Finch, Gentle Giant, and Camel with a Canterbury feel. Real complex arrangements throughout. The stellar track is the 19 minute "The Sage Of The Runny Nose".
A very valid band close to Focus or Finch, very rhythmical, melodically and dynamic, mixed with slower parts beautifully arranged. Some beautiful instrumental parts led by guitar, electric piano or flute. Rare vocals. If you like Focus, this is a must.
Unfortunately the genius of especially Eugene & Frank was never captured on vinyl as it was displayed live. Or if it was, it hasn't yet been released. I'll treasure those memories of the gigs forever! Chinees in Europa used to be the biggest crowd pleaser, and in my memory it lasted at least 15 minutes when performed live, depending on how much Frank & Eugene would try to outdo each other that particular night. Perhaps too much talent in too small an area (Bergen op Zoom) to stay together for too long? A real shame it broke apart so soon!
Outstanding Dutch band that came on the scene
at the height of progressive rock onset - 1975. Apparently this
band was to be the next
Finch. Yet for whatever reasons, the marketing strategy
didn't pan out, so as of 2004, this band never resurfaced with
anything other than this one album. The lp did get it's long
overdue release on cd, and it contains some bonus materials,
none of which even compare in quality to that of the original
The music is quirky and complex, and all-instrumental, sometimes reminding of later Camel excursions, Canturbury Rock, and of course the combination of prog and fusion that was heard from their country mates in both Finch and Focus. However you look at the names here, it's safe to say that Bonfire's music stands well on it's own, and never really feels like a copy of just anything else. The music is full of changes, yet the continuity that exists between the complexity creates a natural flow of melodic accompaniment, kind of in a similar fashion as the more modern progrock band Happy The Man. When hearing this recording, there is no doubt that you are listening to progressive rock music, for all of the reasons most agree progrock to be.
Bonfire Goes Bananas marks yet another archival record that progrock fans should consider a must have, it fulfills even the most demanding progheads full quotients of progressive elements with taste and pizazz, unless vocals are a prerequisite.
(M.J. Brady, Proggnosis)
While other progressive bands like Focus, Finch or Supersister are pretty well known in the prog world, and have been already reviewed or discussed, Bonfire never gets mentioned and are shoved somewhere behind all those bands for no good reason, and that's a shame. So...Bonfire was an all instrumental prog rock dutch band that only released one album in 1975 with the cool title ' Bonfire Goes Bannanas' . Although not as popular this album have been reissued on cd with the addition of some bonus tracks, giving Bonfire an extra push out of total obscurity. The album consists of five "short" tracks on side one and their take on a long progressive piece on side two. Like in a lot of cases the short tracks tries to capture the different styles the band is influenced by, and the long piece takes all of these influences, and fuses them together to form something new and exciting.
The band's style is jazzy, eclectic prog rock with some Canterbury influences and a lot of funk too. I would say closer to Focus than Finch or Supersister. Although listed under jazz rock/fusion which absolutely does not categorize them well, the band never solo too much and the songs are more constructed than improvised if at all. Being led by keyboardist Frank Witte who uses mainly the fender rhodes, the band feature some great guitars all along, some are delicate and some are harder edged with some good rocky solos, the sound is never too heavy though but always eclectic and sophisticated. Rhythm section is outstanding too, bass and drums does push the music forward and the band manages to stay tight and focused all the time, execution is very good. Side one holds five tracks showing different sides of the band and some several mood changes, from rocky to jazzy to eclectic but always tight and kind of funky too, brilliant stuff really. 'Delirium' and 'Contrast' shows that side while 'Vuurstaal' sound like a song that Focus would be proud to own, personal and sensitive with beautiful flute and some good guitar fused together creating a beautiful ballad. 'Chinese in Europe(Part 1)' demonstrates how a 3 minutes track can be so interesting and progressive. Starting out with a quirky riff divided to two it goes softer, returns and then adds an instrumental short bit to conclude it, although they could easily stretch it they thought it was just right like that ( it makes you wonder where is part 2 tough?). 'Circle' contains intricate rhythm and jumps from one idea to the next easily, also contain one of my favourite parts in the album, the rocky crazy guitar solo over the jazzy rocky rhythm, just terrific. Side two holds the highlight 'The Sage of the Running Nose' a complete piece that demonstrates their great writing skills, showing everything the band have and how progressive they really are, evolving from one part to the other, the piece flows perfectly taking one idea and going around it than moving to something else changing the lead instrument and bouncing between keys and guitar. With beautiful piano lines, and some good change of moods the band manages never to sound the same all the time and makes the listener up on his toes and doesn't fall into boring instrumental sections infact you can feel it's all well written. Jazzy, rocky, funky, quirky, sophisticated, invigorating it all ends after 19 minutes of pure prog rock.
The cd contains two bonus tracks that are edited single versions of 'Circle' and 'Contrast' which does not help the album, but the other two bonus tracks are featuring a totally different band, changing most of the previous line up leaving Frank Witte, the keyboard man the only original member and i guess the driving force behind the band. Those tracks shows the band moving forward and taking a more funky rocky approach while still maintaining proggy edges, amazing stuff actually and a very good addition to the already good album. The band is even tighter than before incorporating a strong bass and good guitar. Vocals are added to one song and shows some humour on top of it all. I would be more than happy to see a full album from this line up as well, but it was never recorded since the band broke up in 1980 shortly after the recording of these demo songs. Shouldn't be overlooked anymore, Bonfire is an excellent addition to your prog collection don't pass it up!