See see the sun (1973)
May be interesting to hear what people thought of this album in the 'old'days. I have exactly one New Musical Express and in it this album was reviewed by some guy. He ground it totally to dust, saying that all Dutch bands could do at the time was imitate British heritage. A very b statement indeed. It is true however that Kayak in their early days had quite some Yes influences, although for me they aren't as evident as for people that have lived with Yes before Kayak came up. First of all both are pretentious. What helps Kayak in this sense is that they have a sense of humor, which Yes doesn't have (and doesn't need). Especially the reflective parts about songwriting and English using a dictionary are quite well, unexpected ideas to use for lyrics.
What about the music on this album then. Well, suffice to say that this is a good album. Many of the tracks are quite short (unlike the Yes music of that time) and a few are long. Still, the most important part of the music with Kayak are the keys and melodies played by Ton Scherpenzeel and not the guitar or the bass as was more usual for Dutch bands (Focus, Finch) and which they shared somewhat with Earth and Fire. The latter band however is quite serious and more sensual than the Supertrampish approach Kayak takes.
What about the music on this album then. Vocal harmonies are quite often used on this album (like Yes!). Max Werner has a very distinctive voice that might not be to everyone's liking and I have to admit that I like Edward Reekers better as a vocalist.
As is easily heard in the first track the sound of Kayak is also distinctly classically influenced (middle part). In the more monotonous parts I'm reminded a lot of the Alan Parsons Project in its better days (I Robot era). This first track however good it sounds at times, has the tendency to get lost after awhile. The more concise tracks like Lyrics are also quite good without much showmanship that was always abound with progressive bands in the early days. Lyrics by the way is about the trouble of writing good lyrics for a song in decent English.
Another often used idea for a lyric is painting a rather pessimistic view of mankind and this planet. Mouldy Wood and a later track like Chance for a Lifetime are examples of these. The track can be quite quirky especially in the vocals. The guitar melody is typically Kayak however.
The b point of Kayak is and has been a b song directed approach notwithstanding the length of the song and a very good sense of melody. Really, where they get them I don't know, but just about any song has a very memorable melody, from master composer Ton Scherpenzeel, but also from Pim Koopman. In this sense you can compare them favorably to a band like Supertramp. Also a band with a symphonic sound, a sense of humour and a songdirected approach. Kayak is more symphonic however.
The long Lovely Luna starts out very lyrically, slowly and almost sleepy. The middle part is very melodic with choirs of aaahh's and oooh's. At the end we're put back to sleep.
In the next track it's a competition between the classical piano and a bdriving guitar riff with the echoed vocals of Werner. Also a track that is a bit too long and hasn't enough ideas to make it a good track in all. But the piano part and the guitar solo in the middle make up for a lot.
The bouncy Ballet of the Cripple has some Genesis influences. Again a strange song with some very pronounced organ and good melodies.
Forever is a Lonely Thought is an attractive ballad again about the music business: What does it take, to sell a pretty song. Takes weeks of thinking, seeming twice as long. The song is very slowmoving with lots of mellotron and the rhythm is like wavescrashing on a beach.
Mammoth is another of their singles (yes, they also released singles, and they even sold a few of them). It's quite up-tempo and also rather funny.This track is worth of mention because it introduces for the first (and last)time a BARRELL ORGAN into progressive rock. A playful and adventurous track.The track also features some very pronounced bass playing.
The closing track of the original album is rather anthemic and a sort of a singalong with again that APP approach to music.
The first bonus track is bouncy and reminds me of the Beatles to be honest, a bit in the style of Lucy in the Sky, maybe. Quirky.
The last track is meant especially for me. Give it a Name refers to the fact that reviewers tend to classify what they hear. Personally I think this is necessary in print, because otherwise conveying what a band sounds like is impossible. Still I take it to heart (or too hard?). They also criticize the fact that the mood of the critic is more important than anything else and they are absolutely right there (which is the reason why I try to refer to similar artists, instead of saying that I like it, because tomorrow I might not anymore). I haven't said it yet and I'll say it again: reviewing is no exact science....yet.The track itself is not very good and rather not like Kayak. Koopman sings on this track. Reminds me of Joe Jackson in his ironic moods or maybe of Richard Sinclair with Caravan.
Conclusion: On the first Kayak album all the trademarks of the band are present, but have not yet reached maturity. This is evident by the going nowhereness of some tracks especially the longer ones like Reason for it all and Hope for a life.This is sad because these songs contains some very good things as well. Still, a worthwhile release for any lover of very melodic and at times quirky seventies symphonic rock.
(Jurriaan Hage, The Axiom of Choice)
Dutch symphonic / progressive with a poppy edge. This was their first and probably best album. The opening track, "Reason for it All" has a beautiful synth theme, light vocals and harpsicord dominated instrumental parts, and this is with no doubt my favourite track of the album. It reminds in fact quite a lot of Yes. "The Cripple Ballet" has a very Genesis-sounding keyboard theme, but the vocal parts are more poppy. "Lovely Luna" is a very symphonic, mighty and beautiful track, with flute-mellotron and great vocal harmonies. "Morly Wood" and the title track is also great songs, and "Mammoth" is a quite genious symphonic progressive pop-song, while "Forever is a Lonely Thought" is a beautiful symphonic ballad. As you may understand, it`s lots of good tracks on this album, so there's absolutely no reason for you to not check it out.
(Tommy Schonenberg, Vintage Prog)
In 1973 the Dutch band Kayak came out of nowhere with this most impressive debut album See See The Sun. The album was preceded by their first single Lyrics (which appears on the album), a perfect introduction to the band: a combination of b melody and intelligent "lyrics". Musically, think of Kayak as a combination of (early) Genesis and ELO. The album is a mix of shorter songs (Mammoth and the title track were also issued as singles in Europe, with considerable success) and the longer (6-8 minutes) more "experimental" progressive rock songs such as Mouldy Wood, Lovely Luna, Forever Is A Lonely Thought). This album is the first of 3 albums Kayak recorded for the EMI label, and it is this trio that contains the "definitive" Kayak sound, culminating in Royal Bed Bouncer, Kayak's best album
(Paul Allaer, Amazon)
Featuring classic art-rock instrumentation —
trebly Rickenbacker bass, orchestral washes of Mellotron, and
staccato guitar lines laid over intricate time changes — Kayak's
debut album is quite simply a lost gem of the genre. From the
enervating but impressive stop-time exercise of "Mouldy Wood" to
the buzzsaw bass dirge "Lovely Luna," the band manages to convey
virtuosity without lapsing into pompousness; only the
irritatingly bombastic Wurlitzer sound on "Mammoth" fails to
achieve the standard set by the rest of the album.
"Forever is a Lonely Thought" is a particular standout; beginning with bare vocals, it slowly gathers like a thunderstorm into an overwhelmingly powerful anthem.
(Paul Collins, All Music Guide)
Kayak seem to get little respect in the prog community who tend to criticize the band for being too commercial, and to some extent they are right. They leaned more towards shorter and concise material rather than longer songs normally associated with progressive rock, especially so on the later albums with vocalist Ed Reekers. While very popular in their native Holland, they failed to crack the North American market. This was a shame as Kayak's music would have had great appeal to fans of Kansas and Styx.
See See The Sun will have the most appeal to prog fans as it's drenched in Mellotron, and even at this early stage it's clear Ton Scherpenzeel was and is a world class keyboardist. He dominates the Kayak sound even adding Harpsichord on several tracks which sounds better on the record than it looks on paper. Max Werner's vocals are similar to Gabriel's giving Kayak a slight Genesis feel throughout. Drummer Pim Koopman offers lead vocals on 'Forever is a Lonely Thought' sounding a lot like Barclay James Harvest, and 'Mammoth' is surreal and a bit dark in its use of a Circus music theme which shows the band could be highly creative in the space of just three minutes. No easy task for any band. This is the magic of Kayak.
Of all Kayak's albums, it's hard for me to get past the first two without encountering serious disappointment. They started off so b! 'See See The Sun' often gets accused of ripping off Yes, but I can only hear a dominant Yes vibe on opener 'Reason For It All', which admittedly sounds like the English legends…but it sure beats anything by Starcastle. It succeeds as a good song in its own right, offering appropriate momentum as an opener, despite its vocal similarities to Yes, but after that, 'See See The Sun' doesn't really sound like anyone but Kayak.
Ton Scherpenzeel possesses a wide array of keyboard sounds, and he uses them to great effect throughout, buoyed by an array of vocal approaches by Max Werner and drummer Pim Koopman (also a valuable writer for the band at this time). An active, capable rhythm section gives things an almost jazzy feel, while guitarist Johan Slager really shines with his subtle yet effective approach. Slager rips a nice solo off in 'Reason For It All', which brings the song to a more aggressive and challenging level, leading into the short and sweet 'Lyrics'. After this the album hits a number of peaks, most remarkable being the bass-driven weirdness of 'Mouldy Wood', heavy dramatic atmospheres in 'Hope For A Life', and the early King Crimson-styled strains of album epic 'Lovely Luna', which expands toward Genesis-style layers later on. Then there's 'Mammoth', a heavy piece as large in scope as its namesake creature.
Kayak establishes a style on their debut that is symphonic and lush without being too soft (quite the opposite at times). They can be somewhat jazzy, and always highly dynamic with lots of color and shading. 'See See The Sun' delivers on many fronts sure to please fans of '70s prog. Their next album would expand on this promise before settling for a more conventional approach.
(Jeff Wagner, Progarchives)
This classic album, released in 1973, (now
remastered) was a debut for the band. It's one of my favorite
bands because most of their music were composed wonderfully.
With the waves of psychedelic and symphonic / art rock during
that time, the band was successful enough to create a music of
their own identity: combining pop, classical and progressive
rock with beautiful melody and vocal harmony.
'Reason for It All' is good enough to represent the kind of how unique Kayak music is. Opened with a classical piano solo in moderate tempo the music flows continuously with nice melody and excellent music harmony. Some stunning solo guitars are added to accentuate the music flow. It's an excellent song. The second track 'Lyrics' is performed in slower tempo, opened nicely with tympani and melodic piano touch. The vocal quality and harmony are really top notch! Piano and keyboard dominate the music. It's a wonderful track! The melody is really memorable and it stimulates me to repeat the track.
'Mouldy Wood' melody seems like a continuation of the first track 'Reasons for It All' but performed in faster tempo. This one is relatively more complex in composition compared to the first two even though the flow sound monotonous. It has great transition / interlude piece when the church organ solo is played, augmented with nice guitar fills. Oh man … what a great composition this track is!
'Lovely Luna' starts off quiet with a spacey and melodic keyboard performed softly. It is followed by acoustic guitar rhythm and soft voice line. The music turns up a little bit with soft electric guitar accompanied by piano as rhythm. The nuance of this track is dark. There are passages with classical music influence as well as symphonic with the use of mellotron in the middle of the track.
'Hope for a Life' does not suit my personal taste; the composition seems too loose. It's rocking but not melodic. 'Ballet of the Cripple' is an excellent track with nice melody and symphonic nuance through the use of mellotron. Vocal harmony is excellent; augmented with electric guitar and keyboard / mellotron. Great composition and is accessible to most listeners, I believe.
'Forever Is a Lonely Thought' is another mellow track with nice melody. The composition is simple; poppy with a bit of classical music influence. 'Mammoth' is a short track with different singing style but maintaining the harmony with mellotron sound. 'See See the Sun' concludes the album with symphonic and classical nuances. The vocal melody and harmony are top notch! The piano works accentuates the voice line nicely. Oh man … I like the melody; it's so catchy and memorable.
Overall, this album is excellent. It's not a kind of prog like Genesis or Yes or King Crimson. Kayak has its own sound. Most of Kayak music are accessible to a vast majority of listeners, including this album. The CD that I have contains two bonus tracks: 'Still try to write a book' and 'Give it a name'.
Kayak is one of those few bands getting better by the album. Although this album is not their best album yet, it's more mature than their previous one, owing less and less to other bands.
Alibi is quite up-tempo and heavy for Kayak. Wintertime is a very Kayakish track with harmonies, very melodic vocal melodies, lots of keyboard and pianoand the harder yet melodic interjections of the guitar. The tracks also contains some accordeon.
They Get to Know me is the longest track of the album and like any track really full of mood changes and melodic intermezzo's and rhythm changes. Still, Kayak doesn't and never has sounded overly complex to me. On this album,less than on their debut, the changes are more purposeful, and you might say that they are starting to learn. This might very well be the best track on the album, especially the build up starting somewhere around the six minute mark. First the build up is on keys and piano, while later the guitar takes over and on a layer of mellotron ascends to great heights. Very intense.
Serenades is not one of my fondest memories of Kayak. The track starts on guitar with a very accessible melody and as a whole, the track is rather bouncy. Lyrically it's a bit like Forever is a Lonely Thought and although it all sounds rather obvious I don't think it is. Still, the song is one of Kayaks more accessible ones and most amenable to single release.
Woa and Alas is a ballad about soldiers not finding their loved ones when they return. Still, in this song it seems that rather than sad the soldier on return shows understanding for her leaving.
Mireille is a rather slurring (is that the right word?) instrumental and moves right into the Science Fiction based Trust in the Machine. This is truly one of the most progressive tracks of Kayak, being rather inaccessible.The guitar is especially strange as are the vocals. There are also some weird experimentations on keyboard. As a whole not very representative for Kayak, but a very good track. Again somewhere past halfway a build up starts comparable to that in They Get to Know Me.
Track 9 His Master's Noise is dedicated to Kayaks roadie and is a soothing ballad.
The bonus track is the closest the band can come to a party stomper (in the chorus that is) and contains a lot of random keyboard interjections. I'm not surprised that this is not a track used for a studio album, but asa A?-side for a single with Serenades on the B-side. Strange to put a nonalbum track on the A-side and an album track on the B-side. Well.
Again a worthwhile album from Kayak. On the other hand, most albums by Kayak are worthwhile, maybe Periscope Life as an exception and I'm also not that fond of the Last Encore, but it has been long since I heard that one. References if you must have them are Genesis (say Firth of Fifth) and Yes (because of the harmonies). Still, Kayak stands on itself as a melodic, subtle, variegated bunch with good vocals, pretentious lyrics and as such a typical example of mid seventies symphonic rock. The longest tracks are the best ones.
(Jurriaan Hage, The Axiom of Choice)
Essentially an extension of the band's debut album See See the Sun, although it's not quite as murky and dark in its depths. "Alibi" boasts wailing guitars and haunting vocals on the chorus, while the survivor's tale of "Wintertime" has accordions and bright harmonies that recall the work of Supertramp. The rest of the album, though, suffers from the sophomore curse of underdeveloped material being stretched out to album length. "They Get to Know Me" sees an interplay between subtle Adagio-like organ and stinging guitar lines, but lingers too long on its closing instrumental. The end of the album sees a foray into space-rock with "Trust in the Machine," though this proves to be little more than a meandering period piece.
(Paul Collins, All Music Guide)
It's been quite a long time I do not listen to
this CD. This morning, I put it on my car's CD player and
enjoyed it while driving. It's a true classic album that has
been around for 30 years now! It's clear in my mind how I knew
this Dutch band for the first time. It was mid 70s when my big
brother, Henky (then a rock broadcaster) gave me a tape that
contained Genesis Nursery Crime and Kayak 2nd album. He also
gave me a local music magazine Aktuil that featured the band. I
played the tape while reading the magazine. It was such a good
experience for me who were new to rock music in only couple
years before then. I was impressed with the song 'Woe and Alas'
and it has become my all time favorite since then.
Kayak music is typically melodic and less complex, sometimes poppy. It has an excellent songwriting and tight structure. The strength of Kayak music relies on its melody and harmony especially in vocal lines and keyboard / piano. The vocal quality is excellent. Many of their music passages are memorable. Typically, their music is accessible to many listeners be it a prog or non prog lover.
'Alibi' is a nice song in upbeat tempo, opened with guitar fills and piano. It has a good melody and nice piano / keyboard. 'Wintertime' is performed in slower trmpo but it's still upbeat. Very nice song with great vocal harmony and melody. It's a classic tune! 'Mountain Too Rough' is a mellow track with great classical piano work accompanying the melodic vocal line. The piano solo backed up by mellotron during interlude part is great; followed by nice vocal harmony.
'They Get To Know Me' is probably the most prog part of this album judging not based on its long duration (9:18) but more to its structure. It starts with a simple continuous music and turns quieter to let the vocal enters the music. The solo keyboard part accompanied by solo guitar during interlude is really excellent. This track, I believe, would favor prog lovers. Even though this track is not well known to most people but I really enjoy it very much. Simple composition but excellent. I think, there are many bands in the vein of neo prog has somewhat influenced by Kayak music.
'Serenades' kicks off with a guitar passage that, melody-wise, similar to Uriah Heep 'Magician's Birthday' tune. However, the overall structure is different. This track uses piano as main rhythm section augmented by guitar fills. Excellent. 'Woe and Alas' is my longtime favorite. It has a powerful and tasty melody performed with excellent vocal harmony. The intro part is really memorable especially when it flows to piano that bring the nice vocal comes to the music. Oh man … this track is superb! Simple yet memorable. I repeat this track 3 times when I played it this morning without any sign of boring. I even emulate the singing.
'Mireille' is a melodic instrumental piece featuring keyboard work, mellotron and guitar in relatively slow tempo. It flows seamlessly to 'Trust In The Machine' in a faster tempo with nice vocal and stunning keyboard in spacey mood. This is another prog tune in this album. 'His Master's Noise' is an excellent mellow track with melodic voice line and piano as rhythm. The bonus track 'We Are Not Amused' is good even though the sonic quality is not good.
Kayak is another side of prog music; it's probably a kind of progressive pop rock with symphonic / classical touch.. Having known this album for decades and it's still an excellent album, it's obviously an excellent addition in your prog collection! Highly recommended!
(Gatot Widayanto, Progarchives)
A high 4 stars! This is the ultimate Kayak album--the perfect marriage of their hard rock tendencies, their dazzling symphonic edges and the adventurous middle ground between the two. Kayak is often kicked around by people who consider them second rate, and I admit they declined quickly after this album, but there's no denying that their first album, and especially this one, are top-notch slices of upbeat, exciting prog.
'Alibi' opens the album with an addictive dose of high energy, but it's second song, 'Wintertime', that really sets the tone. Somewhat melancholic in the verses, the chorus becomes almost Supertramp-ish in its brightness. Side 1 is rounded out by two very different songs: 'Mountain Too Rough', a mostly-mellow trip into folky atmospheres with some deliberately disruptive sound effects occurring. 'They Get To Know Me' offers a killer momentum, symphonic and Genesis-like in spots, with a healthy bit of aggression, especially when guitarist Johan Slager takes over. It's always so enjoyable to witness this song unfolding every time I listen. One of their absolute best.
Side two is even more diverse in scope than side 1. 'Serenades' is a bouncy number, hinting at the sound they'd perfect on the 'Starlight Dancer' album. 'Woe And Alas' offers slightly tricky timing and an impassioned Max Werner vocal. Some gorgeous layers are built up as the song moves along. We get the more gentle side of Kayak with the caress of 'Mireille', a short, to-the-point instrumental that provides a good balance to the more involved stuff here. The album's final moments couldn't be better: 'Trust In The Machine' ranks as my favorite Kayak song of all, with a demented bit of vocal from Max and swirling keyboard sounds that envelop the rest of the music, that music being kinetic stuff that's wild but never out of control. Almost Fripp-ish guitar squeaks by Slager rear their head in here. There's even a fair bit of noise in the middle, making you feel like you're visiting 'The Waiting Room' again. This gives yet another facet to the song, a well-rounded journey, a song full of paranoia and triumph that is perfect in its completeness. 'His Master's Noise' ends things nicely, with vocals that almost sound like Paul McCartney (with a Dutch accent, of course). A simple track that is all vocal layers and straight piano. It offers a cooling off period that brings this eventful album to a satisfying close. It isn't a perfect album, but it's as close as Kayak ever got. Highly recommended.
(Jeff Wagner, Progarchives)
As with "See see the sun"...great pop prog. You need this, if you're into high quality songwriting and loads of keyboards and great arrangements. Dutch progmusic really doesn't get better than this !!! GREAT STUFF!! Two of my favorite groups are (and has always been) KAYAK & GENTLE GIANT!! I hear you say: "WHAT?" Bare with me just one minute! Both groups have had an impact on the Progworld (at least to me ).....and several others on this site I suspect!! GENTLE GIANT for their sheer supreme musicianship and superb arrangements! KAYAK for their sheer supreme musicianship and superb arrangements!! NOW. where GENTLE GIANT are sovereign complex contra point musicians with leanings to madrigals of the old English school!! KAYAK are masters of popprogmusic (nowadays called progartmusic). And everything they do (and did) are excellent...from the brilliant vocal styles...the their sheer fantastic composing abilitys...KAYAK are simply.....in my honest opinion...one of this worlds BEST progart-groups- ......EVER !!!!! So dear progfriend...if you are just a little ....just a little....a tiny bit prog friend!!?? And you know and like the music of the fantastic GENTLE GIANT !!?? Then you NEED to know/ Hear KAYAK...they are superb. they are brilliant...they are the opposite of GENTLE GIANT.....there you have it.....two groups....each brilliant....with extreme talents to boot!! KAYAK & GENTLE GIANT...two sides...one coin...brilliant music...well performed....GO GET ém !!!!!
(Tonny Larz, Progarchives)
Royal Bed Bouncer (1975)
The third Kayak album and also their most popular one. They had now moved into a more Supertramp-influenced pop-progressive style, but better, tighter, more progressive and energetic than what Supertramp ever was. The songwriting and playing is of a very high class and the production is as good as it can get for an album from 1975. Catchy up-tempo tracks like "Chance for a Lifetime" and the title-track features complex arrangements and breaks, despite their obvious pop-leanings. There's also some excellent woodwind-work on several of the songs. "Bury the World" and "Said No Word" are the most progressive and complex tracks of the bunch. There are also some truly wonderful ballads here, like "Life of Gold" and "Patricia Anglaia". The latter is an instrumental-number with some word-less female vocals. "(You're So) Bizarre" is pure pop, but not without the progressive quirkiness in the arrangement. "If this is Your Welcome" has always been my personal fave from this album, simply because it's a very tight and wonderfully constructed song that perfectly demonstrates Kayak's talent for writing catchy, pop-progressive music. Overall, this album is a tad less progressive and more pop orientated than "See See the Sun" but it's just as good in terms of musical quality.
(Tommy Schonenberg, Progforest)
Kayak, along with Earth & Fire, Ekseption, Focus, Alquin, Supersister, Trace, and Finch, is one of the biggest names of Dutch prog. While Royal Bed Bouncer, released in 1975, is not the best prog album I have ever heard, it's not bad either. The music is all quite straightforward, song-oriented format, so you won't find extended suites, complex time signatures and constant tempo changes. No killer Mellotron passages (the album does have some Mellotron, but it's hardly impressive at all). Or lengthy side length epics. If you want an earful of keyboard, you'll be disappointed as there is little to no solos or keyboards that stick out in general. The music is listenable for the most part, but there's plenty of more pop elements that might turn off the more diehard prog fanatics away. There are a couple of throwaway cuts on the album, but in general it still a worthy album, just that I don't consider it a classic or essential. At least it's not as bad as Kayak's largely uninspired and flat-sounding 1977 album Starlight Dancer. In my opinion, as far as Dutch prog is concerned, Earth & Fire's Song of the Marching Children (1971) and Atlantis (1973), Alquin's Marks (1972) and The Mountain Queen (1973), Focus' Moving Waves (1971), and especially Finch's Glory of the Inner Force (1975) are better albums to try.
(Ben Miler, Amazon)
25 years after it first came out, the third (and best) album of the Dutch progressive rock band Kayak remains as enjoyable as ever. From the opening sounds of the title track through classics such as Life of Gold and Chance of A Lifetime, each track shows the band at its peak creativity and performance. The 9 bonus tracks are primarily tracks from their first albums "See See The Sun" (tracks 11-12) and second album "Kayak" (tracks 14-15-16), as well as some B sides of various singles. This reissue is a companion piece to a compilation (not available anymore) simply called Kayak (not to be confused with their second album of the same name). These 2 CDs essentially put all of Kayak's materials of the EMI years (their first 3 albums, plus various non-albums singles) out on 2 (separate) CDs. As amply demonstrated by the other reviews on this album, Kayak (era 73-75) is a widely under-recognized progressive rock band and this album shows why. A must for every fan of progressive music!
(Paul Allaer, Amazon)
Although it retains progressive trappings, this album marks the beginning of Kayak's move into uptempo pop. The songs still reflect Scherpenzeel's quirkiness, whether in the sci-fi Noah's Ark of "Chance for a Lifetime" or the bizarre job description in the title track. If you can ignore the forced zaniness of the backing vocals, the latter song boasts a wonderfully frantic piano solo over Koopman's walloping drum track. The soaring "Bury the World" is drenched in heavily reverbed electric piano, and features a gorgeous and unexpected oboe solo in the middle of the song. But the undeniable highlight of the album is "Said No Word." Shifting effortlessly from an odd-time bounce over roller-rink organ to a series of clangorous breaks by massed bass guitars, it then lurches into a final monster groove that is worth the price of admission alone.
(Paul Collins, All Music Guide)
Another excellent album from the Dutch band.
This album indicated their consistency in the direction of
Kayak's music. Composition wise, this album has demonstrated
improvement from their previous 2 albums 'See See The Sun' and
'2nd'. This is an example of melodic prog band with its own
identity that has rarely been emulated by others in the later
days. However, I have seen their significant influence in the
writing of neo-progressive music in 80s, 90s and 2000. The
influence was not that obvious in the songs presented by neo
prog bands but it's more on the piece of melodic nuances of the
bands. Even lately I found that a recently made album of neo
prog band has similar piano intro with one track of this album.
This might happen accidentally or the influence of this Dutch
band has unconsciously been around us or even become part of our
daily life melodies. Probably …
The album kicks off with a title track 'Royal bed bouncer' that indicates an upbeat tempo tune with classical music influence, great piano track. Some bits of melody are really memorable. 'Life of gold' starts off with an ambient and beautiful piano work and it flows nicely with wonderful melody in moderate / mellow tempo. Throughout this tune, piano dominate the sound that accompanies excellent vocal harmony. I can still sense a classical music influence in this track. The tagline melody of this track is the kind that most people would like to emulate. Very nice track. '(You're so) bizarre' combines nicely the influences of jazz and classical music with electric piano / keyboard serves as main rhythm. It sounds like a pop song but the marriage of nice melody and jazz/classic influences has made this track enjoyable and not boring at all. 'Bury the world' is another b track with a beautifully crafted composition. This time electric guitar opens the track followed by a melodic voice line that brings the music in ambient style. 'I am a simple man. Dreaming is all I can ..' is a piece of lyric which has catchy melody. I notice how simple this tune is. But it's so successful in creating great nuance of Kayak music. The keyboard and clarinet interlude in spacey mood has enriched the music really well.
'Chance for a lifetime' is an upbeat and energetic song performed in poppy style but with a touch of classical music. It's a happy mood track. The interlude that features acoustic guitar is stunning. This track would later become the band's live album title 'Chance of a Livetime' that was made after the 'Close To The Fire' album. See my future review on this album sometime next year.
'If this is your welcome' is another happy mood track with an upbeat tempo, opened with simple electric guitar. When vocals enter the track it commemorate the typical Kayak's melodic music with great vocals. The simple guitar solo at the ending part of this track is memorable. 'Moments of joy' is heavily influenced by classical music with some mixtures of jazz elements. The vocal harmony (again!) and piano work are both top notch! Another memorable catchy melody!
'Patricia Anglaia' is a lyric-less tune with a female vocal and male backing vocals. It's a short but beautiful track. 'Said no word' starts rocking followed by punchy piano line and energetic voice. It's the most rocking track compared to others. The interlude part with keyboard and piano solo accompanied by dynamic bass line is excellent. 'My heart has changed' concludes the album with an excellent piano intro in classical vein. It's a mellow track with a wonderful melody.
My CD has 9 bonus tracks of which most of them are beautiful ones. It includes my all- time favorite Woe and alas. All tracks in this album are accessible to most people. I don't see any complexity in its music. However, it's definitely a prog album and it's highly recommended!
(Gatot, Widayanto, Progarchives)
I guess this is when Kayak started to be referred to as an 'art rock' band instead of 'prog', as they streamlined their sound and went for less involved tunes that retained elements of the sublime. But 10cc it ain't. This is basically a band that never followed up on the promise of their first two albums (but I've not yet heard 2003's 'Merlin – Bard Of The Unseen', which a few people have told me is the ultimate Kayak). A low 3.
Nothing could signal the band's intentions more clearly than the title track, which opens the album with high-energy pop, still retaining an earthy edge thanks to Johan Slager's driving guitar. And geez, after that, I almost wish they would tempt the Yes comparisons as their first album did, because it remains a conventional, unchallenging album throughout. Short, uncomplicated songs blow by nicely enough without leaving much of an impression: 'Life Of Gold', 'Patricia Anglaia', 'If This Is Your Welcome', 'Moments Of Joy'. Though it tries for something different, '(You're So) Bizarre' is just too cute for my tastes, a light little bounce that draws a Beatles comparison. But there are certainly some fine moments that help save the day. 'Chance For A Lifetime' tells a great tale to the tune of an urgent pop/prog backdrop. 'Said No Word' checks in as the longest track, which does not necessarily a good song make, but sure enough, it is a highlight, offering some ear candy on an album the desperately needs it. And though it's not a great song overall, the keyboard layers from leader Ton Scherpenzeel on 'Bury The World' are something to behold.
Third album and I already miss the more progressive (ie. interesting) Kayak from the first two, but there are still enough good moments to justify a purchase if you can get it cheap. And all was not lost, as their next two albums, despite continuing the less-is-more ethic, weren't total disasters. That would come later.(Jeff Wagner, Progarchives)
Very few bands from the Netherlands have gained international interest which in itself is strange. Internationally people all know bands like Focus or Shocking Blue. Yet little is known of the massive progressive rock scene in the Netherlands. This may have a lot to do with the fact that most Dutch bands have little or no marketing to speak of.
Kayak is one of the main exponents of the Dutch progressive scene in the 1970s and in recent years they have come to life again, releasing new albums and touring. On Esoteric Records, this third album from Kayak has been remastered and re-released. Royal Bed Bouncer sees Kayak in their most prolific form, sounding as authentically Kayak as they can; short pop-like songs with all the ingredients of more progressive tracks. Music of course is subject to the tastes of the listener and opinions are there to have and differ.
Only recently one of the founder members of Kayak drummer Pim Koopman passed away. He was one of the driving forces behind this band together with keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel, who also did most of the writing for the band. The other members of Kayak for Royal Bed Bouncer were Max Werner (lead vocals, mellotron), Bert Veldkamp (bass) and Johan Slager(guitars), all band members taking care of backing vocals.
The mix of uptempo songs interchanging with ballads, but also the rocking guitars and clean piano sound give Kayak a distinctive sound of their own. Max Werner's singing is also very recognisable. For Patricia Anglaia Dutch singer Patricia Paay sings lead and this is an example of Pim Koopman's writing, all the other songs were written by Ton Scherpenzeel. By far my favourite tracks on this album are Royal Bed Bouncer, Chance For A Lifetime and Said No Word.
As always and like with all their other releases Esoteric have done their best on the artwork of this release with additional liner notes and a short background story about the band. The sound for this remastered re-release is very clear and good. Many of us will look at the release and miss the additions, the bonus tracks, but in my opinion this is a solid release and a fine example of Dutch progressive rock.
(Gert Hulshof, DPRP)
(Gatot Widayanto, Progarchives)
Starlight Dancer (1978)
Like fellow proggers Genesis, the late '70s saw Kayak make an abrupt shift to glossy but thin radio-friendly pop. Though Koopman remains as a lyricist and arranger, the rhythm section of has been replaced by the quite conventional bassist Charles Schouten and drummer Theo De Jong. The ostinato bass and hi-hat on "I Want You To Be Mine," for one, smell bly of a discoteque. "Ballad for a Lost Friend" shows an increasing predilection for Queen-like bombast by the guitarist, though it and "Still My Heart Cries for You" do revive some of the band's old aggressive sense of dynamics. But more typical is the bland closing instrumental, "Irene." There's a certain coldness to the proceedings, and the band's virtuosity has been watered down for easy digestion. Though not a bad pop album on its own merits, it's likely to alienate fans of their early work. (This U.S. issue is significantly different from the European version, sharing only a few tracks in common.)
(Paul Collins, All Music Guide)
If you listen nonchalantly to this album, you will say: "This is another pop piano boring band who is not progressive and who is not talented enough to make catchy pop hits". But if you listen it carefully, you will discover charming songs, very addictive and symphonic, but not really progressive. Here, compared to their debut, they sacrificed progressive tendencies to the profit of a clean, attractive well recorded sound. There are lots of piano, as always, and keyboards can be really floating, in a symphonic manner. The bass is good and the ensemble is often rhythmic. There are lots of subtlety in simplicity here. The lead vocals is very goo too, as always.
Im getting tired of this.....ill say it once again!! KAYAK ARE GREAT !!! Just but their records!!! OK .OK they've made some mediocre records. but...the thing is when the top crop of their production are as high standard as it is.... there's no need to wait.......you like prog....you like pop( a la 10 cc / City boy) then you NEED these dutch masters!!!! Read my lips !! " GO BUY KAYAK....any record!!!!
(Tonny Larz, Progarchives)
Geez, what happened? 'Royal Bed Bouncer' was no departure after all, and 'Starlight Dancer' is a solid statement regarding where Ton Scherpenzeel wanted his band to go (credit/blame must also go to departed drummer Pim Koopman, who doesn't perform on this album but checks in with sole songwriting credit on 4 songs). The adventurous old Kayak sound got left behind forever in favor of brighter sounds and moods. 'Starlight Dancer' is the album that defined the Kayak approach: a slick, pop sheen over numbers that, if not always complex, are always atmospheric. From disco-inflected tracks like 'I Want You To Be Mine' to the sad tones of 'Ballad For a Lost Friend', Kayak stakes their claim as kings of pop-meets-prog. This is readily apparent once third track 'Turn The Tide' kicks in with its blatant pop momentum. Elsewhere you're treated to variations on the aforementioned themes: disco-ish rhythms meeting some Yes-ish guitar work in 'Still My Heart Cries For You', symphonic pop in the title track, more upbeat silliness in 'Love Of A Victim' and 'Do You Care'. 'Back To The Front' rears its head as the most involved song on the album, but still a long way from the amazing material on their first couple albums.
I prefer the depressive moments best, as it seems to be where this lighter, friendlier Kayak is most effective. Stuff like 'Ballad For A Lost Friend' and 'Nothingness' are heart- wrenching if you listen to them at the wrong moments, and contemplative at other times. There is worth here, and even some depth now and again ('Back To The Front'). But I would've rather heard them move toward music that was just a little bit (no, a lot!) more invigorating. (I don't mean to split hairs, but giving this a 3 is too high, a 2 too low, so I'll call it a 2.5)
(Jeff Wagner, Progarchives)
Phantom of the Night (1979)
Featuring slick harmonizing and heavily compressed drum, this release completed Kayak's transition to keyboard-based pop. The once-intricate bass playing is now almost absent from the mix, and odd times are forsaken for rigid 4/4 patterns. Despite this, the undistinguished single "Ruthless Queen" proved to be the band's biggest hit, nearing the top of the charts in Holland. Though Edward Reekers is consistently too squeaky-clean in his singing, "Journey Through Time" might satisfy old fans with its trading off of riffs between an off-kilter guitar hook and synth flutes. "Crime of Passion" marches over a martial piano line, and "No Man's Land" makes the most of a driving (if simple) rhythm section underlying needling guitar solos and warbling Hammond organ. If this album retains much interest, though, it's probably more for its original vinyl issue as a nifty picture disc than for the music on it.
(Paul Collins, All Music Guide)
KAYAK released a few real gems over their career with "Phantom Of The Night" remaining one of my personal favourites from this era. Without a question 'Ruthless Queen' and 'Phantom Of The Night' are 2 of my favourite songs they have ever done. KAYAK play a very velvety symphonic prog-pop in the style somewhere between the MOODY BLUES, CAMEL and SUPERTRAMP. Fans of CAMEL will in fact recognize the presence of Tom Scherpenzel (keyboards). One of the other remarkable things of Kayak is clearly the velvet voice of Edward Reekers who has a wonderfully clear and powerful range. A great album with big symphonic boundaries to cross.
(James Unger, Progarchives)
If you listen nonchalantly to this album, you will say: "This is another pop piano boring band who is not progressive and who is not talented enough to make catchy pop hits". But if you listen it carefully, you will discover charming songs, very addictive and symphonic, but not really progressive. Here, compared to their debut, they sacrificed progressive tendencies to the profit of a clean, attractive well recorded sound. There are lots of piano, as always, and keyboards can be really floating, in a symphonic manner. The bass is good and the ensemble is often rythmic. There are lots of subtlety in simplicity here. The lead vocals is very goo too, as always. The songs are often nostalgic, pretty good feeling here!
I stumbled across this album on vinyl format in about 1980 or so. I find that the music moved me like nothing else. I lost the actual record in the mid 80's and all but forgot about Kayak. Recently I have been in search of the CD and it is quite an adventure to try and find it. It remains one of my favorite collection of songs of all time and I hope to be able to someday find a copy on CD. The combination of the instrumentation and vocals is very clever and the songs are incredible. Maybe some would say overly dramamtic but I can't argue with the feeling that wells up in me upon hearing these songs. Too bad it didn't hit ber in the USA. As a big fan of groups such as Kansas, ELP, UK, Yes, etc. I find a romantic element in the Kayak music that I feel is indeed rare and unique. Maybe it takes me back to the time when I had the original album, I don't know, but it remains one of my all time favorites.
(John Walsh, Progarchives)
'Phantom Of The Night' sees Kayak regressing rather than progressing. They obviously wanted to go into a pop direction pretty early on, and this album sees them nailing their goal firmly. Unfortunately, there's not much on 'Phantom Of The Night' for anyone who enjoyed the band's first couple albums. Kayak's lineup was expanded this time around to include new vocalist Edward Reekers, which put former vocalist Max Werner behind the drums for good. Reekers is probably technically better than Werner, but this is at the expense of having any edge, as his delivery is what I would call 'vanilla'. Admittedly, he fits in well with the band's continuing (de)evolution. Things get off to a weak start with 'Keep The Change' and the even wimpier 'Winning Ways'. Pure pop, totally upbeat and very middle-of-the-road. Lite fare. 'Daphne (Laurel Tree)' provides some calming, airy moments before widening its scope into a semi-epic vibe, the first real sign of life on this album. Then the one real saving grace appears in the form of 'Journey Through Time'. Based around an almost sinister riff and a feeling of unease, the song is one of few high-points in late-'70s Kayak, one you can hold up to the quality of their first two albums. It bounces between unease and brighter, warmer textures, like something from Genesis' 'And Then There Were Three'. The title track does provide some substance, but it doesn't seem fully formed and I've never been able to get my head around it. From here on out, there's nothing much of interest to be heard (ie. a DISMAL Side 2!). The whole album is smothered in the gentle atmosphere that is the Kayak trademark, dynamics tending toward the quiet and lush end of the scale. That's fine, I just don't think Kayak is very interesting when they fall into this sort of malaise. 'Phantom Of The Night' is near the bottom of a real downhill slide, and I only keep it around because 1) I got a copy cheap, and 2) 'Journey Through Time' is fantastic.
(Jeff Wagner, Progarchives)
Periscope Life (1980)
Kayak enters the '80s with a slick sheen of L.A. production, and it proves to be one of their more palatable ventures into commercial pop. Slager's guitar work seems re-energized, though Edward Reekers' voice is still too squeaky-clean to have much character. Perhaps the band was aware of this, as Reeker is often quite low in the mix. His voice, bolstered by the subtle addition of female backing vocals, only really shines on "One Way or Another," an uptempo pop bubble with an eminently radio-friendly vocal hook embedded in the chorus. The best tracks come late in the album, such as the fine guitar line ringing out over the grandiose keyboard arrangement of "Lost Blue of Chartres." But it is "Anne," a minstrel's tale with a multi-part choral introduction and gentle flourishes of recorder, that stands out by the simple virtue of its willingness to experiment beyond the musical boundaries of Los Angeles.
(Paul Collins, All Music Guide)
At long last the most coherent and wonderful
album by Dutch progsters Kayak has seen the light of day on CD
[in 1994]. Digitally transferred from the original mastertapes
(or a first rate copy of it anyway, as the actual mastertape is
gathering dust somewhere) this disc sounds as if it was recorded
As is obvious from its title, the album is, of course, another concept album built around the legends of Merlin the magician. However, compared to many other theme albums of the same name, this one stands out as one of the milestones in the history of Dutch symphonic rock. All of the compositions were written by keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel and offer his distinctive ear for finesse and beauty. Add to this the typical guitar sound of Johan Slager, you'll find that the first notes of Merlin automatically give you the vintage sounds of Kayak! 'Tintagel' has a subtle medieval approach based on grand piano and some superb singing by Edward Reekers, who is sometimes reminiscent of Jon Anderson. A similar mood, but this time more uptempo, can be found in 'The King's Enchanter' with some very nice synth parts thrown in. 'Niniane (Lady Of The Lake)' is pure genius, a classic like no classic has been made before! The piano blends magically with the outstanding voice of Reekers. An accordion plays softly, way in the back of the recording, only to introduce the majestic guitar of Slager. This originally concluded the concept side of the album. The rest of the album, unfortunately, doesn't deliver the same quality. 'Seagull' and 'Boogie Heart' are less impressive, the first being a Phil Spector clone; the second, a pure boogie-woogie track with swirling organ solo. Nice and commercially accessible is 'Can't Afford To Lose,' which includes some nice extra brass by Ekseption-man Rein Van De Broek. The closing chapter, 'Love's Aglow," is reserved for Ton Scherpenzeel himself, who this time also takes over the lead vocals that blend nicely with the backing vocals of his then "wife to be," Irène Linders.Merlin is one of those albums that grows on you after each listening. It is typical Kayak all over and will remain the band's highlight for a long time to come!
(John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, Progressive World)
Het zal onze noorderburen misschien enigszins verbazen dat een vlaming hun boegbeeld een (overigens volkomen terechte) plaats bezorgt in dit archief, maar het is mij nog steeds niet duidelijk waarom deze band zelfs geen nominatie kreeg in de top 100 aller tijden, vorig jaar gepubliceerd in IO-pages. Een regelrechte blammage voor een land dat toch kan bogen op een rijk progverleden.
Eind jaren zeventig leek het er op dat Kayak het zou gaan maken : Starlight Dancer had heel wat airplay gekregen, ook in de USA, en de groep werd door een toonaangevend Amerikaans muzieblad Billboard) als 'meestbelovende buitenlandse band' bestempeld. Hoe groot de ontgoocheling nadien ook moet geweest zijn door het uitblijvend succes aldaar, toch zou de groep in artistiek opzicht nog 1 keer excelleren met het sublieme en tevens erg symfonische Merlin.
Gebaseerd op de legende van Merlijn, loodst Ton Scherpenzeel (toetsen) de luisteraar doorheen het rijkgeschakeerde muzikale landschap van Kayak met behulp van uiterst getalenteerde muzikanten die zonder twijfel een toegevoegde waarde genereren : Edward Reekers (zang), Max Werner (drums), Johan Slager (gitaar) en Peter Scherpenzeel (bas). Ook de stemmen van Katherine Lapthorn en Irene Linders (de 'Kayettes') zorgen voor een mooie vocale aanvulling van de toch wel knappe cross-over prog van Kayak. Het dient toch gezegd dat Kayak één van de weinige bruggenbouwers geweest is tussen symfo en pop.
Merlin opent met het titelnummer dat live nog steeds een hoogtepunt vormt. Jammer toch dat Johan Slager anno 2001 geen deel meer uitmaakt van de line-up, want zijn gitaristische exploten geven dit nummer een flinke portie energie mee. Ook de meerstemmigheid, zo typerend voor de Kayak-sound, wordt hier wondermooi weergegeven door de alternerende stemmen van Reekers en de beide dames. Tintagel kabbelt rustig voort op mooi pianospel van Scherpenzeel. Eén versnelling hoger gaat het op het pompende The sword in the stone dat ritmisch uitmondt in The King's Enchanter. De Merlin-suite sluit waardig af met een ander hoogtepunt : het door Reekers heel emotioneel gezongen Niniane, met alweer een hoofdrol voor Scherpenzeel en Slager.
Seagull is een knappe ballade, maar net geen 'Ruthless queen'. Boogie Heart probeert wel te swingen, maar klinkt nogal braafjes. Now that we've come this far daarentegen is alweer een heel fraaie ballade, met een knappe vocale outtro van Reekers, Lapthorn en Linders. Can't afford to lose is een melodieus up-tempo nummer en Love's aglow een ijzingwekkend werkstukje van Scherpenzeel (hij zingt het trouwens zelf) dat je keer op keer weer kippevel bezorgt.
Merlin zou nog gevolgd worden door het vrij overbodige 'Eyewitness', maar daarna werd het lange tijd stil rond deze Nederlandse progband….tot ze in 2000 vriend en vijand verbaasde met het uitstekende 'Close to the fire'. Maar da's weer een ander verhaal.
(Piet Michem, Prog-nose)
KAYAK is IMHO simply a masterpiece with wonderfully inspired song writing, singing and instrumentation. 'Merlin" is a concept album with KAYAK devoting the first five tracks being a musical interpretation of the Arthurian legend. All of the songs were composed by keyboarder Ton Scherpenzeel, co-founder and principal genius behind the group. The artistically poetic lyrics all over this album was composed by both Ton and Irene Linders. The early medieval atmosphere is captured quite well with the use of additional stringed and brass instruments - such as flute and banjo. On the whole the balance tips over decisively in favor of ballad oriented material, giving Edward Reekers and Ton Scherpenzeel every chance to show off their preeminence on vocals and piano. Without a question Niniane (Lady Of The Lake) is one of my favourite prog rock tunes of all time... a beautiful album right thru...
(James Unger, Progarchives)
A more frustrating Kayak album I have yet to hear. I've always had a hard time with half-concept albums, where one side is a cohesive whole with a focused lyrical theme, while the other half can't help but come off as afterthoughts, no matter how good the material might be. This is what we get on 'Merlin', the first half based on that familiar Arthurian legend. Musically this half of the album is the best material Kayak had written since their second album, escaping streamlined radio-friendly material for more elaborate arrangements and lush symphonic keyboard layers. It's not quite on par with those first couple records, but it gives much more than I would've expected from Kayak at this point in their career. Rhythms are light but active, bouncing about with a pleasing momentum, and the icing on the cake is Edward Reekers' impassioned vocal performance. I've never really warmed to his smoother-than-smooth delivery, but it works very well with this kind of fantasy-oriented material, especially on beautiful ethereal ballad 'Niniane (Lady Of The Lake)'. Special mentions also go to 'Merlin', 'The Sword In The Stone' and 'The King's Enchanter', excellent material that reveals Kayak as one of the premier purveyors of slick symphonic prog/pomp. The rest of the album is the most sickly-sweet pap I have ever heard from Kayak, and that's saying a lot. Worse than 'Periscope Life'. Worse than the most pop-leaning bits on 'Phantom Of The Night'. Worse than most of the lite-pop crud you've ever heard. 'Seagull', 'Boogie Heart' (ugh, what a title!) and 'Now That We've Come This Far' are generic early '80s FM radio rock songs that you never actually heard on the radio. 'Can't Afford To Lose' emulates the disco rhythms of their semi-hit 'I Want You To Be Mine' so closely that it has no hope of standing on its own. But it's pretty silly stuff anyhow, you only need to hear it if you worshipped 'I Want You To Be Mine' (all 4 of you out there). Final track 'Love's Aglow' is a keeper, reminding of those dreamlike textures that the Alan Parsons Project generate so well. 'Wind And Wuthering' fans will know what I mean when I say it's sort of the 'Afterglow' of the album (but without the genius of Genesis preceding it).
If this were an EP with just the 'Merlin' material presented, I wouldn't hesitate to give it 4 stars. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to enjoy the album in its entirety, as the back half is nauseating, bringing the score and overall appeal down to a lowly 2 stars. Fans only, indeed. But fans of the band's early days will be left wanting after the very good first half.
(Jeff Wagner, Progarchives)
Originally recorded as a live album containing
most of their "hits," Eyewitness was in fact conceived … in the
studio! In fact, the band recorded the entire album with a live
feel, but … without an audience! All of the tracks were recorded
in the famous Wisseloord studios in Holland. Later, 200 members
of the band's fanclub were dragged in so their applause could be
recorded. The fake audience has not been included on this
CD-transfer so what you get here is the "real" sound of the
band, how they sounded live without the polished studio
'Ruthless Queen' remains one of the many highlights in the band's remarkable career. There's the funkiness of 'Want You To Be Mine' (although I remember having seen Kayak live when I was young (gasp), and hearing that track more in a Uriah Heep fashion) and the driven force of 'Chance For A Lifetime' including some superb Moog interventions! There's an almost disco-feel with 'Who's Fooling Who' before Scherpenzeel can musically show his love for his wife in the instrumental 'Irene,' which sounds very much like Camel what with Johan Slager throwing in some cool Latimer chords!
One of the all-time Kayak live favourites, 'Starlight Dancer," is also included here, although it sort of misses what made the studio version so special. Hard and driving is 'No Man's Land' with a versatile Scherpenzeel banging the ivories whilst Slager joins in with some stunning guitar licks. Two interesting bonus tracks have been added here. 'Car Enchanter' is a specially recorded version from the Merlin album, recorded for Keystone products. 'Ivory Dance '94' is a re-recorded instrumental with a nice minimal build-up.
If you're fed up with greatest hits packages and still want to own a cross-section of a band's material then this one's for you. By means of the various moods, it clearly depicts the great potential which was always available within Kayak, one of the biggest names in "acceptable progpop from Holland!"
(John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, Progressive World)
Dutch torchbearers Kayak are currently back in
the limelight after releasing an excellent comeback album
entitled "Close to the fire". Influenced by some of the most
distinguished, mainly British (prog)rock bands of the period
such as Yes, Camel, Queen, Genesis and E.L.P., they were at
their artistic best and most popular in the late 70's and early
80's. Although they have had their share of hit singles, they
were more commonly known for making great albums. After
"Starlight dancer" had earned them the title of most promising
band of 1978 (according to Record World, a leading music
magazine) and single success in the U.S. charts, there were some
significant changes in Kayak's lineup. While the awesome Edward
Reekers "replaced" lead singer Max Werner (who chose to play
drums instead), they were joined by two female backing
vocalists, Irene Linders and Katherine Lapthorn. Subsequently
they released two of the best albums ever recorded by a Dutch
rock ensemble, namely "Phantom of the night" (1979) and
"Merlin"(1981). The former is most famous for its monumental
rock ballad "Ruthless queen", which was the band's greatest hit.
"Merlin" is a semi-concept album. Its first five tracks are part of Kayak's masterful musical interpretation of the Arthurian legend. All of the songs were composed by keyboarder Ton Scherpenzeel, co-founder and principal genius behind the group. The exceptional, unusually poetic lyrics he wrote together with Irene Linders. (In flawless English, i feel obliged to add, which should never be taken for granted with (European) bands for whom English is not their mother tongue.) The early medieval atmosphere is captured perfectly, partly due to the use of additional stringed and brass instruments - such as flute and banjo. On the whole the balance tips over decisively in favor of ballad oriented material, giving Edward Reekers and Ton Scherpenzeel every chance to show off their preeminence on vocals and piano.
Still there is many a moment when Kayak prove they are very much a (high calibre) rock outfit, who know how to cut loose. Check out epic opener "Merlin" for instance, the dramatic buildup to its chorus featuring a plenitude of soaring guitars and pompous keyboards, rockers like "The sword in the stone" and "Can't afford to lose" or the gorgeous guitar solo toward the end of the infinitely delicate ballad "Niniane (Lady of the lake)". "Seagull" was a single release and, deservedly, a hit in the Netherlands. "Now that we've come this far" is another fantastic track, the lead vocals to this heartbreaking ballad are delivered with great pathos (in the best sense of the word). On "Love's aglow" Edward Reekers yielded his place behind the mike to Kayak's helmsman Ton Scherpenzeel, resulting in a rather long-winded, dreamy song extemely reminiscent of Camel circa "The snow goose". Odd one out is the cheerful "Boogie heart", a fair composition not lacking in merit, but not quite able to hold its own in this company of excessive overachievers.
In "recent" years a number of titles from the Kayak back catalogue have been (re)released on CD by Pseudonym Records in a digitally remastered version. Of these albums "Merlin" is their best and brightest. Two decades after its initial release, this rare gem sounds far from dated and has lost none of its impact. If you're looking for a classic rock album, which showcases superior artistry, dazzling skill, awardwinning melodies, intelligent lyrics and unforgettable songs this is the one to buy. It should be noted that on their new album "Close to the fire" vocal duties have been reclaimed by Max Werner (also known for his solo hit "Rain in May"). Although he is a very accomplished singer, he is not as good as Edward Reekers, who has contributed as guest vocalist to recent releases by Ayreon and Erik Norlander. I can also unreservedly recommend Edward Reekers' 1992 solo effort "Stages", a fine poprock/AOR album.
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'
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! Keep on progging!'
(Gatot Widayanto, Progarchives)
This is a Kayak completist's nightmare, because unless you really truly love the most commercial output from this band, you're going to have to pay for an album you'll listen to very rarely. There's very little to call truly progressive on this album. And that's not to hold Kayak in chains to genre expectations, but for a band who recorded two excellent albums early in their career, things got streamlined and radio-friendly way too quick, and 'Eyewitness' is the realization of their most vanilla-flavored tendencies.
Recorded in 1981 as a live-in-the-studio exercise, the idea was to take the energy of their current live set and give it a sparkling vibe in a studio environment. Since most of the material is squeaky-clean stuff to begin with, this makes the edgeless material even less compelling. The sound isn't the worst I've heard from a '70s act heading into the '80s, not as antiseptic and digital sounding as some of the '80s atrocities from Jethro Tull, Genesis or Camel, but everything is still compressed and harnessed in a way that has been frustrating this Kayak fan since the 'Royal Bed Bouncer' album. It seems that the great keyboard and guitar sounds of the '70s were considered passé by this time. Too bad. You're better off with the original versions, but what makes this album even less essential is the song selection. Songs that were new for this release, like the title track, 'Who's Fooling Who' and 'Only You And I Know', are as superfluous as most anything off their awful 'Periscope Life' album. The only representation of their first two albums is 'Lyrics', a baffling choice given the many much better songs on those albums. And the other choices aren't surprising or inspiring: 'Ruthless Queen', 'Want You To Be Mine', 'Winning Ways', 'Starlight Dancer', 'No Man's Land', unchallenging, unexciting, bland songs that I would've considered low points from those albums. 'Chance For A Lifetime' is here, always a fine listen, but again, you'd be better off with the original, as the band gives nothing new or essential to the song. Bonus tracks on my CD version include 'The Car Enchanter', a lyrical piss-take on 'Merlin''s 'The King's Enchanter'. Other bonus is 'Ivory Dance '94', something Ton Scherpenzeel recorded in 1994. Nothing very special either way.
There's not much need for this unless you totally love the band's late '70s/early '80s output. All others are advised to get the first two albums and then take your chances with their other albums as you will. There's no good place to put this into the rest of the review, so I'll end by highlighting some of the dumbest lyrics I've ever come across, prog or otherwise. From 'Periscope Life': 'I know the whole world fights and kills and hates / But lady must that always spoil our dates / I can't imagine that the world would end / If I would eat my steak now that it's warm'. I get the sentiment, but still I say: 'Huh?'(Jeff Wagner, Progarchives)
In fact there's only two songs I clearly dislike. Most are quite nice, though some maybe too sweet to listen often. And I like the other -here unmentioned- vocalist whom I presume to be Edward Reekers, a voice that has sung music of Pink Floyd and Parsons (in Alex Bollard's cover albums) better than the originals, I think. Keyboard player and leading figure Ton Scherpenzeel's participation in Camel's Stationary Traveller was to me a recommendation to check Kayak in the first place, and it came as no surprise that the sound focuses very much on keyboards. 'Ruthless Queen' and 'Seagull' are very good ballads. CD's highlight is undoubtedly 'Merlin', the most progressive song. But why no earlier stuff, or even a full-length CD?
Close to the fire (2000)
One of the most famous Dutch bands from the seventies has recently got together, not only to do some live shows but also to record a brand new studio album. Alright; this album, the brainchild of keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel, took several years in the making, not in the least because of the difficulty in finding a suitable, interested record company. Way back in '94 the nucleus for this new album was already written, the vocal duties being taken care of by Alex Toonen, singer with For Absent Friends. As soon as Scherpenzeel knew that original singer Max Werner and drummer Pim Koopman were interested, the recording started from scratch. Now we can finally enjoy Close To The Fire, an album with 12 brand new tracks that seem to contain the best from the entire Kayak output molded into one. To top it all, a new recording of the classic "Ruthless Queen" has been added as a bonus.
Scherpenzeel, whom Andy Latimer certainly wanted to be the definite replacement for Peter Bardens [in Camel], but who, due to fear of flying, wanted to stay in Holland, always had this special ear for b melodies that are once again scattered all over the album. The title track "Close To The Fire" contains some medieval sidesteps, great singing, lush synth solos and above all a crystal-clear sound that is ideal for the superb drumming. Towards the end I seem to detect similarities to Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds. The genius of Scherpenzeel has always been felt in the ballads based on incredible simple yet catchy piano parts. Listening to "When Hearts Grow Cold" is like stepping into a time machine and going back to the See See The Sun period especially as Max's voice hasn't changed at all. "Dream Child" is carved from the same wood people like Christopher Cross have been using over the last few decades. Guitar and synth go hand in hand during the intro for "Frozen Flame" before that same guitar switches to a Mark Knopfler sound, throwing bluesy bits and pieces around. The "old" flavour creeps back into "Forever" whilst a very melodic guitar introduces "Worlds Apart." In fact, the guitar player on this album (and also during live concerts) is Rob Winter, who is the guitarist with number one Dutch singer Marco Borsato.
If you listen well then you have to agree that the music of Kayak really isn't progressive. The band writes pop songs but they are wrapped in a very symphonic arrangement. Because those arrangements contain the trademark of Ton Scherpenzeel of course they are classically flavoured. Kayak delivers good pop songs and great arrangements that go with it. Listen to "Crusader" that contains some great flute and recorder courtesy of a certain Annet Visser, who once was a member of Flairck (after Flairck she founded the theatre company Zenga, together with Peter Weekers, and their album Zenga was produced by none other than Kayak member Pim Koopman!). Towards the end the guitar sound becomes transparent leaning towards Pink Floyd. "Two Wrongs (Don't Make A Right)" surely will be a live highlight not in the least because of the uptempo nature and the (synthesized) brass section. Must be great to hear this song being performed together with Tower of Power though. "Anybody's Child" is of the same splendour as the classic "Still My Heart Cries For You" although more rhythmic. This song is one of three that have been written by drummer Pim Koopman and not only contains a very b melody but also a nice (synthetic) symphonic orchestra, which sadly is mixed way in the back.
In "Here Today" Rob Winter's guitar sometimes gets close to that of Brian May, adding the right flavour to give this song the exact feel. It's once again time to add a danceable hook with "Just A Matter Of Time" which even includes some Camel influences and a huge "singalong" potential. Strange I should mention this as, of course, Ton Scherpenzeel has been a member of Camel on and off, but listening to the intro for "Full Circle" is like listening to an excerpt from Harbour Of Tears what with all those Celtic elements and even Raindance type of atmosphere. I think it's the first time Kayak gets so close to traditional music. As a bonus, the album closes with a remake of their biggest hit to date "Ruthless Queen." Although the original was sung by Edward Reekers, this version here is sung by Sieb van de Ploeg, lead singer with Dutch teen sensation De Kast and responsible for the revival of Kayak.
Close To The Fire is a brand-new album that nevertheless captures the true spirit of Kayak, the vintage sound that has been with us for all these years, transposed into new compositions. If you like the older stuff then you certainly won't be disappointed with this one. Thanks for being back guys!
(John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, , Progressive World)
I am a big Kayak fan (see my reviews of Royal Bed Boucer, Classics, See See The Sun).... and it pains me to tell you that this album doesnt live up to the promise...
The "classic" line-up returns (Ton Scherpenzeel, Max Werner, Pim Koopman, Bert Veldkamp) and I thought I'd be in for a nostalgia trip back to the See See the Sun/Royal Bed Bouncer.. but I was in for a disappointment. The trip back is to the "Ruthless Queen" era (which song incidentally is redone, but, not surprisingly, not as good as the original).
The album is perfect AOR... all rather mid-tempoed, if not slow, but nice melodies. Not to say that there aren't any good songs on the album. The opener "Close to the Fire" is an 8 min. mini-epic that sets the tone for the album, mid-tempo, soaring melodies and vocals.
All in all... 65 min of "Ruthless Queen/Starlight Dancer/Phantom of the Night" type music... If that is your idea of Kayak, then this is a most welcome return and it'll be a 5 star CD. For me, I was hoping something more adventorous... hence the 3 star rating.
(Paul Allaer, Amazon)
Close to the Fire is indeed a welcome surprise! After many long years waiting for Kayak CD's to emerge at all, I now have a new album plus other re-releases to feast on! On their latest album, Kayak returns with the ship intact, and with most of the bases covered. Probably the main necessity, the songwriting, from Ton and Pim, is still wonderful and moving, retaining the haunting mystery and power that is Kayak's trademark. It's aslso great to hear Max back at lead vocals, though at times he sounds a little weary. But we must remember that it is 2001, not 1975, when Royal Bed Bouncer was center stage and all was right with the world! Though Royal Bed Bouncer was smack dab in the center of that Fire, Close to the Fire comes very close, and these days close is just as good as in the center. Rob Winter's electric guitar doesn't satisfy quite as thoroughly as Johann Slager, but it is close enough to get you by. Again, the strength of Kayak was always hinged on the songwriting, and there is no problem here. Besides the title cut, favorites include the magestic "Crusader," "Frozen Flame," "Two Wrongs," and "Anybody's Child." The inclusion of the remake of "Ruthless Queen" is adequate, but unnnecessary. All in all, a splendid comeback from the dutch boys, who in my opinion, are one of the most over-looked musical groups of all time. Of course, musical tastes are entirely subjective, but you'll be hard pressed to find the combination of rock, progressive rock, classical and traditional music on as fine a display as Kayak music. For any newcomers this album is a fine introduction, but you must check out other favorites: Royal Bed Bouncer (with my favorite cut being "Chance for a Lifetime," with Johann Slager's crunching guitar spurred on by Max's manic vocals and Ton's genius songwriting straddling rock and renaissance styles with equal dexterity), Starlight Dancer, Phantom of the Night and Merlin. May the Dutch Boys "cover the world" with their music forever!
(John Villemonte, Amazon)
This was the first Kayak CD I listened. It
reminded me when I heard for the first time 'Sheer Heart Attack'
of Queen. Then I was astonished by the medley part on Side 1
starting with 'Tenement Funster' and finishing with 'Lily of the
Valley'. The same harmonies, purposeful of the passages, running
one after vocals and in the same time creating an incredible
consonance, are available here complimented with contemporary
prog sound. My tempted musical prog experience has caughting
from time to time influences of Eloy and Camel but the sound has
stayed relatively unique. The hits in the album are Close to the
Fire, Dream Child, the ballad Frosen Flame, Full Circle and, of
course, Ruthless Queen.
I still don't know which is the best Kayak album but this one will stay in my favorites. Chao, my friends! I am going to explore the other Kayak albums!
I was really happy by the time this album was
released. KAYAK is back! Yeah ….! As I understand from the
sleeve of KAYAK 'Singles' there was a statement that said the
group was disbanded for good in early 1982, shortly after the
release of 'Eyewitness' live recording album. I thought that the
KAYAK 'Singles' issued in 1999 remark the fact that the band
would never return to studio anymore. And I never tracked the
band anymore unless noticing that Ton Scherpenzeel doing a lot
of work to strengthen CAMEL. The first news about the return of
KAYAK to studio came to me through prog mates when we were
active in a local classic rock FM radio. I was actually
skeptical with the return of the band since I was fully aware
that they became very old.
I proved to be wrong when I purchased the CD in local record store, Duta Suara – Jakarta, sometime in 2000. The first track blew my mind at first spin! I thought Kayak was much more prog in this new recording than their previous albums. The founding fathers of the band: Ton Scherpenzeel, Pim Koopman and Max Werner are back in this new album. Aha .. what can you expect if all the masterminds reunite to craft a new album! The line-up includes Bert Veldkamp, bass player that joined the band since 1975, Rob Winter (guitar, backing vox) and other special guests (including Andy LATIMER of CAMEL).
Close to the Fire - What a great decision to put this wonderful title track as the album opening tune. As I told you, this track blew my mind at first spin of the CD. It even beyond my expectation as I thought with the age of Kayak members, they would tend to write mellow tracks. But this tune proves the other way around. It's not a straight forward rock and also it's not a mellow poppy track. It starts off with a cloudy and rainy nuances followed with a spacey keyboard in a very nice ambient accentuated by a great flute work by ANNET VISSER. The voice enters the music in a slow / mid tempo to open the tune. It then flows to a flute work that plays as a beautiful transition to bring the music into crescendos in an upbeat tempo. The inclusion of flute has really enriched the textures and nuances of the song. Oh my God … this is a wonderfully crafted song, constructed with (I think) meticulous details. In approx minute 4:50 there is a wonderful transition exploring the work of flute (augmented with keyboard) in classical style. This then continued with a short keyboard solo. Well, it is probably the most prog of any Kayak song that has ever been produced since their inception. It's a powerfully written track combining a rather complex arrangement with excellent (and memorable!) melody. It's an accessible prog tune. Try it yourself. Am sure you would agree with me. I also play this track very loud. It's my favorite track.
When Hearts Grow Old - It's a short track with a sad nuance. The classical piano at the opening followed by howling guitar is really good opening melody. This track reminds me to the classic tracks of Kayak. The melody is very b. I enjoy the combination Werner's voice, classical piano and guitar fills. For those who like Kayak's hit 'Ruthless Queen' would love this track. It shares similar vein, I think. Only shorter.
Dream Child - It's a ballad song with a nice guitar fills that accompany voice line. The music flows nicely from beginning to end with the addition of backing vocals, accentuated with percussion work and vibraphone. Drum is not played dynamically here – because of the nature of the tune. Again, it's a melodic track.
Frozen Flame - This track has brought us into more enjoyment of melodic music. Opened with an ambient and spacey keyboard sound accentuated with guitar fills. Oh, what a beautiful melody it is when Werner starts to sing augmented with vibraphone-like sound (probably produced through keyboard). The long sustain guitar work makes me even better with the music even until the voice line back on track. Nothing more I can say than recommending yourself to enjoy this excellent track. The guitar solo is really killing me!
Forever - It starts with a combination of guitar and piano followed with a voice line with backing vocals. The music turns into a happy mood – it reminds me to the musical nuance of Kayak 'Merlin' album. The song is probably pop but it has some 'heavy' elements with classical music influence.
World Aparts - I don't actually like the opening choir 'Face to face / eye to eye …etc' at first listen. But, when I follow the music afterwards, it's an interesting and enjoyable track. Especially, I like the electric guitar work that is played softly combined with a piano touch. Melody wise, it's a nice tune. Lyrically, it's a sad song about relationship.
Crusader - It's a straight forward pop rock song exploring more on rhythm section of guitar and keyboard. It's probably the flute work that makes this track attractive – it creates classical nuance during interlude and at background of voice line. Two Wrongs (don't make a right) - It's even more pop rock than previous track. The interesting thing that I observe on this track is that the voice of of Werner that is very close to his 70's voice. One thing that I don't think it's nice to enjoy is the inclusion of brass section. I don't get used to listening Kayak music with brass section. It's my personal taste, of course. I don't enjoy this track. Somehow, it reminds me to GENESIS when they started using horn section in 'abacab' album.
Anybody's Child - This one brings back the classic style of Kayak music. It starts in classical style with great piano work and powerful voice. It's a mellow and nice track. The musical texture is accentuated with orchestration. Again, the electric guitar plays critical role during interlude. Excellent composition with excellent melody.
Here Today - It's a nice track with piano and melodic voice line. Keyboard work at background creates a symphonic nuance. It reminds me to a mellow track 'Ninianne' of Merlin album or 'Life of Gold'. It's an enjoyable and accessible track. Just a Matter of Time - It's a straight pop ballad song that I don't really enjoy. It's too boring for my personal taste. It's weak in composition. The band should drop this track from this album. It's kind like 'loose' in connection with others. Full Circle - It opens with an ambient keyboard exploration that produces nice melody. It sets the right tone for vocal to enter the opening part. At the end of voice line the music turns in a marching style like a music for war with traditional music influence. [I think it's the kind of Scotland music?]. This part is really excellent, complex in nature and uplifting mood – demonstrating violin and cello works. The keyboard / organ work is also wonderful, backed with orchestration. The music turns quiet and it continues with a percussion work and keyboard solo. Andy Latimer plays guitar in this track but it's not that obvious that I can hear.
Ruthless Queen – It's the band's classic track rerecorded for this album with different voice quality with almost the same arrangement. Nothing worthy of review, I think.
Well, it's great to see the guys are back. Musically, this album is wonderful – it has a powerful songwriting. Short after this release, the band launched a double CD live recording album 'Chance of a LiveTime' which is also good. Unfortunately their follow- up 'Night Vision' album is not as b (see my previous review of the album, in this page) as 'Close To The Fire'. The band than revitalized with another b album 'Merlin – The Bard Unseen'. As for this album, I have no doubt to recommend you to purchase this CD.
(Gatot Widayanto, Progarchives)
Chance for a livetime (2001)
Okay, they may not be young anymore but Kayak still rocks! Came with their latest formation, live during Close to the Fire tour, old memories regains. The sound production is superb and the mixing is quite good. Ton's keyboard and piano playing is as beautiful as always. The others played well and very supportive. Almost 1/3 of the CD came from their latest CD and what surprises me was the song Merlin. This song never lost its magic.
The new vocalist (ex Vandenberg) has a rock voice. On some tracks his voice wasn't appropriate with some Kayak songs, which we knew has lovely melodies and lyrics. Of course he's no Edward Reekers or Max Werner. Perhaps this is the only weakness in this formation and performance recording. Some songs were slowed down a bit and I really need to adapt to get the right mood and feeling.
I really hope Kayak won't stop at this point. Usually old bands just reunited, made one album, several performances, and then died again. I would love to hear another one or two new albums from Kayak. Overall this live album (which is the first live album on CD. Eyewitness is not a true live album) is very recommended. Especially if you grown up with Kayak songs in the past and longed to hear the songs that brings memories back.
(Surjorimba Suroto, Amazon)
Na jaren van stilte was het in 2000 eindelijk weer zo ver, er kwam een nieuw album van Kayak uit. "Close to the fire" was een schitterend album dat moeiteloos de draad van vroeger weer opnam. Dank zij het succes van dit album ging Kayak ook weer toeren. Maar na enkel optredens hield zanger Max Werner het voor bekeken en diende men een vervanger aan te trekken. Die werd gevonden in de ex-Vanderberg frontman Bert Heerink. Hij kwijt zich trouwens uitstekend van deze taak. Van deze succesvolle toer en met deze bezetting werd een dubbel live album samengesteld. "Chance for a LIVE time" is tevens voor Kayak het eerste live album dat ze ooit maakte. Ze kregen echt de kans van hun leven om zich opnieuw te bewijzen en … ze maken het waar. Voor velen onder ons was het ook de kans om Kayak eindelijk eens aan het werk te zien. Ook ik heb deze kans met beide handen gegrepen. Een beslissing waar ik nog geen moment spijt van heb. Het concert was net als het live album een samenraapsel van oud en nieuw materiaal door elkaar.
Na 2 stevige nummers 'Close to the fire' en 'Crusader' van het album "Close to the fire" komt het eerste kippenvel moment met een ballade uit hetzelfde album. 'When hearts grow cold' een wondermooi nummer met dito gitaarsolo van Rob Winter. Na dit triootje van nieuwe nummers gaan we ver terug in de tijd met 'Mammoth'('73 )& 'Wintertime'('74) om zo langs uitstekende versies van "Periscope life'('80) en 'Sweet revenge' ('77) aan de akoestische set aan te belanden. Hier blijken de nummers 'See see the sun'('73), 'Anne'('80) en 'Anybody's Child'('00) zich uitstekend te lenen om een mooi rustpunt in deze toch wel gedreven set in te bouwen. Op dit laatste nummer van de eerste cd wordt het refrein door 36 mensen meegezongen van het "Jeugdtheater Hofplein" een belevenis die rillingen te weeg brengt.
Cd 2 gaat van start met een up-tempo nummer uit " Close to the fire": 'Two wrong (don't make a right)' met zeer mooie afwisselende solo's op toetsen en gitaar. Met 'Forever' uit hetzelfde album wordt nogmaals duidelijk waar de kracht van Kayak ligt. De tempowisselingen tussen de trage gedeelten met mooi pianowerk en de up-tempo gedeelten met aanvullende zangpartijen. Een echt typisch Kayak nummer. Met 'Merlin'('81) wordt de aanzet gegeven voor een aangename trip in de tijd. Al vlug is het duidelijk dat Bert Heerink een fantastische zanger is. Dat gevoel wordt nog versterkt in het volgende nummer 'Niniane (Lady of the lake)'('81) misschien wel het mooiste nummer op dit album. Zoveel gevoel, zo oneindig mooi… echt bangelijk. Dit is progressieve rock op zijn best. Met 'Chance for a lifetime'('75) wordt de apotheose ingezet. Wie voelt zich niet goed bij zo'n klassieker. Ook 'Starlight dancer'('77) en 'Ruthless queen'('78) hun grootste hit vind je terug. Met het sfeervol folky nummer 'Full circle'('00) is de cirkel rond en ben je aan het einde van dit zeer mooie live album beland. En dan bekruipt je het gevoel wanneer kan ik Kayak nog eens terug aan het werk zien. Wel je krijgt de kans, want ze zijn NU terug aan het toeren dus grijp je kans en GA ze zien, je zal het je nooit vergeven als je het nu niet doet. Het is "The Chance for a LIVE time" !!!
I would consider this album as the first KAYAK
true live album because it has everything: there were gigs
performed and recorded, and there were audience involved. Yes,
you are right, 'Eyewitness' was the band first live recording
but it missed essential elements of 'true' live records: the gig
and the audience. 'Eyewitness' was recorded to remark the end of
the band in 1982. A sad story. This album was recorded live fro
a set of 'Close To The Fire' Tour in 2000:
Leeuwarden, Hardenberg and Enschede,
Holland. Wel well well … I truly
envy on people who had a chance seeing the band performed the
gigs. What a wonderful nights they might have. I cannot imagine
that, my friends … Yeah, kayak has been in my life since I heard
and fell in love with their wonderfully crafted tune 'Woe and
Allas', sometime in mid 70s, that has become my lifetime
favorite. Even until now, whenever I heard this song, it
crunches my heart. It's killing me man!
As I have reviewed a lot of Kayak albums in this site, I would not repeat reviewing them, musically, in this live record. I'd rather comment on how the live itself has provided us with a sort of musical quality different than studio version. I could only assure you that this live act is really an excellent performance. It's definitely true for those of you who like Kayak's music. You don't need to love the band's music, just like it – and you would enjoy their music. For me personally, Kayak music is not something that I consider a true 'prog' music. But their music is definitely not a typical pop rock vein. I enjoy Kayak music for a change, usually, having listened to complex music such as The Tangent, Island, Somnambulist, Gentle Giant, etc. It's a relaxing music, I would say. Forget about prog nature, even though I know that there are some elements that constitute a prog nature of their music.
All tracks that come from 'Close To The Fire' album were performed excellently by the band. For my listening observation, this live set is much more dynamic and more rocking than the studio version. All musicians contribute their best in this live show. There are seven tracks coming from 'Close To The Fire' album. The other 11 tracks coming from their classic albums. One thing that makes me happy, despite the new album, is their performance of classic hits like 'Mammoth','Periscope of Life', and 'Wintertime'. I especially like 'Wintertime' that is performed nicely in this album. My favorite classic 'Starlight Dancer' that has a killing melody at intro part is also featured in this CD.
I don't think there is no human being that dislike 'Anne'. Yup, the band fetures also this song in here. Again, I cannot imagine how would I feel if I were in the crowd watching these guys perform this live. For sure, I would sing a long during the show! 'Merlin' – hey, tell me who the guys on earth don't like this tune??? 'Ninianne' – another excellent shot.
I think, you should enjoy yourself. It would not be a regret at all to own this CD yourself. If you like Kayak and live music, this is for you man! But if you don't like live albums, forget it – just buy their terrific studio albums. Highly recommended.
Having been a Kayak fan since Royal Red Bouncer, I was happy to hear that they had reformed as a band again a few years back. I purchased Close to the Fire and really enjoyed it. It was great to hear Max Werner's voice again after so many years. The songs were equally as good as on previous albums. When I purchased Night Vision I was a little shocked to see that they already had replaced Max (once again). The first listen I didn't really care for the new singer, so I put it aside for a month or so. Then I picked it up and played it again and it struck me! I love this CD! This is one of the very best Kayak CDs recorded so far. Simply great songwriting, great musicianship, great vocals! At first I thought it sounded a little too pop, but after giving it another listen I found it is much, much more. If you like Kayak's music, you will love this CD.
(Russ Bellinger, Amazon)
If you've never heard Kayak, but like Kansas, Yes and similar music, I think you'll really like this CD. If you're a HUGE Kayak fan like myself, you may be disappointed that Max Werner isn't lending his vocals to this project. But Ton and Pim's musical talent, and Irene Linders' lyrics are just as b as any past project. Night Vision has definitely been pumped with a lot of musical energy, with great guitar work from the dueling Robs, ever brilliant keyboarding from Ton, and the addition of strings and awesome brass on a few of the tracks. 'Miracle Man' kicks butt, and 'Water For Guns' and 'How' are classic Kayak. 'Carry On Boy' is the best of three or four ballads on the CD. In spite of the absence of Max's haunting vocals, the blending harmonies are very good. There is only slight evidence that Bert has to really strain his voice to keep up with Ton's music on a couple of tracks, but otherwise does a good job on lead vocals. Overall Night Vision is a very good CD.
(Ron McCormick, Amazon)
Vorig jaar vierde Kayak zijn come-back met het uitstekende 'Close to the fire'. De daaropvolgende tournee kwam even in het gedrang door het wegvallen van Max Werner, maar met de komst van Bert Heerink (ex-Vandenberg) werd een geschikte vervanger gevonden. Toch rees bij menig Kayak-fan de vraag of de groep überhaupt nog toekomst had zonder een zanger van het kaliber Werner of Reekers. Het antwoord is … jazeker ! Heerink is zondermeer een uitstekend zanger die de fraaie composities van Scherpenzeel en Koopman vocaal mooi inkleurt.
'Icarus' is een machtig symfonisch epos dat de luisteraar van de ene verrukking in de andere brengt. Groots qua opzet, dramatisch qua uitvoering…een klassiek meesterwerk. De inzet van strijkers geeft dit imposante nummer nog meer glans. Een verbluffend staaltje van muzikaal vakmanschap. Als de symfonische storm na exact 8' en 22" gaat liggen, moet ik even naar adem happen. Maar veel rust wordt me niet gegund, want 'Miracle Man' is een behoorlijk stevig, soms dreigend nummer, met een knipoog richting Arena. 'Cassandra' is de eerste ballade op 'Night Vision' en heeft wat van 'Seagull'. Klinkt goed, maar wel een beetje melig. Anders is het gesteld met het schitterende 'A Million Years' : fraaie melodieën en dito zang van Heerink, met een korte maar mooie gitaarsolo van Rob Winter als toemaatje. Het meer popgerichte 'Water for guns' is ook een sterke track en laat een knap staaltje van meerstemmige zang horen in het refrein. Op het bluesrock-achtige 'The way of the world' doen blazers hun intrede, maar als compositie kan het niet echt overtuigen. Met 'Hold me forever' worden we alweer op een mooie (semi-)ballade vergast, waarin Heerink vocale ondersteuning krijgt van Rob Vunderink. Een erg hit-gevoelig nummer, overigens.
Drummer Pim Koopman tekende voor 2 songs op dit album, en 'Tradition', zijn eerste bijdrage, is een knaller van formaat : op en top Kayak, zoals ze in de jaren zeventig klonken. Heel even lijkt het alsof Johan Slager weer van de partij is, maar vergis je niet : de knappe gitaarpartijen zijn wel degelijk het werk van Rob Winter. Na het kalme middenstuk volgt een indrukwekkend muzikaal gedeelte, met heerlijk toetsenwerk van Scherpenzeel (orgel en mellotron). 'All over again' zorgt voor een welgekomen rustpauze. 'Life without parole' is de 2e song van de hand van Koopman : een lekker up-tempo nummer, met alweer Rob Winter in een glansrol. 'How' is een onvervalste slow, en eindelijk krijgen we Scherpenzeel op accordeon te horen. 'Carry on boy' is een semi-ballade, met fraaie vocale partijen, inclusief een heus koor. Op 'Good riddance' krijgen de blazers een tweede kans, en deze keer lukt het wel : een lekker rocknummer, dat enigszins vergelijkbaar is met 'Big Wedge' van Fish. Afsluiter 'Rings of Saturn' is een wat melancholische song, maar valt toch iets te licht uit.
'Dromen zijn bedrog', zong Marco Borsato nog niet zo lang geleden. Wat als Scherpenzeel en Koopman hun krachten zouden bundelen om een onvervalst symfonisch album te maken, met enkel songs van het kaliber 'Icarus' en 'Tradition' ? Ach, laat ik gewoon maar stellen dat 'Night Vision' een prachtplaat is. Stop nu met lezen en spurt als de bliksem naar je platenboer. Kayak anno 2001 ligt op jou te wachten.
(Piet Michem, Prog-nose)
Good to hear the the band is still alive even
though this band for me was not a truly proh band especially
when I new the first time thru their second album especially
with the song 'Woe and Allas'. This album is good even though
it's not as good as their previous studio album 'Close To The
Fire'. The opening track 'Icarus' (reminds me to KANSAS's song
'Icarus out of Nowhere') is a symphonic rock music with some
influence of classical music. The track has an excellent
composition and tasty melodies. However, it lacks the vocal line
as it does not seem to fit with the music – it's too low, I
would say. It might be great if the voice part is done little
higher with such a voice of Steve Walsh or oled KAYAK's album.
It's merely the vocal line that this track is lacking.
Track 2 'Miracle Man' is played in a little bit faster tempo. Good composition but it lacks melody and not so good voice quality. Again, the voice is not keeping up with the music. The next track 'Cassandra' is definitely a pop song with little prog touch – or not at all. It continues with prog-pop song 'A Million Years'. 'Water For Guns' has a nice intro with piano solo accompanied by Hackettian guitar work. It's a nice song played in a relatively moderate tempo. It has some classic KAYAK components. I especially enjoy the guitar sound at the background as well as keyboard works. The tempo shifts to a a faster one when it reaches 'Water For Guns ..' lyrical part. The orchestration part is also excellent. 'The Way Of The World' includes brass section and piano that plays at rhythm section. Brass section appears mostly as an accentuation of end of bars. For me it's a relatively mediocre song; the use of brass section does not appeal me at all. It reminds me to Genesis 'Abacab' album. 'Hold Me Forever' has a root of classic KAYAK musical style; opened with piano and vocal line accompanied by a violin / cello at background. It's a melodic song. 'Tradition' reminds me to previous 'Close To The Fire' album; it has rich melodies and components of classic KAYAK. It has an excellent changing tempo in the middle of the track with excellent melody. 'All Over Again' is a mellow track in pop vein – excellent guitar works. 'Life Without Parole' is an upbeat track with piano as rhythm section.
Overall, this album is not as b as the previous 'Close To The Fire'. It has good musical composition, good melody and structure. However, the overall album does not project something that really stands out. I have big problem in accepting vocal quality throughout all 14 tracks of the album – it's way behind the classic KAYAK album like 'Phantom of The Night' or 'Starlight Dancer' or 'Merlin'. The music tends to be pop with some addition of prog components. I would recommend this album for collectors only, so the rating is 2/5
(Gatot Widayanto, Progarchives)
By adding 9 news songs (some of which will turn into real 'classics' very soon !), the 'Magnum Opus' of the band now is a fact. And believe me : they have never sounded better ! 'Merlin' and 'Niniane' are still standing the test of time, but the orchestral version of both songs is a genuine enrichment of these classical flavoured songs. Bert Heerink, truly a worthy successor of much acclaimed former singers Max Werner and Edward Reekers, does a marvellous job, just by applying the right amount of emotion in his voice. But the real star is, in my opinion, guest vocalist and female singer Cindy Oudshoorn, who really sent the shivers down my spine. She makes her first appearance in 'When the Seer looks away', one of the best songs Koopman has ever written. It's a drama in three acts : Heerink opens with a lovely ballad-like tune but is brutally interrupted by the powerful and frightening voice of Cindy Oudshoorn, just moments before both find themselves strangled in a deadly embrace. Absolutely amazing …this one really blew me off my socks ! And that's not all… 'The Future King' is a perfect example of how a catchy three minute song should sound like. 'The Otherworld', another Koopman song, has a chorus that will echo in your mind for ages, 'Friendship and love' and 'Avalon' both are beautiful ballads (sung in duet-form by Heerink and Oudshoorn)…well, I can carry on praising the fantastic songs that feature on this album, but I'm going to leave it up to you.
It has taken the band about thirty years to come up with this album, but then again : it's never too late for this kind of music. Maybe this is the ultimate Kayak album, but I do hope it's not going to be their last. However, I reckon this one perfectly summons up the band's long and prolific career. Pffffffft, just can't get enough of it…
(Piet "Neal" Michem, Prog-nose)
This is the best melodic progressive rock in years. In the last few years very good (some great) progressive rock groups has emerged - e.g. The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, Porcupine Tree, etc. - All these groups have one thing in common: great musicianship. What is lacking some times is the melodic aspect of music (except, maybe of Porcupine Tree); melodies and words that keep whirling in your head days after you stopped hearing them. This is precisely what Merlin - Bard of the Unseen is all about. A concept album in which almost all the songs, if not all, will float in your head day after day. The well written and beauuuutiful songs and melodies will make you to put this cd on your player and forget to skip songs. You won't find any extended heavy metal guitar rifts (just two briefs in Merlin and The last battle)too often used in the previous groups mentioned. Is this sound like a rave review it is, at least for me (one small criticism - the recording is not the best) If you know Kayak, this a must. If you haven't heard this group before, there is no other previous record of this group better to start than this.
(Gilberto Torres Collazo, Target)
This CD is superior to everything they have done before and that is saying alot because Kayak have had several excellent CDs. I only wish more people in the States could be exposed to this brilliance, dynamic composition and performance. I owned the original "Merlin" album that I listened to extensively in the early 80s. I was knocked out by that album then. Who would have thought that 20 years later they would remake and extend the original concept with even more power and depth? One of the highlights of the new CD was the track "The Otherworld" for me. It really sent chllls down my spine as well as "Niniane (Lady of the Lake) that brings tears to my eyes everytime I have listened to it. Wow what a phenominal CD! Beautiful, brilliant, worth far more than the money I payed for this one. Definately one of my favorite progressive rock CDs of all time.
(Russ Bellinger, Target)
More than 20 years ago Kayak already made a Merlin album, maybe it was their best symphonic rock album so far. Last year Kayak released a new Merlin album, which consists of 5 old songs and 9 new ones; all composed by Ton Scherpenzeel. The story of Merlin or King Arthur's Court has already been dealt with on a lot of rock albums, just think of Rick Wakeman's The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table or more recently Once And Future King (part 1 and 2) by Gary Hughes. The characters on this album are as follows: Merlin and Lancelot parts are sung by Bert Heerink, Mordred is Rob Vunderink and Morgaine and Guinevere's 'roles' are sung by Cindy Oudshoorn.
If you listen to the album for the first time you will be overwhelmed by the beautiful songs and the wonderful atmosphere. The title track is a real masterpiece with outstanding orchestration, while the classic 'old' Niniane (Lady Of The Lake) sounds completely different on this 2003 version. I must admit that actually all the five old songs sound refreshing and more alive; although I rather prefer the new songs. Take for example the catchy, short but sweet The Future King or the amazing, gripping epic The Otherworld, or the rather bombastic and theatrical The Last Battle; all symphonic, progressive masterpieces.
For the easy listeners Kayak composed two ballads, Friendship And Love and Avalon and for lovers of folk music there is At Arthur's Court. This album is a sublime, musical interpretation of one of the most well known British stories ever and singer Cindy Oudshoorn takes it to a higher level with her out of this world voice as Morgaine. The only 'miss' on this breathtaking beautiful album is the rather dull song Branded, but for the rest it is probably the best Dutch symphonic rock album ever. Listen to it again and again, and enjoy Merlin again and again. Great job!!
(Martien Koolen, DPRP)
My first review is reserved for the best CD I
have ever heard - hence five stars, which I will dish out
sparingly. The eighties album Merlin of this undervalued Dutch
band included a suite of five songs based on the Arthur legend.
They were fantastic songs, including the powerful Merlin and the
melancholy ballad Niniane. Shortly after the album, Kayak quit
without having achieved a real international career.
They reunited in the late nineties, and with their third studio album since then they realised their dream of almost 20 years: extend the five song 20 minute Merlin suite to a full 70 minutes CD. A new lead singer was employed (Heerink), a female lead singer was recruited (Oudshoorn), and nine new songs were writen to complement the original five and fill in the gaps in the story line. And a symphony orchestra backing was thrown in for good measure. The result is unbelievable.
In the new versions, the old songs sparkle just as bright as they did before, and the nine new songs blend in marvelously. The highlights are the already mentioned Merlin and Niniane, but also the fantastic duet When the seer looks away (incredible performance by Cindy Oudshoorn), and the moving The other side, with a quiet instrumental part for symphony orchestra that is simply breathtaking. But all 14 songs are great.
Too many superlatives? Perhaps. But I have listened to this masterpiece over 20 times now and I consider it the best CD in our vast collection.
(Dragon Phoenix, Progarchives)
Having only listened to it twice perhaps I should have waited before a posting a review.There is certainly a great deal to absorb and not all of it is great.However what we have is a wonderfully ambitious effort from our erstwhile Dutch progsters with this almost cheesey seventies 'rock opera' double CD.They don't make em like this anymore and many I'm sure are grateful for that.But if you are fed up to death with prog metal and hate 'neo prog' then where do you go? Most modern prog is heartless and relies on technicality.Kayak on the other hand rely on melody and the abilty to craft a good song.You don't get too many fast keyboard runs from Ton Sherpenzeel but intead a Tony Banks style approach.His playing is subtle although unlike TB he can rock when it suits him.The drummer Pim Koopman keeps it rock solid,no Carl Palmer style hi jinks here, but instead a disciplined aderhence to the rythym.You get some nice female vocals from Cindy Oldshoorn as well.There is a reasonable amount of variety.I particularly like the narrative which actually contadicts the songs in a sarcastic way at times.Its ok to be prog band and have a sense of humour!! Overall this will be a 'no brainer' for Kayak fans but for everyone else I would recommend checking out their previous release 'Merlin Bard Of The Unseen' which should be slighly cheaper as it is a single CD.If you like that you were certainly like this.( Rich, Progarchives)
Now, first of all, let me tell you that Kayak really are (and were) my foremost choice in pop-prog music. Their long line of excellent albums proves my point: this Dutch progband really are out of this world, when talking about brilliant pop-prog music (just try out: "See see the sun" or " Royal bed bouncer"). Lately, their "Merlin-Bard Unseen" has prog communities around the world roaring in joy for their sheer expertise and exuberant musicianship, not to mention the composing skills. Fabulous album!
Now this, the follow up: "Nostradamus-The fate of man" is blindingly superior to the aforementioned album! Everything that Kayak stood for (and more) are here, plus the excellence of a modern classical composer (Ton Scherpenzel & Pim Koopman) this is their piece de resistance.
We are are talking major prog-opera here! From the excellent narration to the beautiful build up musical themes that has Everything you could ask for in prog-opera!!
Forget "Tommy" ,well, forget everything you ever heard in the prog-opera vein. This is a well build story with some extremely well composed music.* Based upon the fact/fiction history person, who might have seen the answer to the future world! Composers: Ton Scherpenzel/Pim Koopman and lyricist: Irene Linders. and musicians Ton Scherpenzel: keyboards / Pim Koopman: drums/keyboards/guitars/vocals. In addition there are on brilliant vocals: Bert Heerink/Edward Reekers/Sybil Ploeg/Cindy Oudshorn.
Well I'm really in awe but if I were to give you a clue to where this album goes then imagine if you will: English madrigals co-joined with superbly arranged Carl Orff type vocals, add to that some very excellent keyboard music and fine guitaring and supreme drumming and that's just the beginning!
Believe you me, you have never heard anything like this! It WILL send shivers down your spine..several times! So dear friend, if you never have encountered the world of Kayak, it's about time, for it gets no better than this!Rating? Well, being this a Progplanet review, im obliged to give this masterpiece: 6 plus, out of 5 possible! I promise you, you will NEVER hear anything like this anywhere! C'mon, you prog freaks go get it! Before it gets you! KAYAK, masters of modern pop prog opera!!
(Tonny Larsen, Progplanet)