Solution

Reviews

Solution

Solution
(1971)

This is a great debut album. The music is mainly instrumental, the few vocals that can be heard are from van de Sande who left the band just before the album was released. References can be made to the Soft Machine or to fellow Dutchmen Supersister (although Solution's music is not flavored with humor), so it can best described as jazzy progressive rock. The tracks are rather long and have several key changes, so you won't be bored. This album really defines the specific sound of Solution.

(Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

Now for the music , Solution makes prog-rock close to a jazz-rock due to the horn section and sometimes approaches the limits of brass rock , but only at times. To me , the highlight of this album is easily the moody Phases full of tensions and ambiances , finally exploding at the 2/3 mark. I was expecting a lot of Trane Steps as this title makes reference to the Jazz Giant John Coltrane , but was slightly disappointed as the number stays within the musical direction of the rest of the album , and makes small steps towards Trane but stays musically wise and restrained . The last number Circus , however sort of ruins the feeling of unity as the first five minutes are full of Gypsy jazz (Jazz Manouche such as Django Reinhardt), but this disgress from the musical subject of the album.

(Hugues Chantraine, Progarchives)

Soon after joining DPRP, I had the pleasure to read a PFM review by fellow reviewer Raffaella Berry, in which she mentioned that rarely in reviewing does business and pleasure converge. With my average review score of about 6 out of 10 at the time of writing, I must say that the lady has a point. However, it's bands like Solution that have allowed me to enjoy the progressive scene in the first place, and so in this case, business and pleasure are indeed converging.

If you couldn't tell from the bricked canal of the band's debut album cover, Solution are indeed a Dutch group, although you might not guess that they specialised in jazz-fusion with a distinctive progressive edge. The line-up on the first album consisted of Tom Barlage (flute, saxophone), Peter van der Sande (bass, vocals), Hans Waterman (drums), and Willem Ennes (piano, organ) who sadly passed away this September.

The eponymous debut album consists of four long tracks and one brief piece. These are mostly instrumentals, although the second half of Phases contains a few lyrics sung by Van der Sande. Koan is first up, and is a fairly straightforward progressive instrumental; the first half is energetic and structured while the latter is repetitive and more freestyle. Barlage's sax is put to good use, and Van der Sande's bass provides a fluid backdrop for the rest of the instruments.

After the brief Ennes solo spot Preview, we are presented with Phases. This track takes a while to get going, but by six minutes has evolved into a fully fledged progressive number. Sande's vocals keep the atmosphere light between the gritty instrumental sections.

Trane Steps is so called because it lifts a theme from John Coltrane's Africa. Naturally, with the organ and other electric instruments, this is a more progressive sounding track. This piece, like Koan and Phases can also be split into two distinct halves, although a theme from the first half is repeated at the end of the track.

Circus Circumstances begins as a breakneck instrumental imitating a circus. Somehow, this section seems very Dutch indeed, I can't really explain why. Afterwards, things get more serious, with a medley of interesting themes thrown in for good measure. In my opinion, the best track on the album.

(Basil Francis, DPRP)

From 1971, the first steps from Dutch jazz-rock band Solution and it's notable that in the first track which runs at around 8 minutes, we have elements of Soft Machine, Santana and The Nice, in other words a true fusion of styles to provide a piece that's got complexity, variation and textures, but with a vein of melody flowing through its veins for added accessibility. There's flute, organ, sax, funky bass, Latin-esque rhythms standing shoulder to shoulder with complex time signatures while the progressive streak provides the tunes and the Softs nods provide the intensity, all in all a good announcement of their arrival.

The 12 minute "Phases" runs hand in hand with what Focus won more acclaim for achieving, the only major difference being that Focus had a red hot guitarist - and this lot don't - which is why you've heard of Focus but haven't a clue who Solution are. But if you take this guitar factor away and put a sax in its place, then - voila! - you have the result - and that is Focus with a sax player and no guitarist.

"Trane Steps" is presumable meant as a homage to Coltrane, but it's the prog-rock streak that dominates, with the jazz side of it more the fact that there's a sax player in there adding to the wealth of Nice-esque runs and melodies that inhabit the majority of the piece, although again, the Focus comparisons, not that valid at the time since both groups were in their infancy, are now well apparent.

The album ends with the 7 minute "Circus Circumstances" which even has the Focus-esque frivolity at the start before wandering into a slice of fusion that's more like a dead ringer for early Colosseum and works every bit as well. All in all, if you are a seventies prog rock fan into the likes of Focus, The Nice and Colosseum and you've always avoided this band coz you thought they were too "jazzy" then think again - as you're seriously missing out on a gem of an album.

(Andy Garibaldi, Dead Earnest)

Divergence

Divergence
(1972)

On this album we can hear the classic Solution line up, since van de Sande was replaced by Willemse. This replacement did them good, because Willemse is a better vocalist. It is always a hard choice, but this is probably their best album (a hard choice because the first three are all very good). Compared with their debut, the sound became even more jazzy and more vocal oriented.

(Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

This album is less interesting for a proghead only in comparison to the debut. Two of the titles indicates that there will be further changes in musical directions later. New Dimensions and the title track are obvious pointer at this and not only by name. Again here , the highlight (along the afore-mentioned tracks ) is the long 12 + min Concentration. Give it another halfstar , but this is less essential than the debut.

(Hugues Chantraine, Progarchives)

This is excellent & accessible Netherlandish fusion with expressive lead vocals. There is an omnipresent melodic and rhythmic piano; the other involved keyboards are mainly an often very distorted dirty organ, electric piano mainly with a VERY dirty effect, and wah-wah dirty moog like on the Camel's "Moonmadness" album. There are excellent lively sax melodies. The saxes are sometimes absolutely extreme and very intense, like at the end of the "Divergence" track, reminding the ones at the end of Pink Floyd's "Shine on your crazy diamond part 1". The bass is very loud and bottom, especially on the "Concentration" track. There are a couples of psychedelic or spacy parts, like the drowned effect on the piano of "Second line" or the minimal keyboards a la Tangerine Dream's "Alpha Centauri" on the intro of "Fever". Hans Waterman's drums are very varied, complex and refined, as always. There are some very good flute parts. The "Divergence" track was replayed by Focus, on their "Eruption" track. The excellent flute on "Fever" sounds like the one on the early Focus' albums, and the dirty piano reaches a very short wah-wah EXTREME INTENSITY! The too short "Theme" is a peaceful and graceful flute interlude, a sort of acoustic reprise of the main theme on "Concentration". "New dimension" is probably the most accessible one, with its catchy rhythmic piano & lead vocals plus its tender saxes quite played in the background; have you noticed the constant dirty organ line in the background? Compared to the next "Cordon Bleu" album, released 4 years later, this record sounds really vintage; however, this record should proudly be in any reasonable 1971 top prog/fusion list.

(Greenback, Progarchives)

For the band's second album, Divergence, Peter van der Sande was replaced by Guus Willemse. The new line-up seemed to gel better, and this line-up would stay the same (although with various guests such as Jan Akkerman joining in) until the band's demise in 1983. Divergence was less energetic and more ruggedly powerful than its predecessor, containing more structured pieces than before.

Ironically, the band reveal in the second line of Second Line that English is not their native tongue: 'Well here I am/Look me into my face.' In fact, the first half of Second Line consists of an astonishingly beautiful piano ballad, in the style of Elton John perhaps. Barlage's sax solo is incredibly moving. The production makes everything sound like a dream. This is the sort of song that needs lyrics you can shout at the top of your lungs, and yet whenever Willemse is not mumbling his lines, they don't make any sense, a shame indeed. The second half of the song consists of a Soft Machine-y jazz fusion instrumental, which has nothing to do with the first half, and seems a little out of place.

This album is most famous for its title track that was covered by Focus in their epic suite Eruption from the Moving Waves album. Oddly enough, Moving Waves had come out the previous year, which lead to many people believing Solution had just stolen a track from Focus. This track is really a chance for Barlage to show just how he can hold a saxophone. He gets to repeat the same monumental sax solo a total of three times throughout the track's six minute length. On the other hand, the rest of the instrumental is very straightforward, and I found that I pretty much worked out how it pieced together after three listens. Interestingly, a drum pattern from Koan reappears, and is very similar to another pattern heard on the title track from Supersister's Pudding en Gisteren.

One throwaway piece later, and we get to Concentration, probably the finest track of the lot. Once again, we can split this song into two halves, the first a smooth laid-back blues piece with lyrics, the second a speedy 7/8 instrumental in the style of Soft Machine's Esther's Nose Job. The instrumental in the first half of the song contains a subtle hint of the proggy goodness that's in store. The lyrical section is a perfect blend of jazz and blues. Willemse's lyrics aren't always audible, but he delivers them with gusto. Afterwards, the brisk 7/8 instrumental section leads us on a roller-coaster of themes and riffs, keeping the listener hooked throughout. A masterpiece track if I ever heard one.

Yet another throwaway track later and we finish on New Dimension. The use of organ on this track is simply mesmerising, and the riff and chord sequences used are subtle but also darkly powerful, playing with the mind on a subconscious level. Before I knew it, I was coming back for repeated listens of this bizarre piece.

Esoteric have done a wonderful job with these albums. Both booklets contain similar well-written essays by Wouter Bessels. I did spot a minor mistake however, because it appears that the track Theme from Divergence was sampled in Erykah Badu's track Soldier, not in Victory as the notes suggested. Nevertheless, these notes tell you all you need to know about the band. The artwork reproduction (back and front) is spot on, no less than what the paying customer deserves. The remastering is also brilliant, with everything sounding crystal clear, and the bass coming through especially nicely. Sadly, there are no bonus tracks appended to the albums, but this is not necessarily Esoteric's fault.

Solution may not have all the skill and songwriting ability as some of their contemporaries *cough* Supersister *cough*, but they certainly have enough to keep this prog fan satisfied. With only a few minor weaknesses, the band's first two albums are gems of the jazz-prog genre, and have yet again convinced me of the quality of Dutch progressive rock. Even if you aren't so keen on jazz, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you hear.

(Basil Francis, DPRP)

A year later and, from the near 9 minute opening track, things have changed from the first album. Now sounding much more like a song-based prog band, they have soaring vocals set against delicate yet solid rhythm work and full sounding piano as the song drifts onto a slice of sax-led instrumental calm that comes across more USA than UK fusion, melody at its heart, the song and its execution filled with gentility as an attempt at laid-back prog-rock makes you wonder if, indeed, this is the same band that made that first album - something that the mainly instrumental second half of the track, does actually amplify, as the band let their playing shine, but in keeping with the overall mood of the track.

The 6 minute title track maintains this air of languid flow only this time adds choppier rhythms and staccato breaks to add to the fusion-prog that provides the all-important feel of Colosseum rather than Focus, but still minus a guitarist, whichever way you look at it.

The 4+ minute "Fever", restored from the original album where it was left off, starts with an amorphous textural soundscape before roaming into a melodic flute and organ-led river of themes.

The 12+ minute "Concentration" is the nearest thing to the debut album, this time revisiting the mix of The Nice, Soft Machine and Focus to quite successful degree.

The album ends with the 6+ minute "New Dimension" and returns to the calmness with which it all began, song and all. Overall, not quite as riveting as the debut but a neat companion if you want the band adding more of a song-oriented and less fusion-y approach to what they do.

(Andy Garibaldi, Dead Earnest)

Cordon Bleu

Cordon Bleu
(1975)

For their third album they asked the English producer Gus Dudgeon, he didn't really change their sound but some things are different now. There are vocal harmonies, there is some guitar for the first time and the production is tighter. What remains is that this is another great album. The highlight of the album is Chappaqua, which is maybe the definitive Solution track. But the jazzy Whirligig is also a brilliant one. Sad to say, this is their last real great album, after this one they went downhill.

(Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

This third album is the last one I heard and I have never seen other albums be it on CD . I have not heard the vinyl's either. This is still interesting music to proghead , but I find every album thy made less interesting and slightly more commercial than its preceding . If the debut was almost instrumental , the sophomore was well sung , this album however makes mistakes ( fautes de gout) in the vocal department sometimes ruining the otherwise good music . So unbearable that I rarely listened to it and got rid of it as I needed shelf space. Still worth a spin , but I warned you about it so get a listen before buying. I was generous with the rating of this album , but the music is still correct.

(Hugues Chantraine, Progarchives)

What a great fusion album! This fusion band from Netherlands have a seriously developed sense of catchy & addictive rhythm: they produce very accessible (although not simple), melodic, lively & slightly romantic sax-oriented jazz-rock compositions. The omnipresent melodies and harmonies coming from keyboards and multiple saxes proudly stand on "solid as a rock" foot beating rhythms provided by the drums, the bass and sometimes low pitched keyboards. The omnipresent keyboards occupy a very important place in the music: catchy & jazzy piano, floating organ, joyful clavinet?, tender Fender Rhodes, and some other more modern floating keyboards. The bass, very rhythmic and complex, is quite loud and full of bottom. The impressively elaborated & varied drums have the Phil Collins' style of the mid 70's. Shall we mention the presence of some very good male lead & backing vocals. There are very rare acoustic and electric guitars, but they are so discreet that the album sounds like no guitars are present. The final last track has a beautiful flute part, contrasting with all the previous sax marathon! The overall sound is ABSOLUTELY pleasant, fresh and clean! All the tracks are excellent! The sax parts and vocals sound a bit like the ones on the Passport's Earthborn album (Klaus Doldinger's band); the "Cordon bleu" sound is however less modern.

(Greenback, , Progarchives)

Many years ago, I owned a copy of this album. I had found it in Arnhem whilst on holiday after searching for days and it was one of my most cherished possessions. One day, my wife saw it's scruffy, battered cover and threw it out. I was very upset and, soon after, I divorced her. I have trawled round many second hand record shops for a replacement, so far without success. That is how highly I rate the music of this band and this album in particular. Whilst the vocals do not quite match up to the instrumental parts, they are perfectly acceptable and the tracks are predominantly instrumental anyway, full of brilliant keyboard/sax interplays with an inventive and extremely tight rhythm section to back it all up. The feel is very jazzy but laid back with a mix of floating mellotron and other keyboards, some superb piano work and some virtuoso sax playing. There is a little guitar on this album, which is unusual for the band, and it is discrete and very well integrated. All the tracks are of a high standard, perhaps the pick being Whirligig and Black Pearl parts 1 and 2, which has excellent lyrics. The recording quality on vinyl is also fabulous. The album is noteworthy for its complete lack of commercialism, the sole aim appears to have been to create great music. The Dutch have produced some excellent progressive bands who are hardly known in Britain but who are appreciated in their own country and noted for virtuoso musicianship (Focus, Trace, Ekseption). Solution are another and well worth seeking out. I can only say that I would far sooner have another copy of this album than another wife. Enough said!

(Tony Fisher, Progarchives)

Fully Interlocking

Fully Interlocking
(1977)

This is a rather disappointing album. The melodies are not so strong and diverse as on previous releases. The tracks are predictable and sound more like AOR with jazz. If it is compared with their next release, it is acceptable. But it is not the brilliant Solution from the first three releases.

(Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

The Dutch fusion band here took a more accessible way to produce easier tracks, still having some lead vocals. The saxes, keyboards, bass and drums are well balanced, and it sounds melodic, joyful, fresh and good. The ensemble is rather catchy, pleasant to listen. I would say it is definitely romantic: the saxophones are greatly responsible of that. The keyboards are varied and often floating, while there are different kinds of pianos. The best track is definitely "Carousel", a beautiful sentimental masterpiece, totally jazzy and progressive, full of Fender Rhodes: you absolutely have to enjoy the intense quintessential bit, where intense sax solo, heavily floating keyboards, punchy bass and expert drums suddenly take the maximum room available, creating an unbelievable extreme dynamic romantic passage. WOW!

(Greenback, Progarchives)

Actually I heard the name of this band just recently. So far I listened only to "Cordon Bleu", which was a good one,but as well nothing special and relevant in prog in fact and now I stumbled over this one here. And what a disappointment! It's even much much worse than the one before. Simple poppy and boring melodies at in the first track, extremely awful. Between this one and the last one there are four sometimes atmospheric, sometimes grooving instrumental jazz-fusion tracks, quite nice but nothing special as well. The last last track is again a very commercial soul/jazz song, very boring and awful. As a summary I can only say after listening to two records of this band, that IMHO they are probably not worth to be checked out by a prog-fan even if interested in jazz-fusion as I am. Maybe the first two albums are more interesting. For this one I just can advice any prog listener to ignore it, it's not worth for checking out. Maybe it's something for some die-hard fans of soul music.

(Dieter Fischer, Progarchives)

Fully Interlocking is one of my favorite albums and evey bit as good as the wonderful Cordon Bleu. Dreamy keyboards, great sax work and an inspired rhythm section with some wonderful interplay between instruments. The vocals are just OK - never a Solution strength, but most tracks are instrumental except the first and last. The recording quality (on my vinyl copy) is outstanding - the drum intro to Carousel is the best test of a hi-fi ever - and this adds to the spacey feel. Give Me Some More is particularly excellent (poppy? I don't think so!) and Carousel is marvelous but no track lets the album down at all; it's very consistent and excellent. Jazz fusion at it's best and, oh yes, DEFINITELY prog!!

 (Tony Fisher, Progarchives)

It's only just begun

It's only just begun
(1980)

Not even Jan Akkerman could help Solution make a good new beginning. When they entered the eighties they were a not so interesting AOR band. All the jazz and interesting key changes were gone. For progressive fans this is not an album to purchase.

(Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

Like if the preceding album "fully interlocking" was not accessible and pop enough, the band here REALLY made a serious attempt to be on the radio broadcast level. You know what, their formula really works for me: tons of pleasant, joyful songs full of lead & backing vocals, saxes, woodwinds instruments, rhythmic keyboards. The songs are very very catchy and addictive. The bass and drums are absolutely well played and are not minimalist at all: the ensemble is amazingly well synchronized!! They may sound just slightly like SPYRO GYRA, less jazzy. Finally, this is pop sophisticated rock/fusion/jazz, and yes, "it is only just begun".

(Greenback, Progarchives)

Runaway

Runaway
(1982)

A couple of years after It's only just begun Solution came in 1983 with a new album called Runaway. Harry Hardholdt had joined the band and played guitar. On all the previous albums the guitar never was one of the leading instruments but in this album it is. The style is completely different from their previous albums and it feels as if it is a bit forced towards the rock scene. All in all for a fan it still is a good album but it does not reach the quality of their other albums. This album turned out to be their last studio album. In 1983, after a very successful goodbye tour Solution split up because the members of the band did no longer have the inspiration to go on. See the solution website for more details.

(Twan, Progarchives)

The Ultimate Collection (2005)

The Ultimate Collection
(2005)

This collection can truly be called 'The Ultimate Collection' since it contains all the tracks they ever released. On this collection each track can be found as either a studio recording or a live recording.

Disc one contains the complete debut album with some tracks from the second and third album. This disc gives the best example of how good Solution is. At their best they make progressive, jazzy music with references to Soft Machine and Supersister. The music is mainly instrumental with few vocals. But when they sing it sounds very nice. Disc two is less interesting. It starts good with a remaining track from 'Cordon Bleu', but with the fourth album Solution made more mainstream music. Most progressive music lovers will loose interest here. The third disc is a live one. It is the same release as the cd 'The best of Solution live' from 1991 (except for the last track, Fever, which is a studio version again).

So this may be an ultimate collection, but considering the music of Solution, the first three albums: Solution, Divergence and Cordon Bleu are the albums to get. The rest is obsolete.

(Dutch Progressive Rock of the Nineteen Seventies)

Collection (2006)

Collection
(2006)

This compilation focuses on the second period in the career of Solution, in which they went away from the progressive, jazzy tracks towards a more pop oriented sound. Almost by default this makes this release not very interesting for fans of the progressive scene. If you like some well crafted AOR this might be something for you.

(Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

Mythology (2012)

Mythology
(2012)

Déjà vu once again! The cult Dutch '70s jazz-prog band Solution comes to the fore on DPRP once more in this new Mythology 3CD set by Pseudonym, similar to the previously reviewed Finch Mythology set. According to the notes, this four-hour collection contains the complete '70s studio recordings, including singles and live tracks to garnish the band's first four albums. All in all, this is a more hearty offering than what Esoteric gave us last year, but if you'd like to read about the band's first two albums - which are, of course, a part of this set - I thoroughly recommend you read my original review HERE.

The band's third album, titled Cordon Bleu, was the first to be released by Elton John's Rocket Records in 1975, after a temporary hiatus. The core of Tom Barlage, Willem Ennes, Guus Willemse and Hans Waterman were reunited, but this album saw the band take a more commercial-oriented route than the darker material that had gone before. Radio friendly tracks such as Black Pearl, A Song For You and Last Detail see Willemse giving an unintentional impression of Steve Walsh from Kansas. In an interesting development, the unrelated Preview and Second Line from the first two albums are made into a trilogy which is concluded with Third Line, drawing themes from its retconned predecessors. However, the cream of the crop is the ten-minute instrumental Chappaqua, accessible from the sample link, which blasts itself into jazzy outer space in the sixth minute.

The next album, Fully Interlocking, would also be released by Rocket Records in 1977. After the experimentation with verses and lyrics on Cordon Bleu, Solution realised that their strength lay in the instrumentals, with four out of the six tracks containing no lyrics whatsoever. Miles away from Koan and Concentration, the instrumentals on this record are of a faux-Camel style, with Sonic Sea looking incredibly suspect. While some beautiful moments occur, especially in French Melodie, the band simply don't aim quite as high as Chappaqua, a real shame. Nevertheless, I've found some joy in one of the two tracks with lyrics. Empty Faces is the perfect cheesy soft rock song; that key change at the end couldn't be more predictable! A true guilty pleasure. Fully Interlocking is an adequate album, but not too ambitious.

The strength in this set really lays with the bonus tracks, which give the listener a fuller view of the band. Take the single version of Divergence, which sounds absolutely nothing like its original, and doesn't even have the same line-up; Jaap van Eik was temporarily called in to replace the absent Willemse on bass. Or listen to one of the plethora of live tracks, mainly drawn from the self-titled debut. For such a technical band, they seemed to have no problem recreating the effect on stage. My complaints:-
  • Artwork: While the four album covers and single covers are shown, we are given nothing else. Moreover, they are in miniscule form. I don't care for the 'speaker inside the Earth' art either, as it seems meaningless.
  • Tracklist: Incredibly convoluted. As with Finch, the tracks for various albums are not in the right order. Furthermore, albums are split across CDs, with bonus tracks in between albums. This seems especially silly when Empty Faces from Fully Interlocking appears by itself on CD2, ahead of the other five tracks on CD3. The CDs are labelled 'Chapters', but it's hardly as if these 'Chapters' are self-contained.
  • Liner notes: Actually, these are quite interesting and informative, but sometimes the grammar is a little off. Still, I've read far worse!
Pseudonym easily win in this contest against Esoteric. I don't know whether Esoteric are planning on releasing any more Solution albums, but without bonus tracks, they aren't doing themselves any favours. This is really the place to come to discover a fantastic jazz-oriented prog band from the '70s.

(Basil Francis, DPRP)