Will Jackson 12-November-2006 overview

The Dutch school of 70s bands delivered some of the finest and most fully realized progressive rock records of them all. Supersister, Earth and Fire, and Focus come immediately to mind, and I would add the underappreciated Kayak to the roster, especially if we're about talking symphonic rock. Ton Scherpenzeel was the Rod Argent of the Netherlands and the first 3 Kayak albums, recorded between 1973-75, are replete with lovely keyboard work. Interesting and fast-moving arrangements mix with richly melodic and mellotron-swept ballads, all within songs that usually clock in at well under 5 minutes. Kayak is one of the few 1970s "prog rock" bands who could successfully deliver all the goods within a 3 or 4 minute tune; ROYAL BED BOUNCER (1975) is their tour de force in this department. Due to the obvious influence of Yes and Genesis, one may be tempted to say that ROYAL BED BOUNCER is a compendium of 70s prog cliché’s -- but with the advanced musical ideas, fully pumped instrumental prowess, gorgeous piano and mellotron parts, and rhythmic gymnastics to make the masters blush, the record states its case.

Kayak's first two records, SEE SEE THE SUN and KAYAK are also small masterpieces of style, substance and abundant personality. In the bargain you get lead singer Max Werner's occasionally grating, operatic vocals, along with some (endearing) awkwardness in the Dutch-to-English lyric department. KAYAK features some truly great voyages, the showpiece of which is "They Get to Know Me," which finishes with a mellotron coda that rivals Yes for sheer heart-stopping grandiloquence. After these first 3 records, alas, Kayak went south pretty fast, and records like STARLIGHT DANCER and PHANTOMS OF THE NIGHT have only glimmers of the early excitement.

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