The city of Hilversum (meaning "houses between the hills") is located in Northern Holland and besides all else is famous for three things: - 1. The ‘Hilversum Culture’, being an early- to mid-Bronze Age, or 800– 1200 BC material artefact. 2. The ‘Media City’ being the principal centre for radio and television in The Netherlands. 3. Being the home to the legendary and still going strong symphonic rock band ‘Kayak’.
The beginnings of Kayak, as a band, started when ‘Ton Scherpenzeel’ (keyboards, bass guitar) got together with school friend ‘ Pim Koopman’ (drums, guitars) and subsequently they played together in several local bands such as Balderdash (1967) and High Tide Formation (1970 ). Then together with HTLs Guitarist ‘Johan Slager’ they embarked on a side project entitled ‘Ten Ride Ticket’. But, it was the next venture that elevated their music and compositional skills to the next level. Both ‘Ton S’ and ‘Pim K’ enrolled at the ‘Hilversum Music Academy, studying double bass and percussion respectively.
It was at the music academy that the formation of ‘Kayak’ as a symphonic progressive rock band became firmly established. Fellow music student Max Werner (also from Hilversum) vocalist, drummer, and percussionist joined the throng and not long after this they secured a recording deal with EMI.
Despite, changes in musical direction to a more AOR format and several line-up changes over succeeding years ‘Kayak’ stood the test of time releasing many albums right up until 2009 when sadly co-founder ‘Pim Koopman’ passed away. Although the band struggled on without ‘Pim’ it was not until 2017, that ‘Ton’ injected new blood with the introduction of singer ‘Bart Schwertmann’ and guitarist ‘Marcel Singor’. With this new creative line- up and collective aspirations for a more progressive / symphonic sound the album ‘Seventeen’ was released on ‘InsideOut Music’. The album was very well received by both the music press and the progressive rock fraternity. Certainly the success of ‘Seventeen’ was a contributory factor for the 2019 tour from which these live recordings were taken, and the subject of this review.
Spread over 2 CDs and recorded live at Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Zoetemeer, January 2019 and Poppodium Hedon, Zwolie, May 2019 is a mixture of songs from Kayak’s back catalogue including songs from their last studio album entitled Seventeen. This is no raucous, head banging kind of show. In fact it reminds me of the more sedate very ordered intimate pop shows of years gone by where everyone was treated to an evening of excellent music in a fun family kind of way. The entire programme is full of melodic charm the central focus of which is the classically inspired keyboards that provide the foundation for the music. Acting both as background fills and also as more dynamic flurries of complex chord patterns the piano, organ and synthesizer are quite mesmerising as they hold the music firmly in place. The guitar too is beautifully administered providing the final edge to the development of the individual pieces. Probably it is true to say that from an instrumental standpoint the lead guitar shares the majority of the overall musical projection in terms of playing the lead arrangements. However, there is only a modicum of guitar and keyboard interchanges where the two instruments encounter each other in instrumental battle. Central to the stability of the music, the explosive drumming and tuneful bass combinations are well executed and drive the music ever forward in support of the guitar and keyboards. In the softly projected ‘Kayak ‘style from past years, to which we have become accustomed, the vocals are attractively delivered and sound great for both the latest songs and the classic renditions from the back catalogue.
Summary: An enjoyable album with nice guitar and keyboards featuring the pleasant melodic compositions from Kayak past and present.
Unfortunately in October 2019 ‘Ton Scherpenzeel’ suffered a heart attack and although he is feeling better (January 2020) he is not yet strong enough to continue working. We wish him well for a full and complete recovery.
Songs / Tracks Listing
CD 1 1. LOVE OF A VICTIM 2. RHEA 3. BALLAD FOR A LOST FRIEND 4. A MILLION YEARS 5. SOMEBODY 6. LA PEREGRINA
7. FALLING 8. MAMMOTH 9. DAPHNE (LAUREL TREE) 10. STILL MY HEART CRIES FOR YOU 11. MERLIN
CD 2 1. SEAGULL 2. ALIBI 3. SAID NO WORD 4. CRACKS 5. FEATHERS AND TAR 6. IRENE 7. WALK THROUGH FIRE 8. RUTHLESS QUEEN 9. CHANCE FOR A LIFETIME 10. STARLIGHT DANCER 11. TO AN END
Line-up / Musicians
- Bart Schwertman / vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, percussion –
Marcel Singor / guitar, vocals –
Ton Scherpenzeel / keyboards, vocals, composer, arranger & producer –
Hans Eijkenaar / drums, sequences –
Kristoffer Gildenl bass, backing vocals