Kayak - Merlin - The Bard Of The Unseen

Year of Release: 2003
Label: ProAct
Catalog Number: KAY17
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:35:00

The roots of Kayak go back to 1967, when neighbourhood friends Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards, bass guitar) and Pim Koopman (drums, guitar), who had played in a few small bands, found the basis of what a few years later would become Kayak. Signing with EMI in 1972 saw the release of two modestly successful albums, with major success withheld from the band until the late 70s, with Edward Reekers (Ayreon) on vocals. Their single "Ruthless Queen" sold over 100,000 copies. A lengthy respite occurred following the release of the semi-live album Eyewitness in 1982 and it wasn't until 1998 that Kayak reappeared, on television of all places.

This marked the return for Kayak and they released a brand new studio album, as well as their first (!) real live album of their career. Now they have reworked the "Merlin Suite," from the album Merlin, which was originally released in 1981, and turned it into a rock opera. This album can be called Kayak's Magnum Opus, as this turned out to be quite an undertaking. New vocalist Bert Heerink (Vandenberg) takes the part of Merlin and Lancelot, guitarist and vocalist Rob Vunderink has the part of Mordred, and guest vocalist Cindy Oudshoorn plays the parts of Morgan Lefay and Guinevere. The line-up is completed with Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals), Pim Koopman (drums, voice over) and Joost Vergoossen (guitars).

The concept album Merlin - The Bard Of The Unseen sounds like a cross between a rock opera and a musical, mainly due to the classical arrangements and the use of a complete orchestra and the superb vocals. The compositions are very strong and well thought out, as they lay the story out for you, which is then completed by the vocals. The album sounds as one complete story and not as a collection of songs and from the first song you are drawn into the story and you are taken back to the magical time of Merlin, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The guitar parts are very balanced and the orchestra fits in perfectly, with excellent keyboard arrangements by Scherpenzeel, who at times sound very much like Erik Norlander, especially in the keyboard solo at the end of the first track, "Merlin," and in "The Sword In The Stone." Singer Bert Heerink puts much drama in his voice and this makes the songs very compelling, which is very evident in "When The Seer Looks Away," a song that will give you goosebumps. This is also the first song where Heerink sings with Cindy Oudshoorn, who has a fantastic voice. This song is definitely one of the highlights and is followed by the up tempo song "Branded," where they appear together again. "The Otherworld" begins with a dark voice over by Pim Koopman, and is a captivating song with a compelling orchestral arrangement, which makes it sounds a bit like the score from a fantasy movie, with quite a long instrumental intro and excellent vocals by Bert Heerink.

Although many songs are relatively calm, there is enough guitar work to make this album interesting for the "rock fans" and many parts can only be described as epic and melodic, but there is also room for a real ballad, "Friendship And Love," again a duet between Heerink and Oudshoorn, who seem to fit quite nicely together. But, Oudshoorn also gets a chance to show what she can do alone in the song "The King's Enchanter," which sounds very much like a song from a musical, like Miss Saigon. The epic nature comes back in the song "The Last Battle," where we finally get to hear Vunderink, together with Heerink, in one of the best songs on the album, with great guitar riffs and a good vocal duel.

Merlin ? Bard Of The Unseen is a classical album and definitely a must for those who love symphonic rock operas. The songs are balanced and breathe the atmosphere of Camelot. But the best parts of the album are the vocals! Bert Heerink and Cindy Oudshoorn are outstanding vocalists and also Rob Vunderink has a very good voice. The perfect mix between music and vocals make this album a pleasure to listen to and once you hear it, you will put your CD player on repeat, to make this dream last as long as possible! Despite the fact that Ton Scherpenzeel and Pim Koopman, both responsible for writing the music, and Irene Linders, responsible for the lyrics, have been making music for more than 30 years, they still know how to write a classic album and show that they have not yet reached the peak of their talents. The production of the album as well as the mix is in one word perfect and the same goes for the booklet, which has beautiful artwork, depicting scenes from the Knights of the Round Table and Merlin. Make sure you don't miss out on this sublime album!

Similar bands: Camel

[This review originally appeared June 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

Merlin (7:50) / Tintagel (2:49) / The Future Knig (2:58) / The Sword In The Stone (3:43) / When The Seer Looks Away (4:18) / Branded (3:51) / At Arthur's Court (3:15) / The Otherworld (7:59) / The Purest Of Knights (5:48) / Friendship And Love (5:13) / The King's Enchanter (2:31) / Niniane (Lady Of The Lake) (7:08) / The Last Battle (8:11) / Avalon (3:44)

Ton Scherpenzeel - piano, synthesizers, backing vocals, percussion
Pim Koopman - drums, backing vocals
Bert Heerink - vocals
Rob Vunderink - vocals, guitars
Bert Veldkamp - bass
Joost Vergoossen - guitars


Cindy Oudshoorn - vocals
New Philharmonic Orchestra

See See The Sun (1973)
Kayak II (1974)
Royal Bed Bouncer (1975)
The Last Encore (1976)
Starlight Dancer (1977, US version)
Phantom Of The Night (1978)
Periscope Life (1980)
Merlin (1981)
Eyewitness (1982/1994)
Close To The Fire (2000)
Chance For A Livetime (2001)
Merlin - The Bard Of The Unseen (2003)
Nostradamus - The Fate Of Man (2CD) (2005)
Excerpts From Nostradamus - The Fate Of Man (1CD) (2005)
KAYAKoustic Live (2007)
Coming Up For Air (2008)
The Anniversary Concert (CD/DVD) (2008)
The Anniversary Box (CD/DVD) (2008)
Letters From Utopia (2009)
Anywhere But Here (2011)
Cleopatra - The Crown Of Isis (2014)
Journey Through Time (2017)
Seventeen (2018)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin SE

Added: July 25th 2005
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website: www.kayakonline.info
Hits: 1229
Language: english


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