Kayak - Close To The Fire

Year of Release: 2000
Label: ProActs
Catalog Number: PRO CD 2004
Format: CD
Total Time: 60:41:00

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 strong 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 strong 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!

Close To The Fire (8:11) / When Hearts Grow Cold (3:08) / Dream Child (3:30) / Frozen Flame (6:34) / Forever (4:48) / Worlds Apart (5:12) / Crusader (4:39) / Two Wrongs (Don't Make A Right) (3:35) / Anybody's Child (5:01) / Here Today (3:34) / Just A Matter Of Time (3:34) / Full Circle (5:55) / Ruthless Queen (5:00)

Ton Scherpenzeel - keyboards
Max Werner - vocals
Pim Koopman - drums
Rob Winter - guitars
Bert Veldkamp - bass

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 NL

Added: September 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website: www.kayakonline.info
Hits: 1400
Language: english


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