Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rick van der Linden (symphonic prog/fusion/classical)

Rick van der Linden is probably best know as the key member of the progressive rock/fusion bands Ekseption and Trace during the 70's. Later the Dutch keyboard wizzard embarqued on numerous solo projects and accepted guest appearances for bands like Deep Purple and artists like Phil Collins and Vangelis. But his name will forever be linked to those two forementioned bands.
On January 22nd, it will be exactly one year ago he passed away. A legend in his own time, van der Linden was highly acclaimed by his colleagues all over the world, often compared to geniuses like Bach and Beethoven.
So this is my little tribute to the artist...

Ekseption - 1968-73
The story of Ekseption as we know it begins when they won first prize at the Loosdrecht Jazz Festival in 1968. They were rewarded with a record contract with Philips and at the suggestion of van der Linden, the band decided to record rock versions of Beethoven’s Fifth and Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance. Although initially the single with The Fifth did not catch on, 3 months after its release, suddenly it began to sell like hotcakes, and the basis for the now famous Ekseption formula was established: a cocktail of classical music with (symphonic) rock and fusion.
In 1973 van der Linden left the band. Ekseption's first album without van der Linden, Bingo, didn't do very well. The new direction the band had chosen (less classical oriented, more leaning towards soft fusion and 70's lounge) obviously didn't stick with the original fan base. To be honest, Bingo is quite a good album if you're into vintage fusion... Well, that's my opinion of course. Anyway, later attempts to achieve the same level of succes as in the 'olden days' failed. Although Ekseption is still active as far as I know.

Trace - 1974-1976
Rick van der Linden’s father was a pianoplayer, so it was no surprise that young Rick took piano-lessons. Later he started to learn playing the organ and finally he went to the Haarlem Conservatory. He played in many bands and nightclubs and was impressed by fusion legend Brian Auger and Keith Emerson. Rick got worldwide recognition with the ‘classic-rock formula’ from Ekseption yet he wanted his own band to show his keyboard pyrotechnics. He founded Trace in 1973. Now he got the opportunity to work out his own ideas with keyboard-dominated symphonic rock. In ’74 Trace released their selftitled debut-album, in ’75 their second one entitled Birds and in ’76 their third and final LP called White Ladies. Trace is often described as a kind of Dutch equivalent to early ELP. However, Rick displays a much wider array of keyboards, including Hammond B3 organ, Hohner clavinet and pianet, ARP – and EMI synthesizers, harpsichord, Solina string-ensemble, Mellotron and church organ. He even used the sound of a bagpipe.
Despite good albums, great concerts and worldwide recognition, Trace didn’t work out the high expectations and dissolved in the late 70's.

Trace - Birds (1975) - an album review
The second album by Trace is one of my favourite records by Rick van der Linden. It both features masterful blends of rock and classical music and some classical/jazz fusion as well. Opus 1065 is a good example of how van de Linden was able to turn a classical composition by Bach into a funky, jazzy piece, combining vintage 70's keyboards with more classical instruments like harpsicord and piano.
King-Bird (21:59) is clearly designed to impress. It's a (seemingly) never-ending torrent of musical sketches with both symphonic rock and jazzy themes. The heavy classical arrangements by keyboard wizzard van de Linden combined with wailing solo guitar provide a majestic atmoshere while the groovy jazz fragments offer some more relaxed moments.
The music of Trace might sound a little outdated nowadays, but is still a must-have for fans of vintage progressive rock and might even appeal to fans of classical music or even fusion.

Rick van der Linden - GX I (1977) - an album review
This solo album by Rick van der Linden (Trace, Ekseption) features a nice setlist arranged especially for the Yamaha XG1, a very rare experimental analog synthesizer (see: http://www.synthmuseum.com/yamaha/yamgx101.html).
Among the handful of artists who owned one of the 6 or 7 units built by Yamaha were Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Jurgen Fritz of Triumvirat, Stevie Wonder and Rick Wakeman.
Already an accomplished musician on a wide array of both classical and vintage electronic keyboards as well as pipe organ, van der Linden was keen to familiarize himself with more experimental instruments.
This album features a nice collection of classical songs rearranged for the GX1 as well as some of his own compositions like the title track and Wizzard Dance, which often appear inspired by artists of the likes of Rick Wakeman, Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis.
However, as is often the case with early synthesizer albums, the music sounds a bit corny and outdated sometimes, but it's still a pretty cool album!
If you're a fan of the music by Rick van der Linden, or of vintage electronic music, you should have fun exploring this album.

Get it here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Jerry Lee Lewis - Last Man Standing (2006)

Back in the 1950's Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the pioneers of a wild new musical style called rock 'n' roll. 50 Years later 'The Killer' litteraly is the last man standing, since all of his peers have passed away (like the equally legendary 50's rockers Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison). Backed-up by a host of some of the biggest artists from the past decades - like rockers Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Robbie Robertson (The Band) and blues legend BB King - Jerry Lee agreed to record a collection of duets.

Last Man Standing is a celebration of 'that old style rock 'n' roll' – classic Lewis songs in te vein of his earlier work: an energetic mix of vintage rockabilly, country, blues and New Orleans jazz. Lewis, now 71 years old, still sounds as vigourous and outrageous as he did when he was in his 20's... Listening to Last Man Standing is like stepping into a time machine: apart from the great production value, little effort has been made to make the songs sound more contemporary. It's the same kind of music Jerry Lee used to play over a decade ago, yet it still sounds really fresh and not in the least bit outdated. So in a way, Jerry Lee seems to tell us that the musical style he helped te create back in the mid-50's is in every way as timeless as classic jazz or blues.
A highly recommended release!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Welcome!

Hello everyone, welcome to this blog.

So, what's the point of yet another music blog, you might ask? Well, there isn't any. It just seemed like a lot of fun...

Whether you want to explore rare vintage rock albums, or lesser known folk, jazz or fusion records, this might by a good place to start. I'll also try posting some of my opinions about more recent releases.
My taste in music is quite broad so you might find anything here... If it's good, it's good!
So, check out Juicy Fruits as often as you can!

I'm a big fan of music blogs myself. Just browse through the links section to explore my favourite ones.