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Kayak - Merlin - Bard of the Unseen CD (album) cover

MERLIN - BARD OF THE UNSEEN

Kayak

 

Crossover Prog

3.83 | 97 ratings

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friso
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Kayak - Merlin - Bard of the Unseen (2003)

Musical or conceptual masterpiece?

This was one of the keyrecords that made me listen to progressive music. I liked the fantasy Kayak had, the medieaval sounds they made and the story they told in their music. Progressive tracks like The Sword in the Stone and Merlin made me think about music: what are the boundaries? What makes this intelligent composition-style so attractive? Why did I never listen to this kind of music before?

Kayak had been a major Dutch progressive/crossover band in the mid-seventies. In the late seventies they changed formula to a more pop-approach on the music and they disbanded in the early eigthies. The very beginning of the 21th century can be seen as the big comeback for the Duch progscene with reappearences of Kayak, Supersister, Focus and Alquin. Kayak released Close to the Fire (2000), in my opion a great fusion between symphonic rock and progressive sympho. The followup Night Vision was a mixed bag, but had some fantastic tracks on the first halve. Now it was time to complete this ancient vision of Kayak: the complete rework and finishing of the Merlin album of 1981. The original album had side one filled with highly progressive songs from the Merlin concept and a poppy second side. The tracks Merlin, Tintagel, The Sword in the Stone, The King's Enchanter and Niniane (Lade of the Lake) originate from the original release, but were re-recorded and nine new tracks were written to complete to concept.

The rerecordings of the original tracks worked very well, while the new songs were succesful in being in the right mood and atmosphere to create a new whole out of the two different parts. The songs have medieaval compositions styles with medieaval instrumentation with great choise of keysounds and the additions of an orchestra! Still there is a place for electric guitars, nice functional drums and the best of vocals. Lead vocalist (role of Merlin) Bert Heerink thows in both subtle vocals and strong, powerfull vocals reminding me of the Vandenberg heavy rock era. New-comer and now fulltime member Cindy Oudshoorn is one of the best Dutch vocalist I've ever seen. She sounds very good on the record (role of Morgan Lefay), powerfull and emotional. Still she can do better, for I've seen her live and on the Merlin DVD adding even more power to her beautiful voice. Guitarist and vocalist Rob Vunderink (role Mordred, the bastard son) rock's out on tracks like Branded and The Last Battle. Kayak's new guitarist Joost Vergoossen adds the nicest of gutiar solo's, while steady factor Bert Veldkamp on bass has his great moments on Tintagel and Branded.

The result of all this, band plus orchestra is an extravaganza of both power, intelligent atmospheric compostions with enough space for emotional vocals, something this story shurely needs. Though all tracks are very interesting, some are perfect. The original Merlin shines as an opener with great symphonic chord progressions with lots of key changed, The devoted 3/3 signature Future King, the very progressive Sword in the Stone, the emotional When the Sheer looks away with an amazing angy vocal part of Cindy Oudshoorn, the rockin' Branded with the heavy vocals of Vunderink, and finally the big bombastic The Last Battle that has great vocal parts, war rythms and a solo section like never seen before. There is only one thing I don't like about this record. Between The Otherworld and The King's Enchanter are to much downtempo tracks, the album could have used a bust in between.

Conclusion. One of the best symphonic/orchestral progressive concept albums ever made. To bad the 'experts' on this side nailed it down as a 'musical', while all the other reviewers gave it five stars for being a masterpiece. There is no record in the symphonic genre I could recommend more then this one, without doubt a five star record and it should have been highly ranked in our PA top 100! If it only had gotten more attention from the scene....

friso | 5/5 |

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