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Supersister - Iskander CD (album) cover




Canterbury Scene

3.55 | 129 ratings

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3 stars Supersister - Iskander (1973)

Supersister is a major progressive rock act from the Netherlands during the progessive haydays of the early seventies. Their style was hugely influenced by Frank Zappa (mainly the rhytmical proto-Canterbury approach) and by the Soft Machine (the distorted organ based rock sound with repetative rhythms and psychedelic vocals). With a keyboards, bass, flute and drums the band had an orginal line-up with very talented musicians, with Robert Jan Stips being one of the best keyboardplayers in Dutch rock/pop history. On the first three albums Supersister impressed fans and critics with their fast jazzy approach on progressive music with some space for great flute melodies and solo's and nice hippi vocals of Stips. On the fourth album the band had to cope with line-up changes and a change of style in general.

Robert Jan Stips still plays his fast keyboards and organs and the bass is still played by Ron van Eck. Flute player Sacha van Geest only appears on one track, the paino-flute duet called Roxane. The drums are taken over by Herman van Boeyen wit some assistence of Pierre Moerlen on percussion. The new solist is Charlie Mariano on saxophone. His style is that of a fusion musician who seems to be influenced by the style of Alton Dean of the Soft Machine.

The fact that supersister suddenly has another solo-instruments makes a huge difference on Iskander. The style of Mariano pushes the band toward that of a progressive fusion group of it's days with slight avant-garde influences. The organs of Stips are less on the foreground and the scarce vocals of Stips are almost lost in the mix. One can also find some world-music influences, for this is a concept album about Alexander the Great (named Iskander in Greece). The world-music influences remind me a bit of those of Palepoli by Osanna (from the RPI division). The drums of Boeyen are very good, but I must admit I preferred the unstoppable repetative/psychedelic jazz drums of Marco Vrolijk. Somehow Supersister lost it's vibe without the continuity of the high pace he laid down for the band.

With all these changes in line-up, sound and style I can conclude that this is not an album that is representative for the Supersister brand, but that doesn't make it a bad album. The wind-section of Mariano is very strong and most of his solo's are really great. The composition is fine, though a big more aggresion would not have hurt. My only real complaint is the bad mixing of the vocals, one can't almost hear what Stips is singing. The duet of Stips and Van Geest on 'Roxane' is a great reminder of the former Supersiter sound, it also reminds me a bit of the great atmosphere of Pudding & Gisteren's ending section. The concept is bit lost because of the low volume vocals, but when reading the inner sleeves a lot of the the band's thoughts on the subject are revealed.

Conclusion. This will perhaps never be my favorite Supersister album, but it's still recommended to fans of Canterbury, classic fusion and rare progressive rock. The album does have a strong atmosphere, though a bit sophisticated at times (unlike the happy, bombastic & crazy vibe of the first three albums). Perhaps it'll take me some more spins to nail it down completely. Three and a halve stars, but I'm a bit unsure wether it's going to be rounded up or down.

friso | 3/5 |


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