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5 stars Between Focus and Ekseption, this is an exceptional album, very baroque and delicated. A must for lovers of the more classic side of the progressive rock. But even when this Bach inspirated music wouldn't be your cup of tea, or if you don't like the vintage sounds, you MUST hear virtuoso Rick Van Der Linden playing. His keyboards skill is just amazing.
Report this review (#7315)
Posted Tuesday, December 30, 2003 | Review Permalink
The Owl
5 stars This 3-piece in my mind blew ELP out of its own native waters! Rick Van Der Linden is a criminally underrated keyboard maestro with more than a few good ideas. And besides who else do you know that could artfully combine Bix Biederbecke and JS Bach? The "Birds Suite" is a treat (and bonus points for including the Owl at the 3:39 mark, they're my favorite birds!)!
Report this review (#7312)
Posted Wednesday, January 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Lack of purpose for this band as Ekseption had said it all before and even then it lacked a purpose ;-) I never really appreciated groups that were ripping off the classic composer without giving them credits for it. But here Trace (as the relazted Ekseption) actually do give credits to the classical composers, itdoes not make their music anymore worthy or interesting. Somehow, these classic reworksare never far from a pastiche, but Trace and Ekseption lacked the humour to do a pastiche.

Arguably their better album, but as you can guess, hardly worth a spin, IMHO

Report this review (#7313)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars A strange and passive follow-up to the 74 remarkable debut. The loss of magic, the pure joy of playing that was present there is nearly absent on this one. Ok, the music flows well, well-played and has its good-above-average-moments, but after listening through it all, the feeling that comes clearest, is: and..ok, so what-feeling. The whole thing lacks spark in my ears, there is no clear direction, no really great themes, just very ok and yes, sometimes, very beautiful music.
Report this review (#7314)
Posted Friday, February 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Trace's BIRDS is somewhat would call...a diamond in the waste. The skills of Rick Van Der Linden are more than talent. I just don't get it, why some are complaining about this album. It's delicate, it's virtuosity, it's a blend of baroque (Curved Air Daryll Way's violin in Opus) and vintage keyboards that takes you back to a simpler time. A time when all you needed to have a prog band is a big beard. Those birds (pun no intended) are rare to find. Please, when you listen to that record, think vintage. Think simple. Think like you were in 1975, with converse and adidas shirts. Place yourself in that time when producers searched for talent, not attitude. And believe that, these guys had no looks...but Birds had total talent and innoncence. That's the mark of 70's prog.
Report this review (#7316)
Posted Monday, March 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars TRACE were a trio producing very keyboard rich music with embellishments of a classical genre added in for contrast. "Birds" would likely represent IMHO their defining moment offering some grand jazz/rock progressive themes. TRACE were Rick van der Linden (keyboards), Ian Mosley (MARILLION) drums and Jaap van Eik (bass and guitars). "Birds" combines shapes of CAMEL, ELP and FOCUS within a very tight and very original structure and wall of sound. This is truly a rich album with some awesome keyboards and amazing drumming. The album is made up of a number of shorter tunes and then an epic side long piece "King Bird" which gives them lots of room to unfold quite a piece . They also manage to cover two J.S. Bach tunes. The re-mastered CD also contains 2 excellent bonus songs taken from the same recording era and were apparently released separately as singles. Darryl Way makes a grand guest appearance on the violin on TRACE's rendition of Bach's "Opus 1065" which is one of the richest tracks you will hear. A great album.
Report this review (#7317)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very good Symphonic Prog rock album, excellent keyboard playing (similar to Rick Wakeman's, but sometimes catchier) The singing on 'King Bird' is not particulary that strong, but musically it is top notch, It has a wide selection of music, from Jazz to real Prog Rock on King Bird, This band is alot better than Ekseption.
Report this review (#7318)
Posted Wednesday, May 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Like the previous album from TRACE, I give this one also a 5 star rating. Whereas the previous album puts the emphasis on the virtuosity of the band members, this one highlights Rick's skill in arranging music to an even greater degree. Usually his music sounds so good and natural that the skill that has gone in creating the track goes by almost unnoticed: some Hammond here, a fluff of harpsichord there, a little mellotron in the background passing by. And it's not just the use of instruments, his special signature also extends to his use of harmony, the way he structures melodies, it makes him very recognizable. Centre piece of this album is the Birds suite, it consists of several shorter movements strung together, with Rick using a host of different instruments, including the church organ. "Bourree" and "Snuff" are high energy tracks with a key role for the Hammond (in "Bourree" Rick combines Bach with a roadie imitating a monkey), "Janny (In a mist)" is a short Bix Beiderbecke solo piano piece, delightfully played, whereas the track "Penny" is a sensitive trio for piano, bass and drums. Rick duels with Daryl WAY, who is the guest star on "Opus 1065", a piece based on the "Concerto for 4 harpsichords and strings in A minor" from J.S.Bach. If you add to this two bonus tracks, an in-depth bio of the band in the booklet, this release is too good to let it pass you by.
Report this review (#7320)
Posted Monday, September 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.5 FROM ME Now this is a real treat!!. Trace were a dutch trio in the vain of ELP lead by keyboard virtuoso Rick van der linden (formerly of FOCUS). In my opinion this trio is much better then ELP and van der linden is a more acomplished KB player than Keith Emerson. The album is very much rooted in the baroque with influences from rock,jazz , and in a way a funky groove (from holland!!) delivered mainly by base player Jaap van Eik who delivers a solid performence and even takes a few leads in some of the parts. The album includes two versions of BACH compostions ,bouree (not jethro tull) and opus 1065 . the former is the album opener and really a great fast paced track and the latter a great track which opens very innocently as a nice standard CAMELesque piece (moonmadness era) and turns into a full classic baroque peace in cluding a stunning solo performence by CURVED AIR violinist Darryl Way who was a good friend of Van der Linden. but what am i talking so much listen to opus 1065 right now in this great site!. The rest of the tracks include some nice jazzy pieces (Janny, Penny) and of course the great long composition King-bird which is really great and describes a concept about birds living in a city as human beings. I forgot to mention that the album is basically instrumental except for some singing (in a deep dutch accent by van eik) in king-bird and some monkey (MONKEY!!) sounds on the opener. If i had to describe the sound of this band then i would consider a blend of early CAMEL,FOCUS,and maybe a bit of THE NICE. Tracks 8 and 9 are bonus tracks added by the MUSEA reissue, they are nice but not essential. I will give this 3.5 stars as it is good and performed by real masters of their instruments but not essential because he composions lack that certain something making the songs last in your head for days. Thats it from me, have a great day and thank you for reading my review. ISRAELPROGHEAD
Report this review (#60673)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars From its sublime cover by Rens Benerink depicting a pair of birds of prey swooping down on to a distorted lanscape against a burning solar flare to it`s multiple musical themes which paint themselves brilliantly into one another, Trace`s 1975 album is a magnificent display of modern artistic virtuosity.

Often compared to ELP because of it`s similar instrumentation with the late Rick van der Linden on every keyboard known to mankind, Jaap van Eik ( formerly of Cuby & The Bizaars ) on bass, e-guitar and vocals, and future Marillion stickman, Ian Mosley on drums, the ELP comparisons , although with some foundation, are largely unfair. Van der Linden was certainly influenced to a certain degree after witnessing a Keith Emerson & The Nice gig in the late 60`s, but he blazed his own musical trail with his band Ekseption in the late sixties up to 1974 when the 3 piece Trace was formed. His classical/jazz/pop concoction had more musical depth and was markedly less bombastic than Keith Emerson `s ( the two met on sevral occasions ) as evidenced on the album in question here, Birds. Overshadowed by ELP who were at the peak of their powers at the time, Birds nevertheless went gold in Trace`s native Holland and firmly established them as the next Dutch supergroup next to Focus whom they were closer to than ELP having a distinct European sound. Van der Linden`s softer multi-themed approach here employed a vast array of keyboards including a grand piano, harpsichord synth string ensemble, Hammond organ, mellotron and ARP synth to mention a few while Jaap van Eik`s superior lyrical bass playing and Mosley`s impeccable precision percussive attacks completed this game, set & match.

Ghosts of everyone from Bix Beiderbecke, Vivaldi and most notably J.S. Bach make appearances throughout this delightful musical frankenstein but it`s the rate of the occurance of thematic changes that are the most stunning aspects of the work, moving from jazz to pop to classical at lightspeed without getting muddled. The largely instrumental work ( and this is another big difference between Trace & ELP ), the work contains some zany vocalizations in the form of monkey emanations ( yes monkey emanations ) by a sound technician on the JS Bach ripoff Boureé ( not to be confused with Jethro Tull, a completely different bird, this one ). A rather pretty vocal section sung by bassist Van Eik also appears in the centerpiece King Bird at the the beginning and is repeated at the conclusion that reflects the essence of the work which praises our feathered friends, the Birds. Other highlights include the track simply entitled Snuff an upbeat track where Bach even manages to show up again. Another showpiece entitled Opus 1065, another composition that Bach also could have easily penned had he been alive in 1975. The piece is introduced by an unaccompanied ragtime Bix Beiderbecke piano cover! Synth effects, harpsichords also colour the piece and a Vivaldi-like violin section ( courtesy of Darryl Way of Curved Air ) work their way in here as well. Of particular interest is another later section which features Way`s violin with a Jaap van Eik bass line which foreshadows Jean- Luc Ponty`s late 70s material on albums like Cosmic Messenger and Enigmatic Ocean.

You get the idea. Shear brilliance on every track.

With such uncompromising musical prowess one cannot accord this work enough accolades. It is a record which can be listened to from beginning to end, full of contrast and surprise and discovery with each subsequent listen. The only caution is to throw those ELP allusions out the window and sit down with the headphones for a truly enjoyable listen to an oft overlooked and truly progressive record from 1975 when prog was not quite dead. Easy 5 stars here.

Report this review (#207386)
Posted Monday, March 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Excellent prog album of the 70´s that I had the pleasure of having it at the time. It´s my favorite Trace work, even if drummer Pierre Van Der Linden was gone by this time, replaced by english studio ace Ian Mosley (who would join Marillion in the 80´s). I have always loved their arrangement for Bach´s Bourree; I remember playing this track again and again when I was 16. But Birds have other good tracks like Opus 1065 (with great violin playing from Curved Air´s Darryl Way) and, specially, the great, 22 minute suite, King Bird.

That epic is worth the price of the CD alone and have fantastic passages, with lush keyboards, fine drumming and excellent bass parts done by Jaap Van Eik. Van Eik also plays some excellent electric guitar on this song (very much in the Jan Akkermann style). He also sings a little bit here (nice, but with heavy accent). There are some fillers on side A of the vinyl (mostly Van Der Linden´s tendency for pop jazz) but I can live with that. Their style is often compared to ELP, of course, but they actually remind me more of the great german group Triumvirat then the english trio. It is only a pity that those guys could not come up with a better follow up to this fine record and broke up soon after that.

Birds remains Trace´s finest moment and a worthy record to have if you like the mix of rock, classical music and jazz. Not perfect, but an excellent addition to any prog music collection. 4 stars.

Report this review (#244888)
Posted Friday, October 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Though Trace's Birds contains a number of guest appearances that will surely inspire interest from many prog fans - Marillion followers will be keen to hear an early performance from Ian Moseley, who takes the drummer's stool for this album, whilst Curved Air's Darryl Way presents a violin solo which spices up Opus 1065 - the album itself isn't really much to write home about. It's really a refinement and continuation of the approach taken on the debut, but whilst it's all competently put together and performed, there aren't really any genuine head-turners on this one. The epic King-Bird which takes up the second half of the album is the best track available, but even then it doesn't really do anything prog fans won't have heard a dozen times before. A decent enough album if you really want more music keyboard-led three-pieces in your collection, but nothing to set the world on fire.
Report this review (#545941)
Posted Saturday, October 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars It's not often I enjoy albums like this to the extent I like this album. The whole classical music reworked into keyboard-oriented progressive rock was cool when I was first introduced to it but has really grown stale over the years. I no longer enjoy bands like ELP and Triumvirat as much as I used to but this album by the wizard Rick Van Der Linden's brainchild, Trace, is absolutely stunning to me and has stayed that way for a long period of time.

Birds never delves too deeply into the plasticy sound that other classical reworkings produced, instead it sort of just redefines it elegantly but definitely with a newly found emotion. The use of the basic piano really does wonders as it gives the same effect of the keyboard without being overused. A good proportion of the two really makes the album just flow easily. Each track is mainly instrumental (save for some really kind of laughable, strong Scandinavian-accented singing which actually gets stuck in your head) and it definitely thrives from this. It's actually the catchiness of most the tracks that's the reason I keep coming back to it.

Rick Van Der Linden can play, and I mean he can PLAY. That is what this album is, his songwriting and arrangement ability fused with his keyboard playing ability. The album is also a brilliant one at that, a fun and engaging listen each time.

Overall, a real treasure to me. One of those cheese-prog gems that I can still listen to with pride.

4 solid stars.

Report this review (#580740)
Posted Friday, December 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars

"Whatever is impermanent is subject to change. Whatever is subject to change is subject to suffering." -- Buddah

Tibetan Buddhism believes in mistakes, or at least the mistake's importance in art and life; nothing in the physical or psychological world can bring lasting satisfaction, and therefore one should not attempt or seek it out. That imperfections, flaws or blemishes are in fact necessary for the transcendence of what man creates, for a spiritual realness only achieved by the austere, or in the case of the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, an appreciation of the irregular, asymmetric, simple, and of the asperity of natural processes and forms.

This is precisely what is missing from Trace's Birds. Granted many progheads will not find this lack of flawed beauty an issue. So be it. But the almost machine-like precision and perpetual motion caused by this trio is both unsettling and unattractive. In this way, Van Eik, Mosley and Van der Linden do bring to mind acts as Triumvirat, Ekseption, or Kaipa, but are even more sanitized & sterile. At least those guys never forgot they were playing rock. Quotes from J.S. Bach's second Suite showoff Rick Van der Linden's chops and I will say, to his credit, he did play real instruments which is more than many current players do. It being 1975 perhaps he had no choice but it's still nice to hear a real church organ, an actual Grand piano, a genuine harpsichord. 'Snuff' is run-of-the-mill symphonic pop, indistinguishable from any number of other post-ELP variants, and 'Janny' is misplaced here, oddly detached from the rest of the set.

Finally a very cool interpretation of Bach's Concerto for Four Pianos shows us these guys' compositional taste and brilliance, and is nearly eight minutes of first-rate art rock featuring Darryl Way's haunting violin solo break. Yearnings for the American 20th century in jazzy and Gershwinian 'Penny', and our entree; the massive 'King-bird', an epic piece that surely helped give a bad name to Prog in Europe (and everywhere else) with twenty-two relentless minutes of huge, melodramatic walls of symphonic rock at its most self-involved and delusional, and includes eighteen - count 'em, eighteen - individual parts. It's also quite well done if requiring far too much commitment from what surely would've been a baked and besotted listener. Its stuff like this that ensured pop music would always flourish and have an audience. A 'Birds' short edit and a second take of 'Tabu' are included on the Musea reissue.

Though key among the Emersonian subspecies of bands, Trace gave us too little too late and left behind a lukewarm legacy of otherwise hot music. Three stars is just about perfect.

Report this review (#602082)
Posted Monday, January 2, 2012 | Review Permalink

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