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Golden Earring - To the Hilt CD (album) cover


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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Second album with ex-Supersister keyboardist Jan Stips in the fold and TTH is unfortunately already an indication that he's not successfully merging with the classic four GE members, even though the TTH album is a big improvement over the previous Switch. It was sort of clear that while Rinus played a bit of keyboards, but was mainly busy at the bass, there was always a feeling of more room was available for keyboards, but unfortunately maybe that having a full-time KB player was just not for them, especially one that enjoyed complicated music from Supersister and had a lead role in his previous band. With a Hypgnosis artwork about how to kill your boss

Indeed the tracks are getting longer again (four over 7-mins as opposed to all below 6 mins on Switch), but staying denser, more compact, tend to respect the standard song format (which is not good news when GE is concerned), and on the whole, their music becomes a bit noisy. But the most flagrant weakness of this album is the uninventive (or overly conventional) songwriting, with too many musicians fighting to be heard. The overlong opening track Why Me does allow space for interplay, yet they completely fail to dazzle us, being repetitive. What to say about the very average Facedancer and almost-country-esque title track, except that they're just one step from being filler material. The only track that stands out from the opening side is the 7-mins Nomad, with its great open space that allows Stips best's kb intervention in GE, and Kooymans and Gerritsen being their usual selves.

The flipside however is much better with the tense Sleepwalkin' and the ultra-tenser Latin Lightning are both long and with plenty of possibility for the different players to engage in interplay, which they do, but for some reasons, rhythmically the tracks are not evolving, thus inducing a repetitive feel, which is negated by the closing section of the latter. The closing 10-mins+ Violins is again fairly repetitive, but end up in strings arranged by Stips

Another thing is that the urgency ruling over Moontan, Seven Tears, Wall Of Dolls or 8MH is simply completely absent: no enthusiasm, it seems they're going through the motions with the hope of getting over it as quickly as possible. The title track is also worthy of a bit of notice as well. For the rest, you'll get some (sometimes) decent songs with their square rhythms and average catchiness, but don't expect another masterpiece, here. I'm rounding it up to the upper star, partly because of my respect for the group during the 70's. .

Report this review (#203486)
Posted Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Dont panic,- We're on the Titanic.

I got all the Golden Earring studio albums and To The Hilt is the hardest one crack..

The first 3 tracks may seem rather pedestrian,and by the time you get through the title track,you may wonder that nothing is going on here. But there is lots of little things brewing in the first 2 songs. Title track is weakest on the album,but thankfully also the shortest.

Thankfully also that the last 4 tracks are great.

Nomad is indeed weird in the middle section,but I love it. Imagine you have been walking in circles in the desert ,with the sun hammering at your eyeballs for 6 1/2 hours,and about to pass out. But before you do,you see a fata morgana and trip out.This segment sounds exactly what you may have going through your head just before.Brilliant.

Sleepwalkin' and Latin Lightning are grooving toetappers.

Violins is like a day in a life in Barcelona,in 10 1/2 minutes.Rather unique song with a lovely string arrangement by Robert Jan Stips.

Talking about RJS.I think he adds some great soundscapes and atmospherics to the GE sound,especially in Nomad.

George Rinus and Cesar are great throughout.Drums seems a bit too lound in the mix and guitar a bit low.

There are not many lyricist where I really listen,but I do really like Barry's.

'I guess nobody knew-The Barcelona Zoo Has an albino monkey-that can trigger the mood, And provoke-monkey motions. So when the sh*t flies high- Through the Barcelona sky-the crowd stands by A-cheering!.. (From Violins.)

So not as easy flowing like Moontan and not as easy to digest as Switch,this is somewhere in between,but also much darker.

Having owned the GE albums since Moontan as they were released,I must admit,I give them limited listenings these days. But this is the one I put on the most.

Probably 3.75 *

For the GE newbie start with Moontan(Euro edition)w/ 5 tracks .A classic

Report this review (#203804)
Posted Friday, February 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I guess that it was difficult for Jan Stips (from ''Supersister'') to be considered as a full-time GE member. Coming from a truly prog environment, to integrate a band as ''Golden Earring'' is one thing; but to be on the forefront as he used to be with ''Supersister'' is another one.

I can't really say that his role was prominent on this work, even if here and there some nice keyboarding can be heard. But this work is more on the rock side (''Why Me?'') than acoustic prog one (''Facedancer'').

This album really takes a long time to kick off: the title track is a real pain to be honest. Things are getting better though with the second long track: ''Nomad'' is a fine piece of music which combines heavy rock with Easter influences of course. A nice and trippy instrumental middle part (almost Floydian) is one of the moments during which we can appreciate Stips' influence. This elaborate track is one of the best of this album.

''Sleepwalking'' sounds as an attempt to reproduce some forgotten grandeur and can also be considered as another good song from ''To The Hilt'' but the level of the great ''Moontan'' is clearly miles away. The whole is pleasant (as was ''Switch'') but there are too few great tracks.

This work also sounds a bit too much funky to my ears (''Latin Lightning'' but not only). Still, this song is also a moment of keyboards delight and guitar maestria. The closing instrumental part is a bit loose but enjoyable.

The closing number ''Violins'' is one (if not the) of the longest GE song. Funk and repetitiveness are on the rendezvous. The closing string section does have some prog feeling which was quite discreet so far?

In all, this is another good GE album. Nothing outstanding but no blunder either (except the short title track).

Report this review (#219006)
Posted Saturday, May 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This release marked a slight downturn from the very good if not inconsistent Switch album. Whilst the output of material is more defineable the quality of the tracks does not quite match expectations regardless of the massive changes happening musically at the time. The result is that ' To The Hilt' is a good album but the only highlights setting it appart are some individual song gems like high energy rocker ' Sleepwalkin', the catchy title track ' To the Hilt' and the closer ' Violins'. So overall a good album, above average but not a showstopper. I think they still managed to improve on this release with their follow up studio album Contraband.
Report this review (#230769)
Posted Sunday, August 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars Okay I understand the difference between a PROG review vs Basic Album Review. Mine will be a basic rock album review as it relates to GE albums.

I assume anyone reading this is thinking about getting this album since they are interested in GE. I am a GE fan. I have over 20 of their albums and have been a fan since about 1982. Cut was their first album I ever heard by them. I have most of their releases from 1970 and on. I do not love every song by GEI write this review in 2012. It is not a review of how it fared in 1976 but rather - is it listenable now?

With this mind -- my review. (1 to 5 stars.)

Overall notes... GE is deep in the 70s world of prog. I think this is their attempt to stand out from YES and KING CRIMSON and related acts. I first discovered this album in about 1985. I became a GE fan based on their early 80s albums and decided to delve into their back catalog. I wanted to like this album. I gave it several listens through. I just could not get into it. At all. This is my LEAST FAVORITE GE album. I wanted to find something to like about this album but it just does not have repeat listening value.

1 ? WHY ME. Light Rocker. Its very funky. Keyboards are more obvious. I felt middle section with the keyboard is very nice. The chorus of "why me" seemed very weak. I only listen to this song once every few years out of nostalgia and then put it away. 1/5

2 ? FACE DANCER. Light Rocker. Acoustic song with Key Boards again. I cannot get into the light airy vocals. I like it when GE gets a little more of an edge in their songs. I found the repetitive guitar part was annoying. The last 2 minutes are very cool. 2/5

3 ? TO THE HILT. Rocker. I do not like this song. It appears unfinished, lazy and by the numbers. 1/5

4 ? NOMAD. Rocker. Its bland. Where are the cool melodies I came to appreciate from the band. There is a cool key board ? guitar exchange in the middle and leads to the long fade out. Its kinda space rock. Of the album, this song I will play somewhat often and the only reason I don't just get rid of the whole album. 3/5

5 ? SLEEPWALKING. Rocker. Another bland start. I wish they would have had more of a catchy chorus. There is some nice guitar and bass parts but not worth the effort. 2/5

6 ? LATIN LIGHTING. Rocker. The guys tried to get some rock and roll going on this. There is a cool guitar riff that is repeated often but it does not save an otherwise boring song. 2/5

7 ? VIOLINS. Funky rocker. This song is over 10 minutes. Okay this song is really two songs in one. 1st half is another boring bland mess. I cant get into it. I usually don't bother. But if you can make it to the 5min 15sec mark there is a distinct shift in the song. It fades out and back in and a nice groove starts up. There are violins (as the title suggests) and its quite enjoyable song. Why they couldn't just make two songs is beyond me. I know? artist integrity. First half of song is 1/5. The second half is 4/5. Just not sure its worth the first 5 mins to get to the end.

Report this review (#763173)
Posted Sunday, June 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I became quite fascinated with Golden Earring after hearing MOONTAN for the first time, so I wanted to satiate my desire to hear more of them. Somehow, TO THE HILT first caught my eye, and it's still taking some time for my ear to catch up.

The classic four of Golden Earring has been updated to include Robert van Stips, formerly of the proggy Dutch group Supersister. That would incline that TO THE HILT is aimed to be a proggier record than what came before it in Golden Earring's history, and I can hear that. That is, except that MOONTAN exists, and I feel that album had as much to do with prog as this one. Interestingly enough, there are huge traces of American boogie rock that shape this album too. Again, from the band that wrote ''Suzy Lunacy'', it shouldn't be too surprising; it's the only style I can categorise the title track with. But it sounds like the band really didn't know how to approach the style of TO THE HILT; it sounds like a weird hybrid of boogie and prog.

This is a strange record to describe. Most of the songs have a good bounce/rhythm to them, but not in any prog or climactic building sense. ''Why Me'' and ''Sleepwalkin'' are rich in funk textures (with the wah bass in the latter), and are groovy enough to stay afloat. ''Facedancer'' happens to be my overall favorite track, mostly in its acoustic rhythm, but it's still hard to categorise. The prog attempts are in ''Nomad'' and ''Violins''. ''Violins'' aims to be the epic closer of the album, but lacks power. ''Nomad'' does a better job at this with the standard rhythm of the album in the first half, then taking a Floydian atmospheric turn for the better.

This is a rather confusing album that never gains any traction musically. Discover early 70's Golden Earring before taking a risk with TO THE HILT. Even a keyboardist from a Cantebury- sounding band can't elevate the prog potential into something masterful.

Report this review (#912664)
Posted Monday, February 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars Because of some releases that were only available in certain countries, it can be a question as to the number of releases before this album, but I think it's pretty safe to say that as far as official studio albums, this one numbers #11. Up to this point, it was pretty well established that Golden Earring had moved from their pop radio friendly sound to a more progressive sound, and had already felt some success with 'Radar Love' and the excellent 'Moontan' album. They had found their niche, but they seemed to have a problem locating their position in that niche. Releases were a bit unsteady as they tried to replay the success of that album. So, in their discography, several albums would be released that were somewhat uneven, containing some great tracks, and several mediocre ones. However, through their career, they definitely made some excellent songs that can't be ignored. It's too bad they couldn't be more consistent.

The 11th album, 'To the Hilt' is no exception. There are some great progressive tracks here, and there are some mediocre ones. They had their album success, but they had a hard time finding that 'single' success between 'Radar Love' and 'Twilight Zone'. But, there were many progressive classics in the meantime, namely in this album, they were 'Nomad' and 'Violins'.

The album starts off with what looks like a classic prog track at over 7 minutes. 'Why Me?' kicks right into gear with an upbeat rock track. But while they attempt to get a hook out of the somewhat simple rock melody, it just doesn't come up with anything that catches your attention. The song itself isn't bad though with its somewhat funky vibe. As it moves into the instrumental break, the background groove quiets down as a synth solo plays in a subdued manner before pushing back to the main theme. After another verse, the original riff returns before another synth solo plays out the track. Unfortunately, the synth is mixed low, so it's almost hard to tell anything it going on other than the supporting foundation.

'Facedancer' uses an acoustic riff that isn't bad, but it is utilized wrong to make something out of it. While the riff generates a bit of excitement, there is no real delivery or pay off. I do admit that it is nice to hear the acoustic guitar take the lead and have a synth solo included in there, but, again, you wonder where the pay off is. The title track 'To the Hilt' tries to take an almost hoe-down, inspired vocal to a danceable, toe-tapper, but ends up falling flat. It sounds a lot like 'The Who' without the enthusiasm.

'Nomad' starts with a funky kind of swing that makes for a catchier tune. The synth is mixed much better this time. It also shares solos with the guitar and the vocal melody is more complex with progressive rhythms. After a return to the vocal melody finishes, the music travels into psychedelic territory with some odd effects. This soon builds into a nice, floating instrumental with a jazzy melodic line provided by an electric piano when the rhythm kicks back in. Later, as it intensifies, it paves the way for a great guitar/keyboard improvisation until it returns to the main vocal theme, but it ends rather abruptly.

'Sleepwalkin'' tries for an upbeat style this time that leans more towards a standard rock backbeat similar to the 'Radar Love' vibe, but not as interesting. There is a decent sax solo thrown in. 'Latin Lightning' is much more catchy with a return to a funk fusion style. The track has got a good rocking style with a bit of complexity to keep it interesting, plus there is more sax also, plus a surprisingly rousing guitar solo later.

'Violins' is the main 10 minute headliner for the album. It starts out as the same funky styles as have been prevalent on this album, and is a good enough song for the first half, but turns into a nice orchestrated and upbeat song for the 2nd half. It's not as much of a progressive track per se, but it has that happy 'ELO around El Dorado era' vibe to it, so it's kind of fun.

So, overall, it's not a terrible album, but it's not near as good as 'Moontan' either. It does help to be somewhat of a fan, and to also know that the music is somewhat funky. It isn't quite as consistent progressively, but it is still fun. It's a good album, just not really essential however.

Report this review (#2135629)
Posted Sunday, February 10, 2019 | Review Permalink

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