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Supersister - To The Highest Bidder CD (album) cover



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Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Following in the same path as their debut album, Supersister achieved their definite masterpiece in the shape of 'To the Highe$t Bidder': in fact, Supersister proves to be one of the most prominent Dutch prog acts of the 70s, equalling to Focus and Finch in prowess, fire and excellence. In many ways, Supersister incarnates the Netherlands' response to Soft Machine, since their music is overtly inspired by Canterbury's jazziest self; they also have clear hints to Zappa's sophisticated absurdity and the distinctive dynamics of avant-garde free jazz (track 3 being the best example). Supersister's approach to humour in the context of jazz-oriented prog is a crucial component of their music, since it allows all four musicians to keep a light-hearted feel in their performancers, while exhibiting their own individual skills and challenging interplay. The flautist's role is certainly special, since van Geest's style has a remarkable tendecy towards the pastoral, yet in a strange way, it works effectively in the middle of the combined jazzy leaning of his other partners. The fact that two tracks are 10+ minute long allows the foursome to explore into their musical ideas and explore its potential variations: 'A Girl Named you' (a Supersister classic) is full of Latin-jazz colours, while 'Energy (Out of Future)' adds some exotic African-like beatings in the middle of the band's exhaustive musical and rhythmic travels. Both tracks portray obvious bombastic aspirations, but at the end of the day, the band manages not to take this impetus too far by keeping a sense of fun. As a result, there is a constant, unhidden touch of fun and freshness displaying all through these pieces; in thsi way, the friendly listener can rest assured that his senses won't get fed up at any point, since the pleasant flavour stays unpolluted. The remaining tracks are apparently more serene, but not less funny: 'No Tree Will Grow (On Too High a Mountain)' ends its reflective portrait with the sound of a crowd cynically laughing, while 'Higher', in contrast to the previous track's tour-de-force, is a bossanova theme, serving basically as a sweet frivolous closure. Together with Focus and Finch, Supersister is part of the Netherlands' Prog Holy Trinity, and they surely deserve to be as acknowledged as the others... at least.

Report this review (#24119)
Posted Wednesday, June 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars After a very derivative debut album, the mighty sibling came back with a very different second album titled with a very macho Highe$t Bidder (you read well, no typo) and the gatefold artwork depicting a female goldigger's profound motivation. No doubt that every cliché is based on its foundation of truth, but surely a minimum of chivalry is not too much an effort to produce and such denouncing is not only necessary, but superfluou$ in its offensive approach, but this is RnR. Recorded and produced of the summer of 71 and released in fall, this album was previewed by two few singles (one is on bonus on the Esoteric Record re-issue) to keep the fans waiting.

Starting on a 10-minutes version of the single release a few months before, A Girl Named you explores Caravan territory and wits (or obsessions might be a better word, knowing Pye's tortuous mind) and brings out much Stips' electric piano, but he's also toying with a mellotron and harpsichord. The following No Tree Will Grow (also a single) is built on a drone evoking/reminiscing some of Robert Wyatt's most poignant later works. With Highe$t Bidder SS becomes groundbreakers rather than followers. Indeed this organ drone underlining Stips' piano and Van Geest's vocals is impressive. As the first side died out on severely demented laughs, nothing was to prepare us for the flipside.

A loud metronomic bass drums accompanied with a rare electric guitar (rather rare in SS), then Sacha's saturated flute, which would finally first hasten the bass drum and then liberate the tune from it with the help of Stip's organ then electric piano, finally leading into the first verse. The 15-miss Energy (Out Of The Future) is a killer track that hesitates between Egg, The Nice, Soft Machine, Caravan with Sacha's high perched flute and his dubbed filtered-though vocals talking much of the attention, but it's really bassist Van Eck and drummer Vrolijk's moment. The dronal final-section leads directly into the short closer Higher, a charming under 3-mins tidbit riding on a bass flute and distant piano.

The re-issue (with a great booklet featuring the history and pics) boast the first two tracks in shorter single edits, which we might have done without, but they shed a different light onto the said longer versions. Much more interesting is the Missing Link B-side, with the binary bass line dictating the beat and structure. The other B-side is a goofy fourth-degree Zappa-like track worrying about the Groupies Of The Band, which is neither interesting nor funny. The album was a hit with John Peel and he gave them an introduction on the British market, even releasing the album on his Dandelion label, adding the She Was Naked single to the album's track list (strangely not present in any form in this issue). The group would head out to a nearby European tour, later appearing in a German TV special with an orchestra (thus previewing some of their next album's works). TTHB sold quite a bit and was nominated to the Dutch-equivalent Grammy. Had for me to recommend just one of their first three albums, as all three have their own merits and none surpass each other.

Report this review (#24120)
Posted Wednesday, January 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars After a stunning debut album, SUPERSISTER came back with another great release with "To The Highest Bidder". Essentially this album picks off right where "Present From Nancy" left off and unleashes another complex album of FOCUS and CARAVAN inspired music full of unusual yet very enjoyable twists and turns. Essentially this album is comprised of 3 great epic tracks with "No Tree Will Grow" representing one of Canterbury's best numbers of all time IMHO. Musically these guys blend keyboard and flute over some melodic bass lines and intricate percussion. Vocals are well done and often reverberate with a bit of GENTLE GIANT'ish grandeur. No really a daft moment on this album and I would highly recommend this to all lovers of prog especially the Canterbury sub genre.
Report this review (#24121)
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The best work of this Dutch progressive group. 4 variated (and long) songs, wich are sounding excellent, exciting, mysterious and beautiful. I do own all the Supersister LP's AND cd's and I can tell this is their best record. A must for any prog-fan! This is something very special. Find out for yourself!

Report this review (#24123)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Can you say "sophomore slump"? Well I have to say that, because it's true regarding this second album. The music doesn't quite reach the heights of "Present From Nancy". "To the Highest Bidder" this time around features just four cuts. It's often said that the two longest cuts, "A Girl Named You" and "Energy (Out of Future)" are the album's two finest cuts, and I really can't disagree on that. The lineup is still the same with keyboardist/vocalist Robert Jan Stips, bassist Ron van Eck, drummer Marco Vrolijk, and flautist Sacha van Geest. The electic piano is more dominant this time around, and I swear I hear a little Mellotron creep up, but it's hard telling. Frequently the vocals had been compared to Richard Sinclair, but on "A Girl Named You", they remind me of Pye Hastings. There is a bit of that "Waterloo Lily"-era CARAVAN feel to this piece (because of the dominant electric piano, although that album was still a year off), but with better jazzy passages. "Energy (Out of Future)" has a lot of that CARAVAN feel, but near the end they really go off the deep end with Krautrock- like experiments with these eerie sounds. Now for the other two, shorter cuts, these two prove how "To the Highest Bidder" just doesn't live up to the greatness of their debut. "No Tree Will Grow" features some nice, trippy droning sounds, but then it turns in to a overly dramatic piano-ballad. There's a much stronger romantic/symphonic feel to this piece, and for some reason I am reminded a bit of what CARAVAN would be doing on their album "Cunning Stunts", although this album came out the same year CARAVAN gave us "In the Land of Grey & Pink". This song unexpectedly ends with the sounds of laughing. The other short piece, "Higher" is a pop-oriented number dominated by electric piano, and actually works fine in context of the previous cut, "Energy (Out of Future)" after being hammered with unexpectedly relentless experiments for the final ending of that cut. I hadn't heard anything from these guys after this album, so I can't say if this was a temprorary slump or not, but whatever the case, make sure you start with "Present From Nancy" first before you come here (or better yet, just get the 1990 2-for-1 CD reissue that contains both these albums).
Report this review (#24122)
Posted Saturday, March 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars A year after their astonishing debut, Supersister released another album. And it was another classic. The album contains four tracks of excellent Canterbury flavoured music. The shifts in pace and melody are less frantic than on the debut and there are more vocals. It opens with the cheerful "A girl named you" and this is followed by the moodier "No tree will grow (on to high a mountain)". The longest track on the album is 15 minute "Energy (out of future)" and the highlight of the album. The album ends with a short Focus like track "Higher". Both the debut and this album are released on one cd, which is a real must-have.
Report this review (#74577)
Posted Monday, April 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Compare to Presents form Nancy, this is easily more digestable, getting closer to Camel, Caravan or Focus..but still pretty far out.

This band gave me a hard time, at first. Wow, to me that was Alice In Wonderland on LSD. The Canterbury sound can be stressful and disoriented for me, gorging myself with more recognized material. I thought that masterizing Gentle Giant or Anglagard would get me anywhere fast; Supersister is giving more to chew than I ever had. Flutes are swirling, bass is constantly snoring it's riffs, fast and furious rides in many times. Oh, with the occasionnal asylum material (Energy has some freaking humming in certain points).

Rich, colorful jams with jazzy pawprints all over, with a touch of psychedelica. In all the flutes albums I heard, this is by far the weirdest and less accessible. But with repeating listenings and the right moods, this is growing and bringing back the smiling nods of my attitude. This is not wedding music, but also too cool to be funeralistic (No Tree Will Grow). A good middle of shadows and sunshine, althought the sun is shining a lot more than the previous album. Supersister are obviously forefathers of many pop rock bands such as Blur, Mogwai and also The Eels, many segments feels fresh!

Again, a challenge for the beginners, but the patient progger will appreciate the half genius / half insanity of all this.

Report this review (#76043)
Posted Sunday, April 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Since 1997 (when I had listened this album for the first time) I listen it often from time to time. It seems to me that "To The Highest Bidder" is a dramatic example of the underestimated album, and Supersister is one of the most underrated prog-bands in the world! (when I had been in Holland in February - March 2000, I could not find discs of Supersister in Dutch musical shops unlike Focus, Earth and Fire and other prog Dutch bands!) Imagine very beautiful progressive rock with fine melodies, interesting chords, changing measures and tempos, concealed melancholic mood coupled with irony, mysterious atmosphere of songs, typical for 70s Hammond organ sounds, "active" and often fuzzed bass, good drumming, enjoyable flute and male voices. As if we have "ingredients" which are typical for many examples of early 70s European prog- rock. Moreover, I dare say that style of "To The Highest Bidder" is, to some extent, close to early Camel (self-titled and "Mirage" albums). "Classical" European accords, complex compositions, tranquil - to some extent - manner of singing, important role of Hammond and flutes, similar moods and sometimes even similar tunes. "Intelligent", "dignified" music. But do not believe in these sentences! Music of this album (like any Supersister album) is absolutely original and unique! "To The Highest Bidder" is different from early Camel albums in a lesser degree than from any other music! (I imply, in particular, Canterbury rock or "avant-garde".) It has own specific "features". Four songs of the album can be classified as "mini-prog-epic"/"long ballad"/"prog- epic"/"short ballad". "A Girl Named You" and "Energy (Out Of Future)" are characterized by much more complicated and sophisticated compositional structures, frequently changing rhythms, tempos and measures, and also more eccentric "findings" than two other tracks which are more straightforward, simple and contain marvellous melodies. In any case, the main "merits" of this music are not "prog-load". I think that geniune masterpieces of music (and other kinds of art) can be identified by perception of the fact that this "work" (album, song, composition etc) has created new original unique worlds. It is this feature that one of the main criteria of distinguishing between The Great Bands and mediocre, so-so, "second-rate" ones. In this regard Supersister is The Great Band like King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes etc. When I listen "To The Highest Bidder" I get unique perceptions and emotions which cannot be described by words. A lot of contemporary neo-prog and prog-metal bands (which play with more virtuosity and are recorded with more qualitative sound) are not able to have such powerful influence on me. And I do not understand why is Supersister so underestimated. It is said usually that the leading Dutch prog-bands are Focus, Earth and Fire, Ekseption. For me Supersister is the Dutch band number one! Supersister created music which captures my attention perfectly. I am not sure that "To The Highest Bidder", the second album of the band, is the best album. However, it is, possibly, the most typical for this band. If you want to become acquainted with Supersister, I recommend to start with this album which is not worse than, for example, "Nursery Cryme" by Genesis, "Islands" by King Crimson, or "The Yes Album" by Yes. The first album ("Present from Nancy") is more aggressive and psychedelic, and last albums are closer to "avant-garde". Finally, I would like to say that Supersister played music in the times when Progressive Rock was not divided into symphonic prog, avantprog, psychedelic rock etc. I think that such division is not good thing. When some band is locked in some narrow style it loses its creative force. The crisis of the modern prog-rock is the indisputable proof of this "conception". Music of Supersister included elements of other styles but ir was coherent like music of the other great bands of 70s.
Report this review (#89244)
Posted Friday, September 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Actually it's quite hard for me to say which one of their first two albums has been the better one. Both of them are excellent but I've got a slight preference for this one here I must say. Maybe for the reason that unlike "Present." it does not contain a few sections I've got a bit problems with to fully enjoy like the experimental organ sound of "Dona nobis pacem" for example. Anyway I think it's quite obvious that those guys had been far ahead their times and I must say since I listened to them they became my favorite Dutch band which always used to be Focus before. This record had been done during a time when progressive rock hadn't been subdivided yet into different styles which wasn't a bad thing I've to say since this music is hard to categorize and features elements from various sub-genres like symphonic, jazz fusion, folk and psychedelic rock. All the four tracks and the two long ones "A girl named you" and "Energy" in particular are just great and there's in fact nothing to complain about. They're offering delicate melodies, interestingly sounding chords, many tempo and rhythm shifts, mysterious atmospheres, ironic humour, brilliant early 70's-type Hammond sound, excellent bass and drums, fascinating flute play as well as pleasant vocals, to make a long story short, everything one would expect of an excellent Prog record. I think it's not too much saying that this usually underestimated band could be fully compared to the big names like Gentle Giant, Crimson, Yes or Genesis. I wouldn't consider this album for example inferior to "Nursery Cryme" and I can just highly recommend to get the 2 on 1 CD edition of their first two records. Since I would rate that CD with 4 ½ stars I decided to give 5 stars to this one here!
Report this review (#107440)
Posted Sunday, January 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars.This album simply blew me away ! The band just seems much more focused on this one as the experimental and silly moments from the debut "Present From Nancy" are cut way back.There are so many uplifting moments on this record.

Things get started with "A Girl Named You" a jazzy uptempo song with organ, light drums and flute. Vocals come in 2 1/2 minutes in as tasteful flute melodies dominate. This is such an enjoyable song. "No Tree Will Grow" is even better and it starts off with an ominous intro. The vocals are fragile as they come in after a couple of minutes. The melody picks up to become a mid paced song with drums and piano leading the way. A great Canterbury song.

"Energy (Out Of Future)" opens with slowly pounding drums as some non-tasteful flute comes in (haha). The song speeds up with flute, drums and keys creating the melody.The sound 4 minutes in is incredible and I love the whimsical vocals as well. This song is 15 minutes long, and at 10 minutes the vocals get silly. Then we get some experimental sounds from eerie to spacey. Certainly the last 5 minutes of this song brought to mind some of the passages on their debut record. The final song "Higher" has such a great sound and the flute especially contributes to that. The vocals are well done and the drums are light. This is a catchy song that could have been a single.

This will definetly be near the top of my list for the best Canterbury album of all time.

Report this review (#111718)
Posted Monday, February 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've also all their records (and some boot''s), but this is definitely the best. It took me years to find the vinyl version (and yes...)

Probably, I've got parsley in my ear, but what the heck is the comparison with Focus. Not speaking even over Finch (that is also compared to Focus...) I guess it's the Hocus Pocus, or is it simply Dutch=Focus???

F.O. and listen "as is", and if you want to compare Supersister: try to fit it in a Zappa-box (though this album is not particularly a good example...;-)

A tip: sweet okay supersister - spiral staircase

Report this review (#149454)
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Second leg of a double CD set (two on one) released by Polydor, their second album sounds more achieved, less candid than their debut. This budget release is an excellent opportunity to discover these two original albums at a discount price (10?, shipping costs included).

Even if their music is seriously jazz-oriented, this album sounds almost as a Camel one. The great flute play is also an attraction. The music proposed by this band is rather eclectic, flirting with several genres.

Compositions on "Bidder" are longer and more sophisticated than on "Present". Even the shorter "No Tree Will Grow" and its melodic keys (mellotron?) is subtle and pleasant. It is the most symphonic of the whole and this is probably why I appreciate it so much. The final part is absolutely splendid and truly bombastic. A great track indeed.

Of course, before this song, one already has had the opportunity to discover the whole spectrum of their talent and creativity during the more complex and fully jazzy "A Girl Named You".

Now, the epic "Energy". More in the vein of "A Girl.", it features lots of theme changes, musical interplay, complex drumming and excellent rhythmic by Ron van Eck on the bass. There are joyful keyboard passages as well which provide some freshness. The indelible mark of "Caravan" can't be ignored as soon as the vocal enter the scene. A positive and optimistic song.

But there is a long and more chaotic part in there which leaves me a bit perplex. It will prevent me to rate this album with four stars. This section is too experimental and way too long to my likings even if the closing and psychedelic part brings me back to a better feeling.

The sweet and candid Higheris easier to digest of course. Another true Canterbury style music, full of grace and kindness. Subtle fluting, light piano, cool vocals. A fine way to close this good album.

Report this review (#169661)
Posted Saturday, May 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Going twice.

The second album from 1971 sees Supersister refining their version of the Canterbury sound and working on longer, tighter compositions. The results are again good, seemingly more ambitious than the debut but it fails to really punch it out of the park. Just 4 tracks here. "A Girl Named You" surely recalls Caravan with the uptempo jazzy pace and those lighter vocals. "No Tree Will Grow" contrasts a dark and spacey background with the vocals that remind me a bit of solo Syd at times, and it features plenty of piano as well. The crazy sense of humor rears it head at the end of this track with maniacal laughter. "Energy" is the best track featuring many wonderful flute and keyboard sections over spicy rhythm play and occasional odd vocalization. It closes very nicely with the short and sweet "Higher" mixing a melancholic flute melody with a whimsical arrangement. It's all nice stuff and easily recommendable to the Canterbury fans but still doesn't excite me to the 4-star level. For all of its charm there is something palpable missing in the Supersister experience, perhaps it's the guitar, perhaps more cohesion. It is music I like but do not love. 6/10

Report this review (#171278)
Posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Brilliant record and even an improvent from their debut!

This album provides a brilliant mix between Supersister's agressive side and Supersister's calmer sound. All the compositions are well-thought.

'A girl named you' is a very surprising song with brilliant melodylines nice and drum and basslines. The vocals sound far more British than Dutch, so no one has to be afraid of a Dutch accent. The piece reaches a brilliant climax.

No tree will grow (on to high a mountain) is a slightly more accessible piece, which starts of with a very dark note which will be almost played the entire piece. At the ending the music gets more and more agressive. After this you will hear some people laughing very hard.

Then, the brilliant Energy '(out of the future)' will provide us from very much brilliancy. This piece really shows everything the band has got.

The last piece is a very short but pleasant piece, with beautiful flute-playing.

My personal favourite record from a Dutch band so far.

Report this review (#210592)
Posted Monday, April 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Supersister picks up the baton from their debut album on this, their second album.

I do not see many, if any difference from their debut album on To The Highest Bidder. Supersister did not take themselves too seriously. The music here proves that. It is high spirited in the Caravan, Focus and Hatfield & North vein of prog. It is very much a Canterbury Scene prog album and one of the better ones too. Frank Zappa was one of major influences, but I cannot find any of his avant-garde influences here. Lyric wise, this is Frank Zappa influenced.

The music here is both melodic and full of intricate rhythm patterns. The piano runs riot and is both driving the melodies and the rhythm patterns. The music here is excellent throughout. It is pretty easy accessible too. My only gripe is that the music is too simple and without the dept I require. But it still have depth and colors enough to keep me interested for a while. The songs are excellent with No Tree Will Grow as the best song here.

This is probably one of the most easy accessible Canterbury Scene prog albums out there and an excellent introduction to this scene.

4 stars

Report this review (#261365)
Posted Sunday, January 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am not very generous to give high vote... but i can't give less than 5 star to any of the Supersister album, this band deserve to be in the olympous of prog music sitting at the same table og King Crimson, Genesis, Magma and so on. They released 5 album and all the 5 the same great, even if defferent one from each other. In this second step the band follow the direction taken by their astonishing debut. None else like this dutch band can join so well, Zappa, Symphonic Prog and Cantebury. A Girl named you is one the greatest track of this band!
Report this review (#266688)
Posted Wednesday, February 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another strong effort from Supersister sees them distinguishing their sound a bit further from Soft Machine. By this point in their career, the Softs had firmly distanced themselves from their more whimsical past and showed little sense of humour; it's clear from this album (which captures, at one point at the end of No Tree Will Grow, the band cracking up in laughter) that Supersister weren't going to take that direction.

Instead, they keep pushing ahead in their early Canterbury sound - a blend of the Softs, a bit of Caravan, and some Hot Rats-period Frank Zappa - though this time there seem to be a few more nods here and there to classical music in the mix, further distinguishing the band's approach from their influences. Just as good as their debut, I think this one does a slightly better job of doing something new and original within the Canterbury framework, but I'd be hard-pressed to choose between the two.

Report this review (#484904)
Posted Monday, July 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars To the Highest Bidder replicates the upbeat, happy-go-lucky yet quite tight and complex instrumental weave as their previous album, their debut, Present from Nancy. The difference with To the Highest Bidder is that the songs are longer (three of the four songs are over seven minutes long) and there is a greater variety of keyboard instrument sounds used. But, like a SOFT MACHINE suite, the long songs seem more to be made up of a collection of short songs all spliced into one suite. There are some "songs" within the four titles that are eminently enjoyable, some laughable, many quite memorable. Overall all four songs earn five star ratings from me, though there are specific high points within the opener, "A Girl Named You" (10:11) (9/10) and the epic on Side Two, "Energy," that I would single out for praise.

2. "No Tree Will Grow (On Too High a Mountain)" (7:40) is founded throughout upon a drone of some kind of Tibetan/Tuvan-like overtone throat vocal. The Canterbury jazz music builds and builds--in tempo over the final 90 seconds. Though very Canterburian--especially the English vocal spoken/sung mid-song--there is a bit of a BEATLES psychedelia feel to it as well. (9/10)

3. "Energy (Out of Future)" (15:01) is another tom-based tribal sounding rhythm over which two very breathy, trilly flutes are playing their solos. At the two minute mark a new theme and style take over--reminiscent of the carnival song at the end of "Dona Nobis Pacem" on Present from Nancy. Then at 3:45 the band breaks into one of their happy up tempo grooves--over which a treated voice sings his psychedelic hippy lyric. Quite an infectious groove, this. I could listen to this all day! And feel happy and get so much done! A drum solo at the six minute mark has a kind of Pierre Van der LINDEN/FOCUS "Eruption"-just-before-"Tommy" feel to it (though, obviously, this came first.) The solo comes to an end to allow the buzz-saw organ to solo a bit before the Snoopy-theme piano melody returns and gets support from flutes and organ. At 8:55 the song devolves into a kind of scary carnival ride--fast-paced polka-like rhythm. But then in the eleventh minute it comes back toward classical--though the treated vocal sounds like a Circus Master speaking through a blow horn. The carnival merry-go-round sound starts up again, at first slowly but then rapidly picking up it s speed till it culminates in a crescendo crash of backwards tapes. What a trip! Psychedelia at its craziest! And this is what we get to the end! (9/10)

4. "Higher" (2:47) brings us back to Earth with a pleasantly jazzy pop vocal. (9/10)

Overall this album takes the listener on one wild ride! A perfect example of considerable Canterbury instrumental prowess with all of the psychedelia to well represent the era.

Report this review (#843824)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Between unique atmospherical sounds, canterbury scene and Camel, there is a band called Supersister, and the most beautiful work, To The Highest Bidder. This album is catchy as hell. And the songwriting ways... It's just impressive so many masterpieces fit together. I need to talk about this album.

I wasn't wondering something really awesome when I first pick up for the first time To the Highest Bidder. Never heard of them (Supersister) before, but I did not need any review to notice what a brilliant album I was listening to. The first track, A Girl Named You, starts the album, and it got me from the very first few seconds. The soft and expert sound accompanied by flutes are amazing. When the calm vocals begins, a soft but grinding keyboard riffage strikes together. Flawless, the song follows until a caunterbury breakdown around 6:00'' and returns slowly, beautiful and lyrical around 8:00''. And hell, what a full-speed song ending. No Tree Will Grow starts creating a mood to the singing time. Great and catchy melody. You will find some laughter soundbanks at the ending.

Energy's opening cames with a drum leading (at the very beggining) dark fantastic mood, and the flutejob is hard here, heh. Around 3:40'' the song changes and it makes the listener happy. From the middle of this track, caunterbury evoked again, in the keys tune. The ending is a musical trip. Awesome track, really. And we reach Higher, the final and smooth track, that makes me dream... higher. I used to listen to this album when I could not sleep, cause it's soft and good. Even when I did not sleep while listening to, it was great.

Report this review (#963353)
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is quite the trip. I choose to listen to progressive rock because I believe it is rock music at it's most creative and melodic - Supersister's "To the Highest Bidder" is certainly an example that supports this belief. Canterbury spirit with Zappa sensibility would be how I'd describe this classic. Exceptional interplay layers endless creative passages, enthralling the listener. The end result is a Thirty Five and a half minute joyride. For me, anyways. In my rotation forever.

It's almost as if Caravan had a cool younger brother. Different, yet definitely originating from the same genes. This young band escalated their creative passions into a form of art. A masterpiece.

Report this review (#1092107)
Posted Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars At the outset, let me declare my strong personal bias towards this album, or, specifically, the style of music employed here. I am a total sucker for baroque counterpoint as well as walking basslines. This peculiar combination is down to my adolescent experiences with music, which consisted of absorbing the works of a composer who happens to be my favourite musician of all to date. Being that said musician is not a prog rock musician, I won't get into the details of who he is and what he has done here. But let me just say that there are many moments on this Supersister album that evoke the style and approach of said musician to me. This perhaps blinds me to some extent to the flaws of this, their second album "To The Highest Bidder".

Both the mini-epics on this album, Girl Named You and Energy (Out of Future), lack organisation and resolution. It's not that the music is chaotic but there are places where it drifts into tangents, albeit rather busy and entertaining ones. And the resolution in both tracks feels a bit forced, as if stuck on to the end as an appendage for want of better alternatives. Both the other tracks, No Tree Will Grow and Higher, don't suffer these problems but are also lightweight in terms of structure (not that that's necessarily a problem). And...that's it. In essence, this album, not counting the bonus goodies on the remastered edition, consists of four tracks of which only exceed 10 minutes. In total, 35 minutes. That means while there is no danger of this album dragging on and losing the listener's attention, it is also a bit too short and 'light' to be truly sumptuous, at least from my perspective. Awarding a 5 stars is a long shot already and I can even empathise with those reviews that denied the 4 stars to it. As entertaining as this album is, one may well end up feeling, "What the fuss" when he is through with the album.

And, yet, oh, the entertainment. This Dutch outfit has a great sense of humour. It may not manifest itself quite so much in the lyrics but certainly in the musical decisions made. It is hard, at least for me, not to listen to this music without a big smile on me. They do get quirky and weird, as one would expect with most Canterbury, but in a funny and enjoyable way. Though there are some dissonant passages of music in the album, the mood rarely ever exudes dissonance. It's just the sound of a band having tons of fun.

And they do know how to have fun. The bass, drums and flute are superb throughout the album and the keyboard contributions are great too (check out the very baroque keyboards just before vocals kick in in Girl Named You). Robert Jan Stips sounds pretty close to Richard Sinclair in lots of places, notwithstanding some downright strange voice box-aided passages. The band's sense of fun, added to my partiality to their baroque harmony and hyperactive basslines, makes it easy going for me. I can nitpick and be critical but I don't feel particularly inclined to for the most part. Oh, it helps that, as such, I love Canterbury and Supersister, though they may be Dutch, nail the quintessence of Canterbury I would not be too far off the mark to suggest it's like listening to a quirky version of Caravan.

And any doubts I have for how much I have been engaged by the album are washed away by the brief but lovely Higher. This under three minute track has a very delicate and haunting refrain and the rendition, both vocals and instruments wise, is pitch perfect (emotionally, that is). To me, this track, in spite of how short it is, is a lot more substantial than anything else on the album and makes a much more lasting impression. The rest of the album is very entertaining to listen through; Higher has that elusive quality which persuades me to want to listen again...and then again and again.

With more tracks of the quality of Higher, Supersister would have pushed me to consider a 5 stars, overriding its notable flaws. But there's just one and as beautiful as it is, it does not push me to throw all objectivity out of the window.

In summary, it's got that classic 70s prog feel and unless you strongly dislike Canterbury, it's hard to go wrong with this album. But with that said, that's as far as it goes too. 4 stars.

Report this review (#1094758)
Posted Sunday, December 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Slowly Grow on Me.

Supersister include a select group of bands that did not attract me too much ( if anything ) the first times I heard, it was not ' love at first sight '. Although in most cases a complex and elaborate musical product needs time to be fully appreciated and gradually discovering it, with this Dutch band I almost give up. But fortunately I did not.

When I first heard it over twenty years ago, I was expecting a Camel style with guitars (no guitars here) and similar emotions conveyed in the music. It was a mistake. While it was a good influence to Latimer, Bardens and company, Supersister is more inclined to a Canterbury sound, to give a reference, but with a personal touch.

The sound of the first two albums is similar, but here the songwriting is stronger, almost no fillers, and ironic humor is less present. There are good tunes, well-structured and more than acceptable vocals.

" A Girl Named You" is the best work of the band, from my perspective. Ten minutes of musical ecstasy. Start with great energy, a driving hammond and electric piano, an electrifying Bass and perfect jazzy drums. Paragraph for the great performances of flute, wich is heard in the background accompanying almost all song.

"No tree will grow" contains an intriguing atmosphere and is more psychedelic, starting with keyboards to create suspense. Then Robert Jan Stips starts singing with a piano accompanying beautiful and skillfully; the song progresses slowly in intensity, without losing the initial atmosphere.

"Energy (Out of Future)" begins with a percussive base, then keyboards and flute. The rest is pure instrumental delight; accurate, with many changes and some interesting vocals. An experimental and space end.

Higher is as simple as beautiful.

Simply Essential.

Report this review (#1158947)
Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It should be mentioned that Supersister were intelligent enough to throw some singles in the market in order to become more popular, despite their highly challenging sound.''She was naked'' predated the ''Present from Nancy'' album and ''A girl named you'' as well as ''No tree will grow'' were released for the promotion of the second album ''To the highe$t bidder''.Of course all were cut-out versions and the full album would reveal the dominant sound of the band.The sophomore work of Supersister came out in 1971, again on Polydor.

So, ''A girl named you'' is presented in its full 10-min. length here and what a tremendous opener this is.A tour-de-force of splendid, fast-paced rhythms, a cataclysm of keyboard and flute interplays with organ and harsichord in evidence, some Classical and symphonic undertones and extended psychedelic passages with mellow singing and superb background instrumental majesty.A fantastic cross between FINCH and CARAVAN.Same goes for ''No tree will grow'', the track is delivered here in its full 8-min. version, characterized by a dramatic intro on a disorted fuzz bass and piano, supported by the calm vocals of Robert Jan Stips and leading to a low-tempo instrumental section with an orchestral atmosphere, based on keyboards and piano, the ending frenetic rhythm is excellent to say the least.''Energy'' clocks at 15 minutes and is the band's most ambitious composition on the album.It reminds me a bit of FOCUS and NATIONAL HEALTH, it features a fairly instrumental sound with a great number of rhythm changes, shifting climates and instrumental intercations, passing from Classical interludes to jazzy territories, led by an omnipresent organ, electric piano and flute.Awesome professional music with a top composing level, extremely dense with only sporadic vocals, displaying both ethereal and dramatic moods.One of the highlights of the 70's.''Higher'' is a short, jazzy farewell with a tropical atmosphere, keyboards and flute combine for a warm and melodic mood in the vein of CARAVAN to calm things down, a beautiful piece and a great choice to say goodbye.

Do yourself a favor and grab this album, there are several reissues out and you will certainly regret it if you pass this one by.A band ahead of its age, this is superb Prog Fusion with Canterbury splashes, almost perfect from the first to the very last note.A masterpiece of Prog music and of course an extremely highly recommended effort...4.5 stars.

Report this review (#1298041)
Posted Monday, October 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Supersister - To the Highest Bidder (1971)

Among the earliest progressive rock groups we find the Zappa and Soft Machine influenced Dutch band Supersister, often listed under Canterbury because of its stylistic simularities. The band is however a conservatory band from The Hague. The young band, which recorded their debut in their teens (just look at the cover of 'Present from Nancy' 1970), led by keyboardist Robert Jan Stips has released three albums which I really like, this being the second and perhaps most advanced.

Supersister has a unique style you'll come to recognise instantly, without it being particularly consistent. Their finest compositions have the fast jazzy drums of Marco Vrolijk (often in odd time signatures), who always finds a way to get an exciting feel in the music. The keyboards and distorted organs often take the lead with fierce fast themes in which both darker and lighter atmospheres appear, yet whatever the emotional effect of the music is - it still sounds highly optimistic. Supersister is about joy. The Flute of Sacha van Geest takes another leading role during melodic pessages. Ron van Eck, on bassguitar, keeps up the pace and gets involved melodicly quite often. The dopey vocals of Robert Jan Stips add to the loose atmospheres and playfulness of the music.

'A Girl Named You' is classic up-tempo supersister; heavy, jazzy, rockin' and silly at times. 'No Tree will Grow' is symphonic ballad type track, quite unique in the Supersister discography. 'Energy (Out of the Future)' is a long track with all Supersister elements, perhaps a bit more avant-prog then most of their work. 'Higher' is a sympathetic, yet silly song. Just how a Supersister album should end.

Conclusion. This is among the best progressive rock records from seventies Netherlands and it should be listened to by everyone interested in Canterbury, eclectic prog and jazz-rock. Most of my favorite prog records are dead serious, but Supersister really managed to get the fun into prog. Four and a halve stars!

Report this review (#1315043)
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2014 | Review Permalink

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