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Jan Akkerman - Profile CD (album) cover


Jan Akkerman

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is not another Focus album, although it naturally bears many of the hallmarks; It is a tremendous display of a great guitarist's virtuosity early in his career, that gets off on the wrong foot a bit and goes astray a little as it goes along, but magically comes together more often than it falls apart, for some incredible and unique Prog Rock - and some delicious guitar playing.

It's a fascinating collection, in that the music ranges from the aggressive to the cool and laid-back, to the funky, to the ambient, to authentic "Classical" (as opposed to the horrible quais-Classical stuff so many bands are guilty of trotting out) and even Mediaeval lute music.

The album opens with an almost random sounding wash of keyboards and gentle percussion that reminds me a little of the quiet section of "Moongirl" - but only in the atmospheric sense. On the whole, this is much darker than the former.

"Wrestling to Get Out" has a quasi-funky guitar and huge bass, interspersed with hissing percussion and tasty licks from Jan, until a powerful groove is built up that comes in somewhere between Santana and early Yes with flavours of the best Krautrock.

Jan puts in some amazingly speedy guitar runs and licks, of which much is bluff, and self- indulgent jamming, which sometimes gets a little lost, but when Jan gets it together and plays with intent, it's really superb stuff.

To be honest, it's kinda hard to tell where one track ends and another begins, but there is a guitar solo which seems pointless, as it is mainly fudged, Jan's fingers missing more notes than he manages to produce.

Fortunately this drops into another ambient piece, with beautiful melancholy melody lines, and some nice invention in all parts that makes this the first real highlight of the album. The harmony is dense, and provides occasional but transient splodges of timbral colour that are absolutely unique and provide a brilliant drive. The ryhthms are superb - all parts playing cross rhythms in an almost free-jazz style that creates a whole in a quite jaw-dropping way.

You're unlikely to find a tab for this one ;0)

This builds back to the quasi-funk, but it's as if someone has lit the blue touch paper and stood well back, as Jan lets off the fireworks - with the band not doing at all badly behind him!

This dissolves into disturbing and chattering noise, with echoes of Pink Floyd at their most experimental.

Next up we have some music that is accurately in the style of 13-14th century lute music - oddly enough, played by Jan on his Alto-Lute that he bought after seeing the great British guitarist John Williams.

This is follwed up by "Etude", a quite wonderful little study inna Spanish style.

Neither performance would have made it onto a John WIlliams recording, as both are a little ragged in places - but for a rock guitarist, this is amazing stuff indeed.

Now don your shades, man, and check out the cool grooves of "Blue Boy", a track that grows into this wierd piece of rock that sounds at least 10 years ahead of its time. This is one funky track, and Jan provides some talking Wah-wah to round it off just nicely. Perhaps a tad cheesey in places - but that's just being picky really. Another standaout moment among many.

"Andante Sostenuto" is another "Classically" inspired piece, very well written and executed, "Maybe Just a Dream" is a nice drifting piece, and "Minstrel..." is another piece of Lute music that really shows off the richness of the instrument. It's a little bit "Trumpton", but that's part of it's charm.

"Stick" wraps up this intriguing album with a cool and funky slice of 12-bar blues JA style. Thing is, it sounds like he's just having a bit of fun with this one, so it ends up a bit throwaway, which is a pity really, given the quality of the previous material - but what the heck? It's fun, and who says Prog can't be fun?

A great album that would grace any collection of Prog, no matter what your taste - there's literally something in here for everyone.

I'd really like to give it the masterpiece rating, but I think it loses ground slightly in the consistency stakes.

Report this review (#67566)
Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Like Cert1fied, I was surprised to see that this Akkerman gem hadn't been reviewed, so I stuck a copy inside my walkman and listened to it on the journey to work for a couple of days, mentally composing a pithy, well written review - only to find that I'd been beaten to it! As this album has already been analysed in detail in Cert1fied's excellent review, I'll try to keep my comments brief and just add my own tuppenceworth.

This album was actually recorded pre-Focus, and apparently Akkerman was reluctant for it to be released once he'd become famous. Fortunately he was over ruled - this may be rough and ready compared to his later works, but it's still a strong piece of work from an extremely gifted musician and there's a lot for prog fans to enjoy.

The album falls into two distinct halves, corresponding to sides A and B of the vinyl original. The side long Fresh Air is the main attraction, and it is effectively the first Focus line up as a power trio without Thijs Van Leer. After a semi abstract opening, the piece mutates into a psychedelic freak out on which Akkerman makes his axe scream, moan, wail and sing like a man possessed, all the while underpinned by an imaginative and dextrous rhythm section. Yes, it's a bit of a jam, and yes, the playing is occasionally sloppy or indulgent, but for the most part it soars, one minute recalling Hendrix, the next taking on an almost Krautrock flavour. Amazing stuff, and it sounds like it was recorded in one monumental and inspired take.

The second half of the album is rather patchy, and several tracks feature Akkerman getting to grips with the lute (an instrument he later became extremely accomplished on). Kemp's Jig will be familiar to owners of Gryphon's debut album, and the other lute pieces are in a similar vein. Non virtuoso performances, to be sure, but not wholly lacking in charm. There are also a few group tracks. Blue Boy sounds like a sound check for the 'Hair' house band (which he was playing in at the time) but also points the way forward to Focus, while Maybe Just A Dream is a rather insipid interlude of the type that occasionally cropped up on Focus albums and the closing Stick is an oddly unimaginative if well played churning 12 bar boogie.

3 stars, because the real substance is nearly all in the first half of the album. Add an extra half star for historical interest if you're a big Focus fan - there are some interesting nuggets in the second half as well. If you're a fan of rock guitar, make sure that you hear Fresh Air at least once before you die!

Report this review (#67857)
Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album is full of excellent electric & acoustic guitars and Baroque lute parts. Akkerman here can be classical (Baroque), hard rock and even slightly bluesy, and sometimes a bit folk. He includes some powerful rhythmic elements, especially on the first side of the record. The album is at least very original and unique. The first side is an epic track of nearly 20 minutes, full of good moments, sometimes melodic, although it may sound experimental, improvised and raw like the more bizarre stuff of Jimi Hendrix, if you consider the visceral electric guitar notes and the fast drums: it reminds me a bit the Lenny White's "Venusian Summer" album. The other side is made of short tracks full of acoustic and electric string instruments, with sometimes good bass and drums parts. Jan Akkerman proves here that he is an outstanding guitarist.
Report this review (#67879)
Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Appropriately titled which reveals two aspects of Dutch guitar master Jan Akkerman: The lute minstrel and modern electric guitar wizard.

Two of his Focus bandmates, Bert Ruiter on bass and Pierre van der Linden on drums appear with him on side one for a twenty minute electric guitar blowout entitled Fresh Air which could pass as a Focus track with Thijs van Leer absent. The piece is introduced with some haunting Fender Rhodes keyboard passages ( played by Akkerman himself) and then builds itself into an all out frenzied guitar exploration featuring a multitude of effects which lasts for the next twenty minutes. Although divided into seven sections it sounds half improvised and half pre-composed. It gets a little muddled at times but is nonetheless very dynamic and is held together very well by the Ruiter/van der Linden rythmn section. If you`re a fan of Akkerman`s prodigal guitar work with Focus this piece alone will make the purchase worthwhile.

On side two Akkerman traces his classical roots on four unaccompanied lute pieces as well as his blues roots on a couple of bluesy numbers. A Focus- like ballad is also included which has classical leanings entitled Maybe Just a dream.

A formidable study of the modern electric guitar in 1972 which offers a contrast with it`s forerunner, the lute, in the hands of one of the most capable modern virtuosos.Focus fans and guitar heads will love this second solo outing from Jan Akkerman. Add ½ star.

Report this review (#79831)
Posted Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars All over the map!

Very tough to review. Sometimes I think this is a complete mess and other times I think it's a masterpiece. Perhaps it's meant to be that way. Perhaps Akkerman titled this "Profile" because it is a mixed bag showcasing a little bit of everything Jan.

The 20-minute "Fresh Air" suite is an instrumental free-for-all. This piece encompasses everything that is both good and bad about youth. You could argue this is unreserved, unrefined, sloppy, fretboard masturbation with little direction. Or you could argue that while the preceding sentence is largely true, that's how it should be..with fist pumped skyward! I would say there are some truly wonderful moments in this piece but that other parts are definitely guilty of an almost proud, brash sloppiness. You get a little of everything: experimental, rock, psych, fireworks, serene, wah wahs, even moments of Santana-esque rhythms. It does work in some places but is not a perfect CTTE prog moment.

Side two couldn't be more different than side one, except that they share the label of "all over the map." This side contains primarily short acoustic/lute numbers that are truly mellow and beautiful, in the realm of things like "Mood for a Day" with a renaissance mood. It has a couple of other oddities like the bluesy Joey Molland-like "Blue Boy" and the whispy "Maybe Just a Dream" which again, were Pete Ham singing over it, could sound like a lost Badfinger track. Maybe Jan was into Badfinger! The closer "Stick" is a more serious blues jam but this one owing more to Clapton.

I like this mixed bag album warts and all and would recommend it to people who like Focus and/or guitar instrumental albums. But I add the caveat that if you demand themes of consistency and discipline in your prog this might not work for you. This album is like the Jan Akkerman variety show and I'm happy to have a ticket.

Report this review (#120472)
Posted Tuesday, May 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars, really!

The album starts very unusually: with the long pièce-de-resistance, "Fresh Air", which is also divided in several parts. This piece is mainly driven by a lot of insane and extremely fast solos, making me wonder: "doesn't his fingers bleed?"..... In general, as a long instrumental track, Fresh Air isn't a coherent piece of music; it's just guitar madness with abundant percussions and bass and, of course, it couldn't resist any comparison to Focus' long epics like Eruption or Hamburger Concerto. But well, this could be the only bland moment (all the first side really) on the LP, together with the closing track, Stick, a bluessy number that reminds me any track from his previous album, Talent for Sale.

In comparison to its predeccessor, this album has more approaches to Focus (the band that Jan led with Thys van Leer), and it's a good point, even if these similar songs, Blue Boy & Maybe Just a Dream, aren't good enough to compare them to any classic Focus track, because those two songs sound a little lack of inspiration.

But now I'm gonna tell the reason why I've put three stars and a half: because of the BRILLIANT guitar/lute work on the rest of the songs; the traditional Kemp's Jig, the Etude by Matteo Carcassi, the beautiful Andante Sostenuto (one of my favourites and definitive highlights here) and Minstrel, which's really a short version of the lute piece "Elspeth of Nottingham", from Focus' third album, and it was mixed with another folky acoustic piece, "Farmer's Dance". Those four tracks save this LP to be just a curiosity and make this one an over three-stars deserver, but not reaching the fourth star because of the dilated opening track.


Report this review (#125821)
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This record is a very inspiring one for guitarists! It contains extreme fast and difficult jazz rock improvisations, classical medieval parts, funk and bluesrock. This record should belong to your favorite jazz-rock records!

Jan Akkerman shows his excellent guitar virtuosity like never before on the starting track, which is with almost 20 minutes; one side of a vinyl record! This track is a long jazzrock improvisation and contains some hard-to-listen-to parts. The different parts like b. Wrestling to get out and e. Fresh air - blue notes for listening describe in a funny way the intensity of the distinctive parts. The fresh air-part is a welcome easy listening experience after the extreme improvisations right before. The music build up to more velocity towards the end. An excellent composition/jam and very daring and without compromises - I don't know any composition which sounds like it!

After this exciting side-filling composition Jan Akkerman shows his other talents with some classic medieval sounding songs and improvised bluesrock. After all this record has got a lot of variation and it's the best dutch jazz-rock record I know off. I do like this record as much as the earlyFocus records, which are also very worthwile listening. This record does deserve four stars.

Report this review (#182144)
Posted Wednesday, September 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Jan Akkerman is the guitarist who is most known for his great work with Focus, but there are some solo albums by him I would highly recommend. On his early records he would record (progressive) jazz-rock fusion, bluesrock and medieval lute music and print it all one record. Side one of this record has a multi-part epic 'Fresh Air' which shows Akkerman experimenting with the boundaries of his guitar playing. Sometimes atmospheric and airy, on other parts like an acid-psych version of jazz-rock. This track really made an impression on me as a young record collector and guitarist and I still like to listen it now an then; for it is an excellent freak-out guitar piece. The band is made-up of (of among others) Bert de Ruyter on bass and Pierre van der Linden on drums of Focus, so the rhythm section is among the best as well. I haven't listened to the second side for years, but this first side should please listeners of more experimental fusion a lot. The prog-fusion first side of follow-up 'Tabernakel' is also warmly recommended.
Report this review (#244869)
Posted Friday, October 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars As mentioned by other reviews; yes there is a strong hint of Focus all over side 1 and Clear Air, in particular akin to Eruption from Moving Wales. It's not so well laid out, but it is an awesome demonstration of Akkerman's skill with guitar. I've got some later solo vinyl which I bought back in the day but it all goes a bit jazz funk (Pleasure Point, yikes!) but this album captures Akkerman the way I like him and I guess a lot of prog fans do. "Fresh Air" is a loosely collected 19 minute track, but pretty good.

Side 2 and he get's his lute out. A lot of the reviewers I think have just ignored this and focused on side 1; makes sense and you may only play the medieval stuff once. However, you can see where a lot of stuff segued into later Focus material. "Blue Boy" is a clean and technically proficient track (actually reminded me of Transatlantic for some reason?)

It's a good album and my recently acquired vinyl copy only cost me 7 quid; well worth it for 20 minutes of quality prog.

Report this review (#1044163)
Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | Review Permalink

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