Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography



Canterbury Scene

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Supersister To the Highest Bidder album cover
4.25 | 326 ratings | 29 reviews | 41% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Girl Named You (10:08)
2. No Tree Will Grow (On Too High a Mountain) (7:40)
3. Energy (Out of Future) (14:55)
4. Higher (2:56)

Total Time 35:39

Bonus tracks on 2008 remaster:
5. A Girl Named You (single version) (3:17)
6. Missing Link (B-side) (2:58)
7. No Tree Will Grow (single edit) (4:27)
8. The Groupies of the Band (B-side) (4:32)

Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Jan Stips / lead vocals, keyboards
- Sacha van Geest / flutes, vocals
- Ron van Eck / bass, fuzz bass
- Marco Vrolijk / drums & percussion

Releases information

Artwork: William Reppel (photo)

LP Polydor - 2925 002 (1971, Netherlands)
LP Dandelion - 2310 146 (1971, UK)
LP Polydor - 2485 133 (1979, Netherlands)

CD Polydor 843231 (1990, Germany) With "Present from Nancy", remastered by Hans Brethouwer
CD Esoteric Records - ECLEC 2057 (2008, UK) Remastered by Ben Wiseman w/ 4 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy SUPERSISTER To the Highest Bidder Music

SUPERSISTER To the Highest Bidder ratings distribution

(326 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(41%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (12%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

SUPERSISTER To the Highest Bidder reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Sean Trane
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.

Review by loserboy
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.
Review by Proghead
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).
Review by Menswear
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.

Review by hdfisch
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!
Review by 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.

Review by ZowieZiggy
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.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by rogerthat
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.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by friso
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!

Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars SUPERSISTER was the band that put the Netherlands on the world map. True the Shocking Blue had taken the world by storm with their #1 pop hit "Venus" and had several more hits in Europe, but they mostly were ignored by the English speaking countries. SUPERSISTER made a huge splash with their debut "Present From Nancy" which caught the attention of none other than DJ John Peel who championed their record on BBC Radio which percolated into the greater British prog scene.

The fact that their Canterbury sound connected them to such greats as Soft Machine didn't hurt one little bit, however SUPERSISTER was a force to reckon with on their own terms. By cleverly juxtaposing the best aspects of the Canterbury sound of Soft Machine such as the instrumental playfulness and lyrical whimsy and marrying them with the jazz-rock of Frank Zappa and the Mothers invention with a little classical chops including that of Erik Satie, this band from The Hague quickly became one of the most inventive and unpredictable acts of the early 70s.

Having proven themselves as the Dutch world's most intelligent band, SUPERSISTER had captivated audiences in their live settings with their stunning and cleverly laid out compositions that took the jittery caffeinated aspects of Zappa and placed them into the context of Soft Machines jazz-rock laced with psychedelic and classical. One particularly important appearance was a concert at Groeneveld Castle in Baarn, Netherlands which was televised on Dutch TV. And while a few guitar parts were included on the debut, SUPERSISTER totally eschews any guitar on this one, making it one of the few guitar free prog acts of the day (Van Der Graaf Generator being another example.) Ron van Eck would pick up the slack with fuzz bass licks and solos.

While working on their second album TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER which emerged the year after the debut, SUPERSISTER's record label Polydor demanded that the band focus on releasing singles despite the band staunchly desiring to remain an album only act. The pressure was too great and the band caved, or compromised rather and took the spectacular lead track "A Girl Named You" and truncated it to a single's length however they would have none of the musical watering down business and created one of the most bizarre singles probably to have ever hit the Dutch marketplace. The B-side "Missing Link" which is tacked on to remastered versions is no less bizarre and utterly brilliant.

While "Present From Nancy" was sort of a climax to the material SUPERSISTER were cranking out before their debut which found them mixing and melding their influences together into highly energetic and chaotic progressive pieces of labyrinthine detours, TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER found the band with a more focused and even keel method to their madness. Keyboardist Robert Jan Stips had taken the helm as songwriter-in-chief and teasing the band's already established sound into a woven tapestry of Canterbury and jazz-rock bliss which found SUPERSISTER dishing out one of the most stylistic originalities of the year 1971 that only hosted a mere four tracks.

Starting the album out with aggressive piano stabs and an instantly recognizable Canterbury jazz groove, "A Girl Like You" was the antithesis of a single or love song as the title suggests. Instead it evolves into several passages that escape the Canterbury clutches and verge into Zappa-esque xylophone runs obviously influenced the the "Uncle Meat" album. Finally well over the four minute mark, Robert Jan Stips blurts out the first vocals on the album which show a darker side of the band which belie the soothing flute solos, upbeat rhythmic dexterity and overall Canterbury groovilisciousness. The piece not only brilliantly melds jazz and rock together seamlessly but contains an ambient psychedelic mellotron backdrop that adds a whole other layer of trippiness.

"No Tree Will Grow (On Too High A Mountain)" begins and ends with a steady gait of electronic sounds that would sound more at home on a Tangerine Dream album but sets the tone for the track as it drones behind a slowly creeping keyboard run that eventually unleashes an uncanny lyrical lugubriousness lightyears away from the carefree frenzy of the debut. The piano melody is utterly addictive while Stips simultaneously does his best Robert Wyatt vocal impression. The track slowly picks up steam as the mellotron becomes an angelic choral in concert with some sort of dolphin sounds. The track ends with a transcendental meditative universal OM before laughter breaks out reminding that this is still Canterbury infused prog rock after all.

The longest and most ambitious track of the album and perhaps the entire SUPERSISTER canon is the outrageous and outstanding "Energy (Out Of Future)" which somehow takes a few simple and addictive melodic earworms and finds more variations on how to alternate the timbres, dynamics, tempos and stylistic shifts than Mozart's entire symphonic career! This track banters the senses as it pummels with heavy percussion, soothes with pacifying flute, bedazzles with Keith Emerson inspired keyboard virtuosity and stuns in its sheer audacity to adopt complicated time signatures run amok but finding balance with the recurring melodic stabilizing effects. The track not only features some of the band's best instrumental workouts but adopts healthy doses of electronic sounds and experimental touches. While mostly instrumental, the track does exhibit unexpected periods of vocal driven Canterbury jazz rock but more often than not zigzags all around like a headless chicken.

The short closer "Higher" really should have been the single. It is the right length and is the only "normal" song on the album. Whereas "Energy" was a bantering assault on the senses, "Higher" is a beautiful keyboard driven ballad in standard psychedelic pop rock fashion and provides the perfect come down from an overtly intense ride into the twisted world of this Dutch group's idiosyncrasies.

While SUPERSISTER bedazzled an unsuspecting prog world with their debut, they went for the jugular with TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER which found all the band's strengths reaching compositional maturity and finding them poised as Holland's greatest musical export during the era and was made even more dramatic by the stunning bright yellow gatefold album cover that donned two large eyes on each panel with coins as the irises and a naked girl added in the upper left corner for good measure. The formula of Stips taking the helm as songwriter and letting the rest of the band add their own touches after the fact turned out to be the perfect chemistry for SUPERSISTER 2.0 and despite tamping down the humor and focusing on more serious and dark subject matter, the music still retained that indefinable but instantly recognizable Canterbury jazz-rock warmth. This was the album that got SUPERSISTER noticed beyond the Netherlands and in terms of popularity their absolute peak.

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review Nº 780

As we know, progressive rock music was born in the end of the 60's. During the 70's it was essentially a phenomenon that occurred in the UK. Despite of that, it also appeared in many other countries all over the world. But, it had an important expression in other European countries, especially in Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. The most key Dutch bands at the time were perhaps Focus, Finch, Kayak, Trace, Earth And Fire, Golden Earring and Supersister.

Supersister was formed as a sextet in The Hague in 1967/68, albeit with the strange name of Sweet OK Supersister. At some point in the late of the 60's, "Sweet OK" and two band's members were lost. The four remaining members Robert Jan Stips, Sacha van Geest, Ron van Eck and Marco Vrolijk pursued with their musical project. With this quartet the band released three studio albums, "Present From Nancy" in 1970, "To The Highest Bidder" in 1971 and "Pudding And Yesterday" in 1972. However, after the third work the band broke up. Stips and van Eck, who wanted to change the band's sound more towards jazz, continued, Vrolijk and van Geest went their separate ways. With different lines up the band released two more albums in the 70's, "Iskander" in 1973 and "Spiral Staircase" in 1974, the last under the name of Sweet OK Supersister. In 2019 a fifth work was released, "Retsis Repus" under the name of Spersister Projekt 2019.

So, "To The Highest Bidder" is the second studio album of Supersister that was released in 1971. The line up on "To The Highest Bidder" is Robert Jan Stips (lead vocals and keyboards), Sacha van Geest (vocals and flutes), Ron van Eck (bass guitar and fuzz bass guitar) and Marco Vrolijk (drums and percussion).

If anything can be said about the successor of their debut album is that its 1971's follow-up, "To The Highest Bidder" is probably even better still, concentrating the band's considerable energy into just four numbers. It's hard to pick a favourite from the three lengthy opening numbers as they are all great. With their second work, Supersister have largely freed themselves from the Soft Machine influences and creating their own Dutch version of the Canterbury sound with a lively, slightly floating jazz rock with at times clear classical influences, especially with regarding to the keyboard work. This is accompanied by rather reserved vocals quite reminiscent of Richard Sinclair. Immediately upon its release, listeners and critics at the time were surprised by the progression the band had made compared to their first work. The songs were of decent length and the lyrics were also a lot more mature, if not more pessimistic. But above all, the band's sound seemed to be much more compact. Finally, the production of the album can be called an excellent work.

"To The Highest Bidder" has four tracks. The first track "A Girl Named You" is one of the band's very best tracks. It's a lively carousel ride made up of psychedelic, classical and jazz rock, with one leg still in the 60's and the other already in the progressive rock of the 70's. It starts with a lengthy instrumental section where the piano and flute play energetic themes and riffs before the track seamlessly changes form into the vocal part that features one of the most infectious and memorable vocal melodies the band wrote. The second track "No Tree Will Grow (On Too High A Mountain)" strikes completely different, darker tones than the opener. It's slightly untypical, being a slow and not all that complex ballad with a progressive edge. With the quiet and relaxed vocals to the more solemn jazz rock, flute sounds, vibraphone and Mellotron strings, the result is quite peculiar track. The third track "Energy (Out Of Future)" is possibly the band's most demanding and intricate piece. The music becomes very varied, sometimes quite free. Here they blend a complicated web of quirky themes, melodies, chord changes and rhythms, taking each style to the very limit. The piece offers the brisk, perfect interplay of the band, which rushes from melody to melody, from section to section and from sound to sound. This is a very entertaining piece, despite its length, which becomes a bizarre, electronic orgy of sound in the last few minutes. The fourth track "Higher" is very short, a contemplative and relaxed track, which is quite reminiscent of the somewhat more pop numbers by Caravan like "Hello Hello". This short light ballad seems like a very modest finale compared to the rest of the album. It proves that a big part of prog rock is also about contrasts, dynamics and variation.

Conclusion: "To The Highest Bidder" is really a nice work that can be recommended to any Canterbury lover. Overall, this is an album with great complexity. It's very unique and great what Supersister has developed here. This is an album that just oozes the joy of playing and delivers a work that is fun from the beginning to end. It's an album with many fine moments that are fun and clever too. But what it mostly accomplishes is to exorcise the band's interest in the studio experimentation, paving the way for more focused song writing on their next third work. If you're looking for an album that delivers a beautiful melodic and instrumental sound without being kitschy, you shouldn't go wrong with this album. So, this is a great album, an excellent starting point to further discover the music catalog of the group from The Hague.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Latest members reviews

4 stars I never knew about Supersister. Except for the fact that Stips - a locally famous Dutch musician and singer - used to be part of this group. Wow. I truly missed out. Because Supersister embodies the type of prog a favour: quirky, playful, beautiful. To the highest bidder has been my first re ... (read more)

Report this review (#2855018) | Posted by WJA-K | Monday, November 28, 2022 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This album is beautiful. Initially I considered this to be 4/5 as the first two tracks didn't speak to me. The second side was jaw dropping instantly and had me check out the bands discography. Energy is the perfect long track, angular sections, soul tingling vocals amazing. Higher is arguably th ... (read more)

Report this review (#2536454) | Posted by Beautiful Scarlet | Sunday, April 18, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Supersister's sophomore release expands upon the incredible sound of the debut into the realms of the all time classic progressive rock recordings. I love In the Land of Grey and Pink but this album may just inch above it for me. Classic opener, stupendous second song (No Tree Will Grow is on ... (read more)

Report this review (#1933939) | Posted by WFV | Friday, May 25, 2018 | Review Permanlink

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 discoverin ... (read more)

Report this review (#1158947) | Posted by sinslice | Tuesday, April 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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 descr ... (read more)

Report this review (#1092107) | Posted by Suedevanshoe | Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 thi ... (read more)

Report this review (#963353) | Posted by VOTOMS | Tuesday, May 21, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 de ... (read more)

Report this review (#266688) | Posted by bungle77 | Wednesday, February 17, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#261365) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Sunday, January 17, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#210592) | Posted by Foolsdrummer | Monday, April 6, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 gues ... (read more)

Report this review (#149454) | Posted by elwin | Wednesday, November 7, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#89244) | Posted by felonafan | Friday, September 8, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 " ... (read more)

Report this review (#74577) | Posted by Agemo | Monday, April 10, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#24123) | Posted by Robin | Thursday, February 24, 2005 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of SUPERSISTER "To the Highest Bidder"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.