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Supersister Iskander album cover
3.55 | 131 ratings | 14 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1973

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Introduction (0:42)
2. Dareios The Emperor (4:51)
3. Alexander (7:02)
4. Confrontation Of The Armies (2:47)
5. The Battle (7:59)
6. Bagoas (2:54)
7. Roxane (3:21)
8. Babylon (7:57)
9. Looking Back (The Moral Of Herodotus) (4:33)

Total Time: 42:06

Bonus tracks on 2008 Esoteric remaster:
10. Wow (The Intelligent Song) (Single version) (3:35)
11. Drs. D (B-side) (2:50)
12. Bagoas (Single A-side) (2:44)
13. Memories Are New (B-side) (6:08)

Total Time: 57:23

Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Jan Stips / keyboards, lead vocals, vibes
- Charley Mariano / saxophones, flute, bass clarinet, nadaswaram
- Ron Van Eck / bass
- Herman Van Boeyen / drums, percussion

- Pierre Moerlen / marimba & percussion (6)
- Gerard Lemaitre / voice actor (6)
- Sacha Van Geest / flute (9)

Releases information

Artwork: William Reppel (photo) with Ron Van Eck

LP Polydor - 2925 021 (1973, Netherlands)
LP Polydor - 2485 134 (1979, Netherlands)

CD Polydor - 843453 (1990) (bundled with "Spiral Staircase")
CD Esoteric - ECLEC 2058 (2008, UK) Remastered by Ben Wiseman with 4 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SUPERSISTER Iskander ratings distribution

(131 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(48%)
Good, but non-essential (24%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

SUPERSISTER Iskander reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Following the usual public fave Pudding album, Iskander produced a concept album, one describing Alexander The Great building of his Greek Empire over much of the mid-east and IMHO went in over their heads with it. I am always a little wary of historical concept ala Triumvirat and others, much preferring a full blown concept of the Brick or Selling England type, because it sounds cheesy, hollow and incredibly pretentious at "adapting" music to Alexander's endeavours some 25 centuries ago. I don't think much more of rock operas of JC Superstar or JJ Savarin's works much either?. Preferring to these Townshend's Tommy or Quadrophenia or eventually some of The Kinks' deliriums, which are entirely invented.

Iskander is the Turkish name for Alexander The Great and it is a bust of him on the cover and much of the music (produced by Georgio "Jools & Trinity" Gomelski) is instrumental, especially early in the album. After a short unconvincing "eastern" Introduction on clarinet, the album jumps on the Persian side to describe Darius (or Dareios if they wish) whose sparse vocals are imbedded into a frenzied sax-led jazz-rock. A happy synth then an "eastern" clarinet marching to war open up the 7-minutes Alexander track, but the whole things gets a bit blurry once the slow sax almost stops the tune, leaving the electric rekindle the flame, until an organ comes in to an almost ELP fashion, but the tracks veers dissonant for a while? I never knew Alexander did drugs!!

Thunderous drum rolls announce the 8-mins The Battle and right after them, the tracks slows to a near-stop with an interesting lo-freq slow tempo crescendoing sometimes abruptly to reach a very fast movement that will fall back to the slow tempo again, this time building back up quicker. Rather impressive, but it's not sounding like a war, Crimson doing much better in the Lizard suite. Bagoas is probably the weakest track on the album, the finally-present singing not helping much?. This thankfully short track is not only too loud; it's simply sticking out like a sore thumb from the rest of the album. I can't say much more of the following flute-filled Roxane, preferring her in a red dress at night, but it fits the album a tad more. Babylon is an 8-mins track that relies on a descending riff, broken in different places by several interludes, some jazzy, some dissonant, almost free. The closing Looking Back is probably Alexander looking back at his travels and conquest, wishing he was in Egypt instead of Babylon, but the atrocious eastern sax is just cringing, once more.

While Iskander is still a worthy album, I personally find it paling in comparison to the group's previous works, the group failing to convince when they need to be exotic or ethnic, this being mainly the fault of the wind instruments, but the group as a whole does not fare well in that department. Iskander is filled with small cringing moments that sort of ruins mthe pleasure of listening, so you'll have to understand that I can't be generous, despite some impressive passages as well.

Review by loserboy
3 stars Based loosely on the life of Alexander the Great, this was SUPERSISTER's 4th album released and their concept album contribution. Clearly this was a departure from their earlier Canterbury'ish sounds being replaced by a more free jazz direction which works well for me... somewhere in the later SOFT MACHINE sound. Regardless in the change in direction, there is still a strong organ and bass interplay on this album with some great sax and flute work. Line up was Robert Jan Stips (keyboards, lead vocals, vibes), Ron van Eck (bass, guitar), Charlie Mariano (saxophone, flute) and Herman van Boeyen (drums, percussion). In many ways "Iskander" ebbs and flows more like a movie soundtrack than an album. Overall a pretty cool album and a good one for the headphone listening fraks out there.
Review by Gooner
3 stars Musically, _Iskander_ sounds quite similar to Godbluff-era Van Der Graaf Generator before the fact, since it came out in 1973. Especially the jammy parts. No lyrics or vocals like Peter Hammill, mind you...but musically similar. Charlie Mariano as guest on sax. sounds quite similar to Elton Dean of Soft Machine fame, and it was rumoured at one time that it was Mr. Dean himself. When I heard this album, I could tell right away that it was not (no slight to Charlie Mariano, though). He does a great job on sax. As an aside, check out Charlie Mariano's work on Eberhard Weber's LPs Yellow Fields and Silent Feet(both on ECM)...escpecially if you like Soft Machine.

If you like mid-period Soft Machine and mid-period Van Der Graaf Generator, check this out. Worth mentioning is that Supersister gives _Iskander_ its own stamp. The last great Supersister LP from the '70s.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars Exit Sacha van Geest and Marco Vrolijk. Only two founding members remain and this has had a deep influence on Supersister's sound. Their Cantebury style is definitely over.

I have always had some difficulties with almost instrumental conceptual albums. How the hell can we reasonably figure out how the storyboard is constructed? I can't. Even less when it consists of an epic story about "Alexander The Great".

And when I listen to "Confrontation Of The Armies" I can't really imagine the scene. Maybe that this album should have been designed as the support of an historical documentary? And the quiet "Battle" contrasts seriously with its theme.

The pastoral and light Roxanne is one of the very rare track that I can cope with. Almost the only one featuring some fluting, which was one of the attractions of the band previously.

The music played here is rather difficult to swallow. Their famous humour is all gone and we are only facing a rather technical and hermetic music (Babylon).

Supersister's heydays are past history and this Iskander is by far their most experimental work so far. I have never been a deep fan of avant-garde or experimental music. And this one won't be the exception. Two stars.

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If I made a list of my favorite prog albums that I find to be grossly underrated, this one would definitely be part of the Top 5 if not no. 1: Iskander is a special album in Supersister's history, since it's the one not featuring the original flautist and drummer. Stips and Van Eck remained in the fold, summoning a heavily jazzy drummer and a wind player who preferred the sax over the flute. The latter factor influenced the band's sonic development in a crucial manner, since it implies that the wind input can be louder than ever before in a Supersister album, and the keyboard input must necessarily adopt new tricks in order to establish a new form of dialogue with their partners in melody and soloing (the sax and the flute, of course). The brief intro is a real statement of what is going on: an exotic sax solo that properly announces the life of Alexander the Great as a champion in Greece and a hero in Asia. The sung parts are diminished, and so are the displays of musical humor, which makes the sense of musical intelligence become a major asset. What we can still notice clearly is that combination of warm dynamics and extroverted vibe that makes Supersister such a genius in the history of prog-jazz. The aforementioned sax solo gives way to "Dareios the Emperor", a piece elaborated with similarities to Weather Report and the jazzy side of compatriot band Focus (I won't go as far as to say that Focus was an actual influence on Supersister). Mariano does a big deal of Elton Dean chops, which makes for one of a few Soft Machine references for this remodeled Supersister. The title track continues in a similar vein and takes it to a more epic atmosphere: there is also an added touch of grey textures in places, which helps to make the sinister martial drums and organ layers really dark. It is a pity that the ultra- neutoric sax solo should be so short, since it reallly creates an amazing climax while it lasts. Once the electric piano comes to the frontline, the sax stops being intense and becomes quite evocative. The last two minutes are symptoms of pure jazz-prog majesty in a most orchestrated fashion. Despite its explicitly menacing title, 'Confrontation of the Armies' actually happens to be quite playful, as a nod to what the band used to do in their first two albums. 'The Battle' starts with a tympani-driven orgy (reminding us of Carl Palmer's individual highlights in the classic era of ELP), which deceitfully serves as a prologue to an eerie passage of soaring organ layers, soft baritone sax and vibraphone touches. The first main motif arrives like a mixture of Weather Report and Egg (the Canterbury element is a thing that this band can't seem to take off itself): the resulting development states an alternation of languid and furious moods that eventually lead to a bombastic closing section in which the drums and the saxare literally on fire. This one and 'Alexander' have to be the pinnacles of "Iskander". But there's still more. The following two tracks slow down a bit in order to deliver a more gracious mood: 'Bagoas' has a soft colorfulness to it, adorned with exotic percussions and flute; 'Roxane' takes a romantic approach to the bucolic side of jazz, with very tender lines on flute and stylish piano bases. 'Babylon' brings back the Weather report reference, only this time with a stronger focus on jams delivered on various mid-tempo structures (unlike the more epic 'Iskander' and 'The Battle'). The rhythm section is just superb, with a drummer who knows exactly the right place for each ornament and how to establish a whole sound with the bass player. This piece, while not as composed as tracks 2 and 3, can match their incendiary stance in many passages. 'Looking Back' fills the album's last 4 minutes, with moderate Latin-jazz tones (a trick that was also used in previous releases): the connection between bass, flute and electric piano lands on a coda of the intro. That's how this circle is closed, and this is what Supersister decided to become after the original line-up's crisis: "Iskander" is a peculiar opus in Supersister's world, yet still retaining proficiently the same level of musical excellence in the writing and performing areas. It is reasonable to miss the magic of Mr. Van Geest for this one, but it is a fact (at least to me) that this album is not a letdown at all.
Review by friso
3 stars Supersister - Iskander (1973)

Supersister is a major progressive rock act from the Netherlands during the progessive haydays of the early seventies. Their style was hugely influenced by Frank Zappa (mainly the rhytmical proto-Canterbury approach) and by the Soft Machine (the distorted organ based rock sound with repetative rhythms and psychedelic vocals). With a keyboards, bass, flute and drums the band had an orginal line-up with very talented musicians, with Robert Jan Stips being one of the best keyboardplayers in Dutch rock/pop history. On the first three albums Supersister impressed fans and critics with their fast jazzy approach on progressive music with some space for great flute melodies and solo's and nice hippi vocals of Stips. On the fourth album the band had to cope with line-up changes and a change of style in general.

Robert Jan Stips still plays his fast keyboards and organs and the bass is still played by Ron van Eck. Flute player Sacha van Geest only appears on one track, the paino-flute duet called Roxane. The drums are taken over by Herman van Boeyen wit some assistence of Pierre Moerlen on percussion. The new solist is Charlie Mariano on saxophone. His style is that of a fusion musician who seems to be influenced by the style of Alton Dean of the Soft Machine.

The fact that supersister suddenly has another solo-instruments makes a huge difference on Iskander. The style of Mariano pushes the band toward that of a progressive fusion group of it's days with slight avant-garde influences. The organs of Stips are less on the foreground and the scarce vocals of Stips are almost lost in the mix. One can also find some world-music influences, for this is a concept album about Alexander the Great (named Iskander in Greece). The world-music influences remind me a bit of those of Palepoli by Osanna (from the RPI division). The drums of Boeyen are very good, but I must admit I preferred the unstoppable repetative/psychedelic jazz drums of Marco Vrolijk. Somehow Supersister lost it's vibe without the continuity of the high pace he laid down for the band.

With all these changes in line-up, sound and style I can conclude that this is not an album that is representative for the Supersister brand, but that doesn't make it a bad album. The wind-section of Mariano is very strong and most of his solo's are really great. The composition is fine, though a big more aggresion would not have hurt. My only real complaint is the bad mixing of the vocals, one can't almost hear what Stips is singing. The duet of Stips and Van Geest on 'Roxane' is a great reminder of the former Supersiter sound, it also reminds me a bit of the great atmosphere of Pudding & Gisteren's ending section. The concept is bit lost because of the low volume vocals, but when reading the inner sleeves a lot of the the band's thoughts on the subject are revealed.

Conclusion. This will perhaps never be my favorite Supersister album, but it's still recommended to fans of Canterbury, classic fusion and rare progressive rock. The album does have a strong atmosphere, though a bit sophisticated at times (unlike the happy, bombastic & crazy vibe of the first three albums). Perhaps it'll take me some more spins to nail it down completely. Three and a halve stars, but I'm a bit unsure wether it's going to be rounded up or down.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Major changes for this album as original members Sacha (flute) and Marco (drums) have left the band. Enter a jazzy drummer and also Charlie Mariano who is fresh off playing on EMBRYO's "We Keep On" album. Charlie will play sax, flute and clarinet on this record. His stint with SUPERSISTER will be just this one album then he'll go back to Germany and play with Eberhard Weber ( "Yellow Fields" & "Silent Feet" ). This is a concept album about the life of Alexander The Great and the band seemed to take the approach here to make a serious jazz record with avant leanings much like SOFT MACHINE. I think when Sacha left he took the band's humour with him.

"Introduction" is a mournful, almost dissonant clarinet solo. "Dareios The Emperor" is a top three for me. There's this cool rhythm with electric piano and horns. Love the deep bass lines as the sound turns fuller. An uptempo lighter section is contrasted with this then the vocals come in after 2 minutes as it settles. It kicks back in. Intense after 3 minutes as the sax blasts over top. A calm a minute later to end it. "Alexander" opens with light keyboard sounds as a rhythm then dissonant horns take over. I like it ! Piano only after 2 minutes then the organ and sax joins in. This is fairly dark and still laid back. Passionate sax 3 1/2 minutes in and then silence before 4 1/2 minutes. Electric piano comes in followed by bass, drums and sax that kick in after 5 minutes. Some crazy sax late. "Confrontation Of The Armies" opens with flute then the piano joins in. It kicks into an uptempo soundscape before a minute. Vocals follow. Lots of fun !

"The Battle" is a top three. It opens with drums rolling then the clarinet and floating organ takes over in a melancholic manner. A beat 2 1/2 minutes in then it picks up after 3 minutes. The drumming is fantastic ! Horns too. Silence before 5 minutes then it slowly builds with bass, organ and more. It kicks back in at 6 minutes. Great sound ! The sax is blasting a minute later. "Bagoas" is excellent. I just love this one. It becomes uptempo with vocals and chunky bass. "Roxane" is led by flute and piano throughout and there's more passion late. "Babylon" is my final top three. Electric piano as chunky bass as crisp drums join in. Vocals too and this sounds amazing ! Sax a minute in as the vocals stop. Drums only after 3 1/2 minutes as the bass joins in. Sax follows and it's dissonant. Electric piano joins in too. It's speeding up after 6 minutes. The dissonant sax sure bring SOFT MACHINE (Elton Dean) to mind. Some killer drum work during the final minute. "Looking Back" is a mellow and dreamy track with reserved vocals.

An easy 4 stars and one that might be closer to 4.5 stars. Just a killer record that should be rated much higher than it is. A classic that SOFT MACHINE fans should check out.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Iskander represents Supersister taking a more serious turn than usual, delivering a Canterbury concept album about Alexander the Great's Eastern conquests ("Iskander" being how Alexander was known in some of the regions he conquered) that draws more from the third Soft Machine album (sans Moon In June) than the whimsy-heavy first two. Those who prized Supersister's playfulness and sense of fun in their previous albums may find this stab at serious prog rock credibility dull by comparison, but to my ears they actually do a decent job of delivering a quieter and more thoughtful take on their sound which doesn't deserve to be in the shadow of Pudding en Gisteren - though at the same time, it doesn't feel quite as fresh as their first two albums.
Review by GruvanDahlman
3 stars I do not know how many times I have started to Review this album, only to find myself failing to do so. Why is that, one might ask? I think that the main problem has been my ambivalence, not fully knowing how to rate it. Is it a four star album or isn't it? I think I have the answer now.

I am relatively new to Supersister. I have not spent years listening to them but I love Canterbury style progressive rock. It is marvellous. So, being a fan of prog I do love the idea of concept albums. Just imagine the grandeur of it all, giving musical wings to the epic story of Alexander the Great. The very idea gives me goose bumps. I dived into this album with every fibre of my inner being highly strung in anticipation. The resulting dive wasn't exactly what I had hoped for.

The opening trio of "Introduction", "Dareios - the emperor" and "Alexander" are by far the best tracks. What an opening! Eastern sounding (which is appropriate), heavy and fitting the theme. Beyond those tracks, however, I tend to get distracted all too easily. It all blends together and though enjoyable not very exciting. If I listen to any of the tracks I do not know why my complaints arise but when I listen to the album in it's entirity it is like eating ones way through a buffet. It's all very enjoyable at first but you do get filled up. And maybe that is the case here.

Obviously, the musicianship is excellent. There's not much to say about that. Supersister is/was a very talented band and created some great music but sorry to say, they did not manage to be up to par on this one.

I love this album, I do, but there's something missing. The theme is there, the ideas and the will. It is simply a question of not reaching the goal properly. Interesting and grandiose it remains simply good but by no means essential. Sorry.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Gone are founding members Marco Vrolijk and Sacha van Geest, drummer and flute-sax player, respectively. Still, Robert Jan Stips and company manage to focus and take on a concept album, no less--a musical rendering and homage to the historical figure, Alexander the Great. I think they do it exceedingly well--and still in a very Canterburian way, despite their growth and the inputs of two new, jazz-oriented members. Though I miss the predominance of the flutes from the previous albums, I love the various saxes as played by Charlie Mariano. Ron van Eck's chunky bass feels and sounds more at home, more integrated within this new music--which is mixed much more thickly, with less separation and differentiation (pointing to Robert Jan's development on the engineering/production side of things). though there is definitely a stronger commitment to jazz tendencies the keyboard and chordal structures are still very much anchored in the Canterbury sound.

Total Time: 57:23

A solid four star album from this wonderful Dutch band--and their best engineered album to date.

Latest members reviews

3 stars My middle favourite Supersister album, Iskander. This album moves in a different direction than the previous three which is a welcome change as that style had reached a dead end with pudding en gistereen. Here Supersister presents a delectable mostly instrumental affair. The closest sounding ban ... (read more)

Report this review (#2573953) | Posted by Beautiful Scarlet | Wednesday, June 23, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of the most brillant and daring albums of Dutch progressive rock and the major work of Supersister. For their last album they have assembled a great line up, consisting of master mind and band genius Robert-Jan Stips on keyboards, bass player Ron van Eck, drummer Herman van Boeijen & jazz- ... (read more)

Report this review (#762149) | Posted by Life Line Project | Saturday, June 2, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Wow... another wonderful album from R.J. Stips and company although the exit of Sacha van Geest and Marco Vrolijk, this is their most mature and complex work. This is a concept album about Alexander the Great life, in which the typical and famous vocal parts are in background and there is no trac ... (read more)

Report this review (#266684) | Posted by bungle77 | Wednesday, February 17, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It is said usually that "Iskander" is less listenable album of Supersister than early albums of this band. As though, "Iskander" is "avant-garde". I do not think so. Yes, this album is more difficult for perception and understanding. Yes, this album is closer to "avant-prog" or "RIO" than early ... (read more)

Report this review (#82029) | Posted by felonafan | Monday, June 26, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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