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Kayak - Merlin CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.33 | 105 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars A more frustrating Kayak album I have yet to hear. I've always had a hard time with half-concept albums, where one side is a cohesive whole with a focused lyrical theme, while the other half can't help but come off as afterthoughts, no matter how good the material might be. This is what we get on 'Merlin', the first half based on that familiar Arthurian legend. Musically this half of the album is the best material Kayak had written since their second album, escaping streamlined radio-friendly material for more elaborate arrangements and lush symphonic keyboard layers. It's not quite on par with those first couple records, but it gives much more than I would've expected from Kayak at this point in their career. Rhythms are light but active, bouncing about with a pleasing momentum, and the icing on the cake is Edward Reekers' impassioned vocal performance. I've never really warmed to his smoother-than-smooth delivery, but it works very well with this kind of fantasy-oriented material, especially on beautiful ethereal ballad "Niniane (Lady Of The Lake)". Special mentions also go to "Merlin", "The Sword In The Stone" and "The King's Enchanter", excellent material that reveals Kayak as one of the premier purveyors of slick symphonic prog/pomp. The rest of the album is the most sickly-sweet pap I have ever heard from Kayak, and that's saying a lot. Worse than 'Periscope Life'. Worse than the most pop-leaning bits on 'Phantom Of The Night'. Worse than most of the lite-pop crud you've ever heard. "Seagull", "Boogie Heart" (ugh, what a title!) and "Now That We've Come This Far" are generic early '80s FM radio rock songs that you never actually heard on the radio. "Can't Afford To Lose" emulates the disco rhythms of their semi-hit "I Want You To Be Mine" so closely that it has no hope of standing on its own. But it's pretty silly stuff anyhow, you only need to hear it if you worshipped "I Want You To Be Mine" (all 4 of you out there). Final track "Love's Aglow" is a keeper, reminding of those dreamlike textures that the Alan Parsons Project generate so well. 'Wind And Wuthering' fans will know what I mean when I say it's sort of the "Afterglow" of the album (but without the genius of Genesis preceding it).

If this were an EP with just the 'Merlin' material presented, I wouldn't hesitate to give it 4 stars. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to enjoy the album in its entirety, as the back half is nauseating, bringing the score and overall appeal down to a lowly 2 stars. Fans only, indeed. But fans of the band's early days will be left wanting after the very good first half.

slipperman | 2/5 |


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