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Kayak - Merlin - Bard Of The Unseen CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.88 | 129 ratings

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3 stars They say that life doesn't offer you second chances, but in one of the most surprising moves ever pulled by a progressive rock band, Kayak make good on some unfulfilled promises. A full 22 years after botching their first attempt at Merlin (in 1981, Kayak released an album called Merlin that was a good half concept album, half-unrelated pop songs), original members Tom Scherpenzeel (keyboards) and Pip Koopman (drums), as well as long time bassist Bert Veldkamp got together to right the wrongs of history. They're actually done a pretty good job of it, too.

This album builds on the five earlier tracks (Merlin, Tintagel, The Sword In The Stone, The King's Enchanter and Niniane (Lady Of The Lake) with eight newly composed tracks that fit in seamlessly to create a good neo-prog rock opera. Just as Kayak's Close To The Fire album (which came out in 2000)demonstrated a shift to a sound that should thrill afficionados of Glass Hammer and IQ, so this one continues in the same vein. I suppose it's a rather logical move from the progressive pop of the early 70s to a more contemporary neo-prog sound ... and the good news is that it is better than almost every neo-prog album recorded since Fish left Marillion (IQ's Dark Matter being an exception).

This album has some nice vocal harmonies, orchestral additions, great solos by Scherpenzeel (his synth work towards the tail end of the opening track is excellent.), good guitar leads, pleasing Celtic themes and enough changes of pace to ensure excitement throughout. I must admit though, that my favourite tunes are still the "original" compositions from 1981 ... the title track, the eerie, delicate Tintagel and The King's Enchanter are all awesome! Of the newer pieces, the exuberant At Arthur's Court, The Purest Of Knights and The Last Battle (both of which have a great cinematic epic feel) are the standouts. At times though (Friendship And Love is a distinct example, and even Niniane reminds me at times of Air Supply!), Kayak's music can get a little too lightweight for my tastes.

One notable change for this album is the presence of lead vocalist Bert Heerink (who joined for 2001's Night Vision album), while female singer Cindy Oudshoorn and guitarist Rob Vunderlink also handle lead vocals at various points on the album. The 1981 album had Edward Reekers singing, while the vocalist for the early 70s albums was Max Werner, who had returned for Close To The Fire, but isn't anywhere to be seen here. Maybe this confusing array of vocalists is one reason Kayak hasn't gotten the recognition it deserves. Still, if I were a hard-core fan of the neo-progressive style (and I most certainly am not), I'd rush out to get this one. ... 53% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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