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4 stars Very interesting debut album by Dutch band Alquin. On "Marks" they sound like a mix of fellow Dutch band Finch with Caravan, the latter because of the gentle style of the compositions and the use of saxes and flutes.

The highlight is the mini-suite "Soft Royce/Mr. Barnum Jr's Magnificent and Fabulous City" where you can hear passages that wouldn't have been out of place on Caravan's finest records. The album opener "Oriental Journey" is also very Caravan-like. The album ends with two nice instrumental tracks: "Marc's Occasional Showers" and the sax/violin driven "Catherine's Wig".

All in all a very satisfying debut album of a band that keeps recording and touring today.

Report this review (#45155)
Posted Thursday, September 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Alquins debut album is their most versatile album. You can hear snippets of calypso, circus music, Dixieland and country music. But most of it is progressive rock with a jazzy feel. It is largely instrumental, but there are some tracks with vocals. It is produced by Hans van Oosterhout who has earned his credits as a producer with bands like Supersister and Drama.

The album opens slowly with some nice flute playing by Ottenhof, half way the track the tempo goes up, we hear some guitar, a piano and suddenly we are in Louisiana. When the main theme returns, this is segued into the second track. Here the focus is on the sax. Soft royce starts laid back, with some nice guitar and organ playing. This is also the first track with vocals. Next is the circus of Mr. Barnum, very up tempo with violin, flute and sax.

The absolute highlight of this album is the long I wish I could. It is built up very slowly with a very spooky sound, after a few minutes the track sort of restarts. It contains great solos and several tempo changes. This is followed by a ballad and a Canterbury-ish track. The last track has again the electric violin as the main attraction.

Report this review (#73663)
Posted Friday, March 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Hits the "mark" big time..

This album was such a pleasant surprise. Alquin is a Dutch band that released this monster debut in 1972. What makes it so impressive is the tons of variety here: songwriting with some real flair and pizazz, great chops, and very good sound. Rather than simply being influenced by the English giants you have a feisty bunch of songs that challenge them on their own turf, getting right in there and throwing a few elbows around. This is music that is delightfully playful, shimmering in melodies, and balances nicely the instrumental prowess proggers love-but it does so while constantly changing from one fresh idea to the next rather than getting lost in endless jamming. This is where I differ starkly in opinion from most reviewers here and elsewhere. Most people prefer their second album because they say it streamlined their sound and grabbed a heavier groove, the latter of which is true for sure. But I don't think that makes it better. From my vantage point now that made the 2nd album sound a lot more like so many other albums in the 70s with long, sometimes repetitive jamming that began leading down the road to the less exciting 3rd and 4th release. I prefer this debut because it is such a smörgåsbord of influences, but always injected with a big dose of enthusiasm and irreverence. You can just tell how excited they are here and every track has something that makes me smile. Some will say there are too many influences here and too many directions but I disagree-they do hold it together and it's very satisfying. I don't like "Marks" just a little better than "Mountain Queen," I like it a lot better. Frankly, it's just more damn fun even if it doesn't rock as hard as MQ.

"Oriental Journey" begins with flute and acoustic guitar soon joined by bass and e piano in a most delightful Canterburyish sound. The guitar joins and the track really picks up with some effects drenched leads that morphs into a crazy moment of street parade music, like Mardi Gras or something. A door slams and the song shifts again, horns come and go and there's an air of psychedelic whimsy afoot. I hear Supersister, Camel, and Caravan it this great freakin opener. It leads right into "The Least You Could Do Is Send Me Some Flowers" which is a jazzy melody with horns. Half way through it stops and the second half sounds a bit like Traffic with a little improv sax over piano to very minimal percussion. "Soft Royce" is a smashing track with a jazzy sax and bass highlighted by a blistering solo early on, then there is a sort of Santana-type rhythm that erupts in the middle. Again, very playful and loose in attitudes while staying deadly serious on the tight chops. After some rousing vocals there is a laid back organ section with nice rhythm guitar behind it. Another sax solo follows this, the musicianship is top notch and the sound is great for '72. The 11-minute plus centerpiece here is the stunning "I Wish I Could." This incredible song opens with a Floydian sounding fuzzed guitar over mellotron. The similarities to "Echoes" seem possible as the track slowly builds until about half-way through when acoustic guitar and a tempo change leads to some vocal verses. Some have criticized the vocals and while not the strongest I think they're just fine, a bit of an accent on the English but it's not a big deal. Strong presence of bass and flute accent the imaginative guitar licks dancing around the singing. The production is great with sound that allows every musician to be heard very well. The song is laid back but so lush and spacious, waves of floating keys but plenty of hooks. "You Can Always Change" is a simple and pleasant ballad with great melody. "Marc's Occasional Showers" begins with sax and rapid-fire cymbals to brisk guitar chords. The sax becomes very serene and peaceful in the second half with lovely vocal harmonies dressing the window. "Catharine's Wig" closes the album with eccentricity again. A folksy number with violin and bouncy bass it would sound a bit out of place anywhere else, but here is works.

This is a very easy recommendation to anyone who loves Supersister and Caravan but would like to hear a different twist, a little mischief, a buffet with all the tasty standbys but also some weird looking side dishes that you need to be dared to try. If you're just a meat and potatoes rocker, proceed to their 2nd album. Or if you can find the Polydor "2 on 1" series, you can get both of them on one CD. Now that's a picnic no one can turn their nose up to. 4 plus stars. Perhaps not groundbreaking but on the quality and musical enjoyment level it is a masterful work. This music lifts my spirits in a big way.

Report this review (#159536)
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great debut album from these Dutch musicians.Very good studio sound,nice interplay of musicians mixing world grooves,symphonic passages full of melody,atmospheric (a bit dark sometimes) keyboard and guitar parts dressed by flute,sax and voice,well performed jazzy parts,plus violin.In a few words,inspirated musical themes joined together and as a result,a very good album,a joy for listeners. Their sound may refer to some other bands as written above but the final taste that this album left to me,after hearing it for the first time,was pretty innovating,like a big sweet filled with good music compiled of whatever genre or style. So prog or not listeners of good music should give this lp a try.

4 and a half really...

Report this review (#171068)
Posted Thursday, May 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The debut of Dutch progressive rock group Alquin is one of the better classic prog albums from Holland. Heavily influenced by both Soft Machine, Pink Floyd and perhaps other rock acts with wind-sections Alquin came up with a nice blend of styles of their own. On the the debut Alquin also has some nice humor in the music and song-titles which add to the pleasant & playful listening experience. Alquin's sound is made up of organ's and piano's on the background, a jazzy rhythmical section, a melodic guitar style and nice sax and flutes by Ottenhof and Tarenskeen. Alquin makes little use of reverbs and echoes, which gives the music a Canterbury-like dryness to it. The diversity of the first side is very exciting, the band engages in many different themes, styles and atmospheres. Along the way we get some jazz-rock, some psychedelic passages, slightly dreamy passages, some playfulness and moments of subtle beauty. Only the last part of side one (with the violin experimentation) is a bit boring in my opinion. On the second side Alquin shows a different face; with an extended Pink Floyd like symphonic/spacey intro of 'I wish I could' and emotional song-writing & performance during the second halve of the track. The song-writing on the next tracks proves to be effective and the instrumental ending track leaves us with a good feeling.

Conclusion. The slightly naive & wild experimentation on side one and the song-writing on side two are winners for me and I can give this record the big three-and-a-halve rating. Recommended to fans of eclectic prog, jazz-rock and classic progressive music in general.

Report this review (#171718)
Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nice album for this band. Very harmonic and balanced with a good work in guitar with a old pedal effect but efficient. The sax remember me the calm night and all this atmosphere. Some parts remember me Meedle Pink Floyd but they are short that it reveals that this work are not a copy. The mellotron parts and keiboards give quality to this album. The drums, nothing special but balanced in this work. In global album, i really apreciate because it's a good work in 70 décade that i like very much and we can listen very often and enjoy. I give 4 stars because is a good progressive work for this band fromjk Netherlands.
Report this review (#231482)
Posted Friday, August 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars There's not much I can say about Alquin, as I do not really know anything except this album. They're a dutch band formed somewhere around the early 70's, and only released 5 albums, and this one, Marks, is their first.

Oriental Journey starts with a flute and acoustic guitar prologue, very similar to Camel, or Jethro Tull during Heavy Horses. Then the band enters into a very jazzy feel of the earlier theme. Then it goes into a wah wah empowered section, very influenced by Blind Faith, and jazz artists of that time. Then they play the flute/guitar riff on horns, and then piano. The whole band is very talented, and I'm pretty sure that they learned music somewhere in their lives. This song is constantly changing, until its faded into The Least You Could do is Send me Some Flowers, which sounds just like the previous song. Then comes a saxophone solo very similar (judging by feel) to the one in Pink Floyd's Money. The song then comes to an abrupt piano ending.

Soft Royce starts with something that sounds like Air's La Femme d'Argent jazzified! a funky bassline and phased drums, played with a steady saxphone line played with insane feel and tightness. This song is very reminiscent of Focus, Jethro Tull (During APP), and Wishbone Ash, the latter one especially during the guitar solo. The song then goes into a samba part, and right afterwards come in the vocals, which sound very similar to Roye Albrighton of Nektar. Then the song goes into a slow 9/8ths keyboard solo reminiscent of Camel, especially on their debut.

Mr. Barnum Jr. starts with a pumpy Hammond organ part and a drum roll, which sound like a train rolling, and then abruptedly ends after a few seconds. Then a horn is sounded, much like on The Decemberists' The Infanta, which made me think it was gonna come again, but no, there is a flute solo, similar to that on JT's My God.

I Wish I Could starts out with a mellow guitar/hammond piece, which keeps feeling like it'll explode into something huge. After a few rounds, the bass and drums enter. Now even Pink Floyd can't get more Pink Floyd than this! Then it goes into an acoustic guitar part which sounds like a cross between Camel, the music in Battlefield 2 when you lose to the MEC, and Get My Goat by Phideaux. The whole feel of this song is very haunting, until the vocals come in. In my opinion they're pretty cheesy, and the accent isn't so good.

You Always Can Change starts out reminiscent of David Bowie, or Byzantium, maybe even Genesis. It's an upbringing song, lyrically and musically. Even reminiscent of the country music around that time, such as CSNY, and Neil Young.

Marc's Occasional Showers starts with with thunder crashes exploding into a 7/8ths insanity with phased drums playing really fast 16ths, saxophones blaring, guitar chords strummed like hell, and then it slows down into a 4/4 bit with orchestral vocals in the background, reminiscent of Capability Brown's Circumstances, somehow.

Catharine's Wig starts out with a string section which sounds like Fruupp playing Gryphon covers, until the must-have wah-guitar solo comes in. Oh wait, it's a violin! Back to the main theme, this time with drums and piano, and then, STOP, piano interlude, GO, wah-violin solo, very reminiscent of those in Gentle Giant, especially in River. One of the most beautiful songs on this album.

And that's it, actually. On my first listen I wasn't so focused, so I didn't pay attention to the beauty in some of these songs. I'll give this a 4 out of 5. Most of the songs are good, and even great, but I Wish I Could isn't good enough, and it seems a bit too influenced off Camel and Jethro Tull.

Still a fantastic album though, and if you have the money for lesser-known gems, buy this.

Report this review (#290834)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars First album from this Dutch sextet (the standard prog quartet, plus two wind players), released late 72 and coming with a fairly ugly potato album artwork (although a red fingerprint graced the export (British) version), Marks is a rather pleasant surprise (at least many moments are), as it is sounding much like its own, despite a wide pot-pourri of influences and ambiances gathered a bit all over the musical map. The group took its roots in 69 in Delft (the University town between The Hague and Rotterdam), when three students began playing R&B as Threshold Fear, then slowly expanded to a sextet, recorded a single, then changed its name into Alquin in late 71 to Alquin, based on a local monastery.

The very Genesis-like guitar-arpeggio and flute intro of the instrumental Oriental Journey opens the album on an enjoyable note, the rest of the band gradually kicking in soon, before the flute veers Asian and the band passes clutches in the turbo which will lead into a great finale. A tad Canterbury-ish but mainly its own self and a tremendous opener. The following The Least You (also an instrumental) starts off a bit goofily, but calms down superbly in its second section. The Traffic-ian 7-mins Soft Royce is probably the highlight of the album, with its beautiful jazzy ambiance and constantly changing time sigs, including some bossa nova, but the short vocal bits are a bit surprising in their rawness, but the track goes on mercilessly until a fading telephone tonality draws it to a close. The Barnum track (I'm guessing it was ousted to fit those Polydor 2on1 discs) is a low-key improv piece that borders on the dissonant side with a String Driven Thing-like violin to boot. A mainly instrumental A-side contrasting somewhat with the much wordier flipside.

The 11-mins+ I Wish I Could is a slow crescendoing track where a psychedelic twangy guitar gradually speeds up over the superb Floydian organ underneath, until midway through where the rather clumsy vocals enters for a few verses with a flute separating the first, while a guitar adds some dramatics. Unfortunately the sung passages are over- staying their welcome and unfortunately disserving the track. The following piano and acoustic guitar ballad of You Always Can Change is not one of my fave of the album, but it does retain some charm, especially in the moody ending. As always, the Dutch try to infuse some humour in the music and here it is in the form of thunderstorm bolts that announces the instrumental Marc's Occasional Shower with sax and clarinets, while the folky Catherine's Wig has the fiddle diddling with diverse winds, but both tracks provide an unfitting close to an otherwise fine album. The Esoteric remaster has a short bonus track, the b-side of a single and obviously a wink atr their Soft Royce track and it features heavy guitar and Beefheart-style vocals. Barely in line with the rest of the album, but not shockingly different.

This album will be strong enough to have the group be part of that Dutch wave of groups ala Earring, Supersister, Focus, Ekseption/Trace, and Alquin will gain some exposure in England by playing the Grey whistle Test TV show, leading to opening some show for The Who in France a while later. Too bad this debut album will be their most inventive and their future albums will not foray further in the avenues that Alquin opened for themselves, here. Indeed the following MQ will be a flawed but good successor, but after that, the group will sporadically have moments of greatness glimpsed in this present album, but for the most will produce average pomp rock music. In some ways, this album could be assimilated to a wiser early Supersister (same producer, so that helps) but much wiser and less virtuoso. Marginally better than their second album, but Alquin remains a second division Dutch group, leaving no essential trace in their country's rock scene compared to Focus, Earring or that Super Sister.

Report this review (#293978)
Posted Tuesday, August 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite producing only one album, Alquin earned a musically unique place in the progressive rock history - the lads created an original and attractive blend of progressive rock, Canterbury, pop and space rock.

One time you hear Supersister influence, then comes Pink Floyd or Focus into mind. Highly regarded can be the use of brass instruments such as flute and saxophone.

The echoes of late psychedelic 60's can be heard in the third track "Soft Royce". The only disposable track is "Mr Barnums JR's Magnificient".

"I wish I could" feels like hommage to Pink Floyd, not only by its sound but also compositional moves. Intelligent folk- pop is represented by "You can always change".

Marks is recommended to both space-rock/folk-rock fans as well as generally adventureous music listeners not afraid to hear combined music styles together.

Report this review (#2153344)
Posted Friday, March 8, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars The eclectic Marks starts off sounding like Camel playing Canterbury, but three minutes in, they sound like a Dixieland brass section.

But at least at the outset, the eclecticism is kept within bounds; the first three numbers, "Oriental Journey," "The Least You Could Do is Send Me Some Flowers," and "Soft Royce," jazzily cycle through a fixed set of styles. And at first, it seems "Mr. Barnum Jr.'s Magnificent & Fabulous City" will be more of the same, but it morphs from a spirited chamber piece to a fiddlin' hoedown which goes a bit avant-garde toward the end. The bounded eclecticism of the first three songs doesn't return until the album-closer, "Catharine's Wig."

The Camel-infused Pink Floyd tribute "I Wish I Could," which opens Side Two, is my favorite song here; interestingly, "Marc's Occasional Showers," which comes later, might've made a nice coda to this one. And then there's "You Always Can Change." I wonder if Alquin was influenced by groups like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, insofar as this short number, suitable for release as a single, sounds a little out of place on the album. But it's a nice song.

Released in 1972, Marks must have been an unconventional debut. It suffers from an unlikely combination of unrealized ambition and unnecessary repetition. But it's performed quite well, and the sound is good. At any rate, Alquin would surpass Marks the following year with The Mountain Queen, which would be my recommended starting point for those interested in this band.

Report this review (#2217908)
Posted Tuesday, June 4, 2019 | Review Permalink

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