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Kayak - Close to the Fire CD (album) cover



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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was really happy by the time this album was released. KAYAK is back! Yeah ..! As I understand from the sleeve of KAYAK "Singles" there was a statement that said the group was disbanded for good in early 1982, shortly after the release of "Eyewitness" live recording album. I thought that the KAYAK "Singles" issued in 1999 remark the fact that the band would never return to studio anymore. And I never tracked the band anymore unless noticing that Ton Scherpenzeel doing a lot of work to strengthen CAMEL. The first news about the return of KAYAK to studio came to me through prog mates when we were active in a local classic rock FM radio. I was actually skeptical with the return of the band since I was fully aware that they became very old.

I proved to be wrong when I purchased the CD in local record store, Duta Suara - Jakarta, sometime in 2000. The first track blew my mind at first spin! I thought Kayak was much more prog in this new recording than their previous albums. The founding fathers of the band: Ton Scherpenzeel, Pim Koopman and Max Werner are back in this new album. Aha .. what can you expect if all the masterminds reunite to craft a new album! The line-up includes Bert Veldkamp, bass player that joined the band since 1975, Rob Winter (guitar, backing vox) and other special guests (including Andy LATIMER of CAMEL).

Close to the Fire - What a great decision to put this wonderful title track as the album opening tune. As I told you, this track blew my mind at first spin of the CD. It even beyond my expectation as I thought with the age of Kayak members, they would tend to write mellow tracks. But this tune proves the other way around. It's not a straight forward rock and also it's not a mellow poppy track. It starts off with a cloudy and rainy nuances followed with a spacey keyboard in a very nice ambient accentuated by a great flute work by ANNET VISSER. The voice enters the music in a slow / mid tempo to open the tune. It then flows to a flute work that plays as a beautiful transition to bring the music into crescendos in an upbeat tempo. The inclusion of flute has really enriched the textures and nuances of the song. Oh my God . this is a wonderfully crafted song, constructed with (I think) meticulous details. In approx minute 4:50 there is a wonderful transition exploring the work of flute (augmented with keyboard) in classical style. This then continued with a short keyboard solo. Well, it is probably the most prog of any Kayak song that has ever been produced since their inception. It's a powerfully written track combining a rather complex arrangement with excellent (and memorable!) melody. It's an accessible prog tune. Try it yourself. Am sure you would agree with me. I also play this track very loud. It's my favorite track.

When Hearts Grow Old - It's a short track with a sad nuance. The classical piano at the opening followed by howling guitar is really good opening melody. This track reminds me to the classic tracks of Kayak. The melody is very strong. I enjoy the combination Werner's voice, classical piano and guitar fills. For those who like Kayak's hit "Ruthless Queen" would love this track. It shares similar vein, I think. Only shorter.

Dream Child - It's a ballad song with a nice guitar fills that accompany voice line. The music flows nicely from beginning to end with the addition of backing vocals, accentuated with percussion work and vibraphone. Drum is not played dynamically here - because of the nature of the tune. Again, it's a melodic track.

Frozen Flame - This track has brought us into more enjoyment of melodic music. Opened with an ambient and spacey keyboard sound accentuated with guitar fills. Oh, what a beautiful melody it is when Werner starts to sing augmented with vibraphone-like sound (probably produced through keyboard). The long sustain guitar work makes me even better with the music even until the voice line back on track. Nothing more I can say than recommending yourself to enjoy this excellent track. The guitar solo is really killing me!

Forever - It starts with a combination of guitar and piano followed with a voice line with backing vocals. The music turns into a happy mood - it reminds me to the musical nuance of Kayak "Merlin" album. The song is probably pop but it has some "heavy" elements with classical music influence.

World Aparts - I don't actually like the opening choir "Face to face / eye to eye .etc" at first listen. But, when I follow the music afterwards, it's an interesting and enjoyable track. Especially, I like the electric guitar work that is played softly combined with a piano touch. Melody wise, it's a nice tune. Lyrically, it's a sad song about relationship.

Crusader - It's a straight forward pop rock song exploring more on rhythm section of guitar and keyboard. It's probably the flute work that makes this track attractive - it creates classical nuance during interlude and at background of voice line. Two Wrongs (don't make a right) - It's even more pop rock than previous track. The interesting thing that I observe on this track is that the voice of of Werner that is very close to his 70's voice. One thing that I don't think it's nice to enjoy is the inclusion of brass section. I don't get used to listening Kayak music with brass section. It's my personal taste, of course. I don't enjoy this track. Somehow, it reminds me to GENESIS when they started using horn section in "abacab" album.

Anybody's Child - This one brings back the classic style of Kayak music. It starts in classical style with great piano work and powerful voice. It's a mellow and nice track. The musical texture is accentuated with orchestration. Again, the electric guitar plays critical role during interlude. Excellent composition with excellent melody.

Here Today - It's a nice track with piano and melodic voice line. Keyboard work at background creates a symphonic nuance. It reminds me to a mellow track "Ninianne" of Merlin album or "Life of Gold". It's an enjoyable and accessible track. Just a Matter of Time - It's a straight pop ballad song that I don't really enjoy. It's too boring for my personal taste. It's weak in composition. The band should drop this track from this album. It's kind like "loose" in connection with others. Full Circle - It opens with an ambient keyboard exploration that produces nice melody. It sets the right tone for vocal to enter the opening part. At the end of voice line the music turns in a marching style like a music for war with traditional music influence. [I think it's the kind of Scotland music?]. This part is really excellent, complex in nature and uplifting mood - demonstrating violin and cello works. The keyboard / organ work is also wonderful, backed with orchestration. The music turns quiet and it continues with a percussion work and keyboard solo. Andy Latimer plays guitar in this track but it's not that obvious that I can hear.

Ruthless Queen - It's the band's classic track rerecorded for this album with different voice quality with almost the same arrangement. Nothing worthy of review, I think.

Well, it's great to see the guys are back. Musically, this album is wonderful - it has a powerful songwriting. Short after this release, the band launched a double CD live recording album "Chance of a LiveTime" which is also good. Unfortunately their follow- up "Night Vision" album is not as strong (see my previous review of the album, in this page) as "Close To The Fire". The band than revitalized with another strong album "Merlin - The Bard Unseen". As for this album, I have no doubt to recommend you to purchase this CD. Highly recommended. Keep on progging! Progressively Yours, GW - Indonesia.

Report this review (#4214)
Posted Sunday, January 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I personally think this is Kayak's best album. It sounds like the classic Kayak moved over to our time. Most prog fans might find them a bit too poppy, but it's a good balance between pop, rock and progressive music. On the following albums the guys from Kayak start using a lot of female vocals, which is not a bad thing on itself but it looks like Kayak has changed direction on the progriver with this. So this album really sounds like a classic one and for anyone who wants to get acquintanced with this great band this album is the right place to start. Highlights are the songs Close to the Fire, Crusader and Full Circle (with guest appearance of Andy Latimer!). The last song is an addition of probably their best well known song Ruthless Queen, but too bad it's sung by a famous Frisian popsinger who totally ruins the song in my opinion. But hey, it's an additional song and the album itself is great.
Report this review (#163751)
Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is Kayak's '2000 reunion album and it had three of its original key-members; Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards) and Pim Koopman (drums, keyboards) as song-writers and Max Werner as a lead-vocalist (who sung in their early '70 progressive period). Though the quirky vocals of Werner are strongly reminiscent of a quarter decade earlier, the rest of the band has moved on to a modern and rather smooth symphonic/crossover progressive rock sound. The band would actually revisited some of its most recognizable features (like the classical piano interludes by Scherpenzeel) on the next albums. Kayak is of course one of the most melodic groups and this collections of songs serves as a testament to that virtue. With the opening track 'Close to the Fire' the band launches an extended song with folk influences and some great chord progressions. The band then launches a series of strong melancholy ballads and crossover prog songs of which the magical 'Frozen Flame' is my favorite. Might even be among my favorite songs ever recorded. From the seventh track 'Crusader' on the band changes gear for a string of more progressive pop type songs (think of later day Marillion). On 'Full Circle' (a strong instrumental by Koopman) the band returns to the folk influenced theme in which the album started. The album ends with a re-recording of 'Ruthless Queen', the bands biggest hit in the seventies. This album might not be my favorite of Kayak's strong set of albums released between '2000 and '2005, but I do return to it once in a while and it never fails to please me. Very moody and emotional album.
Report this review (#172472)
Posted Thursday, May 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Kayak came full circle

Kayak disbanded in early 80's and it seemed that it was for good. Surprisingly, they returned in the new millennium with the excellent Close To The Fire. The sound of this album is quite different from the 70's Kayak albums. This is in many ways more progressive and I actually like this a lot more than the early albums by the band!

The title-track is the longest, most progressive and best track of the album. I immediately liked it upon hearing it the first time. The rest of the album took a bit longer to sink in, but now I like the whole album almost as much as that first track. The folksy, Celtic-sounding melodies are present on several tracks, most notably on the title-track and in Full Circle. The latter features the distinctive guitar sound of Andy Latimer from Camel who makes a guest appearance. Latimer and Ton Scherpenzeel, the keyboard player and leader of Kayak, know each other from the time when Scherpenzeel was a member of Camel in the 80's.

Some parts of the sound of Close To The Fire remind slightly of Camel (especially the Camel of the 90's with albums like Dust And Dream and Harbour Of Tears), other parts remind of Marillion, yet others of Barclay James Harvest (particularly Wooly Wolstenholme's songs), Supertramp and even Pink Floyd (particularly the Division Bell-era). Some instrumental passages remind me strongly of Mike Oldfield's more up-tempo, Celtic-influenced moments. Especially, the Q.E.2 album.

The material is strong and highly melodic. Frozen Flame is a great song with an almost Neo-Prog sound and great guitar play. Worlds Apart reminds of bands like Asia and is closer to AOR than Prog, but I do not mind this at all. Indeed, I think that this song fits in well and keeps the album varied. Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right is also a more straightforward number, almost Pop Metal! The main guitar line reminds very much of Don't Believe A Word by Thin Lizzy. This song sticks out in the same way that Hooks In You sticks out on Marillion's Seasons End album. But somehow it fits and makes the album varied yet coherent, and it is kept interesting throughout.

The fact that the album opens and closes with two very strong songs in Close To The Fire and Full Circle (Ruthless Queen is a remake of an older song and should be considered a bonus track) helps further to hold it all together. These two songs both have a strong Celtic sound that perfectly bookends the album.

The conclusion is that this is a very good album and I can really recommend it (even to people who doesn't very much like the early Kayak albums).

Report this review (#215235)
Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars As you might know, I have always been quite suspicious with bands re-uniting after a long break (be it ten or like in this case twenty years).

But on the other hand, I have always been quite kind with "Kayak". Even if they never belonged to my fave bands, they never released poor albums either as far as I'm concerned. But it is well known that their prog approach was always mixed with severe pop aspects.

Once you have taken this into account, you might have some fine moments with "Kayak". And the pretty good and somewhat folkish opener is quite an experience to tell the truth. This is a very good track; especially during the instrumental parts. The highlight actually.

Still, this album features some pop tracks which are more painful than before ("Dream Child") but on the other hand there are some truly great moments, like the gorgeous guitar break during "Frozen Flame" which is another very good song from this "Close To The Fire" (sounds familiar, no?).

Is there any need to tell you that most of the vocals melodies are extremely crafted ("Forever")? I guess not, since it has always been a genuine quality of the band. This doesn't imply that I succumb to such a track as the weak "Worlds Apart". Some sort of second hand "Genesis" ballad when they were not five, nor four any longer.

This album is taking you through different musical horizons: a pop-folk "Crusader" which doesn't hold my votes, an awful upbeat pop song with "Two Wrongs" which is best avoided.

The feel is quite mixed while listening to this long album. Some sweet moments for sure but I wouldn't go as high as most fellow prog reviewers (I am used to this). Three stars sounds legitimate but no more.

Unlike many other bands, "Kayak" didn't miss their come back in the sense that this album is in line with most of their previous efforts (although this one sounds quite mellowish with songs like "Here Today").

The closing "Ruthless Queen" is also on the soft edge. It is an old song from the band slightly revisited. The melody is magnificent and supersedes a lot of the songs from this work.

Report this review (#225875)
Posted Friday, July 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars My first encounter with Kayak was when I went to the record store way back when, and asked the clerk if there was anything new and interesting and he suggested Kayak's "Phantom of the Night". It ended up becoming one of my personal favorites back then, but especially because of the emotional tracks more than the upbeat ones. "Daphne (Laurel Tree)", "Phantom of the Night" and "Ruthless Queen" became songs I loved to sing out loud. After 1981 however, they suddenly dropped off the face of the Earth and I always wondered what happened to them. When I joined up on this site several years back, I was quite surprised to see they were alive and kicking again, so I started to check out some of their newer albums.

Kayak was one of those bands that played pleasing progressive rock and formed their band back in 1973, releasing some decent and accessible prog albums through the 70s. Then, after the release of "Merlin" they split up around 1982, and not much was heard about them for several years. Two of the band's founders, Ton Scherpenzeel and Pim Koopman decided to start working on some new material, but without intending to release it as Kayak, until Max Warner, the band's original lead singer, decided to have a go at the new lyrics to the new songs. When that experience ended up being positive, they decided to bring the band back together, at least with most of the same line up they had for the album "Royal Bed Bouncer". Thus, "Close to the Fire" released in the year 2000, was born. Even though Warner didn't want to continue past this, Scherpenzel and Koopman decided to continue on. The band is still putting out occasional albums and making top-notch crossover prog, however, only Scherpenzeel is the sole original member.

The music on this album still has that accessible Kayak sound that made them popular in the Netherlands and made them well known internationally. The big difference is that the album gives the band an updated sound, as if they were never even gone for several years. There are upbeat tracks and slower ballads, just like their fans expected from their previous albums, but the music has a slight edge that gives them their progressive status, though it definitely isn't what you would call heavy prog by no means, yet it is still a cut above the standard fare with emotional guitar solos, excellent keyboard and synth hooks and the occasional quirkiness.

Don't expect anything groundbreaking here however. There is really nothing astounding here either. The music is pretty safe, nothing really challenging, it just rides the line between power pop and light progressive music. As in the past, there are some nice guitar melodies, synth solos and a variation of tracks from slow ballads to moderate flowing melodies to upbeat and happy songs, with a slight touch of progressive sensibilities just to keep things somewhat interesting, but nothing that demands complete attention. They are songs that you can be inclined to sing along with, but, as was the case with "Phantom of the Night", nothing that will really etch itself into your psyche or soul. It's good, but it's also quite easy to listen to, so it's lasting power is doubtful. There are a couple of things of interest here, namely that "Full Circle" has a guitar solo from guest Adam Latimer of "Camel", and that the last track is a reimagining of one of Kayak's classics from the "Phantom of the Night" album, the song "Ruthless Queen" sung by guest Syb V.D. Ploeg.

In the end, it is good to hear their soft prog return, but more heart and soul will be required to produce an album that will leave an impact. Close to the Fire is a good 3 star album, but nothing that will help the band become progressive superstars.

Report this review (#2203916)
Posted Sunday, May 19, 2019 | Review Permalink

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