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Kayak - Close to the Fire CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.74 | 110 ratings

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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.

TCat | 3/5 |


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