[Review] Kayak (1974)

The band’s eponymous second album rocks harder, suggesting Gentle Giant with a sentimental streak.

Kronomyth 2.0: Let’s give a big hand to another great prog band, Kayak.

You’ve got to hand it Kayak, they really came into their own on their second album. (You see, because there’s a big hand on the cover and, well, never mind…) The Yes affectations are gone as the songs come leaping out of the speakers with an energy and grace that, while it sometimes invites comparison to a sentimental Gentle Giant, is unique to Kayak. Maybe their first album was the victim of its ambitions. The second album, simply titled Kayak, streamlines their musical approach so that everything builds toward a cohesive whole. A few more albums like this and we’ll need to move Kayak up to the front of the progressive ranks.

With no lineup changes, the songs are again written by Ton Scherpenzeel, Pim Koopman and Cees Van Leeuwen, with Scherpenzeel favoring lush and lovely melodies while Koopman and Van Leeuwen provide a sharper rock attack. The adjacent tracks Mountain Too Rough and They Get to Know Me capture the two extremes well. Wintertime was selected as the album’s single, and it’s a great song, but Kayak doesn’t have a standout number; it’s consistently good from beginning to end. Alibi and Serenades have plenty of bite to them, Trust in the Machine is a dystopian nightmare set to music, and Woe and Alas almost out-dazzles GG. In fact, going back to that bite comment, maybe that’s the biggest difference between this and their first album: Kayak has teeth. It sinks them into your brain and doesn’t let go for forty minutes.

As Kayak fans know, the band’s next few albums indeed didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, the band never got the attention it deserved in the U.S., and Kayak remained a continental pleasure for prog fans. They’re ripe for rediscovery and would make my shortlist for the best prog band you’ve never heard of, a list that would including PfM and Van Der Graaf Generator. If you’ve enjoyed the music of Gentle Giant and Camel, you should definitely think about adding Kayak to your musical itinerary and may even want to start the journey here as it serves as a nice bridge between their early progressive rock and later progressive pop.

Original elpee version

A1. Alibi (Ton Scherpenzeel)
A2. Wintertime (Pim Koopman/Cees Van Leeuwen)
A3. Mountain Too Rough (Ton Scherpenzeel)
A4. They Get to Know Me (Pim Koopman/Cees Van Leeuwen)
B1. Serenades (Pim Koopman/Ton Scherpenzeel)
B2. Woe and Alas (Ton Scherpenzeel)
B3. Mireille (Pim Koopman)
B4. Trust in the Machine (Pim Koopman/Cees Van Leeuwen)
B5. His Master’s Noise (Pim Koopman/Ton Scherpenzeel/Cees Van Leeuwen))

CD reissue bonus track
10. We Are Not Amused

The Players

Pim Koopman (percussion, vocals), Ton Scherpenzeel (keyboards, vocals, accordion), Johan Slager (electric and acoustic guitar, vocals), Cees Van Leeuwen (bass guitar, harmonica), Max Werner (mellotrons, percussion, vocals) with Willem Jongbloed (string and brass arrangements, director). Produced & arranged by Kayak and Gerrit-Jan Leenders; engineered by Pierre Geoffroy Chateau & John Leckie.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1974 in the Netherlands (EMI, 5C 062.24 993), the UK (Harvest, SHSP 4036) and Japan (EMI, EMS 80104) with inner sleeve.

  1. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 1995 in the Netherlands (Pseudonym).

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