[Review] Kayak: See See the Sun (1973)

A strong debut that will fit nicely between Flash and Camel in your prog collection.

Kronomyth 1.0: Dreams from nether-netherland.

The Netherlands were no stranger to the charms of progressive rock, and Kayak initially represented the best parts of prog (Yes, The Beatles, King Crimson, Gentle Giant) filtered through a native Netherlandian lens. The result was an imperfect copy of the original, more Flash then Yes, yet fully enjoyable in its own right. In other words, prog tasters will see more of value in See See the Sun than a mere reflection of their English idols.

The band’s first album gets off to a rousing start with Reason for It All. Here, the Yes/Flash comparisons are most pronounced, from the high harmony vocals to the acrobatic guitar/bass playing. Any expectation of a completely Roundabout soundalike, however, is dispelled with the second song, Lyrics, which has more in common with the stylized pop of Sailor. Mouldy Wood sounds like the theme to Jaws with more bite to it, while Lovely Luna ends the first side with cascading Crimson elegance.

The second side is equally impressive if just as eclectic. Hope for a Life suggests Gentle Giant in a noisy mood, Ballet of the Cripple could be heard as Genesis firing on fewer cylinders, while Forever Is a Lonely Thought finds common ground between John Lennon (“Julia”) and Radiohead. The last two tracks were both released as singles and sound almost completely different. Mammoth sounds like the circus has rolled into town (take that, Nektar) but the real attraction is the title track, which would get my nod for the record’s highest musical achievement.

All of this “sounds like” stuff isn’t meant to suggest that Kayak is derivative. They were simply working in an established idiom (prog), and I’m availing myself of familiar reference points to help you navigate your way. The band clearly has talent to spare. Lyrically, well, I’m not sure the songs make any more sense than Yes, but they’re impressive in an impressionistic way. The band would write shorter songs in the future, making See See the Sun perhaps their most overtly progressive album. If you enjoyed the debut efforts by Flash and Camel, this one shines a bit brighter.

Original elpee version

A1. Reason for It All (Ton Scherpenzeel)
A2. Lyrics (Ton Scherpenzeel)
A3. Mouldy Wood (Johan Slager/Pim Koopman/Ton Scherpenzeel)
A4. Lovely Luna (Pim Koopman)
B1. Hope for a Life (Ton Scherpenzeel/Pim Koopman)
B2. Ballet of the Cripple (Ton Scherpenzeel/Pim Koopman/Cees Van Leeuwen)
B3. Forever Is a Lonely Thought (Pim Koopman/Ton Scherpenzeel)
B4. Mammoth (Pim Koopman/Ton Scherpenzeel)
B5. See See the Sun (Pim Koopman/Ton Scherpenzeel/Cees Van Leeuwen)

CD reissue bonus tracks
10. Still Try to Write a Book (2:01)
11. Give It a Name (2:44)

The Players

Pim Koopman (drums, davoli-synthesizer, vocals, organ, “witch winds”), Ton Scherpenzeel (piano, organ, moog-synthesizer, harpsichord, vocals, davoli-synthesizer, Fender-piano, percussion, “French” piano, accordian), Johan Slager (electric guitars, vocals, acoustic guitars), Cees Van Leeuwen (Rickenbacher-bass guitar, Fender-bass guitar, vocals, percussion), Max Werlerofzoiets (vocals, percussion, mellotron) with Giny Busch (violin), Rijn Peter de Klerk (percussion), Martin Koeman (violin), Gerrit-Jan Leenders (vocals, percussion), G. Perlee (barrel organ “Flamingo,” Amsterdam), Ernst Reiziger (cello). Produced and arranged by Gerrit-Jan Leenders and Kayak; executive producer:: Frank Jansen; recorded by Pierre Geoffroy; remixed by Alan Parsons and Pierre Geoffroy except (A2) by Dave Grinsted, (B4) by Pierre Geoffroy.

The Pictures

Art direction by Roy Kohara.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1973 in the UK (Harvest, SHSP 4033), the US (Harvest, ST-11305) and Japan (EMI, EMS-80007. US elpee features different cover.

  1. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 1995 in the Netherlands (Pseudonym, CDP-1024-DD) with 2 bonus tracks.

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