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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Earth & Fire - Reissues

Alongside the Female Progressive Rock bands including; Renaissance, Curved Air, Magenta, Frumpy, and Atlantis, Scandinavian’s own answer to the first two bands, Earth & Fire embraced the psychedelic folk and the symphonic treatment that would have made Yes run for their money. Yet Earth & Fire who were completely ahead of their time and featured Jerney Kaagman who has a rare crossover of Annie Haslam and Inga Rumpf and now one of the judges of talent show, Idols based on the British version Pop Idol and the *shudder* American version, American Idol, brought Earth & Fire the identical sounds of early Symphonic Rock. Their first three albums which were out of print, now finally re-mastered from the people at Esoteric Recordings, are breathtaking and exciting.
To begin Earth & Fire’s orchestral treatment, look at the beginnings of their first self-titled debut album. Originally released in September 1970, Earth & Fire’s debut album showed the band in their psychedelic folk sound and beginning to look for a rock musical direction. The rumbling and pounding opening introduction, Wild and Exciting is a signified heavy number with a lot of harmony and sneering guitar rhythms that features a lot of speed passages indicated throughout the drums and guitar as it solos like its paying tribute to Jeff Beck done by Chris Koerts.
Outside Wild & Exciting, the folk turned into an almost hit single with a glimmering attitude, Twilight Dreamer is a tribute to the Swan Princess while Ruby is the One is a psychedelic pop version of Led Zeppelin meets the Hunky Dory-era of David Bowie has a lot of energetic power as for You Know the Way, Vivid Shady Land, and 21st Century Snow, one is an acoustical love-song ballad as the other two are very upbeat and catchy and have a lot of high voltage power featuring a lot of beautiful harmonic sounds from the band and midsections going beyond the pop sound into more early Strawbs/Rick Wakeman sound (or more the Time of a Word-era mind-boggling version of Yes). The rapid fire single, Seasons is very much an attempt to write a song for another Dutch prog band to get a hit single, Jade Warrior featuring guitarist of Focus, Jan Akkerman while the 7-minute number, Love Quivers sounded more of a neo-classical heavy metal as Jereny brings her vocal arrangement more of a statement rather than just a drunken rock star as Chris Koerts and his brother Gerard flourishes amazingly on the Hammond Organ and then becoming more of an homage to Mike Rateledge Soft Machine style. The last number, What’s Your Name? is more of their calm after the storm with a memorable atmosphere featuring more of their acoustic upbringing and the folk background similar to the flute styles of the Moody Blues, Ray Thomas.
Bonus tracks include two of their B-Side singles, Hazy Paradise and Mechanical Lover – it’s very much one light-hearted and the other an early twisted version of the Steve Perry-era of the Infinity-era of Journey.
Song of the Marching Children was Earth & Fire’s second album, released in October 1971. The band were now moving into more conceptual story line backgrounds and moving away from their folk sound into more of a Genesis Foxtrot-era sound, but this album enjoyed a lot of top success in the UK, Germany, and Belgium as they were getting ready to go on tour to promote their second album. The centerpiece is the 18-minute epic title track, which begins as a Triumvirat keyboard sound as Gerard makes it into a moody piece well made ala early New Age sound as his brother does a tribute to Steve Howe. As Chris remarkably sets his guitar to a war-like background here, the rest of the piece is sinsister, dramatic, and post-apocalyptic along with Synths, Organs, and the Mellotron while Jerney makes the composition a dreamland adventure.
Alongside the 18-minute epic, the four tracks are worth listening to. Carnival of the Animals, a tribute to french composer, Camille Saint-Seans, is a happy-go-lucky number that has a carousel sound on the Organ with Kaagman’s vocals sounding more psychedelia of the late ‘60s while Ebb Tide has a jazz element of early Pink Floyd as the flute and bass do some fusional take of Miles Davis meets Focus, but it’s very straight forward like a dune buggies racing for the win. Another of their hit singles, the haunting 6-minute composition, Storm and Thunder, begins with a thunderous funeral arrangement on the Organ as the Mellotron comes in to give it an eerie call setting in a Gothic Cathedral ala Edgar Allen Poe style whilst the band sing about death and the bloody landscape of hell. While this is going on, the last 2-minutes become more of King Crimson’s second album as its more of a pastoral rock finale with the Mellotron coming in again to give a anti-climatic ending as for In The Mountains is another symphonic piece ala instrumental style making the band sounded like they recorded this in a cottage in England and performing this number with Akkerman and Steve Hackett to do of a crossover of Moving Waves and Selling England by the Pound.
Bonus tracks feature two of the single versions of Song of the Marching Children and Storm and Thunder while Invitation is very eerie and very power rock-like sound as the heavy metal sound is back with a classical rock style (maybe more of a weird version of the Scorpions Rock You Like a Hurricane) of Lost Forever it’s more of a MK II sound of Deep Purple. Memories, a lushful hit single with a whimsical background while the B-side From the End ‘Til the Beginning is very sci-fi rock musical with an explosive magnetic time signature.
Atlantis was Earth & Fire’s follow up to Song of the Marching Children very much of a sequel, released in March 1973. This was the band continuing their Symphonic Prog Rock treatment before becoming a Dutch like version of ABBA but Atlantis received critical praises. The 16-minute opening title track is more of a mini rock opera based on the mysterious island in the Greek landscape to make it more of a tribute to Close to the Edge, but more with new concepts and story-complex songwriting from the Koerts brothers to pay tribute to Greek stories that were a part of the movie, Clash of the Titans.
But the opening is magnetic featuring a lot of different time signatures, mellotronic atmosphere, and very much calmed to their follow up to Song of the Marching Children, to feature the guitar, drums, and keyboards along Kaagman’s vocals giving all they got to make it a roller-coaster ride. The power chord pounder of Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight has more of their power pop sound ala Renaissance in a 15th century taste whilst Interlude is very much an ambient classical arrangement of mellotron/guitar short instrumental as it segues into the Tolkien landscape with Fanfare, another of their pastoral rock sound featuring the keyboards, guitar, bass, and vocals going into a beautiful background in the Elf land forest.
Theme of Atlantis which to me, could have been the overture before the beginning of the 16-minute epic, is another short instrumental with more layered guitar and mellotron work which features some melodic parts of the epic, but the two instruments has some beautiful compositions along with the tones that make it pitch perfect as we close the album with the balladry Love, Please Close the Door. The final number is a mastermind, beginning with an acoustic guitar introduction to make it more again with the neo-classical arrangements and Kaagman’s vocals similar to Cadence and Cascade as it becomes a rock musical arrangement set perfectly at the Royal Albert Hall with the rhythm section by making it more different with the signatures changing the tempo as the lyrics fit well with the instruments.
Earth & Fire were way ahead of their time, but their first three albums show a lot of exciting moments, but their music is meeting with a lot of amazing grace to their symphonic underground sound.

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