Few artists put as much variety in their music as Dutch progressive rock band Kayak. Over the course of a 48-year career, numerous personnel changes and eighteen studio albums, the band has truly established itself as one of Europe’s most successful progressive rock acts. Their latest album, Out of This World, has just been released via InsideOut Music, as a successor to Seventeen. Kayak went in a different direction on that one in 2018 with an almost completely new line-up, of which singer Bart Schwertmann and guitarist Marcel Singor in particular turned out to be revelations. But fortunately, founder/keyboardist and stable factor Ton Scherpenzeel still holds the reins firmly in his hands, and here we have more than seventy minutes of quality music, bursting with heavenly melodies.
Title track Out of This World is more than six-minutes of classic Kayak: bombastic symphonic rock, with guitars, keys and vocals, and everything well balanced. A minor snippet of Chance for a Lifetime from 1975 is a brilliant touch and it’s an excellent opener. Waiting is more mainstream with lead vocals by Marcel Singor, with his special, somewhat nasal, voice. It will make a nice sing-along during live concerts (if and when…).
Under a Scar means a return to the traditional symphonic sound from the band’s past, heavily orchestrated with the mythical story of Elektra, with a lyrical thread about revenge. For this type of song singer Bart Schwertmann is extremely suitable, the many sides of his voice are best shown here. Kaja is a beautiful instrumental ballad with a leading role for Marcel Singor’s guitar. A bit Camel-esque, but you can also hear references to Kayak’s own past (Lost Blue of Chartres).
Multiple vocal harmonies inhabit the more straightforward mid-tempo rock song Mystery, nevertheless it’s very recognisable as Kayak. Oldfieldian sounds feature during the intro of Critical Mass, soon giving way to the characteristic Kayak sound and a fine keyboard solo from Mister Kayak himself. Marcel Singor features on lead vocals on As the Crow Flies, a slow moving, unpretentious song.
Two three-minute songs in a row: The Way She Said Goodbye is a melancholy ballad with sensitive vocals by Schwertmann and acoustic guitar solo by Singor, while Traitor’s Gate refers to the famous entry way to The Tower of London where (alleged) traitors were taken in by boat, on their way to trial and (often) execution. There are strong references to Toto, both in terms of instrumentation, guitar playing and harmony vocals. And just listen to that swinging Jeff Porcaro drum part – compliments to drummer Hans Eijkenaar, who also co-wrote the music. But actually kudos to the entire band.
Next on the track list is a trio of four-minute songs. The first, Distance to Your Heart, is strongly influenced by Electric Light Orchestra, strings dominating. Red Rag to a Bull and One by One are good but not extraordinary songs that contain all the Kayak elements. The latter is a ballad sung by silent force Kristoffer Gildenlöw, it marks the variation in the music of the band, with no less than four singers. Beautiful fretless bass playing by the tall Swede, followed by an ABBA-like (!!) finale. Captain Ton plays the closing honky tonk piano.
Almost pastoral sounds and a heavenly (church) choir are the intro to A Writer’s Tale, at almost ten minutes, the longest track on Out of This World. A strong prog song develops with tempo and mood changes and excellent individual performances by all members. Without a doubt one of the best songs on this album, vocal duties alternating between Schwertmann and Singor. The shortest track follows after the longest: Cary barely reaches three minutes. Just a trifle with Singor on vocals and Scherpenzeel on accordion.
The closing Ship of Theseus, based on Greek mythology, is actually an autobiographical song and refers to the history of the band itself. But in the end there can only be one captain: Ton Scherpenzeel once again underlines his crucial importance for Kayak. His fragile lead vocals, with extremely high notes, are impressive and his keyboard playing is still unparalleled. A daring yet successful closing track.
Over seventy minutes; fifteen songs, varying in length between three and more than nine minutes. A lot of variation, certainly not just prog, also AOR, mainstream rock and ballads are featured in an album based more on individual songs than themes. Current Kayak is an excellent, increasingly well-oiled and close-knit band, although in terms of composition (lyrics and music) everything still rests on Scherpenzeel’s shoulders. Beautiful vocal harmonies, and excellent production too (besides Scherpenzeel, also from life partner Irene Linders).
Out of This World has a prominent role for Marcel Singor, both instrumentally and vocally. He produces great guitar parts again, a bit rough around the edges, reminiscent of Steve Lukather and Joe Satriani, but still clearly with a style of his own. As Fish had discovered when he recruited him for his – sadly cancelled – farewell tour back in early 2020. Vocally he is something of an acquired taste, but it fits wonderfully well within Kayak’s eclectic sound.
But Ton Scherpenzeel (now 68) is unambiguously in charge, what he says goes, as he makes clear during recent interviews. Fortunately, he has recovered from his heart condition and seems more inspired than ever. This is reflected in, among other things, stylish vintage keyboard parts and dazzling solos. His role in the vocal harmonies should not be underestimated either. However, prog is no longer leading for him, as long as it is good quality music. And he is right. The rock opera theme is no longer relevant either, which I personally greet with applause; although it sometimes turned out to be quite a tour de force. The more “song-based” material on Out of This World suits the current band much better. With solid drummer Hans Eijkenaar, who has returned to his old base, and his companion in the rhythm section Kristoffer Gildenlöw, the current line-up is complete and stronger than ever.
Kayak has once again released a very strong album, building on predecessor Seventeen with (almost) the same line-up. It seems the group is only getting stronger. Hopefully they will soon be playing the new material live, circumstances permitting; this album contains a number of pieces that will definitely appeal to the fans’ imagination. I’m thinking specifically of the title track, but also Under A Scar and A Writer’s Tale. With Marcel Singor as the new star, next to singer Schwertmann. And Captain Scherpenzeel more firmly at the helm than ever.
01. Out of This World (6:06)
02. Waiting (4:04)
03. Under A Scar (6:29)
04. Kaja (3:15)
05. Mystery (3:58)
06. Critical Mass (7:09)
07. As The Crow Flies (4:09)
08. The Way She Said Goodbye (3:18)
09. Traitor’s Gate (3:18)
10. Distance To Your Heart (4:18)
11. Red Rag To A Bull (4:17)
12. One by One (4:14)
13. A Writer’s Tale (9:29)
14. Cary (2:59)
15. Ship Of Theseus (3:43)
Total Time – 70:46
Ton Scherpenzeel – Keyboards, Lead & Backing Vocals
Bart Schwertmann – Lead & Backing Vocals
Marcel Singor – Guitars, Lead & backing Vocals
Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Bass, Lead & Backing Vocals
Hans Eijkenaar – Drums
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 7th May 2021
– Out of This World (2021)
– Kayak Live 2019 (2020)
– Seventeen (2018)
– Journey Through Time [box set] (2017)
– Cleopatra – The Crown of Isis (2014)
– Pim Koopman Tribute Concert [DVD] (2011)
– Anywhere But There (2011)
– Letters From Utopia (2009)
– 35th Anniversary Box [DVD] (2008)
– 35th Anniversary Concert (2008)
– Coming Up For Air (2008)
– Kayakoustic (2007)
– Nostradamus – The Fate of Man (2005)
– Merlin – Bard of the Unseen [DVD] (2004)
– Merlin – Bard Of The Unseen (2003)
– Chance For A Live Time (2001)
– Night Vision (2001)
– Close to the Fire (2000)
– Eyewitness (1981)
– Merlin (1981)
– Periscope Life (1980)
– Phantom of the Night (1979)
– Starlight Dancer (1977)
– The Last Encore (1976)
– Royal Bed Bouncer (1975)
– Kayak II (1974)
– See The Sun (1973)