One of the joys over the last 10 years for me was the discovery of the streaming platform Bandcamp. This service supports artists of all musical genres from all around the world. In essence, it is an online platform that allows artists to control and administer their own work, to sell and advertise their music, merchandise, and promote concerts. It’s a streaming service, music store, and an artist payment service all rolled into one. Artists can upload their music, and fans can use Bandcamp to purchase it. One of the best parts of the platform is that you, as a consumer, can listen to a track or the whole album for that matter a few times before you are required to purchase that selection, if you want to. A brilliant concept! What does all this have to do with a review for The Progressive Aspect you say? Well, Bandcamp is the reason I was able to discover Like Wendy. In fact, my first purchase in 2011 on Bandcamp was the album, Homeland, released in 2003, which is an absolute treasure! That transaction opened the doors to their other releases and began a love affair that continues to this day with this group.
Like Wendy is a Dutch band, the creation and brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Bert Heinen. They are a melodic and symphonic group that emphasises strong impassioned vocals coupled with descriptive lyrics. Their music has been described as lush, expansive, and lyrical. They are a prodigious outfit in that they have released eleven studio albums, six compilations, and three singles/EPs. In 1998, they released their first full length album, The Storm Inside, which garnered high praise from the progressive community. Over the years, they have matured and evolved into a highly professional progressive rock group, building up a large fan base through extensive touring and playing various festivals in Europe.
Like Wendy’s formation is a unique tale. The story goes that in the late 1980s, a group of friends would meet up at a local pub in Amersfoort, Utrecht, in the Netherlands, to enjoy some beer and talk about current events and other topics on their minds, but music was the overriding subject. Out of this revelry and good cheer, Like Wendy was born. Although it takes more than a few drinking friends to create and sustain a rock band, it was the vision and resilience of Heinen that kept the concept, both as an idea and an actual recording group, going over these last 25 years. Like Wendy is, in effect, Bert Heinen.
The name of the band is also worth noting since it’s a play on a character named “Laiquendi” in J.R. Tolken’s The Lord of the Rings.
The Rest of Wendy is a compendium of breathtaking neo-progressive symphonic music that captures the essence of the band. Clocking in at one hour and twenty minutes, the album consists of twelve tracks, some taken from other releases plus a few demos and outtakes that Heinen kept in the vault. Opening with Flight, it’s a glorious tune highlighted by sensational keyboards and mesmerising rhythms, with strong, emotive singing from Heinen. The song begins with the sound of seagulls and waves crashing, and then the listener is introduced to gorgeous keyboard rhythms and drums creating a sense of urgency and need. A lead guitar and Heinen’s sensational vocals fully embrace the intensity of the song. It’s the keyboards and their whirling and rolling sound that invigorate and bring the song to a dramatic finale.
Shine on Memory is a tour de force of the progressive genre that has something for everyone. First appearing on Like Wendy’s initial release, the song has power, grace, and verve. With an acoustic beginning, Heinen introduces the listener to a world gone by:
The night is coming to an end somehow
The stars have shone bright
The night is stolen from their garden
Shine on memory, shine on me…
The dreams have gone out
How can we hang on to the moment?
When still one’s gone before us
still their memory shines on me… “
After the first chorus, a lead guitar delightfully presents a prelude, leaving the listener to wonder about what is coming. With dramatic flair and echoing reverb, the song changes to a more rock driven sound, accentuated by rhythmic drumming, keyboards, and guitar. The lyrics have an allegorical feel as the protagonist must decide to either move on or live in the past. There is a gorgeous piano interlude midway through that provides the narrator a chance to make a final decision, the song moving to a final transition with synthesiser and guitar providing the tempo and drama to close this literary and utterly magnificent track.
Ivory Tower begins with a folksy acoustic sound as Heinen delivers a breathlessly soulful vocal in the vein of James Taylor, Jackson Browne, or Richard Thompson. The harmonies are just stellar and midway through the tune evolves into a stronger, more passionate vibe with the addition of electric guitars and drumming bringing it to a close. This track is similar in style to some of the music on Barclay James Harvest’s Gone To Earth album.
Creation is the standout track on this album for me. With sumptuous keyboards and synthesisers, especially the Moog, and guitars setting the upbeat mood, Heinen utilises strong guitar reverb to gloriously capture the sense of wonderment of God’s creation of the world. There is a true sense of joy as Heinen sings about the first day, night, light, oceans, sky, creatures, man, and so on. The rhythm is bouncy and joyous and plies along as a love song to the creative powers of God. An absolute gem of a track and an excellent example of the “Like Wendy sound.”
Heinen’s singing on Apocalyptic Sun is just extraordinary. With gut-wrenching delivery and soul-searching lyricism, the song is truly cathartic. To see this tune performed live would be such a treat for this reviewer. One minor issue is the use of electronic or programmed drumming, which may be necessity for this artist, but the sound creates a tinny resonance on this track and some of the others. This can be off-putting and takes away from the otherwise tremendous musicality of the song. This is a tune that begs for a human behind the kit. Birth is another atmospheric piece, with sensuous acoustic overtones and feel, as Heinen’s formidable, dramatic, and poignant vocals are delivered with sensitivity. Heinen’s vocal range is uncanny on this track as he seems to close the first section with a soft farewell, but instead transitions brilliantly into a Lou Reed feel with a vocal descant and mesmerising rockier vibe, which is just exhilarating. Heinen’s genius is the fact he can take a tune into so many musical directions within minutes, all the while holding the listener spellbound with his phenomenal singing, keyboard and guitar playing.
Running Scared is another spectacular track that shows Heinen’s prowess and deft touch with keyboards and synthesisers, although I could swear by the initial chords and overall sound that I was going to be hearing Rush’s Tom Sawyer! A track that again is set to the pulsating beat of programable drumming, but which changes into a retro feel. With impeccable and judicious use of the synthesisers, Henein creates an atmosphere of another time and place, a spatial sense of being carried to another world, which seems to be an overriding quality of this music. There is an overwhelming sense of fear and sadness in this song that touched my soul, especially as it ended. The haunting Wings of Icarus is driven by Heinen’s deep, rich, guitar sound, reminiscent of Genesis’ Many Too Many. End of Daylight is another emotional guitar driven track that sways with fuzzy reverb and Heinen’s hypnotic vocals guiding the song along.
Prince X is a gorgeous, lucid, dramatic track that has a folk-tinged beginning and one which had me transfixed after numerous listens. The harmony on the bridge is just hair-raising. I love how Heinen can sync the acoustic and electric guitars into such a unique sound that works so well here and on other Like Wendy tracks. Midway through, it is as if he makes the guitar wail and hum with a blustery bluesy feel, the effect of which is magical.
Another folky, acoustic number, Live Forever hit me deeply and emotionally. A gorgeous harmony-drenched ballad sung perfectly by Heinen. It’s about love lost and eventual breakup, a wrenching song, sung with crushing, brutal finality. It is one of his finest compositions in the Like Wendy canon and it is exquisite.
There still is time, although I never thought I’d be around.
You can live forever, I know.
we can stay together, you and I,
there is too much loneliness,
I see it in my time.
there is too much emptiness we cannot fill tonight.”
The last track, Wreck of the Dancer is a marvellous, dreamy tune that first appeared on Like Wendy’s 2000 classic release Tales from Moonlit Bay, brilliantly re-worked for this collection. Long passages of dazzling synthesisers worked between Heinen’s pleading vocals leave the listener enraptured and hooked on each chord and word. This is a wonderfully imagined sweeping musical tapestry that could easily be compared to early works of Genesis or Marillion. It is that good.
The Rest of Wendy is a superb compilation lovingly synthesised and curated by its progenitor, Bert Heinen. It is truly reflective of their overall catalogue and sound, a sound which is literary, captivating, atmospheric and transformative. For listeners who are not familiar with the group, this splendid collection is a wonderful place to start.
[Postscript: Heinen released The Rest of Wendy ob 8th February 2023, just after he released Anthology Part I & II, Rainchild (Deluxe Edition) and Summer in Eden (Deluxe Edition) during the first week in February. Whilst reviewing this album, I was looking up their other releases and noticed that some of the earlier albums are not available on the Bandcamp Page, including Homeland. I am optimistic that, like Rainchild and Summer in Eden, there are unreleased tracks from these older albums and that deluxe editions are going to be available at a future date. One can hope!
01. Flight (5:14)
02. Shine on Memory (10:11)
03. Ivory Tower (4:57)
04. Creation (7:23)
05. Apocalyptic Sun (4:37)
06. Birth (10:38)
07. Running Scared (7:33)
08. Wings of Icarus (4:01)
09. End of Daylight (5:57)
10. Prince X (5:25)
11. Live Forever (2:52)
12. Wreck of the Dancer (11:08)
Total Time – 79:56
Bert Heinen & Mark-Jeroen Heek – All Instruments & Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 8th February 2023