Edward Reekers – The Liberty Project

Edward Reekers – The Liberty Project

Growing up just outside of New York City, I was bitten by the Broadway bug early on. Musicals – no surprise – were always my favourites, and I saw as many as I could afford to. No matter who the composer, Broadway show tunes always had an identifiable sound. Even in this day of the modern jukebox musical, those contemporary hits manage to take on that indefinable Broadway sheen (sort of like prog, huh?). After listening to Edward Reekers’ The Liberty Project, I could swear he was sitting next to me at every show I ever saw. The promotion for the album asks if it is a rock opera, a musical, or a concept album, and answers in the affirmative to all three. I’d have to agree. Like so many “concepts”, the story is incredibly convoluted. Suffice to say it has something to do with a second Big Bang and whether that would alter our evolution or create a parallel world. Honestly, it almost does not matter. The music here is so expressive and the lyrics so specific to the song that each individual tune has the opportunity to shine on its own.

You may know Edward Reekers as a member of Kayak and one of Arjen Lucassen’s many collaborators. He mines his past for a stellar cast of both musicians and vocalists to bring his music and lyrics to vivid life. It took me several listens, but once I got caught up in the showmanship of it all, I was hooked. Like any good Broadway extravaganza, much of what you hear is over-the-top. Accept that excess is the point, and give yourself over to the magic of Reekers’ ability to work in myriad styles to create a crazy quilt of songs that add up to a marvellous whole.

In a stealthy move, the album opens quietly with atmospheric synths and wordless vocals in Out of the Past… (Prologue). Crashing piano chords seem to represent the second Big Bang as flutes and strings carry the melody across a staid piano accompaniment in this short instrumental. By way of contrast, pounding drums and crushing guitars signal The Present Day which introduces Reekers’ character Thomas, singing of a new society living in “the present day”, a parallel universe similar to our own. Reekers is in fine voice throughout, even at 66 years old. The first tune with an undeniable Broadway influence is Two Lifetimes, sung by Reekers’ old Kayak bandmate, Cindy Oudshoorn. She voices the character of Thomas’ love, Catherine, in this beautifully sung ballad. Switching gears again, John ‘Jaycee’ Cuijpers rocks the mic as the virus which is decimating the parallel universe, ably assisted by his Supersonic Revolution cohort Arjen Lucassen on guitar and bass laying down the rollicking 7/8 groove. Not to be outdone, Damien Wilson (Threshold) delivers as fine a vocal as you’d expect as a misleading politician with no real plan against the virus in Good Citizen. Synth and organ dominate with music that’s as slippery as the political rhetoric. Another highlight of the tune is the manner in which Reekers uses the Broadway chorus to splendid effect in a prog track without it feeling forced in any way, marrying Wilson’s dramatic vocals with the massive choral attack of Queen. Liberty ups the show-tune ante with its undeniable Les Misérables vibe. Majestic melody and hope-inducing chord progressions in tandem with stirring strings and choruses send the tune soaring into the stratosphere.

In true stage musical fashion, multiple singers voice the numerous characters pleading with the scientists to save them from the disease in Patients, Have Patience. The juxtaposition of metal guitars and a string section augmented by a bassoon differentiates the two sides. A bluesy waltz captures the parting of Thomas and Catherine in The Break Up. The expressive sax solo by Hubert Heeringa marvelously captures their anguish. Reekers proves his prog-pop bona fides with more awesome vocal arrangements in Turn To Us, Learn From Us. Instrumentally, it provides space for both keyboards and guitar to shine. Vocalist Mark Lennon (Venice) provides the song with gravity but never weighs the song down. The chorus introduces The Clash of Belief over spare piano. The multiple vocal parts add layer upon layer as the song progresses, increasing both the intensity and the Broadway cred. Two thirds of the way through, the song morphs as martial drums and churchy synths reflect the battle between faith in a higher power and pragmatism. Steve Hackett delivers a moving solo to close out the song and bring it to new heights. A combined synth riff and horn section compete with heavy guitars until vocalist Marcel Jonker steals the spotlight during Money, a cautionary tale about the power of the almighty dollar. Once more, kudos must be given to the choral vocals whose many parts span the stereo spectrum. Even the spoken parts, which I typically find more annoying than not, work in the sense that they make it easy to envision a stage spectacle.

We Live to Die is, for me, the highlight of the album. It is an earworm that, after a slow-burn first couple minutes, pulls out all the stops, including a children’s chorus. Reekers gives a powerful performance in what could have been another outtake from Les Miz, but this time by reining in his vocals and allowing the chorus to bring the dynamism. After that performance, another instrumental is the wise way to go, and so Remember the Fallen, Celebrate Life uses a cello to wring the pathos out of the heartbreaking melody. Onwards and Forwards is another prog-pop diamond which leads into the waltzy lilt of Never Again, which belies the message of determination that mankind will not repeat such an ordeal. As Good As Any Goal is the reunion of Thomas and Catherine, a song full of hope and regret. The duet between Reekers and Oudshoorn is believable, palpable and redemptive. The album ends with …Into the Future (Epilogue), another instrumental where the flute takes the melody before yielding it to a powerfully impassioned guitar, more choral vocals, and finally, an explosion which obliterates everything.

The Liberty Project is full of so many evocative melodies and incredible performances, it would be criminal not to see this not just performed live, but staged in a manner which fleshes out the story with visuals. If Broadway sounds like a dirty word to you, I urge you to put aside your doubts and give this album a chance. Each song is its own reward, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Edward Reekers has created a minor masterpiece which deserves to be heard by as wide an audience as possible.

01. Out of the Past… (Prologue) (2:05)
02. The Present Day (4:09)
03. Two Lifetimes (4:21)
04. The Disease (5:08)
05. Good Citizens (4:36)
06. Liberty (5:34)
07. Patients, Have Patience (4:32)
08. The Break Up (5:28)
09. Turn to Us, Learn From Us (5:05)
10. The Clash of Belief (6:34)
11. Money (6:09)
12. We Live to Die (5:58)
13. Remember the Fallen, Celebrate Life (4:56)
14. Onwards and Forwards (5:07)
15. Never Again (2:58)
16. As Good as Any Goal (5:04)
17. …Into the Future (Epilogue) (3:21)

Total Time – 81:15

Edward Reekers – Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion
Koen Herfst – Drums
Johannes Adema – Bass
Mark Bogert – Guitar
Arjen Lucassen – Guitar, Bass (track 4)
Steve Hackett – Guitar (track 10)
Harry Sacksioni – Guitar (track 3)
Piano – Arno Schlijper (tracks 1,16 & 17)
Jeroen Goossens – Flute, Bassoon (track 9)
Bert Muelerdijk – Guitar (track 8)
Hubert Heeringa – Sax (track 8), Brass
Joost van den Broek – Hammond Organ (track 13)
Marije DeJong – Cello (track 13)
Trevor Reekers – Drum Programming (track 3)
Adriaan Breunis, Mark Mulder – Viola
Ben Mathot, Ian De Jong, Loes Dooren, Marieke De Bruijn – Violin
Cindy Oudshoorn – Vocals (tracks 3,7,8 & 16)
Damien Wilson – Vocals (tracks 5 & 14)
John ‘Jaycee’ Cuijpers – Vocals (track 4)
Mark Lennon – Vocals (track 9)
Marcel Jonker – Vocals (track 11)
PA’DAM – Vocals (track 10)
Mark Omvlee – Chorus Vocals (track 7)
Stichting Volgspot – Children’s Choir (track 12)
Cindy Oudshoorn, Edward Reekers, Marcela Bovio, Peter Bauchwitz – Backing Vocals

Record Label: Music Theories Recording
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Date of Release: 4th August 2023

Edward Reekers – Website | Facebook | YouTube Music