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progVisions

progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members. Our objective is to become a centre of information that contributes to the knowledge, growth and development of progressive rock.

album reviews

album review

Plackband - After the battle - 2002


    

"Legendary Dutch Symphonic Rock band makes debut studio album after 25 years!"

This is an incredible story; a band that had a famous live reputation in the seventies and only made one EP with the two songs "Seventy Warriors" and "Some Party" in the year 1978. After finding some tapes of a live gig (Christmas Eve 1981 at "de Paap" in The Hague) in the year 2000 the band released a re-mastered version of the tapes under the name "The lost tapes". After a lot of rehearsals the band did a very successful reunion concert at 23 June 2000 at "de Boerderij" in Zoetermeer - The Netherlands. The first concert in 18 years with the original line-up. And now in 2002 the band is presenting their first studio album entitled "After the battle". But we have to go back in history to tell the incredible tale of Plackband.

Plackband was formed in the mid seventies by musicians from the music scene of The Hague in The Netherlands. Their music slowly develops into Symphonic Rock with influences out of Jazz Rock. Their sound became influenced by the legendary bands of those days like Genesis and Yes. The band got the nickname, "The Hague's Genesis"!
They build up a famous live reputation in those days. The band owned at that time the most professional sound and light gear of all the amateur bands in the Benelux. People are still talking about those concerts. The band made that EP but never managed to release a full studio album. In the year 1982 the band slowly died. After that two members (Ronald and Michel) did a project under the name November (together with For Absent Friends drummer Edwin Wernke). John and Tom founded a recording studio. And here they found.. "The lost tapes".
The year 2002 will be the year of: "The return of The Hague's Plackband".

The original line-up of the band:
Kees Bik - vocals; Ronald Brautigam - guitars; Albert de Keijzer - bass; Michel van Wassem - keyboards; Tom van der Meulen - drums.

First of all I want to make things clear to you. Besides progVisions I have also made some other websites. One of them is the website of Xymphonia Records … yes the website of Plackband's new record company. I first didn't want to write this review because I didn't want to mix up things. But as you all know by now progVisions is completely independent and our reviewers (including myself) dare to give "big" bands two stars and "small" unknown bands five stars out of five. It would have been very easy not to tell you this and give Plackband five stars. But … I didn't do this.

The positive thing is that I have followed the band during the last months while they were making this recording. And it was a complete surprise to me (and also to the band) that they managed to get such a great result. As you can see I gave the album four stars because it is a great sounding album with good compositions. The album is made as a concept album with some songs of the old days and some complete new material. But the oldies have developed over the years into great songs.

The album starts with "The battle" (3:28) in which we immediately recognise that Genesis atmosphere created by the guitars. This little melodic instrumental opener of this concept album also includes some battlefield sounds that indicate the time period in which the story develops. We hear horses instead of tanks.

"After the battle" (11:18) is not only the title track but also the longest track of the album. And here you can hear what Plackband music is about. The first two and a half minutes are instrumental and the music sounds like "fat" sympho from the seventies. Michel van Wassem creates all kinds of classic sounds of the seventies. We here Hammond and Moog solos. The end of this first part is a really beautiful combination of Steve Hackett like guitar and Rick Wakeman Mellotron sounds ("Close to the edge" -"Topographic Oceans" period). This is paradise for old sympho lovers. The next thing, which is typical Plackband, are the melodic vocals and harmonies. Very well done. This is one of the best tracks of the album with delicious memories of the old Yes era. But don't understand me wrong, it are small parts and atmospheres in a typical Plackband sound.

If you hear the first notes of "See the dwarf" (6:50), you think you are listening to Genesis. The keyboards have the sound of the "Follow you, follow me" period. Albert de Keijzer is playing on his Rickenbacker bass and Kees Bik is singing like we have never heard him singing before. OK, he is not one of the best singers in the world (there are not many in the prog scene) but without him it would not be Plackband music. And he is really doing a very good job. He surprised me in a positive way. And this counts for the whole album.

"Sleeping warriors" (0:52) is a small bridge between "See the dwarf" and the following track "End of the line". A nice melody and a great "flute" sound from Michel.

"End of the line" (6:34) is a song some readers will know from their "Lost tapes" album. But the song developed over the years and sounds very mature. The solid rhythm section sounds extra "fat" because of the use of the famous Moog bass pedals. Why is nobody using them nowadays anymore? Over this slow rhythm Ronald Brautigam (guitar) and Michel van Wassem (keyboards) are playing solos at the same time. In the second part of this track there are some beautiful "Wind and Wuthering" keyboards.

"Death and lost glory" (0:59) is another bridge in which that "flute" sound is combined with those typical "Genesis guitars". The next parts of the album are the three tracks that are forming the basis of this album.

The first one "Ghost town" (5:17) opens with a fat synth sound combined with that delicious Mellotron sound which we thought only Rick Wakeman could make. The music is up-tempo and melodic. Again those mix of Genesis and Yes atmospheres. Maybe not very original but it sounds great and sympho fans of the seventies will love this. And only the best things has still to come!

Another song we already know from that "Lost tapes" album is "The hunchback" (9:48). Small detail: "The hunchback" is about Quasimodo! Delicious melodies on guitars and keyboards. The atmosphere is mainly Genesis but in the end there are some Howe like guitar pieces. Plackband is the only band I know who can mix those two influences into a unique sound. The Plackband sound!

And then it is time for my favourite track of the album. "Sign of the knife" (8:26) starts with a fantastic instrumental part. Everything comes together now in this "new oldie". The tension is slowly building up and there are great melodic guitar and keyboard pieces. The "flute" sound is also returning in this great intro. There are also some very nice vocal harmonies. The old days of Plackband are returning with this piece.

The "flute" sound, which is a kind of main theme of the album, is introducing the final track of this concept album. "There comes the warlords" (3:06) is like the first track completely instrumental and is a nice melodic piece with great keyboard sounds.

People who can read Dutch and are subscribers of the Dutch magazine "IO-pages" already know the bonus track of the album. Together with the February issue of this magazine they received a promotional single of the band. On the single are beside a first recording of this track "Remember forever" also the re-mastered versions of the only two studio tracks the band ever recorded for their EP out of 1978. For this album the single "Remember forever" (4:23) is re-recorded and remixed. But.. however this new version is much better than the mentioned single, I don't think this composition which is the most commercial but also the weakest composition in my opinion, earned a place on this great album. It is a nice gesture to the foreign fans that missed that single (which is not for sale). The album brings the listener to that "higher atmosphere" and mood of the seventies. The bonus track spoils this feeling for me. But in the days of the Compact Disks this is of course not a big problem. I just stop listening after track 10 and try to keep that feeling of the seventies as long as possible.

After listening to this album I can only congratulate the band with this great comeback. The album sounds great, has a very transparent mix and those "fat" sympho sounds the fans already knew from their concerts are captured very well on this album. I can't wait to see the band performing live again (in a few days Plackband will present this album at "de Boerderij" in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands). If you like melodic and uncomplicated sympho from the seventies this album is for you. It is a very good album in my opinion. If I was writing for another magazine I would maybe give it five stars. But because this is progVisions, I can only give it four stars because however the compositions are sounding great, it is not very original (read: progressive). For people who know Plackband from the seventies this is absolutely a must! After 25 years it is like a very important document. Hopefully for the band this album will be the start of the next stage in their career. If not, they have documented Plackband with this album in a worthy manner.

Douwe Fledderus - April 2002
rating - Xymphonia Records

 

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