Writing this review will be a trip on memory lane for me... and what a trip! As a complete surprise I found this “Dug Out Alive” album in my mailbox. Cliffhanger was in the years 1993-2001 the best progressive band in The Netherlands. You have to highlight the word progressive. The band was known for their unique sound and making music without any concessions. In those early days the band completely blown me away with their first two studio albums “Cold Steel” (1995) and “Not to be or Not to be!” (1996). The unique sound of the band was created by the use of vintage keyboard sounds, Moog Taurus II bass pedals and Rickenbacker bass guitar. Writing this review while I'm listening to the live recording “Live at the Boerderij” (1995) I already float away on that memory lane. The driving force behind this album is keyboard player Dick Heijboer. In the booklet Dick wrote these words as an introduction;
“For many years some of the best unreleased Cliffhanger recorded material remained untouched. This was an eyesore to me, so in the summer of 2010 I decided to master the best recordings for release. One multicamera video recording, two studio and six live audio recordings were chosen to be released on one dual-layer DVD. This way Cliffhanger could offer the best deal with the best quality.”
This decision is typical for Cliffhanger ... again without any concessions! We are the lucky ones; 10 hours of the best live material from Cliffhanger. Dick Heijboer did a wonderful job to “Dug Out” this great Cliffhanger live material.
Rinie Huigen - voice and guitar; Gijs Koopman - bass, bass pedals, whistle, keyboard, mouth harp; Dick Heijboer - keyboards; Hans Boonk - drums
The name Cliffhanger stands for; open end before a break ... which leaves you curious for the sequel and is in fact a movie term. Well chosen because this can be heard in the music. Because Cliffhanger made music without any concessions, the music can be at times very complex. But it also has melody ... even if you listen to the bass parts of Gijs Koopman ... that was/is his trademark. When I was watching him last week at the CD presentation of the new album (“Nine Paths”) of his present band Knight Area (and of course Dick Heijboer was also in the audience) and see him play his Moog Taurus bass pedals I had to think several times about Cliffhanger. The melodic bass parts and the frequent use of the bass pedals of Gijs Koopman were very important for Cliffhanger's sound.
Cliffhanger released the following studio albums on the labels of SI-music and Musea. “Cold Steel” (1995), “Not to be or not to be!” (1996), “Mirror Site” (1997) and “Circle” (2000).
For a reviewer it is almost impossible to write a review about 10 hours of Cliffhanger music. So I will give you an impression what you can expect when you buy this wonderful release. You can find the following audio recordings on this DVD; “Cliffhanger Demo” (1993), “Cliffhanger Live” (1994), “Burning Alive!” (1995), “Live at the Boerderij” (1995), “Live at Chateau” (1996), “Mirror Live” (1997), “Burning” (1997) and “Live at De Tavenu” (2001). As a bonus you get the concert film “Live at Willem II” (1994)!
The dual-layer DVD is presented in a normal CD case with an extensive booklet with all the details about the live recordings and the personal stories of all the band members. I think this is also a wise decision because now you can put the case next to the Cliffhanger CD's in your CD cabinet. When you put the DVD in your DVD-player you will get a menu were you can select the recording you would like to hear. The audio recordings all sound great. The editing and mastering of those old tapes and DAT's must have cost a lot of hours. I think Dick Heijboer did a wonderful job. Personally I love the recordings of the early years 1995 and 1996. You can find several versions of the 18 minutes opus magnum “Bad Dreams (Cruel Visions)” or compositions like “Views”, “Kill your darlings”, “4 Vessels” and “Colossus” from their debut-album “Cold Steel”. And what to think of “Sewers” and “Ragnarök” (more than 22 minutes!) from their masterpiece “Not to be or not to be!”. I would describe Cliffhangers music as progressive symphonic rock in the purest form. The music is often dominated by keyboard, bass and Moog Taurus bass pedals ... I just love this! Original compositions of a band which has an unique own sound. But of course also the live versions of some of the tracks of the later albums “Mirror Site” and “Circle” can be found on this DVD. But I think the peak of Cliffhanger was at the years 1995 and 1996 when they had released two great studio albums (“Cold Steel” and “Not to be or not to be!”).
As bonus you can find almost 50 minutes of video footage of a concert the band gave at Willem II in the year 1994. The two-track audio, multicam live recording is recorded by the crew of venue Willem II, Den Bosch. The images of the video are of course not in the high quality standards of today, but it is nice to have a picture next to the music. It has a historical value. This video was recorded a few weeks before the band entered the studio to record their debut album “Cold Steel”.
“Dug Out Alive! 1993-2001” is a historical document of one of the best Dutch progressive symphonic bands ever. For the fans of Dutch progressive music this is an essential release. A must buy for Cliffhanger fans. And for the fans of the Dutch flagship of symphonic rock Knight Area it is very interesting to hear and see where bassplayer Gijs Koopman started his musical career. If you like symphonic rock which is dominated by fat keyboard sounds, melodic bass and Moog Taurus bass pedals, this is a release you have to check out. I'm grateful to Dick Heijboer that he has put all those hours of hard work to give the Cliffhanger fans this historical and essential live document. Cliffhanger ... a Dutch band that was making progressive music ... without any concessions!
the audiosample is taken from the studio-album “Cold Steel”.