In 1996 an album was released with the title Strange Hobby. On the cover was a question mark. No information or the identity of the artist who recorded it could be find on the album. The songs on this album were covers of rather well known compositions released for the first time in the sixties. Of course rumours were spread on the internet, who could have been behind this release? Now twenty years later, finally the truth is out. On the occasion of the reissue from this album, we learn that the author and performer was none other than the Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen. An artist who made his name with Ayreon and Star One. He was also the founder of the recently disbanded Stream Of passion. Most recently he had success with The Gentle Storm.
Anybody who has heard Strange Hobby already, knows that this release has nothing to do with the music Lucassen has released with the afore mentioned acts. So no progressive rock or anything related to this musical style. But in a way you might say the music you can find on this album could have been important to what this musical genius has come up with in the past, because after all, the music you hear in your childhood and as a teenager will be important for you the rest of your life. This of course also applies to Lucassen as well. On the other hand, when you record Ayreon albums with complex compositions, you sometimes feel the urge and need to have fun with a cover album of songs from the 1960s. So that is what he did when he made Strange Hobby completely by himself. The new edition of the album is enhanced with 4 bonus tracks. He must have found some old material in his vaults which he could use for this reissue.
I know that Arjen and myself do not differ that much in age, and therefore the songs he came up with all sounded familiar to me. I will not mention all of the songs that were covered, just look at the track list for more details about them. What I can tell you is that this album is not a rush job. Lucassen is a master of perfection, and therefore all of the 18 titles and 4 bonus tracks are very well recorded with an ear for detail. Listening to these titles you hear he has slightly modernized the sound, while remaining faithful to the original. Lucassen plays the songs with moderate distortion but still rocking - but above all very "spacey". Also the artwork has to be mentioned. As is evident by the artwork, you can see it is a great nod to the psychedelic rock of the sixties. Besides the quality of the interpretation, what characterizes this album is its underlying humour. Don't take it too seriously is what Arjen tries to tell us throughout the entire album. Therefore you will not read a verdict at the end of this review. And to be honest, after listening to these songs for a while I had enough of them. Even taken in consideration how well all of the covers were done!
All in all this is just a fun album. It was for Lucassen when he recorded it. And it is for those who take the time to have a listen to the songs which Arjen heard on the radio fifty years ago!
No rating Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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