When you are young, life is still without any worries. You don't worry about what life has to offer later on. You are enjoying listening to progressive rock albums. You sometimes wish you could compose the same kind of music like your musical heroes do. So, you buy as many synthesizers as possible and start writing music in the style of the bands you like. Hoping you might be as famous as all of the bands you try to copy. It was my dream when I was young. Unfortunately, it never became reality. Life became too difficult with lots of problems you had to solve.
I had to think about it over and over again when I read the press info of the new Dutch progressive rock project The Foundation. In a way, founding member Ron Lammers fulfiled his musical dreams. In the late 90's he started to compose and record some progressive rock songs with several friends. Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances they had to split up. In the meantime, he started Xymphonia Records and released albums from Plackband and Timelock. I guess he still wanted to do what he dreamt about. Because in 2020 he bought a proper keyboard and started to compose a concept album which he named Mask.
Mask (A Fairy Tale Of Real Life) is a concept album based on an autobiographical story. It's a chronological representation of human life. It starts innocently when we are born. We are born to love. We learn to hate. It's up to us what we reach for! We are expected by the outside world, but also by our parents to prove ourselves and to strive more and more for a better position in society. Either financially or in terms of prestige. As a result, we are blinded by reality and lose sight of what really matters in life. This can even lead to despair. Take off your mask and choose for love. This can lead to a conversion to faith. Therefore, you are filled with love and positivity. Take your responsibility and manage your mistakes and look positively to the future.
Of course, Ron could not play all of the instruments himself on the songs he had written so far. So, he invited several musicians to join him on this new musical journey he had taken with The Foundation. I guess if you want to create the real progressive rock sound of the seventies you can only ask the musicians who made with the Dutch progressive rock band Knight Area some outstanding albums at the start of their career. Therefore he probably did choose former Knight Area members: Mark Smit on lead vocals, Rinie Huigen on guitars and Gijs Koopman on bass guitar, Taurus bass pedals and additional keyboards. Furthermore, he asked three members of the Dutch band Autumn to participate as well: Jan Grijpstra on drums, Jan Munnik on keyboards and Jens van der Valk on guitars. To complete the line up of musicians who did some additional parts on the album, I have to mention also Aad Bannink on guitars, Sjoerd Bearda on violin and Judith van der Valk on flute. With Ron Lammers of course on main keyboards. Together they showed their musical talents on this exceptionally strong album.
The album opens with the excellent mellow instrumental Before The Dawn. Atmospheric keyboard sounds performed by Ron and bass pedals by Gijs Koopmans dominate this track on which Jens van der Valk lets his guitar beautifully speak. I guess life just started on planet Earth when you hear the sound of a laughing baby at the end.
It is directly followed by Birth. You are born into this world and your whole life is still in front of you. It's up to you what to make of it. Strong bass parts and beautiful guitar solos by Rinie Huigen can be heard on this great instrumental.
Next up are three tracks that sound as one whole piece of music.
First Climbing Mountains. Overcome all the obstacles in life. A nice up-tempo beat starts the song. The strong lead vocals by Mark Smit can heard here for the first time on the album. A strong bass line keeps the pace going on before beautiful flute parts from Judith van der Valk. The song goes fluently over into the next track.
Blind To Reality. Life isn't easy and sometimes drives you crazy. This song again features a strong vocal performance of Smit. The tempo is still rather fast on which Jens van der Valk and Rinie Huigen both shine on the electric guitars and fight together to be into the spotlights. It goes fluently over into the next track
Despair. This is about complete loss or absence of hope on this a rather short up tempo instrumental. You can again enjoy strong bass and drum rhythms next to some great riffs on the guitars. The guitar of Huigen here sings the melody of the song.
Mask, the longest track on the album, is all about how to show who you really are. Take off your mask and be yourself for now and forever. It opens with bass pedals and great synthesizer performances. Again, Koopmans plays a strong bass beat like only the late Chris Squire could have done it. Great solo guitar parts are next before Smit again uses his voice in a perfect way. “Look into your heart” he singes here. Early Knight Area in full splendour is all I can say! Even more when the electric guitar and synthesizer joins in. Huigen puts the icing on the cake with his fantastic playing on the electric guitar. The song ends in style with beautiful keyboards parts on which Mark sings his last vocal lines.
Renewal. It's time for something new and get out of the box. The song starts off with fine playing on the acoustic piano before the other musicians join in on a faster rhythm. What follows are strong contributions on vocals, flute, violin, synthesizer and electric guitar.
Unconditional. I am always there for you. Wholehearted. On this piece of music, the bass pedals and synths provide a mysterious intro before Mark sings very strong on a nice progressive rock beat. On this track the three guitar players join forces. Huigen and van der Valk allow Aad Bannink to perform a great solo on his instrument.
The album ends with Future. Smit sings about the future. Accompanied by some strong keyboard and bass parts he sings “Let the future carry me”. The message becomes very clear. End in a positive way because there is always hope in life and in the future to come. It's a beautiful ending of a very beautiful sounding album.
After hearing all of the tracks I can only do one thing. Putting both of my thumbs up for all of them for what they have achieved together here on this amazing sounding album.
Finally, some words about the fantastic artwork which we always want to see on our progressive rock concept albums. Ron didn't ask the famous Ed Unitsky to come up with something special on the cover and inside the booklet. No way. It was his own friend Douwe Fledderus from Blissy Design who was responsible for the beautiful creative design. So, thumbs up for him as well.
Bravo to Ron the pull it off on his own, to fulfil his dream to create an excellent album. Asking other musicians to help him out to do something I only wished I could have done on my own as well. He had the guts to do it no matter what it cost and time it took to make it. I can only make a deep bow to him. Thanks for coming up with a very strong retro album. An album that brought me back to the days when I played the synthesizers along with my heroes. It was on my parent's master bedroom together with my twin brother! For us it was only a childhood dream but Ron made the dream come true!
Highly recommended to fans of Knight Area and retro prog rockers in general!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Dave Smith)
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