The Dutch keyboard player and composer Ton Scherpenzeel is best known for his work with Kayak. Furthermore he has worked with Camel, Earth & Fire, Ayreon and cabaret performer Youp van 't Hek. So far he recorded three solo albums: Le Carnaval Des Animaux (1978), Heart Of The Universe (1984) and Virgin Grounds (1991), the latter album under the pseudonym of Orion. Recently his fourth solo effort saw the light of day called The Lion's Dream. Although Scherpenzeel is a wonderful keyboardist, The Lion's Dream isn't a keyboard orientated album, but that doesn't mean that prog rock devotees should avoid this record! Certainly not, because the album has much more to offer, that is, if you like a kind of folk music influenced by medieval music. This type of music is mostly performed on acoustic instruments.
The fifteen compositions on The Lion's Dream reminded me of the French band Minimum Vital led by the twin brothers Jean-Luc (guitars) and Thierry Payssan (keyboards), but also the music made by Blackmore's Night and The Middle Earth Album (2001) recorded by the American band Glass Hammer. Other references are the British band Gryphon that made the same kind of music in the seventies. The Dutch group Flairck was also inspired by folk music. To create this typical kind of music no Hammonds, Moogs or Mellotrons have been used, but instruments such as fiddles, violas and tin whistles. These were played by Rens van der Zalm, who also performed some guitar parts. The flutes are played by Annet Visser (Flairck).The remaining instruments on this rather mellow album were all done by Scherpenzeel. He also sang on this record together with Brian de Graeve (Silhouette) and Marjolein Teepen, who performed in 2005 Nostradamus- The Fate Of Man with Kayak on stage.
Most songs on The Lion's Dream have been written by Kayak's founder except for two pieces that originally were composed in the fifteenth century: Pase El Agoa and the theme of L'Homme Arme, which is used in the opening track The Cycle. People who are familiar with Kayak's music will notice that the album contains two previously released tracks, namely Woe And Alas, which originally appeared on the band's second eponymous album (1974), and Relics From A Distant Age , which can be found on their fourth effort The Last Encore (1976). While listening to these tracks you can easily recognize the original compositions due to the fact that the vocals sound quite similar.
Ton Scherpenzeel was born under the astrological sign of Leo, which partly explains the album's title. For many years he dreamed of recording a solo album on which he could do whatever he wanted to, which explains the title's second part. He wanted to record music influenced by the medieval music of the fifteenth century. Therefore it isn't that strange that Kayak's finest rock operas Merlin - Bard Of The Unseen (2003) and Nostradamus - The Fate Of Man (2005) deal with legendary people such as King Arthur, Merlin and Nostradamus, who all lived in ancient times.
Although The Lion's Dream isn't a keyboard orientated album, I wasn't disappointed at all. Ton Scherpenzeel proved that he can also entertain prog heads without all the bombastic musical parts, the long epic pieces, the emotional electric guitar parts or the virtuoso synthesizer solos. I can't mention any highlights because the quality level of all compositions is just too high to choose one or two favourites. Therefore this album is highly recommended to those who enjoy the music of Minimum Vital, Flairck, Blackmore's Night, Gryphon and Glass Hammer's The Middle Earth Album.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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