Scherpenzeel, Ton - Velvet Armour,
Ton will of course always be associated with Kayak, a band he has led for 50 years, but he has also released some solo albums, with this coming out towards the end of 2021. I played it a great deal back then as I was interviewing Ton for various websites, and it was something of a shock to realise recently that I had not actually reviewed the album itself, so I am now rectifying that omission. The style of music here is baroque and pastoral, combined with progressive elements, so in many ways it is a complete switch of what he has undertaken with Kayak which is prog with some of the other elements brought in. Also, Ton has never thought of himself as a lead singer, but the material is so personal that he could not bring anyone else to sing his words. He was in his late Sixties when he recorded this, and his voice does have the style of an older singer (although he is still able to hit high notes as well as go into falsetto when the need requires) and this adds gravitas and depth to the proceedings as opposed to detracting at all.
At times reminiscent of bands such as Gryphon and Renaissance, the music may be inspired by times gone past yet there is a modern sense of musicality and melody which means this is way more than an attempt to recreate music from the past but instead has brought it into the modern age. This is not music for a modern concert hall with bright lights, but instead should be played in a hall with people sat at long tables feasting and drinking beer from mugs with the band at the end near the fire. It is incredibly dramatic, creating wonderful images in my mind. There are lengthy instrumental passages which allow Ton to display some wonderful arrangements – although he plays most of the instruments himself, he has utilised other musicians (both Rens van der Zalm and Annet Visser also played on the previous release, ‘The Lions Dream’) to provide strings, woodwind and brass where there is a need to ensure there is no over reliance on keyboards. He also revisited a Kayak number, “My Heart Never Changed”, which shows what would have happened with his material if he had changed direction and works incredibly well as a link between his solo work and band.
This is an album I have enjoyed thoroughly, combining as it does different genres of which I am very fond indeed, and is something that lovers of great music would do well to discover.