Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fairy Tale's Once Upon A Time...... A Heavy Rarity And Heavier Than You Might Expect- Holland's Best

In the 1960s The Netherlands had a music scene that was crowded with groups who were all very talented and also all very different from any of the other music anywhere else in Europe. From around 1966 to 1970 the huge boom of excitement and the healing from the country's traumatic dark period of occupation by the Germans in WW2 was combining to make for psychedelic rock, Proto Progressive, and beat/freakbeat of a very different kind to their German and British counterparts. Whilst German 60s bands were heavily under the spell of The Beatles and drawing from their own musical heritage to a lesser degree it would be the Dutch who would heavily combine classical music with the European equivalent of English Music Hall and psychedelic rock. Despite a few bands who come off as nothing more than American garage wannabes mainly The Outsiders whom I do not like one bit (although huge American garage punk fans will hate me for that- I don't care) Dutch bands were more sophisticated, more forward looking, and more diverse in their influences than just about anywhere else.
                     -Heavier Times and Heavier Sounds Holland Moves To Hard Rock/Prog-
   Holland took part in flower power like the rest of the world when that seemed like a good way to go. However, most bands such as The Motions (who began as a beat group and ended as a heavier psychedelic/progressive/pop group), The Shoes, and The Golden Earrings went heavier following the joyfulness of their earlier material and it was clear a change was happening to Dutch music. In 1968 and especially 1969 for a wonderful yet brief moment in time the "Heavy Dutch Sound" was born and bands as awesome as early Earth and Fire, the revamped Golden Earrings who in 1968 released one of the ultimate psychedelic albums in the world with MIRACLE MIRROR, The Shoes' second effort LET THE SHOES SHINE IN (this and Earth And Fire's first were actually from 1970), and amazing smashing Fairy Tale not to forget also the new revamped late lamented Mariska Veres fronted Shocking Blue made some of the best music in the whole world. The times were changing everywhere and in England as well as Holland sides started being taken as to whether to go heavy or remain a pop group still very much vibing off the more whimsical movement of the past. I have great love and respect for both categories of bands and songwriters. Whilst I will acclaim hugely the writing of George Kooymans and Rinus Gerritsen in Golden Earrings, the Koers brothers in Earth and Fire, and in England bands like The Koobas I also love the music written by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook in England. However, it really is a huge difference to hear bands like White Plains and Vanity Fare who wanted the Summer Of Love mentality to go on forever and then hear something more forward, more outfront darker like MIRACLE MIRROR or Sandy Coast also a great Dutch group. MIRACLE MIRROR kept some of the wit and whimsy of the past intact, but the heavy Golden Earring with the plural dropped was looming and when I think about it MIRACLE MIRROR way surpasses not just most of that, but an album and band I think of quite a lot when listening to the Golden Earrings' best work- TOMMY and The Who. Also, it must be stated in black and white terms that Pink Floyd even with Syd Barret were done in by Group 1850's PARADISE NOW 1969 opus.               -Fairy Tale Not As Whimsical As You May Think-
    Pink Floyd were a sign of changing times even back towards the beginning and The Who were getting heavier and heavier, but sometimes their albums weren't solid all the way through. With a name like Fairy Tale and an album title like ONCE UPON A TIME...... you'd expect the band behind it to be one of those bands desperately clinging to the most whimsical side of pop psych. Hardly. Fairy Tale may have come like much other Dutch greatness from The Hague, but they were probably the heaviest band of 1969 anywhere looking right forward into dramatic heavy progressive rock that would soon envelop the music world with the likes of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin and whilst Fairy Tale sound like none-of-the-above that is because no one else could sound like them. So let's get to business at hand and let me go on my little rant about this best Dutch heavy psych into hard progressive ever album. So here's Fairy Tale in full regalia
                       -Fairy Tale- A Once In A Lifetime Masterpiece-
Organist Peter Seilberger, guitarist Herman Ansink, lead vocalist Cees Hoogerheide, bass/12 string player Eddy Koetsier, and drummer/brother to Eddy Harry Koetsier are looking really menacing on that front cover- much more so than any other band from The Hague. In front of a dark and eerie looking castle and all decked out in Medieval/Gothic outfits the cover look is closer to the vibe of the band than the name of the group and the album. The short lived Fairy Tale's ONCE UPON A TIME...... has been one of the most highly sought after and most expensive albums in all of Europe for such a long time that in the early or mid 1980s a cheap bootleg (once sold to me as an original for $100!) was already circulating. They seem to be ignored by all but European collectors and this isn't surprising. Your average American is not going to understand any of this unless they are intuitive enough and already have a built in love for European, British, and even some American heavy psych that leans towards a darker more dramatic vibe. Dramatic is a good word for this album especially as Hoogerheide is a very powerful manic singer who holds nothing back and is prone to wailing his head off and sounding really menacing. If you can picture a sort of "sounds nothing like him, but he's Dutch and a menacing enough equivalent" Klaus Meine of Scorpions at an early love for heavy psych more than heavy metal or some of the other good dramatic British singers (not a loser like Scotland's Martin Griffiths he of the horrible voice and horrible band Beggar's Opera) or maybe even Robert Plant in a lower pitch that would give you a small idea only of this man's power. He cowrites much of the material, but for a somewhat democratic album that even throws in a smash-you-to-fragments 9 minute take on The Troggs' classic "From Home" I can with full truth and no hype say that Fairy Tale are better than nearly any other heavy psych into hard progressive band in the world including England.
    I could write about how many British bands never sounded this good, but that wouldn't be fair as the same is true with German heavy bands. If asked what makes Fairy Tale and indeed all great heavy bands from England, Germany, Holland, or anywhere work brilliantly it would be this simple truth: overcomplexity never works and there is none of that to this band's progressive sound. In Germany too many bands were screaming and bashing out bad jazz/classical/fusion nonsense and it is those kinds of bad complex prog bands who dominated the entire scene in Italy leaving no breathing space. In England this also would happen, but we'd always have the great bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and their ilk to make things good again. The best German bands don't need overcomplexity because they are too busy rocking with the occasional spine-twisting changes thrown in. The same goes for Fairy Tale. I'd really like to go into more about what makes these guys so good in words and about the general movement towards heavy music that began in 1969/1970, but there's an album's worth of material that needs explaining here.
      "Yesterday's Tears" gets things off to a strong heavy mind blowing start. The hard hitting piano riffs and charging guitars together with upfront drumming sound like The Koobas gone mad and the song has several variations of mood and tempo where from the hard rock verses there arises a dramatic wailing from Hoogerheide that predates bands like Scorpions, but also has a very late 1960s kind of flavour like the also great British masters Pussy. If you want Pussy meets Koobas this album will definitely become a fast favourite. "Yesterday's Tears" is a brilliant song. It moves at a confident yet never too cocky pace and there are all the perfect psych elements put together with progressive excitement. The exceptional guitar work, great incisive driving piano, very good rhythm work from bass and drums, and the soaring scathing dramatic vocals make this a real joy to listen to. No other album can open up better.
   "Will I Be Saved" is a heavy rewrite of a song by American band The Grass Roots it appears ("Rob Grell" is credited as a co-writer and I would think this means Rob Grill original lead singer of the Grass Roots) and is taken to an unrecognizable place by Cees Hoogerheide. Another harsh and hard hitting track like "Yesterday's Tears" with dark heavy organ, intense vocals, and Gothic vibes like the cover "Will I Be Saved" is the dark side of pop psych. Heavy pop psych and dark the lyric seems to find no way of the singer's finding happiness. If Black Sabbath had a organ player and a pop psych past I could imagine they may have done something like this. Or maybe Deep Purple if they'd ever got things done properly.
    I'll freely admit that I'm not a Deep Purple fan for much of their music. I love Ritchie Blackmore and I love the musicianship, but the voice of Gillan is just screechy nothing and even before Mr. Ian Gillan came in the songs were never as good as this. You may hear this though and think of Deep Purple and complain that I'm a snob for more obscure and arcane music. You'd be right. "Can I Take You By The Hand" is a slow number, and again a bit on the darker side like fellow Hague masters Earth And Fire. I love the first Earth And Fire album and like them Fairy Tale combine every conceivable kind of influence from classical to beat to hard rock and throw it together into a delicious tasting brew. "Can I Take You By The Hand," though admittedly dark, is very beautiful and the vocals are really classy.
    "Birds Of Passage" is a heavy and faster moving song that again brings to mind like much of this album a kind of perfection of the best British psych and progressive with a very Dutch take to their British influences. There's really strong and dramatic vocals with some interesting, unusual harmonies thrown in and a churning organ together with bashing guitars. The contrasts between fast moving passages and slower ones make for an unpredictable and really exciting track. One of the best on the record. "Everybody's Goin' Down To The Scene" closes Side One and could have made for a great single. It has all the catchiness of the most listener friendly songs by Golden Earrings and Sandy Coast- a very Dutch sound. There's some excellent melodies, a great chorus, and the typically Gothic slower verses blend with the upbeat choruses to make for the kind of stark contrasts that are a trademark of Fairy Tale's one album.
    As soon as the second side begins anything remotely happy or commercial or less Gothic and menacing is really thrown out the window. All conventional song ideas of the day or any other time are abandoned as Fairy Tale show their heaviest most progressive side for the rest of the album. "Lookin' In A Mirror" is a dark, thought provoking, and brooding track with really heavy vocals, that distinctly Fairy Tale heavy organ, and well in general pretty heavy everything! The lyrics, like the rest of the album, are another secret to how good Fairy Tale is defying all convention and moving to something deeper, more meaningful. Indeed Dutch bands tended to really think about their lyrics and with English as a second language that is pretty amazing. They weren't speaking much English at all before The Beatles came around and made English something more than a language and that is one of the many beautiful things about The Beatles and what they did. I would say Fairy Tale probably loved The Beatles, but may have preferred Procol Harum. "Lookin' In A Mirror" and much of this album are full of the kind of organ and guitar onslaughts that Procol H. were so good at and which Deep Purple and a few years later on Uriah Heep would popularize, but I, being a huge Heep fan, would put Fairy Tale more in with UH than Deep Purple.
     "Doddering Wailings" well with a title like that you pretty much know what a lot of the song must be. The dark low pitched creepy voice that begins the song together with bad trip to end all bad trip turned into a great psychedelic listening experience music gives way to strong powerful enraged vocals and hard hitting music as Pink Floyd turns into Led Zeppelin. This is probably the most musically challenging track on the album with a long time length and really inventive instrumental work combines with Cees' great voice to make for an unsettling atmosphere. Then Fairy Tale go into psychedelic/heavy prog freak out time for their amazing cover of one of Reg Presley and The Troggs' best songs "From Home." This is really heavy turning a song with menacing implications into an all out storm. The only complaint is the overlong drum solo which is an unfortunate sign of the times, but not bad enough to demolish a brilliant take on a brilliant song. There's a lot more than a drum solo going on in 8 and a half + minutes of "From Home." You get powerful guitar work, driving heavy organ, and really demonic sounding vocals which give way to instrumental passages that except the drum solo are very exciting. Everything finally hits the highest level of angry pissed off dramatic progressive psych when after the music comes back in from the drum solo the last vocal lines are ominously sung ending in Cees Hoogerheide screaming "GIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!" He is obviously not one to hold it in! This album is really an astonishing achievement and full marks must go to the whole band for their superb performances and with 3 taking writing credits the democratic approach to letting each musician have a say in the music at last does not end in something lopsided or incongruous. This really is about the best heavy psych into loud hard progressive album ever made. I'd go right out now and say that it is. You can't get better than this one. Just remember that the cover look which is very dark and creepy is closer to the music than that unfitting name Fairy Tale. This is closer to the battles on the moors at midnight than a Fairy Tale. Yes, there's that Gothic Anglo/Dutch/Germanic thing going on here and you know I love that. And I hope you find this album and love it as much as I love it. Happy New Year to you and take it easy, but take the music whether it's easy or as heavy as Fairy Tale- music is the best thing in life and don't forget that.

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