Northern Europeans have long held a fascination for indigenous - American music. All too often, their attempts to re-create or use it as a vehicle for self-expression is mired in cultural difference and language or linguistic and phonetic translation.
At times it seems that there are even enormous emotional and philosophical difference to prevent a Norwegian or Dutchman from truly sounding like he/she has a handle on the blues, blues-rock, or country. More often the pure pop translations are more successful as we have seen in the many more cases of worldwide hit pop acts from Europe. ABBA from Sweden, etc. is one example; another is the German Heavy Metal groups. For some reason, the Irish and English accomplish these rootsy-rock enterprises with much more success. Maybe it is because English is the base language for African-American linguistic patua. I am not a linguistic, nor a musicologist, the truth be known; but I do know that when I receive a big band blues-soul-rock album from Holland from my friends Gerard De Bruyn & Willem van Kooten of Nanada Music, I listen to it with trepidation since I know I want to like it but probably won’t.
Somewhere it is said, “You should walk in fear,” so I did and to my very pleasant surprise the debut album by Dutch band BACK TO BASIC from Red Bullet Records - >since years now produced and managed by STM Music <- of the Netherlands is a moving and powerful body of music.
Songwriters Tjeerd van Zanen (guitar) and Michel van Schie (bass, keyboards, computer), who with various other contributors write the bulk of the material, primarily concern themselves with matters of the heart.
“Feeling restless, a lot on my mind
Same old story, when love's left you blind
Acting poorly, got an aching heart
Love took a walk and tore it apart”
From “Too Late For Sorry” written by van Zanen and back-up) vocalist Ivo Severijns perfectly echo the themes of the album. Lead vocalist Theo Braams is easily the equal of Andrew Strong as a soul singer as he pumps, pleads and drawls through the albums power horn section-background vocal arrangements, Moments are absolutely thrilling like a the groove affirmation of hope that chums along to a major chorded “Tomorrow Is Another Day” and the searching and ascending horn and vocal arrangements of “Key To Your Heart.”
If the Commitments were half as soulful, half as competent they would have had something.
“Leave Me Alone” is the best candidate for a single, but this is a body of music that presents a number of radio friendly cuts, “We Belong Together” and particularly “River Of Love,” with their acoustic guitar and key-board based sounds, which is a departure from the majority of the album, offer a real avenue for American AOR airplay, “River Of Love” offers the other real alternative to “Leave Me Alone” as a single.
Both remind one of Springsteen's Tunnel Of Love era and both are beautiful songs that offer insight and sensitivity.
Nonetheless, the real treat on this album that deserves to be offered to the American public (at least in an import) is Broekhuizen, van Schie and Eijkenaar’s hom arrangements; and Braams’ ability to sound like he grew up on Stax-Volt Records while living in Mississippi. His version of the Jr. Walker penned “Peace and Understanding’ is uncanny”
There is so much good to say about this debut act by Dutch soul-rock band Back to Basic that I can’t begin to further describe this product for lack of appropriate space in this column. It has to be sufficient to finally say that this body of work, from production to packaging is a “Class A” act and certainly does not have to take a backseat to British or American products anywhere.