How on earth can any album with Radar Love on it possibly belong here?
Yet, leaving aside any bias over one of ’70s rock’s most overplayed, albeit significant, hit singles, Moontan was the album that brought the Dutch band Golden Earring’s progressive leanings right to the surface.
You can hear what’s in store on the opening track Candy’s Going Bad, which kicks off in the style of an early-70s heavy rocker, but expands to become a much moodier piece more in keeping with Van der Graaf Generator. OK, so that might be a fluke, but how do you then explain Are You Receiving Me? It’s a cosmic, Hawkwind-style excursion; a 10-minute psychedelic journey in which the technical brilliance of guitarists George Kooymans and Eelco Gelling is augmented by plunging saxophone notations from Bertus Borgers.
However, Moontan’s crowning glory is the song Vanilla Queen, a sumptuous epic that encourages every strength in the band to come through. Rinus Gerritsen’s use of synthesiser washes acknowledges a krautrock influence, while the way in which solo acoustic guitar is used as the fulcrum in one passage and the way the instrumental juxtapositions build are clearly inspired by Mike Oldfield.
Then, just when you think you’ve got this all under control and can predict where it’s all going, the band suddenly take the music in a more left-field direction, building to a massive march of melody, ambience and stark sounds. It’s superbly climactic, and an authoritative display of how this type of approach can hold the listener’s attention.
But, of course, there’s also Radar Love. And when you return to this classic song after a lengthy period of time, you understand that, as with the biggest Supertramp or 10cc hits, this isn’t just about an obvious hookline but also intelligent musicianship. Never make the mistake
of evaluating simplicity with being lowbrow. Radar Love is one of the best examples of prog going pop without compromising its musical ambitions.
Moontan was the album that broke the Dutch band in America, where it made the Top 20, and is still regarded by many fans as their finest work. It shows off their dedication to innovation and disregard for conformity. Golden Earring were prepared to be both progressive and accessible, and had the ability to tie both ends of these different musical strands together.