For many, a strong memory from the mid-70s is that of listening to the title track of Kayak’s third album Royal Bed Bouncer on transistors late at night on the newly refloated Radio Caroline, and especially its Dutch counterpart, Mi Amigo. The song’s strange, off-kilter tale was simply intriguing. Keyboard player and co-founder Ton Scherpenzeel is still part of the band who made that record (his partner in Kayak, Pim Koopman, died in 2009); and although the personnel has shifted greatly across their 20 or so albums, Kayak’s production values and quality of intriguing writing and playing remains exactly the same if today it is somewhat less off-kilter.
With the Kayak class of 2017 – Bart Schwertmann on vocals, guitarist Marcel Singor, bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw and Hans Eijkenaar on drums supporting Scherpenzeel –
Out Of This World picks up where 2018’s Seventeen left off with its strident pomp rock, packed with melodic flourishes. Although Schwertmann is the lead vocalist, there are also leads from Singor, Gildenlöw and Scherpenzeel, giving very much the feel of 10cc and Supertramp, two bands to which Kayak were frequently compared.
Out Of This World is a stylistically mixed bag. The nine-and-a-half-minute A Writer’s Tale is cut from the same cloth as 1981’s Merlin suite; while Cary has a simple shanty-esque pop quality to it and Mystery feels destined to be on driving rock playlists. It’s all quite theatrical at times – there’s much drama in the vocals and arrangement. One could imagine Stephen Toast having a go at Critical Mass while Red Rag To
A Bull is unafraid to flaunt its blustering might.
Of the shorter, rockier tracks, the bluesy Distance To Your Heart is an extraordinary concoction of strings and pounding piano with a howling, multitracked guitar solo rearing up in its middle. The anthemic One By One, an emotive rumination on death and mourning, sounds not only positively festive, but also could have come from the pen of Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson.
The keyboards of Ton Scherpenzeel – who suffered a heart attack at the end of 2019 – rightly dominate the album, playing Tony Banks-esque synthesiser embellishments one moment, warm Hammond block chords the next, and then the expressive piano that he brought to Camel in the mid-80s. Anyone yearning for 10cc or Supertramp still being together and making music that successfully approximated the peak of their career should listen to Kayak instead – Out Of This World is a well-made, well-played and thoroughly enjoyable record.
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