EARTH AND FIRE-TO THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE.

EARTH AND FIRE-TO THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE.

Alquin, Ekseption, Finch, Focus, Golden Earring and Trace all have something in common. Just like Earth and Fire, they were some of the most successful Dutch bands of the prog rock era. Their music is still popular today among connoisseurs of progressive rock. That’s why Earth and Fire’s fourth album To The World Of The Future has been recently released by Esoteric.

The World Of Future was released in 1974. By then, Earth and Fire were one of Holland’s most successful bands. Since 1970, Earth and Fire had enjoyed seven consecutive top ten singles. This included a number one single in 1972 with Memories. For twin brothers Chris and Gerard Koerts this had been what they were working towards since 1967.

That’s when Chris and Gerard Koerts formed Opus Gainful in The Hague, Holland. They weren’t newcomers to music. Chris and Gerard had been making music since 1960. Originally, they performed in front of friends and family. It was then that people started referring to Chris and Gerard as The Singing Twins. Then in 1962, The Singing Twins won a talent show.

By the time The Singing Twins won the talent show, they were already interested in pop and rock music. So was Hans Ziech, who would play an important part in  Chris and Gerard later career. However, that in the future. The music The Singing Twins were singing was far from rock ’n’ roll. It was much more M.O.R. This wasn’t how Chris and Gerard saw their future.

So in 1963, Chris and Gerard joined a local band. It played mostly instrumentals. However, this didn’t both Chris and Gerard. This was part of their musical education. Then in 1965, the band changed its name to The Swinging Strings.

After the name change, The Swinging Strings became a covers band. They covered songs by a variety of bands, including The Beatles and The Byrds. Soon, The Swinging Strings were a popular draw, and were playing around north and south Holland. However, The Swinging Strings weren’t popular in The Hague, where Chris and Gerard were from. Musical tastes were different in The Hague. Despite this, The Swinging Strings were popular elsewhere.

Through playing in the south and north of Holland, The Swinging Strings had made enough money to buy their own equipment. This made a big difference to them. The Swinging Strings were able to use better equipment before. As a gimmick, The Swinging Strings even hired three Audrey Hepburn lookalikes to dance on the stage. By then, The Swinging Strings’ popularity was increasing. So they entered and won, various talent shows. Despite the popularity of The Swinging Strings, Chris and Gerard were becoming disillusioned with playing cover versions.

Part of the problem was, Chris and Gerard were perfectionists. Technically, keyboardist Chris, and guitarist Gerard, were much more proficient that the other members of The Swinging Strings. They wanted to play alongside better musicians, musicians who matched their skill. So Chris and Gerard decided to leave The Swinging Strings in 1967.

This was a big risk. The Swinging Strings were a popular group, who played regularly. They even had their own fan club, and were attracting the attention of a local DJ Willem van Kooten. Despite this, Chris and Gerard left The Swinging Strings. 

That was the end of The Swinging Strings. According to other members of The Swinging Strings, Chris and Gerard’s departure was sudden. The two brothers renamed The Swinging Strings Opus Gainful. However, the newly renamed band needed a rhythm section. Luckily, Chris and Gerard knew two men who suited the role.

Hans Ziech was the twenty-four year old bass player with a local band, The Soul. Technically, he was a match for Chris and Gerard. So was The Soul’s drummer Cees Kalis. So The Soul’s rhythm section became Opus Gainful’s rhythm section. Eric Wenink, The Soul’s guitarist joined Eric Wenink Opus Gainful for a couple of years.

With the band’s lineup seemingly complete, they spent much of 1968 practising. By then, Opus Gainful had decided to add a vocalist. Manuela Berloth was chosen and became Opus Gainful’s first vocalist. 

With Manuela Berloth onboard, Earth and Fire continued to practise. Chris and Gerard were perfectionists, and expected the same standards from other members of Earth and Fire. So, practise sessions were long, and gradually, Earth and Fire found their own sound and direction. This was partly due to the music Earth and Fire listened to.

After practise sessions, Opus Gainful listened to mostly American music. They were inspired by Jefferson Airplane, Moby Dick and Jimi Hendrix. Carefully, the members Earth and Fire listened as music continued to change. So did Opus Gainful. 

One night in 1968, Opus Gainful had been booked to play in Beverwijk, in North Holland. Just before Opus Gainful took to the stage, a decision was made to change their name. That night, Earth and Fire were born. This led to a change in the band’s fortunes.

The newly named Earth and Fire entered a talent show in 1969, which they won. The first prize was the chance to record two songs. This however, didn’t result in a record company for Earth and Fire. By then, Gerard was doubting whether Earth and Fire’s latest recruit was suited to the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle?

Later in 1969, Manuela Berloth  left Earth and Fire. Gerard later, said that Manuela Berloth: “was not a rock ‘n roll woman.” The loss of Manuela meant that Gerard and Chris took charge of lead vocals. This was only a temporary measure.

It wasn’t until Earth and Fire opened for Golden Earring in September 1969, that Gerard and Chris found their new vocalist. This was Jerney Kaagman, who would feature on Earth and Fire’s eponymous debut album.

Earth and Fire.

All Earth and Fire’s hard work, patience and persistence was rewarded, when the band signed to Polydor in 1970. 

Straight away, they began work on their debut album Earth and Fire. Brothers Chris and Gerard Koerts wrote the majority of the ten tracks on the album. Chris wrote four tracks and Gerard one track. They cowrote another four tracks. The other track was Seasons, which was written by Golden Earring guitarist George Kooymans. That wasn’t the end of the Golden Earring connection. Fred Haayen, Golden Earring’s manager, produced Earth and Fire. Once Earth and Fire was complete, it was released in 1970.

Earth and Fire launched the career of Earth and Fire. It was well received by critics, and featured a trio of hit singles. Seasons reached number two in Holland and number four in Belgium. In Holland alone, Seasons sold 40,000 copies. The second single Ruby, then reached number four in Holland and number eleven in Belgium. Not long after the release of Ruby, there was another change in Earth and Fire’s lineup. Drummer Cees Kalis was replaced by Ton van der Kleij. The new recruit watched as Earth and Fire enjoyed their third hit single.

Wild and Exciting was the final single released from Earth and Fire. It reached number five in Holland, but only twenty-one in Belgium. With three hit singles to their name, Earth and Fire’s popularity was growing. They had a busy touring schedule. So it wasn’t until late 1970, that Earth and Fire began work on their sophomore album, Song of the Marching Children.

Song of the Marching Children.

It wasn’t until late 1970, that the new lineup of Earth and Fire began work on Song of the Marching Children. It’s a concept album based on reincarnation. Chris and Gerard continued to write most of the music. That’s apart from Ebbtide, which Ton van der Kleij cowrote. However, Chris, Gerard and Hans Ziech cowrote the lyrics to what was Earth and Fire’s most ambitious album, Song Of The Marching Children. It was produced by Golden Earring drummer, Jaap Eggermont and their manager Fred Haayen.

Especially, side two which featured the eight part suite Song Of The Marching Children. Along with Storm And Thunder, Song Of The Marching Children was hailed as Earth and Fire’s finest hour. It also featured Earth and Fire at their most ambitious and innovative. This resulted in two more hit singles for Earth and Fire.

The first of these was Invitation, which reached number five in Holland. Then the impressive Storm And Thunder reached number six in Holland. Earth and Fire had enjoyed two more hit sings. That made it five in a row. However, five would soon become six.

With Earth and Fire riding a wave of commercial success and critical acclaim, they headed out on gruelling tour. It took in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Britain.This meant that they weren’t able to release an album during 1972. However, they had enough time to record a single, Memories. This would keep their fans happy until Earth and Fire returned with their third album.

When Memories was released in 1972, it reached number one in Holland and two in Belgium. Memories became Earth and Fire’s first hit single in Germany, where it reached number thirty-one.The success story that was Earth and Fire continued apace.

Atlantis.

By 1973, Earth and Fire returned with their Atlantis. This was another concept album. It was written by four members of Earth and Fire. Chris, Gerard and Ton van der Kleij cowrote the music; while Chris, Gerard and Hans Ziech cowrote the lyrics. Atlantis was produced by Jaap Eggermont. Eventually, Atlantis was completed and ready for release later in 1973.

Just like previous albums, Atlantis was released to critical acclaim. Atlantis featured another hit single, Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight. It reached number three in Holland, nine in Belgium and forty-four in Germany. However, in their home country, Holland, Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight had given Earth and Fire their seventh consecutive top ten single. However, this was taking its toll on Gerard.

He felt under pressure to keep the hits coming. Polydor, Earth and Fire’s record company had been pressurising to keep the hits coming. As a result, Gerard felt Atlantis wasn’t Earth and Fire’s best album. Gerard wanted to try something different. The last thing he wanted, were Earth and Fire’s albums to become formulaic. 

To the World of the Future,

As 1974 began, things looked good for Earth and Fire. Their live shows received rave reviews in the music press. There was talk of Earth and Fire touring with Mott The Hoople in September 1974. This never came to anything. So Gerard, Chris and Hans began work on their next single, Love Of Life. 

When Earth and Fire recorded Love Of Life, it featured a much more funky sound. This could’ve divided their audience. It didn’t. When Love Of Life was released, the Jaap Eggermont produced single reached number two in Holland and number twenty in Belgium. Earth and Fire had just enjoyed their eighth consecutive top ten single. They should be celebrating. 

They weren’t. Behind the scenes, things weren’t going well.There were tensions within the band. Chris and Gerard decided it would be best if Hans left. He was replaced in June 1974 Theo Hurt. Earth and Fire had a new bassist as they began work on their fourth album To the World of the Future.

For To the World of the Future, Gerard, Chris and Hans had penned four songs. They were How Time Flies, The Last Seagull, Only Time Will Tell and Love Of Life. To The World Of The Future was penned by Chris and Hans. Theo Hurts wrote Voice From Yonder. Gerard and Jerney Kaagman cowrote Circus. These seven songs became For To the World of the Future. It was recorded at Soundpush Studios, Blaricum, in Holland.

As recording began at Soundpush Studios the rhythm section featured bassist Theo Hurts, who also played acoustic guitar. His partner in the rhythm section was drummer and percussionist Ton van der Kleij. He also played bell tree and xylophone. Jerney Kaagman took charge of lead vocals. Chris Koerts played electric and acoustic guitar and synths. Gerard Koerts was like a   one man band, playing organ, piano, mellotron, synths, clavinet and Fender Rhodes. Again, Jaap Eggermont produced To The World Of The Future, which was Earth and Fire’s fourth album. It was released in April 1975.

When critics heard To The World Of The Future, they noticed that Earth and Fire had moved away from the symphonic sound of earlier albums. Critics were impressed by what was a stylistic departure from Earth and Fire. It showed they weren’t content to stand still. While this was admirable, would this cost Earth and Fire sales?

By the time To The World Of The Future was released in April 1974, Earth and Fire were on a winning streak. They had released eight consecutive top ten singles in Holland. Sadly, this run was broken by Only Time Will Tell. It stalled at number twelve. While this was still a cause for celebration, little did Earth and Fire realise that this was a signal of what was to come. To The World Of The Future which I’ll tell you about, marked the end of an era.

Synths beep and squeak, as if communicating by some futuristic language as To The World Of The Future unfolds. Slow rolls of drums join with washes of synths, harmonies and percussion. Elements of electronica, funk and symphonic progressive rock combine. As the rhythm section add gospel tinged harmonies, briefly the vocal changes hands. Meanwhile, the cinematic lyrics paint pictures city life. Especially, the misery and loneliness of city life. The tempo rises and then falls. When it falls there’s an ethereal beauty to the arrangement and Jerney Kaagman’s heartfelt vocal. Then the arrangement is stripped bare. Just the rhythm section provide a backdrop for a Hammond organ and electric guitar. It launches into a blistering solo on this eleven minute epic. It’s full of twists and turns, including numerous tempo changes, before reaching a dramatic crescendo.

Following an eleven minute epic, How Time Flies is just a three minute track. Again, it’s a mixture of styles and influences. There’s an almost pastoral sound as an acoustic guitar plays. Then a rasping synth ushers in Jerney’s vocal. By then, elements of electronica, folk, progressive symphonic rock can be heard. Later, synths strings and a harp accompany Jerney’s reflective, wistful vocal.

A storm blows as The Last Seagull begins. After fifty seconds, they’re joined by a broody bass. It crawls moodily along, before cinematic synths are added. Keyboards then take the arrangement in the direction of funk and fusion. Some of the synths sounds could’ve inspired many an Acid House producer. Later, the arrangement becomes dramatic, and could easily be part of the soundtrack to a mid-seventies film or TV series. It  has that sound. Another blistering guitar solo is added was Earth and Fire stretch their legs. They’re soon kicking loose, and showcasing their considerable skills. It’s an impressive sound and a reminder of Earth and Fire at their best.  

A scorching, sizzling guitar solo is joined by the rhythm section on Only Time Will Tell. They set the scene for Jerney’s vocal. It’s accompanied by an organ, before the arrangement builds becoming dramatic and powerful. So is Jenny’s vocal, as she delivers a vocal full of social comment. Behind her, synths accompany the rhythm section and guitar. Again, Earth and Fire are at their rocky best, on what’s one of the highlights of To The World Of The Future.

Voice From Yonder features an excerpt from a seance held in 1928. The voice of ‘spiritualist’ Terry Brown can be heard. Before that, a Fender Rhodes adds a melancholy hue. It’s joined by the guitar and rhythm section. Soon, Earth and Fire are combining elements of funk, jazz psychedelia and rock. The sample of the seance is added. Now, the track is reminiscent of something from The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Bands. From there, Earth and Fire combine musical influences. They also drop the tempo, which adds an element of drama. When this happens, a searing guitar solo cuts through the arrangement, as Voice From Yonder heads to its thoughtful ending. Although it’s a track that’s meant to stimulate debate, for many people it’s more Hocus Pocus than Earth and Fire. 

Love Of Life is another short song. It lasts just three minutes, and features Earth and Fire’s funky side. This doesn’t mean they turn their back on symphonic rock. Swells and washes of symphonic strings accompany the rhythm section and uber funky guitar. It’s panned left, making room for Jenny’s impassioned vocal on this paean.

Circus closes To The World The Future. Jenny delivers a dramatic, heartfelt vocal. Soon, the rest of Earth and Fire are creating a slow, dramatic arrangement. It consists of just the rhythm section, guitar and synths. Slow, deliberate drums are joined by a blistering guitar. Another guitar is panned left, as Jenny combines power and passion. Soon, the tempo changes, only to change again. Earth and Fire embark upon a jazzy stroll. Just the rhythm section and keyboards combine. Later, a sizzling guitar solo and drum rolls are added. That’s the signal for another change, as Earth and Fire return to the earlier dramatic sound. Still, they’re not through teasing the listener. Further changes in tempo see this magical musical mystery tour continue before Earth and Fire take their leave, closing To The World The Future. It’s a return to form from Earth and Fire. 

Gerard Koerts had been disappointed by their previous album Atlantis. He had felt pressurised to make the album that Polydor wanted. However, on To The World The Future, Gerard and the rest of Earth and Fire recorded the album they wanted to make. It was a fitting way to end an era.

Genre-melting describes To The World The Future. Earth and Fire combine everything from electronica, funk and jazz, to progressive rock, psychedelia, rock and symphonic rock. It was a  journey through musical genres, with Earth and Fire as the listener’s tour guide. Sadly, To The World The Future wasn’t as successful.

Earth and Fire had released eight consecutive top ten singles in Holland before the release of To The World The Future.  Sadly, this run was broken when Only Time Will Tell was released as a single and stalled at number twelve. This was a signal of what was to come.

Later in 1975, Earth and Fire’s next single reached number eight in Holland and number twenty-eight in Belgium. Their next two singles didn’t fare as well. What Difference Does It Make was released in 1976, and reached number twelve. Then in 1977, 7 8th Avenue the single released from Earth and Fire’s fifth album Gate to Infinity stalled at number eighteen in Holland. That was as good as it got for Earth and Fire until 1979. They were left without a record deal, and the next two years, Earth and Fire never released an album. However, the decline in Earth and Fire’s popularity can be traced back to 1975. 

By 1975, disco was becoming one of the most popular musical genres. It overtook many genres. A year later, so did punk. It was born in 1976, and  came kicking and screaming into life. Just like disco, the increase in punk’s popularity contributed to the downfall of many bands. 

Many punk ‘musicians’ turned on rock, and especially prog rock groups. They were called musical dinosaurs, and a remnant of music’s past. However, it wasn’t just newly popular punk musicians who turned their guns on groups like Earth and Fire. So did a new breed of gunslinger critics. They too, saw prog rock groups as dinosaurs, who deserved to be slain. Sadly, this new breed of critics found an unquestioning audience. Like sheep, their readers believed this hook, line and sinker.

Now faced with the twin evils of disco and punk, it was a case of evolve or die for  many prog rock bands. Although some bands were enjoying commercial success, others were struggling. This included Fire and Earth. 

To make matters worse, of drummer Ton van der Kleij in 1978, He was replaced by Ab Tamboer. Former Focus bassist, Bert Ruiter joined Earth and Fire. He was Jerney Kaagman’s partner, so familiar with the band and their music. However, they still hadn’t a record deal. Then in 1979, Earth and Fire secured a deal with Phonograph Records. They were richly rewarded for placing their faith in Earth and Fire.

It just took Earth and Fire a few nights for them to record their sixth album, 1979s Reality Fills Fantasy. It was recorded at Soundpush Studios, with producer Gerrit-Jan Leenders. The result was a much more pop oriented album.

When Reality Fills Fantasy was released in 1979, it came as a shock to the system for those used to their early albums. Gone was the prog rock sound. While there were still elements of symphonic rock on Reality Fills Fantasy, it was all change. Elements of disco, Europop, pop and rock shawn through. Although this change wasn’t welcomed by their old fans, new fans embraced Earth and Fire’s new sound.

The single released from Reality Fills Fantasy, Weekend, reached number one in Holland, Belgium and Germany. Earth and Fire had had to evolve to stay relevant. However, it was a far cry from the glory days of their first four albums. 

This started with Earth and Fire’s eponymous debut album. It was released in 1970. Five years later, in 1975, Earth and Fire released the last great album of their career, To The World Of The Future. It marked the end of an era, when Earth and Fire were one of greatest and most successful Dutch bands. They enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim across Europe, and created music that was ambitious and innovative.This includes Earth and Fire’s fourth album To The World Of the Future.

EARTH AND FIRE-TO THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE.

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