You know, I've been an active seeker of 60's and 70's music for a while now, and through this experience I've come to realize just how many bands came into being during the late 60's hard rock boom, specifically 1968, 1969, and 1970. Of course you have the obvious like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Atomic Rooster, etc., but underneath these goliaths there existed a massive scene full of bands that, while being of similar caliber, often were to remain shrouded in obscurity and eventually fade into the musical ethos. There were countless bands to name that were considered a part of this, one of my personal favorites being the Dutch-based Golden Earring. Golden Earring came about in 1961, but didn't come to surface until 1965 with their debut "Just Ear-rings". This album followed the then-popular Dutch garage pop style (which would be coined 'nederbeat' in reference to merseybeat, a genre which heavily influenced the Netherlands' music culture at the time), but in a whole wasn't very groundbreaking. Golden Earring continued this style for a few years, akin to how The Guess Who continued relying on merseybeat for several years until their sound change (ironically, The Guess Who made their debut and had a tonal shift at practically the exact same time as Golden Earring), until eventually they shifted into another genre growing in popularity at the time- progressive hard rock. It should be noted that the 'progressive' part of this was vastly dwarfed by the much more popular clear-cut blues rock sans lengthy and ostentatious compositions, and there was a much lower number of bands who would foray into this particular direction than those who would just rock in short bursts. Nonetheless Golden Earring took this road and in 1969 released an album titled Eight Miles High which, adorned with dried clay-covered hands reaching for floating rings, would serve as the band's biggest breakthrough in eight years.
A mess of distortion, abstract ad-libbing and twisted songwriting, Eight Miles High is perhaps one of the best examples of albums of the era. Not only does it break boundaries for Golden Earring as an outfit, it also presents a fantastically insane balance of cheesy psych and booming intensity. The most prolific tracks on this album I believe are the last two. 'Everyday's Torture' is a mysterious, haunting chantey of a desolate soul who, although speaking in pretty blatant terms, has lost hope in the idea of love, and is accompanied by a fantastic one-two punch of a hook and an equally fantastic guitar solo. As the closer we have the title track, staggering in at a massive runtime of nineteen minutes. Although a recounting of the entire track would be a bit too labor-intensive, I will say that the track goes through a variety of phases that include but are not limited to: hearty blues rock, wicked drum solo, an insanely distorted guitar solo (VERY distorted), and much, much more. Other tracks like 'Song of a Devil's Servant' in particular are a great change of pace and help to shift the tone of the album in crucial moments.
But there is a real question that should be asked, and that is to who do we owe an album with such great musicianship? The musicians, of course. George Kooymans as a vocalist channels a lovechild hybrid of Ian Anderson and Jim Morrison, making for the ideal 60's voice. On the flip-side his guitar-playing as previously mentioned is heavy, crushing and intense, and sometimes rather meek and distant (when played in a steady balance these two styles work wonders). Rinus Gerritsen works both in the percussion section as a bassist and as the keyboardist, both of which he excels at well. Sieb Warner, a one-time drummer for Golden Earring makes his sole appearance on this album, never to return, which is a shame because he is highly talented, seen especially during his solo on 'Eight Miles High'. Of course Barry Hay should be mentioned as he does a good job backing up Kooymans as rhythm guitar and backing vocalist, making the overall sound much fuller.
If you're looking for a zesty, above-average example of what the British, or in this case Dutch 60's blues scene could deliver you, I say look no further than Golden Earring's Eight Miles High.