Album review: JAN AKKERMAN – Jan Akkerman (1977 reissue)

JAN AKKERMAN - Jan Akkerman

Esoteric Recordings [Release date 29.01.16]

“Jan Akkerman”, the 1977 album with the distinctive “guitar in bed” cover, was Akkerman’s answer to Jeff Beck’s ‘Blow By Blow’ two years earlier.  This was the Dutch guitarist’s first solo album since splitting from Focus in 1976 and it consolidated his fusion credentials, as he collaborated with Joachim Kuhn (keys) with whom he’d worked on the ‘Eli’ album a year before.

Akkerman told me some years ago that Michael Jackson was frequently seen at Focus concerts in the seventies and actually stole the bass line to an ‘Eli’ track – ‘Can’t Fake A Good Time’ – for use on his ‘Off The Wall’ album. However, the Eli tour – at least in the UK – was something of a disaster with critics confused by what one called “the funk-jazz boredom of much latter-day fusion music”.

Akkerman was evidently undeterred but he never toured again in the UK for two decades.  His 1977 solo effort included opener ‘Crackers’  – originally a Focus try-out, a version of which appeared on the album of outtakes ‘Ship Of Memories’ – but elsewhere this is very much jazz fusion territory with the other tracks punctuated by Mike Gibb’s silky smooth string arrangements.

We shouldn’t lose sight also of the groundbreaking ‘Breezin” album released in 1976 by George Benson which had a similar honeyed strings undertow arranged by Claus Ogerman with whom Akkerman would work on 1978′s ‘Aranjuez’.

Of course none of this is touched on in the liner note from Akkerman “biographer” and web “professional” Wouter Bessels nor  how the album presaged Akkerman’s late-seventies/early-eighties fusion sorties such as ‘Prism’ (1977) and Akkerman’s own involvement with Kuhn on the German’s ‘Sunshower’ album in 1978.

Tracks like ‘Streetwalker’ and ‘Skydancer’ have remained in Akkerman’s set list for many years and remain firm fan favourites.  With only a single edit of ‘Angel Watch’ as a bonus, fans can still enjoy a newly remastered version of this important album although it has been available on CD since 1994.

It’s a shame that the label didn’t ask Akkerman for the dry mixes of these tracks (i.e. without strings) which I understand he might possess. Hopefully, though,  Esoteric will revisit the 1979 solo studio album “3″ as the version issued in 2010 is incomplete and a very poor digital transfer.  ****

Review by David Randall

David wrote the unofficial biography of Jan Akkerman “In And Out Of Focus – The Music Of Jan Akkerman” published in 2003 (SAF Publishing)

He  presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.

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