Here's a great archival release from a band that never got much attention outside of continental Europe. Earth & Fire were extremely popular in their home country of Holland as well as territories like Germany and Belgium. They enjoyed many top ten hits throughout the 70s, many of which are performed on this DVD. They flirted briefly with symphonic progressive rock on classic albums such as Song of the Marching Children and Atlantis. Each featured a side long epic that contained as much musical ambition-not to mention mellotron-as your average Yes release.
What set the band apart was the considerable sex appeal of vocalist Jerney Kaagman. She is the focal visual point of the DVD and her transformation from cute hippy flower child to stunning Euro disco diva is compelling to say the least.
The main portion of the DVD consists of the twenty titular greatest hits and they are presented in order of their respective release dates. The first four songs are largely culled from their self titled debut from 1970. The promotional films are of course supremely archaic compared to the multimillion dollar music videos of today. But that's part of their charm. Sounding like a more rocking version of Jefferson Airplane, these early songs are catchy psychedelic ditties. The simple but effective guitar riff of "Ruby is the One" is impossible to get out of one's head. Listen carefully to Kaagman's voice here and notice how much it changes over the course of the decade.
Earth & Fire then entered their progressive rock phase with the remarkable "Storm and Thunder". Churchy Hammond organ and spooky mellotron strings build up to an almost unbearably spine tingling finish. It's difficult to believe this was a top ten hit single! Elsewhere, there's plenty of mellotron and symphonic keyboards on songs like "Memories", "Maybe Tomorrow Maybe Tonight" and "Only Time Will Tell". These are progressive pop songs that fans of Kayak would probably enjoy.
However, by the time of "Thanks for The Love", the band largely eschewed the progressive rock leanings in favor of ABBA style pop rock. In fact, much of the rest of the main portion resides, at least for me, firmly in the guilty pleasure zone. If nothing else, these films function as a time capsule and Kaagman's gyrations are unbelievably tame (and unintentionally humorous) by today's standards. The videos take the viewer up until about 1989.
The DVD is rounded out by some excellent extras. First is a lengthy interview with Jerney Kaagman conducted in 2004. Unfortunately, unless one is fluent in Dutch, almost nothing can be derived from the interview. This is really too bad because she makes some kind of reference to Golden Earring as part of the beginning of the Earth & Fire story. It would be nice to know just how these bands are related. Frustratingly, there are no subtitle options for this DVD. However, there's a great chunk of the "Song of the Marching Children" suite on a television program called Swing In. Once again, mellotron junkies should be sure not to miss this portion. There's also a vintage interview with Kaagman in this section as well. Finally, there's an alternate live clip of "Maybe Tomorrow Maybe Tonight" from 1973 which is actually more enjoyable than the version on the main program.
While the video quality is understandably inconsistent given the age and the rarity of the source material, the audio presentation is outstanding. The DTS track is crisp and dynamic as is the standard stereo mix. Please note that this disc is only compatible with PAL machines so for North American viewers, you will definitely need a region free player. While progressive rock aficionados may be better served by the aforementioned Song of the Marching Children or Atlantis albums, this Greatest Hits DVD gives a more rounded account of the musical history of the band. This is great stuff.
- Ruby is the One
- Wild and Exciting
- Storm and Thunder
- Maybe Tomorrow Maybe Tonight
- Love of Life
- Only Time Will Tell
- Thanks for the Love
- What Difference Does it Make
- 7 8th Avenue
- Fire of Love
- Tell Me Why
- Twenty Four Hours
- Jack is Back
- Alright Here I Am
- French Word for Love
- Interview with Jerney Kaagman (02/05/2004)
- Swing In (07/08/1972)
- Maybe Tomorrow Maybe Tonight: Musikladen (06/19/1973)