Outside of the Netherlands, Golden Earring is known as that band from ‘Radar Love’ and maybe ‘Twilight Zone’. For any Dutchman, they are the biggest Rock band in the country and have been so for a majority of their fifty-five years of existence. Yes, fifty-five uninterrupted years. Their mind blowing 1973 record ‘Moontan’ was even voted the best Dutch album by readers of the music magazine Oor. And even though I suspect the presence of their worldwide hit ‘Radar Love’ plays a part in that vote, its powerful musicianship and at time surprising songwriting make it one of the most enjoyable records made in the glorious seventies.
If there’s one thing you can criticize the Golden Earring on, it’s that they have been relatively sensitive to trends. Back in the early seventies, however, they were pretty much their own thing. Their riffs and rhythms had a Stonesy boogie feel, but the band mixed that with influences from the psychedlic and progressive Rock scenes as well as little flourishes of Americana and Soul. And while they released a couple of excellent albums since, the combination of styles was never as catchy and effective as on ‘Moontan’. Masterfully arranged and moreso, forcefully executed.
So by now, I’m assuming you all know ‘Radar Love’. Rightfully a popular song – it’s quite cleverly arranged; it’s got a steady tempo but feels like it’s moving through tempo changes and the horn-driven middle section is explosive – but it’s hardly the only good thing here. The most straightforward Rocker ‘Just Like Vince Taylor’ is an Earring live classic to this day, but opening track ‘Candy’s Going Bad’ is even better; it builds from a sleazy Bluesrocker with great vocal interplay between Barry Hay and guitarist George Kooymans to an almost spacey middle section without losing any of its power.
Highlighting the album – and Golden Earring’s entire discography, for that matter – is the haunting closer ‘The Vanilla Queen’. It’s a true exercise in climaxes; from the subdued verses to the bigger chorus and from the psychedelic middle section to the unbelievable finale, where the band’s best riff works its magic with the horns. The guitar break between the second and third choruses brings to mind vintage Rush, despite predating it by a few years. The other long track, ‘Are You Receiving Me’ is simpler, but profits from Cesar Zuiderwijk’s unconventional drums and – again – fantastic vocal harmonies.
In the end, only ‘Suzy Lunacy (Mental Rock)’ stands out like a sore thumb, but that’s rather because its sixties Pop vibe clashes with the sprawling character of rest of the record. It’s quite a decent song on its own. Apart from that, ‘Moontan’ is an unlikely, but ultimately highly infectious mix of early progressive Rock and classic Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s not surprising that it got voted the best Dutch album – really, only Urban Dance Squad’s ‘Mental Floss For the Globe’ and maybe Bettie Serveert’s ‘Palomine’ are serious contenders – but it may be surprising that the record still sounds so fresh today, 43 years after its release. Highly recommended to fans of seventies Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and early Rush.
Recommended tracks: ‘The Vanilla Queen’, ‘Candy’s Going Bad’, ‘Are You Receiving Me’