Ton Scherpenzeel – Virgin Grounds

1991 reissue 2023 (OOB Records)

1: Departure (4:34)
2: Virgin Grounds (2:55)
3: Conquer The Arctic (4:12)
4: White World (5:32)
5: Open Skies (7:55)
6: Snowscape (3:30)
7: Midnight Sun (8:31)
8: Polar Circle (3:00)
9: Crystal Wave (1:43)
10: Frozen Air (6:04)
11: Eternal Snow (5:02)
12: Northern Lights (8:39)
13: Arrival (5:15)

I have never been to the North Pole, nor to the South Pole. Too cold for me. How about you guys? Wim Hof or cold weather? Ton Scherpenzeel has the solution. On October 15, 2023, the limited edition reissue of his 1991-release “Virgin Grounds” will be released via OOB Records. The instrumental keyboard music was written for the TV documentary Conquer The Arctic and is therefore overflowing with imagination. Everything on the reissue has been remixed and remastered, while two new songs have also been added, Departure and Arrival. Come on, chill out, put on your headphones and join us on this sonic journey from the comfort of your chair.

Listening to Scherpenzeel’s playing with Kayak, the band where he played the keyboards for no less than forty-eight years, you hear, in addition to excellent virtuosity, an enormous amount of taste and compositional richness. It is these two facets that also make “Virgin Grounds” a pleasant whole. The fact that in particular the leadsounds used are somewhat dated actually only adds to the charm.

Not as icy and cold as Eddie Jobson (UK) sounds. In addition, Scherpenzeel gives his chords a woolly sound, harmonies that are reminiscent of a comfortable snow carpet. Scherpenzeel’s left hand, with which the bass parts are played, does some great things. Every now and then a harp-like sound appears and in some songs a drum machine can be detected.

“Virgin Grounds” is a cinematic piece that draws its musical inspiration from acts such as Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre. The Vangelis comparison is especially clear in opener Departure and the emulated female voice is also unmistakably present. The subsequent title track is a treat for fans of elongated strings, while the Jarre-like Conquer The Arctic is a rhythmic affair with sequencers and brief brass sounds. In White World, new age is linked to the aforementioned left hand, with the result that the desolation of the white landscape is beautifully expressed.

If you think of the Arctic as an oasis (and why wouldn’t you) you can imagine yourself in this awe-inspiring area for over 66 minutes. The fact that Scherpenzeel continually asserts himself is best evidenced in the two somewhat longer tracks on “Virgin Grounds”, Midnight Sun and Northern Lights. Said tracks have a kind of zen vibe that you don’t want to miss. The closing Arrival has this typical Scherpenzeel melancholy that you find on every Kayak album.

“Virgin Grounds” is a beautiful album that has been given the head and tail it deserves thanks to the addition of two extra songs on this reissue. Put on your headphones and start listening!

Ton Scherpenzeel: keyboards, programming

© Dick van der Heijde 2023