Jan Akkerman


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Aranjuez Review

by James Manheim

This is a reissue of a 1978 release by Dutch rock guitarist Jan Akkerman. The album mystified listeners at the time with its still-unusual combination of electric guitar and lush string arrangements, and it remains something of an oddity from a rock perspective. The orchestral writing by the underrated German arranger Claus Ogerman, however, is quite unusual, and the album has a following among Ogerman's fans. Indeed, although Akkerman gets top billing, the partnership is equal or even tilted a bit toward Ogerman. The opening Adagio from Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez is perhaps the most interesting, and it differs entirely in effect from Miles Davis' presentation of the same music. Akkerman is in the foreground here, of course, but the music is a sort of double fantasy, with Akkerman slightly altering Rodrigo's guitar line and Ogerman providing much deeper hues to the orchestral parts. The rest of the music is given over to adaptations of other classical pieces, three of them by Heitor Villa-Lobos, and one original each by Ogerman and Akkerman. The string writing contains some of the richest and most harmonically intricate examples in the entire genre of orchestral pop, and it paradoxically seems to overwhelm the rock guitar at times. However, the continuing interest in the album is easy to understand: it offers a musical idea that makes intuitive sense -- rock, it has often been suggested, is at bottom a Romantic music -- yet has been little explored.

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