After pursuing a strict art rock style on To the Hilt, Golden Earring altered its style once more on the band's next album. Golden Earring replaced keyboardist Robert Jan Stips with guitarist Eelco Gelling and put aside its art rock pretensions for a hard rock sound dominated by the group's new twin-guitar attack. The result was Contraband, the band's strongest album since Moontan. It starts powerfully with "Bombay," an exuberant blast whose elaborate arrangement works in plenty of atmospheric country-styled shadings into an otherwise hard rock track. Other highlights include "Mad Love's Comin'," a dazzlingly atmospheric rumination on romance that transforms from a tense acoustic blues into a spacy mid-tempo rocker worthy of Pink Floyd, and "Fighting Windmills," a stately tribute to being an individual (a common theme of Golden Earring songs) that works a snaky, Indian-sounding guitar riff augmented by swooning strings into the song's midsection. "Con Man" is another worthwhile track, a tribute to the raffish character of the title that highlights the electrifying guitar interplay between Gelling and George Kooymans. Despite this high percentage of strong tracks, not everything on the album is this strong: For instance, "Sueleen" and "Faded Jeans" are solid tracks but lack the sense of dynamics and powerful riffs that fuel numbers like "Bombay." However, even these lesser tunes work thanks to lean arrangements and a consistently energetic performance from the band. In the end, Contraband is a worthwhile addition to any Golden Earring collection, and well worth a spin for fans of '70s hard rock in general.
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AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco