45: “Memories” w/ “From the End Till the Beginning” by Earth and Fire. Polydor 2050 179. German edition. Recorded in 1972.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Earth and Fire were formed in 1968 by brothers Chris (guitar) and Gerard (keyboards) Koerts. Vocalist Jerney Kaagman joined in 1969, and drummer Ton van der Kleij joined in 1970. Once this lineup was established, the hits began.

At least, they did in Europe. A number of the 45s that I’m surveying at the archive right now seem to be German Polydor discs from the early 1970’s. Which is not to say that they are all from German artists—they’re German editions of artists from all over Europe, and occasionally the States. Earth and Fire were Dutch. “Seasons” gives a good example of the their early sound.

As does “Ruby Is the One.”

Lip syncing fails are always embarrassing, but in my opinion, drum syncing fails (2:27) are even worse.  Of course, that’s probably because I’m a drummer.

Their sound at this point is often referred to as Progressive Rock, but it sounds more like the Psychedelic rock of Jefferson Airplane than anything by King Crimson or Supersister. It’s just good, solid, post-Woodstock rock music. As is “Invitation,” from 1971’s Song of the Marching Children.

1972’s “Memories” was released only as a single, not as a cut from a corresponding album. You can tell that we’re getting deeper into the 70’s at this point. Jerney’s hair is manageable and she’s wearing a jumpsuit. But her voice still soars, and the music still has a bit of minor chord menace to it, due in large part to Gerard’s masterful Mellotron work.

1973’s “Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight” may seem like a simple love song, but it still rocks—the opening sounds like it could have come from Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Tarkus. Plus it’s taken from a concept album about the destruction of Atlantis. So definitely more than your typical ‘boy meets girl’ fodder.

And then we get to 1975.  This is where things start to go wrong, the music steadily declining in originality and passion. “Thanks For the Love” couples chicken-scratch guitar with a simplistic 1-2-3-4 beat and horns, as if the band just couldn’t WAIT to usher in disco.

1979’s “Weekend” was probably their best known hit. It sounds like they were trying to get to Blondie City but got lost and ended up in ABBAville.

Which is sad, especially when you consider what they sounded like by 1983’s In a State of Flux, the last album with either of the brothers in it. Here’s “Twenty Four Hours.”

And there you have it. The process is complete: from Jefferson Airplane to Starship. Sigh.

Jerney would go on to a sporadic solo career and an appearance in Dutch Playboy; she is now a judge on her homeland’s version of American Idol. The Koerts Brothers made some New Age music together. Obviously, Earth and Fire was not the only band from the early 1970’s to start strong strong and end up chasing 80’s pop dollars. But the fact that “Weekend” was a much bigger seller than “Memories,” while not surprising, is still pretty sad. Thank goodness for YouTube and all of the faithful fans posting videos of the band’s early work—at least we still have that.

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