The other day I reviewed an album by Ayreon and said that main man Arjen Lucassen reminded me of a genius scientist making his records in the studio.

He’s back here with one that didn’t even see the light of day.

It goes like this: In the 90s Lucassen saw Robert Soeterboek perform live with Bodine, his former early-eighties heavy metal band, and liked him. They started working on songs and formed a project called Plan Nine, bringing in Peter Vink on bass, Cleem Determeijer on Hammond, and Rob van der List on drums, who has since passed away.

Grunge had killed music by then – let’s be honest, it did – and no one wanted to hear brilliant hard rock (or so the narrative goes – I’d argue we just weren’t allowed to by the record industry itself but that’s another argument for another day).

Anyway, these songs remained on the shelf until 2022.

And we’ll let Lucassen take up the story: “We involved Peter and Cleem on bass and Hammond, and Peter’s wife Mirjam van Doorn on backing vocals, with my current go-to drummer, Koen Herfst, adding his magic,” Lucassen explains. “Everyone involved was excited by the result, and I found it so inspiring that I re-wrote and re-recorded several other Songs. Soon, I couldn’t stop! Robert and I spent weeks digging through our old cassettes and DAT tapes, discovering many potential gems we hadn’t yet developed. Before we knew it, we had enough songs for a full album and more.”

Sorted. And he’s not wrong.

“Dr Robert’s Medicine Show” stacks the harmonies high, but grooves like Deep Purple. This is classic rock – and it’s striking (given the way Lucassen normally does it) how short and to the point this is). Hook-laden and catchy.

And if “The Preacher” does travel into a more jam, blues-based area then it’s superbly done.  

“Annie Moore” for all its acoustic tendencies, is as primal as you like, and Soeterboek’s voice is perfect for this (it’s a mark of Lucassen’s career that he always picks vocalists so well)

Whitesnake fans need to get to “Let’s Get Down To Bizniz” – it’s a miracle that Dave hasn’t stolen it, frankly – “High-Speed Chase” is an appropriately freewheeling journey, and somewhere Jon Lord is listening to the organ on “Let It Ride” and its filthy boogie and smiling.

If the backing vocals on that one give it a soul touch, then “Ice On Fire” is a slice of Euro AOR, which given the rich voice singing it, is an interesting contrast.

If there was always going to be a ballad, then “Long Cold Night” with its tinges of Extreme’s “Hole Hearted” is fun, and “Drunker Than Whiskey” needs dusting off and giving to Black Stone Chery immediately, so it goes gold.

The last of the studio versions luxuriates in the phenomenal title of “Die With Your Shades On”. A glorious little groover that slams.

Now, this being Lucassen, it doesn’t end there and there’s a deluxe version with a shed load of demos, alternate mixes, and the like, and if as ever they are only of interest to completists really (let’s be honest), then some of the songs that didn’t make the cut like the piano-led “Magic Moments” or the magnificent “Gimme The Nightime” would arguably have made an already magnificent record even better.

Just imagine having something this good in your loft. It’s enough to make anyone jealous. God knows what’s in mine, but I am telling you now, it’s not as good as this.

Rating 8.5/10

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