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Music Review: Supersister – Present From Nancy

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Maybe this one should be filed under the ‘lost gems’ section of Classic Eurorock. The album in question is the debut by Dutch band Supersister, Present From Nancy, which was originally released in 1970. Fortunately, record label Esoteric Recordings are on a mission to not let these ‘classic’ albums die and have lovingly reissued it.

Supersister were formed forty years ago in The Hague. They built a reputation by playing Canterbury style keyboard driven progressive music with heavy splashes of jazz influences. The band mainly consisted of Robert Jan Stips, on keyboards and vocals, drummer Marco Vrolijk, bass player Ron Van Eck, and the late Sacha Van Geest who added flute.

They followed Present From Nancy with the album To The Highest Bidder in 1971. Single success came with “She Was Naked” which was backed by “Spiral Staircase”, both included here as bonus tracks. By 1973 Van Geest and Vrolijk had quit and were replaced by Herman Van Boeyen on drums and Charly Mariano who covered wind instruments.

Iskander, a concept album based on the story of Alexander The Great followed in 1973, and then came Pudding En Gisteren in 1974. Despite one more album under the name Sweet Okay Supersister, Spiral Staircase, the band folded until the new millennium.

It was the unexpected and sudden death of Van Geest that brought a brief reunion of Supersister sadly to a halt in 2001. During that period the original band line up from Present From Nancy reformed to tour their native Holland and to perform a show at the Progfest in Los Angeles.

Supersister was very much a band who emerged from the progressive music scene of the late sixties. It was a movement that gave rise to bands such as Caravan, and Soft Machine, both of which Supersister can be compared to. There was another important influence on them and that was Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention.

Their music often evolves into long spiralling solo workouts, jazz influenced keyboards, amid quirky humorous English lyrics. Innumerable time changes added a complexity. Present From Nancy includes, and opens with, the two parts that make up the title track. “Corporation Combo Boys” opened the old side two with a definite nod towards Frank Zappa and The Mothers.

Other highlights included “Metamorphosis”, a three part composition consisting of the dark opening of “Mexico”, the organ heavy “Metamorphosis”, and a brief nod to the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”, mixed with “Summertime”. “Dona Nobis Pacem” is still as effective today with its Gregorian chant and cathedral organ intro and hauntingly timeless labyrinths of effects. It finally opens out in pure Supersister style.

The bonus material on this re-issue also include “Fancy Nancy” and “Gonna Take Easy” and of course the excellent booklet. The superb “She Was Naked” is perhaps their best known song and is included here. Beginning with gentle flute, it again opens out into fuzz laden Supersister territory.

They were very much a band of the era and in many ways Present From Nancy could only have come from Holland. The album seemed to represent something about the magic of Dutch culture, which is renowned for innovative freedom of thought, tolerance, and experimentation. They were all of those things and more.

It’s another valuable esoteric inspired trip down memory lane.

Supersister still have an official website where you can catch up with the history of the band.

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About Jeff Perkins