Can't stand noise - reissue #1 (1986)
Click here for information about the regular issue of "Can't Stand Noise", released in 1983.
Click here for information about the CD reissue of "Can't Stand Noise", released in 1994.
Note: This LP omits the track "Who Knows", although it is mentioned on the sleeve and the recordlabel.
There are no 'direct' credits on the sleeve, although there are some interesting liner notes by Chris Welch printed on the back sleeve. These liner notes can be found below.
Liner notes by Chris Welch
"The blues are my roots, not just classical music," says master guitarist Jan Akkerman. "The classical side is something that got talked about a lot in the days of Focus but I love playing laid-back country blues. I suppose you could call my music Blue Metal...not heavy metal...BLUE METAL!"
Jan Akkerman, who sprang to international fame with the Dutch group Focus in the seventies, is one of the most admired players in rock, with tremendous technical command of the instrument and the ability to embrace, convincingly, a vast range of styles.
He is also a man with a sharp intelligence, and an offbeat sense of humour reflected in an amused expression and eyes that hint at inner turmoil and private jokes. For Jan seems torn by his urge to find musical satisfaction and the need to cope with a music business that can be erratic in its treatment of gifted artists. If they can be marketed or packaged, there is usually no problem. Akkermans problems arise if ever he shows resistance to market forces, which explains why perhaps he has not always received the recognition that is his due.
Jan Akkerman today is more philosophical, a shade more phlegmatic than the serious young man who quit Focus in 1976 when they were at the peak of their success.
Since then, he has led his own Jan Akkerman band and recorded a series of fine solo albums, often playing nearly all the instruments himself. This album features a selection of tracks that show Akkerman in relaxed, melodic mood, typified by the opening cut 'Pietons', but still ready to experiment and lash out. Listening to his deceptively lazy opening choruses, it's easy to understand why his fellow guitarists rave about him. He has the calm authority that doesn't need to prove itself with every note.
Jan was born in Amsterdam in December 1946. His father played trumpet and clarinet and his mother, according to Jan 'blew the harmonica'. Jan was taught to play the piano and later went to the Conservatoire of music in Amsterdam. Did he plan to become a professional classical musician? "No, I never plan anything in my life," he says. "But I grew up right in the middle of the big music explosion of the Sixties. I listened to everything, from pop music to jazz. I loved it all. I made my first record when I was 12 years old. I played the theme from "Exodus" on guitar, and on the other side was Rubensteins "Melody in F", except I transposed it to A, because it was easier to play!"
His family took him to live in Austria when he was a teenager "to further my education", and he played in Vienna and Salzburg, everywhere from theatres to dancehalls.
Back in Amsterdam Jan played with such celebrated rock bands such as Brainbox and The Hunters, the last named he now refers to as The Beer Hunters. "We had a hit in 1966 with a song called 'The Russian Spy & I' and I can still remember the lyrics.
Focus was born out of a meeting of like minds when classically trained organist and flautist Thijs Van Leer formed a trio which became the backing band for the Dutch version of the musical 'Hair' in 1969. Jan joined the band which recorded an album called 'In And Out Of Focus', released in Britain in 1971. Jan quit the original trio, then formed another band, inviting Thijs to join. They recorded 'Moving Waves' under the name Focus and they were off and running. Their music mixed classical arrangements with rock themes and their skills as soloists not to mention Thijs extraordinary yodelling, made them the major concert attractions in the heady days when Progressive Rock ruled.
They hit the charts with 'Sylvia' and 'Hocus Pocus' in Britain and went on to even greater success in America, one of the few non-British bands to make an impact. But pressures built up and earlier successes could not be repeated. When Akkerman left, he was replaced by Philip Catherine. Eventually the band slipped…out of Focus.
Asked if the album title 'Can't Stand Noise' was meant as a rejection of the old Focus values Jan hotly denies he has turned his back on decibels. "Hey don't tell me about heavy metal. We INVENTED volume rock in Focus. When we toured America I was using FORTY Leslie speaker cabinets."
"I still think Focus opened the doors to the whole jazz-rock fusion thing. But when people ask why it came to an end, the reason is too many spirits came out of the bottle…so we closed it. The title of this album was inspired by a really funny cartoon I saw on video while I was touring Denmark. It was about two dogs who wake up a bear while he's hibernating, and I just loved the way the bear looked up and said, "Can't STAND noise!"
Jan recorded most of the album at his home studio in North Holland. He used to live on a farm for fifteen years but now lives with his family on a small island. "There's a bridge which the kids can cross to get to school," he explains. While domestic life goes on around him Jan makes music, playing acoustic, electric and guitar synthesisers and bass, all of which he features on "Pietons" which as every French jay-walker knows means pedestrian. Recalls Jan: "I recorded this during the very hot summer of 1983. I was sitting playing with my feet up on the table and it was very laid-back country blues, the sort of thing I often used to play before Focus.
"I played all the instruments on that one, but the percussion track is by a Linn drum machine which I programmed myself. "Everything Must Change" is a beautiful balled I liked, and "Back To The Factory" is a surreal piece, which is a bit like using a banana to screw in a bolt. Impossible? That's the idea."
"Mark van de Geer plays the keyboards, and we put two pillows up against the piano to get the right sound. I played the guitar and there's no bass on this track."
"Journey (A Real Elegant Gypsy)" was done in Los Angeles, way back in 1972, with three American musicians. "I needed another piece to finish the album and this was something I had been hoping to use for ages." Jan rather dismisses "Heavy Treasure" (also known as "Heavy Pleasure"), as some "jazz rock fiddling around," but it has some great moments, as does the attractive "Just Because" which flows with caressing chords. Jan adds a final flourish with his acoustic guitar footnote, "Who Knows."
This is not a heavily produced concept album, more a series of snapshots of a creative, thinking mans guitarist at work in an unpressured environment. Jan admits that perhaps by modern high-tech standards not all the mixing is razor sharp, and sometimes his guitar could be given more prominence. Even the laid-back atmosphere during recording that Jan was so keen to capture was marred by unexpected events, like the thunderstorm that suddenly rained down just as Jan had set up all the microphones for an outdoor version of "Who Knows."
"It seemed so fantastically quiet outside, I thought it would be a good chance to play in the open. But it was the lull before the storm."
Jan has enough material for another four or five albums and he wants to go on touring and playing in the years ahead. There was a brief Focus reunion in 1985 but says Jan: "We did four gigs and musically it was very interesting but there was no atmosphere."
"I want to play my own music, with my own band. I know there are a lot of people who want to hear us, and that's enough to satisfy me. I'd love to play in England again, but on my own terms and not with Focus. I want to play Jan Akkermans music."
CHRIS WELCH, 1986