Though they had far more success overseas, Golden Earring are primarily remembered in the United States for two smash singles released 10 years apart: "Radar Love" and "Twilight Zone." But a 50 year career deserves more than "two hit wonder" status, and certainly Moontan, which is generally regarded as this Dutch band's best album and which contains an excellent mixture of hard rock and progressive rock, deserves to be much better known than it is. I'm reviewing the superior U.S. version of the album, which omits the European/UK version's two weakest songs ("Suzy Lunacy (Mental Rock)," "Just Like Vince Taylor") in favor of "Are You Receiving Me." That version of the album starts with the band's signature song, "Radar Love," which is only one of the greatest driving songs ever, and pretty progressive for a popular radio track as well. Simply put, this atmospheric and hard rocking number has it all: throbbing bass and good beats, a rough tough vocal, an interesting jam section, a dramatic buildup with great drumming at around the 4-minute mark, an exciting vocal climax before the 6-minute mark, even unexpected synths and horns... "Candy's Going Bad" is also a very good rock song with a tough mid-tempo groove, a catchy chorus, relatable lyrics (we've all known a girl who went down the wrong road at one time or another, right?), and a jazzy outro which shows that this was a talented group of adaptable musicians. Even better is "Vanilla Queen" (9:20), the first of three long songs in a row (and the first two weren't exactly short at over 6 minutes each). This spacey, multi-sectioned progressive hard rocker is tough to describe but terrific, almost a match for "Radar Love" as the album's best song, really. Among the song's notable attributes are its intense, throbbing (synth?) groove, its singable chorus which appears at several instances, some moody mellower parts (the weakest links), some rip roaring guitar, and an extended symphonic instrumental outro. Coming after that masterpiece "Big Tree, Blue Sea" (8:13), a largely instrumental song with prominent flute, is disappointing, but it's still solid enough if perhaps unworthy of such a long running time. Then again, "Are You Receiving Me" (9:32) is even longer than "Vanilla Queen" and is another great track, with more cool drum parts and hooky harmonized vocals including a catchy falsetto chorus. The mellower mid-section works well too, and it builds nicely to become a real toe tapper before finally being capped off by guitar and sax solos. Anyway, with an average song length of almost 8 minutes, perhaps some of these songs could be tightened up a bit, but this is a nitpick as the overall quality and uniqueness of these songs ultimately makes Moontan worthy of at least minor classic status (apparently it was voted best Dutch pop album ever by readers of music magazine Oor in 2008, so I'm not alone in my high opinion of this album). P.S. I'm also quite fond of their 1977 Live album (check out the great guitar song "Mad Love Coming") and I've heard other really good songs by them as well ("Kill Me (Ce Soir)" for example), so again there's definitely much more to this band than just their two famous songs.
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