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Ayreonauts Only
Image 2000 Transmission Records

Astrid van der Veen
Astrid van der Veen (website)
Image 2001 Transmission Records

More Arjen Anthony Lucassen
Live On Earth
Space Metal
Ayreonauts Only
Flight Of The Migrator
The Dream Sequencer
Fate Of A Dreamer

(06 June 2001) Released as a limited edition album with the health warning-"This is not a new Ayreon album. It contains unreleased versions of known Ayreon songs, home demos and newly recorded songs, sung by different singers"-the latest Ayreon recording Ayreonauts Only (Transmission Records (Holland) TM-027, 2000) is a masterpiece. As a preview to his release with Astrid van der Veen and the Ambeon (review) project, Arjen Anthony Lucassen included two of the first tracks he recorded with her. A variety of other notable guests grace the album's eleven tracks.

Four alternate and more melodic versions of tracks from Flight Of The Migrator (review) resulting from Arjen's Los Angeles visit during the album's initial sessions are included. "Into the Black Hole" features vocals by Damian Wilson and Lana Lane with additional synth solos by Erik Norlander and Clive Nolan. "Out of the White Hole" is sung by Robert Soeterboek and has additional synth solos by Erik Norlander while the everso lush "Through the Wormhole" features lead vocals by Ian Parry with backing vocals by Fabio Lione and Lana Lane. The 'amazing' guitar and synth solo by Garyeon Wehrkemp (hmmm?) during the bridge is just that! The 1992 of "Carpe Diem (Chaos)" blending Arjen Lucassen's guitar and synth work is superb.

Astrid van der Veen makes her initial appearance on the album in her special interpretation of "Temple of the Cat" originally released with Jacqueline Govaert's lead vocals on The Dream Sequencer (review). Sensually sung in every respect, accompanied only by acoustic guitar and light synth arrangements performed by Arjen Lucassen, Astrid's stunning lead and backing harmony vocals create a sweeter rendition of this tremendous progressive-oriented ballad. Arjen wrote, "This is the way I wanted this song to sound." It is almost inconceivable from the maturity of her vocal delivery that Astrid was only 14 when the track was recorded.

A previously unreleased medley of the Beatlesque "Original Hippie's Amazing Trip" with vocals by Mouse, Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering) and Edward Reekers, piano by Robby Valentine and Hammond by Roland Bakker supporting Arjen Lucassen is especially enjoyable. Arjen reported that original Hippie vocals by Mouse were lost when Into The Electric Castle was being created but were recovered later and appear for the first time here. The blend of instrumentals, male and female vocals works extremely well.

A brand new version of "Beyond The Last Horizon" originally from Actual Fantasy sung by Gary Hughes includes drums by Stephan van Haestreght (Ambeon) and tremendous harmony Beatlesque-style backing vocals supported Arjen's re-recordings of the other instruments. A harder version of "Eyes of Time" originally thought as 'too over the top' for The Final Experiment but suitable for the "Sail Away To Avalon" single is included. It is vocally quite different, with an almost Tina Turner-sounding lead, but has a keyboard solo during the instrumental bridge that is incredible.

Home demo versions from 1994 of "The Charm of The Seer" and the Beatlesque "Nature's Dance" later released on The Final Experiment are both sung extremely well and lushly accompanied by Arjen Lucassen on keyboard, guitar and drum computer. These are wonderful commemorative of the artist's progressive rock talent and overall strength.

Ayreonauts Only concludes with the signature Ambeon track "Cold Metal" with lead and harmony backing vocals sung by Astrid van der Veen. A stunning track in every respect-instrumentally as well as vocally-it must be heard to be completely appreciated. Signficant soundbites of the projet are available at Astrid's website (disographie). You can order Ayreonauts Only from amazon.com here and the Ambeon album Fate of a Dreamer from amazon.com here. Clearly both worth a trans-Atlantic journey, these albums are both a must listen!

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