Crate Skimmer #15 Elly & Rikkert – De Draad Van Ariadne

Owned since: 2008

Genre: Dutch hippie-folk

Where I bought it: From my mom’s collection

Year: 1971

Label/pressing: Imperial

So far in the series, we’ve barely covered anything Dutch. I think it was only the Golden Earring track on the Heavy Metal sampler and that’s it. I don’t know if I’m avoiding the small selection of Dutch records I own for some kind of national shame or explaining to people about things that are so Dutch it is honestly hard to kind of translate. But still, there are a couple of Dutch language things upcoming and the first might be the one that has the biggest fanbase outside the Netherlands.

Elly & Rikkert don’t exist as a musician duo anymore, but the Dutch folk mainstays are still very much alive. They retired after nearly 50 years of singing their folk-(later pop) and have a career that is very much split in two segments. The first as a bunch of free wheeling folky hippies, and the second being eternal Christian children entertainment favorites. It might be a wild switch, but honestly a lot of commentary Christian music of the 70s was made by hippies slowly falling from living communions into some kind of religion. Mostly the more free kind that praised humanity above God’s love but still was very much based on our Good Lord. Pretty much everything they released past 1976 is Christian kids music and even before that their sound had already slowly moved to child friendly folk.

It included a ton of Christian references before that already, this record even opens with a song based around a Litanie (a form of prayer). I own a couple of their other records, which will for sure be covered later on, but they’ve always been such a weird and interesting act to me. Just since 1976, when they switched from a career to full on Christian work where they became the musical flag barriers of Dutch Christianity for ‘outsiders’ till hipper bands picked up in the 80’s. They slowly moved back to more adult songs and even some return to non-Christian albums in the 80’s which I poorly never found copies of. Luckily I own a copy of De Draad Van Ariadne.

Both Elly Nieman and Rikkert Zuiderveld had careers as folk/chanson singers before becoming a duo act and getting married. Nieman’s 1966 debut on Philip is a bit of unsung Dutch chanson goodness which she produced after winning a massive talent contest. Rikkert Zuiderveld recorded a solo album of chansons with a heavy early Dylan tic, also for Philips in 1967, which is quite good. They then became a couple and a duo act that very much was based in the hippie lifestyle of the 1960’s, commune living and all. Their debut album Een Ander Land is a gem of low psychedelic folk, which includes the wonderful Vreemde Vogels (Strange Birds) that’s about them not really conforming to society’s ideas.

De Draad Van Ariadne is named after the Greek myth of Ariadne’s where she gave Theseus her thread to escape the maze of the Minotaur. It doesn’t really play into the record except the title track which is just an odd-ball selection of weird hippie folk songs. Litanie covers Jesus’s birth and prayers, Aladin the 1000 and 1 night story and their most famous song Kauwgomballenboom (Gumball Tree) is about, well, your uncle having a tree producing gumballs. It is a sign of the children’s music to come, even including a kazoo(?!) solo for the chorus. It’s all wonderfully arranged with acoustic guitars, violins, sitars and various other instruments you expect on a 1971 folk record.

The real reason why I like this record so much is for sure the B-side. It leaves the very pleasant folk of the A-side for full blown hippie wackiness. Starting with the tremendous Overture/Heksenkring which includes flute solos, drums and is pretty much centered around witches’ covens. But the absolute highlight here is the near 12 minutes of Steen Der Wijzen (Alantis) which is a vaguely Christian epic that changes its tempo and becomes another song pretty much every 3 minutes. It’s so hokey 70’s, but I love it so much. A big seller in the Netherlands in the 70’s this is still a common sight to be found in thrift stores over here. A helpless relic of its time, and great for that, it acquired a slight cult in freak-folk corners of the internet in the early/mid 00’s also through it’s weird arrangement work and strong song writing. Barely can think of a more Dutch record.

Ditch Gedachten: Heksenkring is some delightfully weird whisper singing shit, I love it.