I.M. Chris Koerts (10-12-1947 - 10-11-2022)
Guitarist Chris Koerts, one of the founders of the illustrious Dutch progrock group Earth & Fire from The Hague, passed away on Friday 11/11/22 at the age of 74. The guitar virtuoso founded the band in 1967 together with twin brother Gerard.
Text Robin Boer
Earth & Fire belongs to a range of Dutch bands that rarely get any attention in the mainstream media nowadays, but actually provided an essential legacy during the (early) seventies, for lots of bands that came after, up until today. Officially born in 1968, the band from Voorburg (NLD) officially released nine studio albums from 1970 to 1989. That said, the spirit of founding members twin brothers Chris (guitar) and Gerard (keyboards) Koerts (who passed away in 2019) was already fading during the sixth album Reality Fills Fantasy in 1979. More on that in a minute.
The first records had a more symphonic approach, while later elements of jazz, funk and even disco slipped into the music. The beautiful, mysterious and charismatic singer Jerney Kaagman may have been the voice of E&F, but Chris and Gerard were the mind, heart and soul. On the very first track from the very first self-titled LP, Wild & Exciting, it's already very clear that Chris was an absolute killer guitarist. The guitar work on this track, and throughout the rest of the album, is just phenomenal. On later singles like Memories and Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight, there are jaw-dropping guitar solos as well. Looking back, it is kind of remarkable that Chris was never widely considered part of the same 'Dutch' league as, for example, Jan Akkerman (Focus) or Eelco Gelling (Cuby + Blizzards).
The majority of the musical ideas came from both brothers, who were highly creative, as can especially be heard on three major progressive albums Song Of The Marching Children (1971), Atlantis (1973) and the absolutely bloodcurdling masterpiece To The World Of The Future (1975) where visions of the future world (that turned out to be pretty accurate) are brilliantly translated into music. The suite Gate To Infinity on Side A of the LP with the same name (1977) even deserves a special mention for it's originality and tasteful build-up, and it's superb progjazz album closer Driftin.
At some point, elements from disco, funk and reggae became a more dominant factor in the music, and the brothers started to lose interest, encouraging them to focus on other activities. Chris left in 1979, shortly before the band would reach highly commercial success with their odd single Weekend, which sadly can be considered the song that least represents the unique characteristics and musical quality of the group. Ten years from there, Earth & Fire became a completely different group, with zero founding members remaining, only featuring Kaagman as a link to the past. The Koerts Brothers emigrated to France, and E&F would never reunite again after having permanently disbanded in the early nineties.
By now, the majority of former Earth & Fire members already left this earth, although their legacy hopefully will last for a long time. The beautiful palet of sounds, words, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms that this group offered the history of Dutch music deserves to be highly treasured and acknowledged today, and even years from now.
For some mindblowing guitar work from Chris, check out these pieces in particular:
Wild & Exciting
Maybe Tomorrow Maybe Tonight
To The World Of The Future
The Last Seagull
Voice From Yonder
People Come People Go