Kayak - Merlin. 1981 Netherlands
CD reissues: 1994 Pseudonym; 1995 Nexus (Japan); 1996 Si-Wan (Korea); 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)
Merlin is perhaps the ultimate example of an album that needs a prelude that reads something like: For 1981.... As in "For 1981, this was a great progressive rock album." But it certainly wouldn't be considered such for 1973... or 2016 for that matter. And in reality, there was plenty of great progressive rock in 1981 - it's just few knew about it (Dun, Eskaton, and Kultivator are hardly household names for anyone but hardcore prog rock nerds). For a relatively mainstream band like Kayak (though for Americans they always had more of a cult-like following, rather than being a true commercial smash hit group), putting out a semi concept album around the legend of King Arthur is as anachronistic as it gets (in 1981?). No matter that the album sounds like the Alan Parsons Project (another for 1981 type band) with its blend of radio friendly pop and semi-prog rock ambition. It's certainly a pleasant album that grows on you over time, and one can easily see the allure, especially for fans at the time. But with history on our side, it's hard to imagine this one capturing fans of future generations. Of course, the original fans will likely state its masterpiece status. We all do that with favorites from our youth, yours truly no exception to that rule.
The original LP was pressed in many countries initially, and is easy to find. The CD had a good run in the 90s, but has fallen out of print and is mainly in the hands of pirates now. The Belle Antque CD being the lone exception, but of course they come with a high price point. I lucked into a cheap legit one on ebay earlier in the year.