On To the Hilt, Golden Earring fully gives themselves over to the prog rock tendencies that they had toyed with throughout the 1970s. The resulting album has a strong prog feel but lacks the characteristic sound and the solid material that defined the group’s best efforts to that point. The band puts in a typically energetic and thunderous performance, but their strong instrumental chops can’t overcome the self-indulgent nature of much of the album’s material: “Why Me?” and “Latin Lightning” are a few of the potentially interesting songs on To the Hilt that are undercut by dull, overlong sections of jamming. Said songs also lack the tight arrangements and the sudden, surprising instrumental twists that made the group’s past epics so interesting. The album’s rigorous pursuit of a full-blooded art rock sound results in this album lacking the distinctive, easily identifiable sound that infused Golden Earring classics like “Radar Love” or “She Flies on Strange Wings.” Despite these problems, some good songs shine through. The album’s best songs tend to be the shortest ones: “Facedancer” is a strong rocker built on an interesting blend of synthesizer and acoustic guitar and the title track pursues a galloping country-rock groove that made it a favorite in concert. However, high points like these are separated by long stretches of complex but faceless jamming that makes To the Hilt a chore to get through. As a result, this album is virtually guaranteed to leave the casual listener cold and can only be recommended to the most hardcore of Golden Earring fans.(by Donald A. Guarisco)
And here´s another opinion:
I guess that it was difficult for Jan Stips (from ”Supersister”) to be considered as a full-time Golden Earring member. Coming from a truly prog environment, to integrate a band as ”Golden Earring” is one thing; but to be on the forefront as he used to be with ”Supersister” is another one.
I can’t really say that his role was prominent on this work, even if here and there some nice keyboarding can be heard. But this work is more on the rock side (”Why Me?”) than acoustic prog one (”Facedancer”).
This album really takes a long time to kick off: the title track is a real pain to be honest. Things are getting better though with the second long track: ”Nomad” is a fine piece of music which combines heavy rock with Easter influences of course. A nice and trippy instrumental middle part (almost Floydian) is one of the moments during which we can appreciate Stips’ influence. This elaborate track is one of the best of this album.
”Sleepwalking” sounds as an attempt to reproduce some forgotten grandeur and can also be considered as another good song from ”To The Hilt” but the level of the great ”Moontan” is clearly miles away. The whole is pleasant (as was ”Switch”) but there are too few great tracks.
This work also sounds a bit too much funky to my ears (”Latin Lightning” but not only). Still, this song is also a moment of keyboards delight and guitar maestria. The closing instrumental part is a bit loose but enjoyable.
The closing number ”Violins” is one (if not the) of the longest Golden Earring song. Funk and repetitiveness are on the rendezvous. The closing string section does have some prog feeling which was quite discreet so far?
In all, this is another good GE album. Nothing outstanding but no blunder either (except the short title track).(by Zowie Ziggy)
And “Violins” is a real fucking good number !
Rinus Gerritsen (bass)
Barry Hay (vocals)
George Kooymans (guitar, vocals)
Robert Jan Stips (keyboards, ARP and moog synthesizers)
Cesar Zuiderwijk (drums, percussion)
Chris Mercer (saxophone on 05. + 06.)
01. Why Me? (Kooymans/Hay/Fenton) – 7.13
02. Facedancer (Kooymans/Hay) – 4:09
03. To The Hilt (Kooymans/Hay) – 3:06
04. Nomad (Kooymans/Hay) – 7:05
05. Sleepwalkin’ (Kooymans/Hay) – 5:00
06. Latin Lightning (Kooymans/Hay) – 7:14
07. Violins (Kooymans/Hay) 10.20