Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Blackbirds - 1968 - No Destination

The Blackbirds
No Destination

01. Golden Sun
02. Space
03. No Destination
04. Long Tall Dorothe
05. Sandmann/s Bound
06. That's My Love
07. Girl I'm Wondering
08. Show Me That You Love Me
09. Something Different
10. She
Bonus Tracks:
11. Lead On Light
12. Sherry Baby
13. Burning Out For Rock'n Roll
14. Sherry Baby

Wolfgang Bode (Bodo): bass, vocals
Werner Breinig: Guitar, flute, voilin
Peter Bely: keyboards, vocals
Charles Sikora: drums, vocals

Boy, talk about a band surrounded by misinformation ...  I've seen these guys described as being Belgian, Dutch, French, German, and even English (the latter being funny given the heavily accented English vocals).  Adding to the confusion, they somehow managed to get their two studio LPs released by a budget British label.  To be honest, I can understand some of the confusion since their home stomping ground was the Saarland.  Located in the Southwest region of Germany, following World War II the region spent a couple of years as an autonomous 'state' with France controlling internal and external affairs.  It wasn't until 1957 that the Saar was reunited with what was then known as West Germany.  Full economic reunion with Germany didn't take place until 1959.   Yeah, I know - who cares ...

Sharing a common interest in rock and roll, in 1965 friends Klaus Altmeyer (rhythm guitar), Werner Breinig (vocals/lead guitar), Siggi Burda (bass), and Helmut Vigneron (drums) decided to form a band.  They began rehearsing at a local school and within a couple of months were playing cover tunes at local dances and clubs.  They also expanded the band to include keyboardist Hubert Koop.  The following year saw the band gain a wider audience via extensive touring, including some regional concert appearances, and local television appearances.  They also underwent a pair of personnel changes with the departure of guitarist Althmeyer and bassist Burda.  Having opted for a more conventional job, Burda was replaced by Heinz-Peter Koop.

Even though they weren't signed by a record company, in early 1968 the band were given an opportunity to record some material at Horst Jankowski's Stuttgart-based studio.  The songs that would appear as 1968's "No Destination" were recorded in a marathon one day session; a feat made even more impressive by the fact about half of the material was written the night before, or simply improvised on-the-spot in the recording studio.  Largely penned by Breining, the album made it clear these guys had been listening to more than their share of British R&B groups like The Animals, The Artwoods, The Spencer Davis Group, and maybe even a touch of Procol Harum.  That also gave the album a slightly dated feel - more 1966 than 1968.  That wasn't meant as a criticism since the writing and performances (all ten songs were performed in English), were uniformly strong and quite different from most of their German contemporaries.  

- Kicked along by a tasty bass and organ pattern, 'Golden Summer' was a wonderful Mersybeat-styled ballad that would have made The Hollies, or The Searchers quite happy.
- Spotlighting Koop's organ and Breining's lead guitar, the instrumental 'Space' offered up a bizarre mash-up of B movie sci-fi sound effects and Stax moves.  Extremely weird and perhaps worth the price of admission on its own.
- Opening up with a Matthew Fisher-styled organ break (think funeral procession), 'No Destination' had a lyric that would make any Gen-X member proud ... "I stay in my bed all of the day because a job is no destination."  (I'm almost embarrassed to admit the first time I heard the lyric I mistook it for 'I stained the bed.')
- Thanks to Breining's operatic shriek (he should not have tried to hit those high notes), 'Long Tall Dorthe' had the distinction of being the most irritating track on the set. 
- Apparently one of the songs written on the fly in the studio, 'Sandman's Bound' seemed to be a pissed off rant in response to having to come up with an album's worth of material on short notice.  Nice guitar solo from Breining.
- Perhaps because it was a rather pedestrian ballad and found Breining again stretching for the high notes, 'That's My Love' was a pedestrian ballad, though Koop turned in some nice Alan Price-styled organ moves.
- A fantastic dark and brooding rocker, 'Girl I'm Wondering' sounded like a Teutonic Zombies track, complete with Rod Argent-styled organ solo.  Nice ! 
- 'Show Me That You Love Me' ... nice rocker, but once again it's marred by Breining's stratospheric falsetto.
- Bland MOR instrumental that sounded like the soundtrack for a laxative commercial - reminds me of something the T-Bones might have recorded.
- Redemption ...  'She' had it all; disillusionment, heartbreak, tasty jazzy guitar, killer organ ...  perfect proto-punk.  Easily the standout performance.

In a strange turn of events the album was picked up for release by the British Saga budget label.  Saga clearly had no idea what to do with the collection doing virtually nothing to promote the LP.  Needless to say it quickly vanished into cutout bins. 

Curiously Saga elected to tap the album for a single:

- 1968's 'No Destination' b/w 'Space' (Saga catalog number Opp 3)

No, it's not quite a lost classic, but it is a fascinating slice of mid-1960s German rock and for the most part it's as good if not better than anything their British, or continental competitors were chuning out.  Well worth tracking down before it gets tagged by collectors ...  


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  3. thanks mr drago very cool album