Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pancake - 1975 - Roxy Elephant

Roxy Elephant

01. Heartfire (4:07)
02. Rolltreppe (1:09)
03. Aeroplane (13:33)
04. End Of The Day (1:25)
05. Remember (4:50)
06. Long Life (4:11)
07. Harmony (3:12)
08. Roxy Elephant (7:00)

- Werner Bauer / bass guitar, vocals
- Günther Konopik / drums, percussions
- Walter Negele / guitar
- Tommy Metzger / guitar, vocals
- Hampy Nerlich / vocals

Formed in 1973 and based in the town of Winnenden, Nyrwana Pancake (beats me where the eclectic name came from ...) showcased the talents of bassist Werner Bauer, lead guitarists Tommy Metzger and Walter Negele, singer Hartmut 'Hampy' Nerlich, and drummer Rainer Rohm (quickly replaced by Gunther Konopik).  

Surprisingly psychedelic and enjoyable, the band debuted with a self-financed and instantly obscure single:

- 1973's 'Open Up Your Eyes' b/w 'Lonesome Boy' (private press catalog number A-1054)

The single was followed by a decision to shorten the name to Pancake.  Over the next two years the band played the club and concert scene while unsuccessfully trying to interest a major label in signing them.  They  eventually decided to release their debut album independently - the result being 1975's self-produced 'Roxy Elephant".  With Negele credited with penning all nine songs, this one's routinely been categorized under the broad 'Krautrock' label.  Personally I don't hear it - these guys were simply too mainstream and rock oriented to fit in the classic Krautrock box (whatever that sound implied).  In fact, I'd argue they had more in common with mid-1970s Pink Floyd than the rest of the Krautrock genre.  The band line-up also set them apart from the Krautrock competition.  Forgoing keyboards, they sported a pair of talented lead guitarists in Metzger and Negele their interplay routinely resulting in some of the album highlights.  Unfortunately, they weren't blessed with a fantastic singer.  Nerlich couldn't be blamed for trying, but his voice was limited in range; his delivery was frequently shrill, and his command of English sounded limited.

- 'Heartfire' opened up with some interesting atmospheric Roger Gilmour-influenced guitar, before jumping into a take-no-prisoners hard rock segment and then morphing into a pretty, mid-tempo rocker.  Propelled by the twin lead guitars the song was actually quite good, though Nerlich's shrill, somewhat tuneless vocals (it also sounded like he'd learned the English lyrics phonetically), took some of the steam out of the performance.  With a more accomplished singer this would have been one amazing debut song.   rating:
- 'Opening up with some martial drumming and classically-influenced lead guitars the instrumental 'Rolltreppe' has always reminded me of something Jan Akkerman might have done on one of his early solo albums.  That's not meant as a criticism since the song was actually one of their prettiest performances with some impressive interplay between Metzger and Negele.  
- Clocking in at over 13 minutes, 'Aeroplane' simultaneously underscored the band's strengths and weaknesses. Snaking through a seemingly never-ending series of aural twists and turns, at various times the song included heavy bursts of synthesizer sound effects, some of the album's best lead guitar, the band drunkenly chanting the title over and over again to what sounded like Russian folk song, a segment of mainstream AOR, and of course some Pink Floyd-ish segments. The song also ended with the cheesiest airplane crash and explosion sounds you've ever heard.  
- Once again showing the 'Metzger - Negele twin lead guitar lineup, the instrumental 'End Of The Day' showcased a mildly Indian-influenced melody.  Shame the song was so short. 
- Opening side two, 'Remember' found the band taking a stroll down a surprisingly commercial alley.  Almost folk-rock, the song had a nice melody, great strumming guitars and another killer twin lead guitar segment.  Even more impressive, Nerlich's vocals didn't even come off as irritating as was normally the casel.   
- 'Long Life' featured a conventional, and rather mundane slice of AOR-styled rock.  They were apparently trying to sound tough and dangerous, but the results were very 'hair band-ish' to my ears.  Really the only thing going on hear were the lead guitars and even those sounded tame compared to other tracks.   rating:
- Frankly 'Harmony' struck me as an aural mess.  It astars
- Bassist Werner Bauer and drummer Gunther Konopik gave the title track an unexpectedly funky (yes) opening which was reinforced by some nice Negele lead guitar.  Another atypical performance, the instrumental 'Roxy Elephant' has always reminded me a bit of a cultural cross between The Allman Brothers and Santana - now that would have been an interesting collaboration.  Overlooking the needless and extended Konopik drum solo, this was a great track and probably my pick for one of the standout performances on the album.  Delete the drum solo and it would be my pick for standout performance.   rating:
It wasn't particularly commercial, or particularly original so frankly I'm not sure why I like this one so much.  (Kudos to engineer Christoph Wertz for getting great sound.)

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