Friday, October 17, 2014

Ananta - 1980 - Songs From The Future

Songs From The Future

01. Songs From the Future
- a. Questions
- b. Apples
- c. Over the Edge
- d. Logical Progressions
- e. Phase Three
02. Break With the Past
03. The Weaver
04. That Precious Machine
05. Dawn

- Ilan Chester / vocals, piano, synthesizer, Hammond
- Alvaro Falcón / guitars
- Emilio Mauri / bass
- Gerry Lopez / drums, percussion
- Kevin Yee / backing vocals
- Michael Cassidy / backing vocals
- Ron Marinelli / backing vocals
- Doctor Subramanium / violin (track 1)

Keith Emerson's bombastic keyboards, Queen's melodies and Jon Anderson's esoteric lyrics with a fusion touch ala Mahavishnu Orchestra and some folk inspired sections... all that written and performed by a Latin Grammy winner....

Ilan Chester is well known as one of the prime latin pop singers/songwriters. But what is little known is that before his hugely successful latin pop career he participated in quite a number of Progressive Rock outfits as both singer and keyboardist with such influences as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Winwood, Mark Stein, etc.

Ilan's most successful prog project was his 70s collaboration with the Spiteri brothers (other stars of the Venezuelan prog scene of the 70s and 80s) while living in London. Such project was named Ananta and released one album in 1977 (Night and Daydream). In 1980 Chester decided it was time to continue with the project, this time in Los Angeles, and gathered a crew of Venezuelan musicians to record Songs From the Future in 1980.

This is a concept album structured in a very particular way, it is based on a story written by Steve Perry about how would the world look like in 100 years from 1980. The band took advantage of the need of splitting the album in two sides (sides A and B of the vinyl) and divided the concept in two parts. Side A is taken by the 5 part suite "Songs From the Future" which narrates a rather pessimistic view of the world as reflected by the chaotic nature of the music. Side B, in opposition to side A, presents the description of an optimistic future through cheerful and uplifting melodies.

The "Songs From the Future" suite, musically, has its good and not so good things. Individually, each section of the suite would have a rating between 4 and 5 stars; but as a suite it fails to be cohesive and we get some abrupt breaks between sections, this makes it loose some points with me.

**"Questions" opens the suite with a keyboard display courtesy of Ilan Chester which demonstrates his amazing ability as a keyboardist and the different keyboard and synth sounds he'll use throughout the record. 4

**"Apples" moves forward with a more accessible sound, nice vocal harmonies and a combination of acoustic piano with electric instrumentation; this combination remembers me of Queen, specially after a fantastic guitar solo that could have easily been Brian May's work... 4.25

**"Over the Edge" is one of my favorite and most experimental segments of the album and it moves towards a jazz-rock style. It opens with some really nice drum, guitar and keyboard performance that builds up to a sound reminiscent of Mahavishnu Orchestra, this impression is enhanced by a mind-blowing violin intervention. 4.5

**"Logical Progressions" returns to a most accessible establishment in which the Queen- like harmonies are still present and the overall sound reminds of Electric Light Orchestra. 4

**"Phase Three" ends the suite with some electronic "futuristic" sounds. An appropriated ending for the first part of the story.

Songs From the Future's overall rating is: 4.19

"Break with the Past" starts the uplifting part of the album with what is probably the most uplifting piece in it. It is a beautiful piece led by the vocal harmonies (Moon Safari fans will enjoy this immensely!). 3.25

"The Weaver" takes a folk approach to the music, still uplifting and really accessible with some nice flute playing thrown into the mix... kind of Jethro Tull meets Moon Safari. 3.75

"That Precious Machine" is a mildly hard rocking piece with some really nice bluesy piano and organ playing and some interesting breaks; and I still get some more of those vocal harmonies I am enjoying so much + a well performed guitar solo. 3.75

"Dawn" closes the album with a ballad led by Ilan singing and playing piano beautifully (with some atmospheric synths in the background... and at some point something that sounded like a mellotron). This is the kind of piece you would expect from an Anderson & Wakeman collaboration, a very nice way of closing the album. 3.25

The lyrics are very well written, but at times they get too esoteric (specially on side B).

Total: 3.64

There's not a bad song in the album and we get some very interesting things, but at the end nothing really essential.

That album has some minor problems such as the sound quality which is less than perfect (it is listeneable though) and the lack of cohesiveness for what is intended to be a concept album (specially inside a suite).

3 stars for a really good but non-essential album. If you manage find it, I'll recommend you to buy this rarity of progressive rock, it's worth it...

You'll see.... every once in a while you'll feel like playing it... It's melodies are simply unforgettable!

Ananta - 1978 - Night and Daydream

Night and Daydream

01. Vrindavan (4:30)
02. Behind the Mask (4:35)
03. Causal Ocean (3:34)
04. Home Sweet Home (3:24)
05. Wheel of Time (8:40)
06. The Game (4:10)
07. Be With You (5:00)
08. Fill Your Heart and Mind (4:45)
09. Night and Daydream (7:30)

Ilan Chester / vocals, piano, moog, synthesizer
- Mark Francis / guitars, flute, saxophone, harpsichord, synthesizer,
bass, vocals
- Patrick Bernard / guitars, vocals
- Jorge Spiteri / bass, vocals
- Charlie Spiteri / percussion, vocals
- Dave Early / drums
- Bradley Weinberg / backing vocals
- Virginia Weinberg / backing vocals
- Pamela Sidney / backing vocals
- Clapham Manor School Girls Choir / backing vocals

Rocker Keith Emerson's, Queen's music and Jon Anderson's, exoteric texts Mahavishnu Orchestra and folk ... you'll find it in the winner's Latin Grammy ...

Ilan Chester is well known as a performer and composer. But who knows until its successful Latin (Venezuela) career (winner of the Latin Grammy 2010), he was a participant in numerous Prog rock project, as a singer and keyboardist with such luminaries as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Winwood, Mark Stein et al.

One of the most successful programs-projects, was created in the 70s, in London, in collaboration with the brothers Spiteri (stars Venezuelan prog scene 70s and 80s) and named Ananta. The result was the only album released in 1978 «Night and Daydream»

Venezuelan band ANANTA was formed in London, UK by Ilan Chester and the brothers Jorge and Charly Spiteri in the late 70's. They were joined by Mark Francis, Patrick Bernard and Dave Early and recorded their initial album Night and Daydream, issued by Touchstone Records in 1978. The album was later released under the alternative titles Wheel of Time and Purana.

The initial line-up of the band folded shortly after, but Chester decided to continue using this moniker. Joined by Alvaro Falcon, Luis Emilio Mauri and Gerry Lopez, this second version of Ananta recorded and released Songs From the Future in 1980.

Ilan Chester would later go on to have a long and succesfull solo career, and is a celebrated figue in the Venezuelan music scene.

 Got the copy of this LP in 1979. It was brought to me by a friend who went on a student exchange trip to London. She brought back two copies, one for her and one for me. Ten years later I bought another copy from the streetseller in Cheltenham having to pay 5 pound for the mint condition. The funny thing is that the both copies still have stickers on them, saying that it was Promotional copy with the price of 1 pound!

Back then, at the age of 17, I was deep into then so called Art-rock. A bit of everything: from Klause Schulze and Tangerine Dream, VDGG, Gentle Giant, Rick Wakeman, Shawn Phillips and even Henry Cow, to name but a few. This album sounded too pop(ish) at the time. As the years went by, every now and then I used to find myself taking it from the shelf almost subconsciously and as time flew by it took a special place in my heart. Only now I think I know the reason why. Over 30 years later I came to conclusion that some artists (prog or not prog) get manage to make kind of fusion between the styles gaining success or even extracting or obtaining new style.But then again, some fine projects end up half-forgotten or get marginalized. For this reason let us make a comparison with Marillion`s Missplaced Childhood. But please hold your horses, not that they swim in the same water, it`s not the same pair of shoes! Missplaced Childhood is also a little bit controversial - it`s not prog enough, sort of speaking, and it`s not pop-rock enough either. (For those not familiar with this album, at least please read some reviews about it, you`ll get the picture!). Now, let`s try to imagine that this was the only Marillion`s album. Where would have we put it?

Hope you see the point because Night and Daydream is hard to "file in" even today. It has got this prog(ish) approach with bits and pieces of everything, including jazz, jazzrock/fusion, elements of classical music, India, a touch of English folk, poprock, it is almost like you name it! But the way how all of the above was used makes this album very "drinkable" as we often say here in Croatia.

The longest tracks on the album are probably the most prog songs. The title song has this unusual but nice intervention after 4 minutes when everything stops and every day pre recorded and mixed sounds start to tell a story about one (human) life. From the first cry, going to school, getting married, travelling, going to war, some more chit-chat and then heavy breathing, siren song, kind of vacuum synth effect, a new baby cry, a new life and the chorus fade in to become kind of coda, fade out and it was only a dream, night and daydream...

All of the songs have spiritual lyrics, since Ilan Chester(born Ilan Czenstochowski, Israel, 1952.) joined Hare Krishna in 1971., but Be With You is definitely the weakest song musically and lyrically, being only a jazzy ballad. On the other side Casual Ocean is beautiful athmospehric miniature with synths and electric piano only. And The Game is satirical/ironical both lyrically and musically. In this quite short composition everybody envolved showed and proved that humour does belong to music. Special credits go to late Dave Early, drumming through the 4/4 groove as if it was 6/8 (shuffle) and adopting it for differrent parts of the song. The paradox is that I will be discovering this drummer six, seven years later(he is the father of the Sade`s famous Sweetest Taboo groove), not even knowing I have already been introduced to his playing.

Well, sometimes I don`t, but for this one I do agree with P.A. It is, by its definition, Crossover Prog. If this was Eclectic or any other kind of sub-genre, I would give it three stars. In this case I`m giving it four stars, and recommending it to everybody swimming in the waters of jazz, because jazz is prevailing on this album.(What else can you expect from mostly studio musicians?)

Odin - 2007 - SWF Sessions 1973

SWF Sessions 1973

01. Turnpike Lane (3:36)
02. Life is Only (11:24)
03. King Kong (10:39)
04. Oh No (6:31)
05. Make Up Your Mind (13:36)

- Jeff Beer / keyboards, percussion, vocals
- Ray Brown / bass, vocals
- Stuart Fordham / drums, percussion
- Bob Terstall / guitar, vocals

Odin are yet another in a seemingly endless stream of early seventies bands that came and went and were forgotten, casualties of changing times and tastes and, in Odin’s case, an energy crisis in Europe in the mid-seventies. This CD is the very late issue of their final studio tracks recorded at Südwestfunk studio U1 in Baden-Baden Germany in 1973, recorded for and played on German radio then but not released until the 21st century. The sound is quite dated but worth a listen for the representative heavy organ and guitar work that holds up surprisingly well after all these years. The album also features a couple of Frank Zappa covers, which the band was known for playing back then in their live shows.

Like bands such as Sweet Smoke (U.S.) and the Trip (British), Odin had to become ex-patriots in search of elusive fame and fortune due to their inability to secure either an audience or a recording contract in their native country. Odin was more like the Trip though in that they acquired local talent as part of the process. Originally British drummer Stuart Fordham (since passed away of cancer) and Dutch guitarist/ vocalist Rob Terstall were part of a band called Honest Truth, which British bassist Ray Brown later joined. The band had picked up a Hungarian keyboardist along the way but when he died unexpectedly the group signed German Jeff Beer (ex- Elastic Grasp) and took on the name Odin. A recording contract and studio album soon followed and the band seemed to be on their way, but legal wrangling and an energy crisis stymied a tour planned for 1973. The band recorded the tracks to this album for German radio in early 1973, but by 1974 they had disbanded with most of the members leaving the rock music business for other ventures. Jeff Beer remained in Germany and pursued a career in multidiscipline art, while Rob Terstall (who also stayed in Germany) continued to perform in a variety of regional jazz and rock outfits including the cover band Motion-Sound. Ray Brown left the music business altogether and today works as a carpenter, while Stuart Fordham returned to England for a career in the electronics business before passing away in 2003.

So what about the music? Well the tracks here are rather unexceptional, but the playing is pretty tight considering the haphazard nature of the band’s makeup as well as the times. The first two tracks are original compositions by Rob Terstall and Jeff Beer/Ray Brown respectively, and both are prototypical heavy organ / blues-psych guitar affairs with some vocal harmonizing and long stretches of instrumental jamming.

The band also offers up a contiguous and somewhat shorter version of Zappa’s disjointed “King Kong” suite, not nearly as wild as Zappa’s but something they probably played in their live shows as well and certainly would have been well-received. Another Zappa cover is their rambling rendition of ‘Weasels Ripped my Flesh' "Oh No", this one sounding more like free-form jazz experiment than anything else, with the majority of the tune being consumed by an extended organ sound orgy and fusion drumming.

The album closes with another jam indulgence, a rather odd cover choice again but this time from Quatermass, the sonically charged “Make up Your Mind”. I’ve never heard the original but a quick fact check shows Odin’s version to run about five minutes longer and I can only assume this is mostly because of the extensive amount of heavy drum/organ jamming that consumes several minutes of recording time.

Odin - 2007 - Live At The Maxim 1971

Live At The Maxim 1971

01. Oh No!
02. Man Of Reason
03. Ohio
04. Silver Dollar
05. My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama
06. Gemini
07. Cinnamon Girl
08. Little House
09. Peaches En Regalia
10. 21st Century Schizoid Man

- Jeff Beer / keyboards, vibraphone, percussion, vocals
- Rob Terstall / guitar, vocals
- Ray Brown / bass, vocals
- Stuart Fordham / drums, percussion

A very good performance, given that they only perform one song of their own. They were all very good musicians and one must be grateful for all that has surfaced recently. Unfortunately, this archive recording is very poor. If this was remastered, as stated on the cover, it must have been atrocious beforehand, sounding as though it were recorded in an echo-filled room with mikes at some distance. I've heard bootlegs that sounded better.
They are frustratingly destined to remain a band who promised so much but circumstances denoted that they were to fall through the cracks prematurely. I can't help thinking that if they'd received the marketing and/or exposure they deserved, they would have been huge, especially in the UK where they fell foul of that dreaded "Winter of discontent", where a planned tour was shelved due to the power cuts and strikes.
A late "find" for me but Odin were pretty special. Forget generic labels and pigeon-holes, they made great music and that's as good a legacy as anyone can hope for.

Odin 1973 Odin


01. Life Is Only (10:55)
02. Tribute To Frank (1:58)
03. Turnpike Lane (3:43)
04. Be The Man You Are (2:45)
05. Gemini (8:54)
06. Eucalyptus (2:51)
07. Clown (8:35)

- Jeff Beer / keyboards, vibraphone, percussion, vocals
- Rob Terstall / guitar, vocals
- Ray Brown / bass, vocals
- Stuart Fordham / drums, percussion

Odin, like NEKTAR was a British band residing in Germany. While NEKTAR received some success (especially the United States when Passport Records showed an interest in their music), ODIN simply released one album, disappeared, and has pretty much been ignored. The album was released on the swirl Vertigo label, and due to its obscurity, one of the more desired titles on the label. While NEKTAR sometimes flirted with Krautrock styles (often so far as being called Krautrock, even if they weren't German), ODIN mainly stuck to a heavy guitar/organ-dominated prog style that was typical of the British scene of the early '70s. The band consisted of Jeff Beer on keyboards, Ray Brown on bass, Stuart Fordham on drums, and Rob Terstall on guitar, all credited to vocal duties, aside from the drummer.

If you love the sound of the Hammond organ, this album is a total must, often Jeff Beer played his organ with fuzz tone, not unlike DEEP PURPLE's Jon Lord, or Peter Robinson's work with QUATERMASS (whose style was much closer to Lord's in that band than say, when he was in BRAND X, which was much more similar to Robin Lumley's). In fact the band so much as covers a QUATERMASS song as well!

The album starts off with "Life Is Only", a totally killer piece stuffed with cool guitar and organ solos. There are some passages that bear more than a passing resemblance to ELP, in fact it's the only piece on the album to feature ELP-like passages. "Tribute to Frank" is a jazzy instrumental that brings to mind some of ZAPPA's instrumental works, so unsurprisingly the tribute would be to Frank ZAPPA. "Turnpike Lane" features a lot of wordless vocals, and at times almost reminding me of certain Italian prog bands. Of course, the guitar and organ solos are more typical of British bands. "Be the Man You Are" finds the band doing a nice, laid-back acoustic piece. Certainly the vocals are no CSNY, but still a nice piece. Then there's the cover of QUATERMASS' "Gemini". If you know the original, you'll find they pretty much stick to the original, except they added on guitars (since of course ODIN featured a guitarist and QUATERMASS didn't), and an extended solo the original didn't have. "Eucalyptus" is a rather laid-back instrumental piece with some early string synth (presumably a Freeman, as it's too early for the Elka or Solina, and the Eminent, which was around in '72, didn't seem to get much use outside of Italy and France). "Clown" goes back to the heavy style that is most typical for this band.

The album was luckily reissued on CD, and given the kind of music this is, this album would be perfect for Repertoire Records out of Germany to reissue. Instead a small German label called Living in the Past got a hold of it, making it not as easy to get a hold of, but if you can find a copy, get it!

Certainly the music is dated, the heavy organ/guitar format of the music makes it obvious that this was the early '70s, but as long as the music is great, as this album demostrates, I don't care.

Truly an amazing and forgotten gem of British prog. If you like early '70s guitar/organ- driven prog, this album is a total must!

Zbigniew Namyslowski - 1981 - Air Condition

Zbigniew Namyslowski 
Air Condition

01. Speed Limit
02. Play It To Me
03. Pretty Dowseress
04. Ladderman
05. Dilemma
06. Convenient Circumstances
07. We'll Have A Nice Day

Alto Saxophone, Sopranino Saxophone – Zbigniew Namyslowski
Bass – Krzysztof Scieranski
Drums – Andrzej Mrowiec
Guitar – Dariusz Kozakiewicz
Keyboards – Adzik Sendecki
Percussion – Malina (3)

Zbigniew Namyslowski: versatile musician, composer, bandleader; The Jazzman. The Discover. In the mid-fifties he discovered modern jazz and the fact that it can be played on cello. In the early sixties he had more discoveries: alto saxophone for himseif, the "Jazz Rockers", the prophetic name for his group, the name that would berather relevant to the present times; he also found a mighty jazz all called "rhythm and blues", and discovered Michal Urbaniak, a star-musician followe by the list of further discoveries that he launched to the European and World jazz space: Czeslaw Bartkowski, Adam Makowicz, Wlodzimierz Gulgowski and Tomasz Szukalski. Their followers will be found on this record. In 1962, for the first time he discovered America with John Coltrane's music, and  Poland with its folk music. In both cases he found out genius of the same format, and followed the paths of Chopin and Szymanowski to find in his native music universal values and to add to it his own touch and flavour which makes this music sound even more universal.

Certainly, this is not the record "that requires recommendation. Poland's champiom in jazz leads the group of the best youngsters to play dance tunes. Maestro of a instruments, bandleader No.l, the herald of the jazz-rock and folk alliance. The Artist at your service, Ladies and Gentlemenl This is you who are heroes of this art. This you for whom all this music has been composed: samba, waltz and other tunes that are so easy not to frighten you so sophisticated to fascinate you and so difficult to make you feel obliged.

This is you for whom the youngest gladiators were convoked, thanks to which the records breathes with music like a saxophone and flute, in its most fabulous  moments it calls back with a choir of guitar strings, with the song of the  keyboard barking of the bass and chase. There is invisible magic  on this record a that noise of blue, beige and black; perilous lullaby and the Magnificent Six. Maybe, you will not be able to hear it. Even then, my Friend to follow kite!
Tomasz Tluczkiewicz

Zbigniew Namyslowski - 1977 - Zbigniew Namyslowski

Zbigniew Namyslowski
Zbigniew Namyslowski

01. Pod Dobra Godzina
02. Gdy Zakwitnie Miesiac Maj
03. Mango-Boogie
04. Jasmine Flavoured
05. Uplyw Czasu
06. Przejazdzka Na UFO

Sax - Zbigniew Namyslowski
Bass – Pawel Jarzebski
Drums – Janusz Stefanski
Guitar – Marek Blizinski
Percussion – Józef Gawrych, Wieslaw Kowalewski*
Piano – Slawomir Kulpowicz

We have known Zbigniew Namyslowski so far as a musician of a small ensemble. Indeed his groups had not for years exceeded the size of a quintet, and lately he has even been playing in a quartet. On this record, however, Namyslowski, by writing his pieces for quartet and orchestra, has created for himself and his remarkable colleagues a vast and colourful tone background. The idea itself is not new; some major jazz and rock groups have been doing such recordings already. What's new in Namyslowski's approach is, I think the way he is treating here the orchestra. It is no longer restricted to play sweeping chords as merely a harmonic background. Being at once arranger and composer he has assigned the symphonic players an exacting task by writing for them the rhythmic patterns typical of contemporary jazz. And one must admit that they fulfil that task for the most part satisfactorily, thereby giving this recording an unusual expression and a refreshing quality of novelty. Julian Cannonball Adderley said on one occasion that Zbigniew Namyslowski was one of the greatest jazz musicians he had ever known. This recording, with its features of genius, made by Namyslowski on the twentieth anniversary of his activities, does confirm this opinion a hundred per cent

Zbigniew Namyslowski - 1975 - Kujaviak Goes Funky

Zbigniew Namyslowski 
Kujaviak Goes Funky

01. Kujaviak Goes Funky - Gesowka - Appenzeller's Dance
02. Smutny Jasio
03. Quiet Afternoon
04. Zablakana Owieczka

Zbigniew Namyslowski - alto sax
Tomasz Szukalski - soprano & tenor sax
Wojciech Karolak - electric piano
Pawel Jarzebski - bass
Czeslaw Bartkowski - drums

Zbigniew Namyslowski - 1973 - Winobranie

Zbigniew Namyslowski

01. Winobranie
02. Jak Nie Masz Szmalu To Jest Laz
03. Nie Mniej Niz 5%
04. Gogoszary
05. Pierwsza Pielgrzymka
06. Ballada Na Grzedzie
07. Misie
08. Taj Mahal / Winobranie
09. Companies etc

Bass – Pawel Jarzebski
Bass Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone – Tomasz Szukalski
Cello, Composed By, Piano, Alto Saxophone – Zbigniew Namyslowski
Drums – Kazimierz Jonkisz
Trombone, Percussion – Stanislaw Cieslak

Recorded in Warsaw, February 1973.

This and Don Cherry's Eternal Rhythm are the best examples of fusing jazz and world music that I have heard.  The album is essentially a quasi-suite that confidently juggles a wide variety of styles: bop, free, Polish and Balkan folk, Hindu, and jazz-rock that for once does not turn my stomach over.  As often with the best Polish jazz albums, of particular strength are numerous duos, including a great one between bass and electric cello.  Namyslowski is a master saxophonist, but here he also convincingly plays cello, piano, and flute; the latter's smooth tone perfectly calms the music down after the periods of intense jamming.  Szukalski is spectacular on tenor, which he intersperses with
bass clarinet phrases.  All of this adds to an impressive stylistic and instrumental variety of the music.  The most astonishing is the last track, where the ability of the musicians to emulate Hindu-influenced sound textures with traditional jazz instruments is uncanny.  It took me a while before I realized that no sitar (a prepared piano) or tempura (the bass) are involved.  A true masterpiece that displays Namyslowski's rhythmic genius and openness to the world music.

Novalis - 2009 - Letztes Konzert

Letztes Konzert

101. Kein Frieden (3:35)
102. Ich hab noch nicht gelernt zu lieben (4:12)
103. Cassandra (3:52)
104. Spazieren im Morgen (4:02)
105. Nimm meine Hand (4:47)
106. Vielleicht bin ich ein Clown (6:47)
107. Über Stock und Stein (4:13)
108. Bumerang (4:52)
109. Mit den Zugvögeln (3:47)

201. Ansage (0:30)
202. Rückkehr (8:19)
203. Fährmann (4:46)
204. Kleinwenig mehr (3:49)
205. Sterntaucher (5:34)
206. Grenzen (8:01)
207. Wer Schmetterlinge lachen hört - Irgendwo, Irgendwann (12:18)

- Fred Mühlböck / vocals, flute, guitars, Variophon
- Detlef Job / guitars, vocals
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards
- Heino Schünzel / bass, vocals
- Hartwig Biereichel / drums

Recorded live in 1984

Novalis - 1993 - Novalis Lebt!

Novalis Lebt!

01. Grenzen (6:52)
02. Fährmann (4:51)
03. Vielleicht bin Ich ein Clown (6:41)
04. Danmark (3:31)
05. Kein frieden (3:29)
06. Herbstwind (5:18)
07. Frühsport im Sachsenwald (5:52)
08. Du bist schön (3:57)
09. Cassandra (3:31)
10. Neumond (3:28)
11. Ich will hier Raus (3:57)
12. Ich hab noch nicht gelernt zu Lieben (4:03)
13. Mit den Zugvögeln (3:25)
14. Alle wollen leben (4:54)
15. Kleinwenig mehr (3:19)
16. Sterntaucher (5:37)
17. Grenzen (2:18)

- Lutz Rahn / keyboards
- Fred Mühlböck / vocals, guitar
- Detlef Job / electric and acoustic guitars, vocals
- Heino Schünzel / bass, vocals
- Hartwig Biereichel / drums

Recorded live in 1981-84
Remixed by Lutz Rahn in 1993

Novalis - 1985 - Nach Uns Die Flut

Nach Uns Die Flut

01. Die Show ist aus (3:43)
02. Im Neonlicht der Nacht (4:10)
03. Drachen im Wind (3:36)
04. Nach uns die Flut (4:20)
05. Wo sind die Sieger am Ende der Nacht (3:50)
06. ...und wenn die Gitarren brennen (3:26)
07. Hamburg (ertrinken möcht ich nicht in Dir (4:40)
08. Heute oder nie (4:00)
09. Gingst vorbei (3:18)
10. 100 Tage und Nächte verloren in Altona (4:03)
11. Wohin willst Du gehn (4:17)
12. Applaus Applaus (2:50)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums
- Ernst Herzner / lead vocals
- Detlef Job / acoustic & electric guitars
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards
- Hinrich Schneider / bass

With Fred Mühlböck gone after a decade as the enthused voice of NOVALIS, one would have at least expected the group to acknowledge their long life and legacy by bowing out, but they soldiered on for precisely one more album. Ernst Herzner sings on a collection of dispensable pop tunes that sound like MEATLOAF served to MEN WITHOUT HATS and TOTO, and look about as ugly. I had hoped that "Flut" in the title referred to the beloved woodwind and possibly its resurgence at this late date, but alas, it means "flood", which is also a fair description of the end result. The production is much more "modern" as well, even compared with the immediately prior releases.

Being soft-hearted, I can't claim to be entirely unmoved by NOVALIS' reckless abandon and turbocharged new look, but ultimately this is tepid 80s AOR that takes very few chances. I'm not blaming Herzner who actually acquits himself quite well with the poor material. The hooks are predictable and dramatic in an overwrought sort of way, with "Im Neonlich Der Nacht", "100 Tage Und Nächte Verloren In Altona", ".. Und Wenn Die Gitarren Brennen" and "Heute Oder Nie" being the best/worst examples. "Drachem im Wind" and "Applaus Applaus" don't even that much appeal unless BRYAN ADAMS is your thing, while the title track seems to come out of the "Against All Odds" soundtrack. Probably the best song is "Wohin Willst Du Gehn" which reminds me of some folky turned electric and I can't think of whom.

Novalis - 1984 - Bumerang


01. Nimm meine Hand (4:35)
02. Setz' dich zu mir (3:27)
03. Spazieren im Morgen (3:50)
04. Torero der Nacht (4:15)
05. Über Stock und Stein (3:50)
06. Bumerang (4:27)
07. Wien (3:36)
08. Horoskop (3:37)
09. Espresso (3:11)
10. Talisman (3:46)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums
- Detlef Job / electric guitar
- Fred Mühlböck / vocals, sax, flute, guitars
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards, Moog bass

- Thissy Thiers / bass (1 - 4, 8, 10)

By the time it came around in 1984, Novalis had constantly been refining and essentially removing the more interesting elements of their music. Here we're left with a stylish but somewhat bland fancy pop band very much influenced by much better prog/pop artists like Roxy Music, Queen and Genesis, and especially solo Phil Collins with plenty of awful bashing booming 80's drums.

Let's get one thing out of the way - this album could not be further away from the classic double of `Novalis' and `Sommerabend', but that doesn't mean it's completely useless. `Bumerang' is comprised of sophisticated 80's adult pop, three instrumental pieces (don't get too excited though, prog fans) and a couple of truly cheesy and wretched duds. The album has a super polished production, and it's well played with driving guitar work, upfront bass playing and forceful if basic drumming, while the keyboards/synths are used very sparingly. Vocalist Fred Muhlbock adopts a deep Bryan Ferry romantic croon which you'll either love or hate. To be honest, even on their earlier more progressive albums, I've always found him to be a wildly inconsistent vocalist.

Side A's `Nimme Meine Hand's has somber and eerie synths over the top of solo Phil Collins-style plastic programmed percussion. Drifting lonely sax, Fred's Bryan Ferry-like dark croon and eventually a massive stomping 80's drum beat kicks in and brings the piece comes to life. `Seitz Dich Zu Mir' sounds like a cross between The Police and Roxy Music with aggressive and super thick leaping bass and a dancing drumbeat. `Spazieren Im Morgan' is a placid ballad with a lovely lead vocal and pleasant flute solos - probably one of the better tracks. `Torero Der Nacht' has strange and bent spacey keyboards over more Roxy-influenced vocal beckoning. Sounds like something off their `Flesh and Blood' album.

Side B's title track `Bumerang' frequently gets your hopes up. The piece alternates between eerie synths and cold electronic sections that build a floating and mysterious atmosphere, while being obliterated by Bryan Ferry, oh, I mean Fred's come-hither yearning and more plodding drumwork. Probably one of the better pieces on the album that really had some potential. `Horoskop' is a boppy and bouncy cheesy dance number with an admittedly catchy pop chorus, but it's still vile and far too cheery. Only the oddly heavy and aggressive guitar playing and some sprightly bass moments keep it bearable...sort of. At least the band wraps the album with the more downbeat `Talisman'. Nice murmuring bass, glistening synths and a somber vocal. It's stylish pop for grown ups and actually displays a little bit of subtlety. More of this and the title track, and we could have had a much more satisfying album overall.

As for the three instrumental pieces, they're mostly insipid and vapid vocal-free rock with no real purpose. Not unlistenable, just completely shallow and empty, if kind of bearable. `Ubert Stock Und Stein' has a soaring but repetitive guitar line wailing over a horrid plastic drumbeat and handclap percussion, Alan Parsons Project style synth washes and chiming guitar. There's impossibly loud and echoing `In The Air Tonight' booming drum-solos throughout the second half too. `Wien' has disco-like funky guitar over wailing solos and more lifeless drumming. Much of `Expresso' sounds like an instrumental version of Queen's `Radio GaGa', but once again Detlef Job's confident and forceful guitar work gives the tracks a bit of taste.

I've always found it fascinating when prog bands try to attempt a balance between progressive inventiveness and commercial appeal. I didn't look on this album as an easy target for a 1 or 2 star rating, I really wanted to approach it fairly and consider it's strengths and weaknesses here. However, It's only fair to mark the album down for having far more pop elements than prog ones, and after all, this is a progressive rock website!

While `Bumerang' is far from a jewel in the Novalis discography, it's still a pleasant if undemanding sophisticated pop album with some tasteful arrangements, especially among the two or three darker pieces. You can still hear the talent of the musicians, even if what they're playing isn't overly involving or complex. It's nothing mind-blowing, but not bad for a pleasant background listen if you can forgive the 80's pop trappings and questionable trends present.

Novalis - 1983 - Sterntaucher


01. Fährmann (4:51)
02. Ich will hier 'raus (4:04)
03. Abschied (3:46)
04. Keiner kann gewinnen (7:34)
05. Kleinwenig mehr (3:35)
06. Sterntaucher (4:35)
07. Grenzen (6:28)
08. Sinus (5:44)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums
- Detlev Job / guitars
- Fred Mühlböck/ vocals, guitars, variophon
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards

- Klaus Bohlmann / backing vocals
- Dierk Elwart / backing vocals
- Heinz Fröhlich / bass
- Manfred Seegers / sax (5)

The band sounded tired by this point. They made a couple of half-assed attempts at epics (“Grenzen”, the rather lugubrious “Keiner kann gewinnen”), but for the most part their energy seemed spent. The closing instrumental, “Sinus”, is rather nice, though it struck me as a poor-man’s “Blauer Morgen” more than anything else.

Novalis - 1982 - Neumond


01. Anakonda (4:03)
02. Oft sagt man mehr, wenn man schweigt (5:13)
03. Frühsport im Sachsenwald (5:48)
04. Du bist schön (4:05)
05. Kein Frieden (3:34)
06. Neumond (3:28)
07. Nachttraum (8:09)
08. Blauer Morgen

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums
- Detlef Job / guitars, vocals
- Fred Mühlböck / vocals, flute, guitars, variophon
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards

- Heinz Fröhling / basses
- Herb Geller / alto sax (2)
- Gillian Scalici / backing vocals

 Survival is the biological imperative. Adapt or die, to quote P.W. Botha out of context. I therefore appreciate prog bands' efforts to roll with the times back in the increasingly bleak 80s, provided their compositions remain at least partly true to the progressive spirit, if not the letter of the law. CAMEL proved it could be done. NOVALIS was a more qualified success; they never produced anything awful, but by 1982 they were a very different group, with less of a defined sound.

With "Neumond", the group finally surrendered to the Digital Deities, which casts a clinical shadow over cuts like the admittedly interesting "Anakonda" and the drab title track. Moreover, pop excesses inundate whatever prog tendencies one might have found in "Oft sagt man mehr, wenn man schweigt" and "Du bist schön", although the latter does make for a hypnotic German take on ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION. Even where the group stretches out as in "Nachttraum", it seems like a watered down recycling of the already somnolent "Sommerabend".

The best cuts here are actually those that conjure up other German bands of various pedigrees. "Frühsport im Sachsenwald" sounds like something out of the AMON DUUL II playbook circa "Vive la Trance", while "Kein Frieden" could double in for "Performance"-era ELOY (I know, this album predates the Eloy work, but you will see the reference) except with Frank Bornemann finally singing in his mother tongue, which many felt he should have done out of the gate. The closer "Blauer Morgen" the best of several approximations to the nascent TANGERINE DREAM soundtrack era. It's no wonder NOVALIS was trying out these styles, as Eloy and TD in particular were enjoying significant success even at this late date. I might add that ANYONE's DAUGHTER was still pumping out quality German language product at this time, and in fact their shining "Neu Sterne", which means "New Stars" was released the same year as NOVALIS' "New Moon".

Novalis - 1980 - Augenblicke


01. Danmark (3:30)
02. Ich hab' noch nicht gelernt zu Lieben (3:30)
03. Cassandra (3:26)
04. Herbstwind (4:46)
05. Mit den Zugvogeln (3:16)
06. Sphinx (3:25)
07. Als kleiner Junge (5:16)
08. Magie einer Nacht (3:55)
09. Begegnungen (4:47)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums
- Detlef Job / guitars, vocals
- Fred Mühlböck / vocals, guitars, flute, variophon
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards, PPG Wave computer
- Heino Schünzel / bass

Of course, this album is not as good as their great early days ones. Even Antoine (Febus) who was a huge fan decided to stop reviewing them after ''Vielleicht Bist Du Ein Clown''. Since I started my reviewing process with another philosophy, I will review some more of their works even if we all know that the best is of course behind.

I know therefore that my friend won't be upset while reading these lines in the prog Walhalla.

The best of this album is the good instrumental opener ''Danmark''. I have always appreciated their instrumental passages; I am rather reluctant in terms of German vocals and the ones from ''Ich Hab' Noch Nicht Gelernt Zu Lieben'' are just confirming this aversion.

The popish orientation that could be felt in some previous works is accentuated here. It is not because ''Cassandra'' is an instrumental piece of music, that it is per se a good one. Not bad, but the poignant moments of their debut for instance is totally alien to such a track.

The whole boredom of the band can be felt during ''Herbstwind'': a totally uninspired and unemotional song. The cherry on the cake is of course these painful German lyrics. Ouch! But the band quickly opted for these as soon as their second album, and they were quite successful in their home country, so.

The good news about ''Augenblicke'' (one moment), is that lots of tracks are instrumental ones, like the tranquil ''Mit Den Zugvögeln''. Somewhat repetitive but featuring fine keyboards. As a guitar counterpart, ''Sphinx'' is rather pleasant. A fine melody, a nice execution but again, I would have liked some more passion in here. Still, it is another pleasant song.

Novalis - 1979 - Flossenengel


01. Atlanto (5:12)
02. Im Brunnen der Erde (4:28)
03. Brennende Freiheit (2:20)
04. Im Netz (8:38)
05. Flossenngel (3:26)
06. Walzer für einen verlorenen Traum (3:27)
07. Sklavenzoo (6:00)
08. Alle wollen leben (4:45)
09. Rückkehr (6:00)
10. Ob Tier, ob Mensch, ob Baum (1:50)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums, percussion
- Detlef Job / guitars, vocals
- Fred Mühlböck / guitars, vocals
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards
- Heino Schünzel / bass, vocals
Rale Oberpichler

It is largely true that the most popular German prog bands of the 70s remained steadfast to their roots and vision right through the decade. One could argue cynically that they were popular with this style, so why change it, and, if punk and new wave were known to these groups, which they must have been, this did not represent an either/or situation. Prog bands could continue to ply their trade and share the spotlight with the upstarts. ELOY and NOVALIS demonstrated this, and the scene was accommodating enough to allow ANYONE's DAUGHTER to release their first album in 1979.

Notably, NOVALIS' entry at the end of the decade seems to have been a concept work about nature and its woes thanks to man, and how they could reconcile. The lovely cover of a cetacean tail beckons us within, and the album remits many delights. The contrasts between light and heavy are more pronounced than on the prior "Clown", and the group does not handle the rawer tunes as well. But "Im Netz" is a striking spacey ballad with a killer hook, and the title track is an enchanting ballad that could have crossed over to the charts. The best of the upbeat numbers is the instrumental "Walzer für einen verlorenen Traum", which shows that NOVALIS can still enrapture with mellifluous delights. If "Sklavenzoo", "Alle wollen leben", and "Ob Tier, ob Mensch, ob Baum" are shoddy rockers that show the group is losing touch with some of the intricacies of the last album, the melodically profound "Rückkehr " implies that their mellow touch is perhaps stronger than ever.

While "Flossenengel" is not as consistently enduring as "Clown", it closes the decade on a high note, with the group apparently healthier than many of its compatriots. Allow yourself to be touched by this "fluid angel".

Novalis - 1978 - Vielleicht bist Du ein Clown

Vielleicht bist Du ein Clown

01. Der Geigenspieler (8:15)
02. Zingaresca (5:12)
03. Manchmal fällt der Regen eben (3:50)
04. Vielleicht bin Ich ein Clown? (6:22)
05. City-Nord (6:07)
06. Die Welt wird alt und wieder jung
   (Original text by Friedrich Schiller, adapted by F. Mühlböck) (4:30)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums, kettle drum, percussion
- Detlef Job / acoustic, electric & slide guitars, vocals
- Fred Mühlböck / vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, flute
- Lutz Rahn / Hammond H100 organ, acoustic & electric pianos, strings, Mellotron, PPG synth, clavinet
- Heino Schünzel / bass, vocals

The fifth Novalis studio album, Vielleicht Bist Du Ein Clown? (1978), gets off to a flying start with Detlef Job's wonderful composition Der Geigenspieler. Skilfully crafted around acoustic guitar, Mellotron and string-synth, this is easily the best Novalis song since Wunderschatze. It features Job and Fred Muhlbock singing alternate sections in turn, Job's quiet pensive verses contrasting beautifully with Muhlbock's upbeat resolute choruses. The final few minutes of Der Geigenspieler find the band getting a rare chance to rock, with Lutz Rahn deserving special praise for his superb Hammond work. The album also closes strongly with Die Welt Wird Alt Und Wieder Jung, an introspective ballad that features simply piano and Mellotron (cello and strings) accompaniment. However the rest of the material here is something of a mixed bag.

The instrumental Zingaresca sounds a bit like Camel; believe it or not I can even hear a little of Santana thanks to guest percussionist Tommy Goldschmidt's congas. Job plays slide guitar on Manchmal Fallt Der Regen Eben Lang, which otherwise is a catchy pop song in the mould of Irgendwo, Irgendwahn from Brandung. Vielleicht Bin Ich Ein Clown is a touch monotonous and it doesn't feature Muhlbock singing at his best, although he does play some mean flute on this song. Lutz Rahn's composition, City-Nord, is a synthesizer-led instrumental and in my opinion is the best of the rest here. So a few tracks are of dubious quality, and while this isn't one of their best efforts it's really not that bad overall. I don't think Novalis can be written off as a prog band with this album, because the opening song in particular shows they could still produce some beautiful, mellow progressive music.

Novalis - 1977 - Konzerte


01. Bolero (0:51)
02. Dronsz (2:41)
03. Es färbt sich die Wiese grün (9:04)
04. Impressionen (10:00)
05. Wer Schmetterlinge lachen hört (9:14)
06. Wunderschätze (11:33)
07. Sommerabend (19:19)
 a) Wetterleuchten
 b) Am Strand
 c) Der Traum
 d) Ein neuer Tag
 e) Ins Licht

Bonus tracks
(recorded live at the Winterhuder Fährhaus in December 1978) on 2008 CD:

08. Wenn nicht mehr Zahlen und Figuren (3:07)
09. Astralis (8:58)
10. Irgendwo, Irgendwan (4:28)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums, gongs
- Detlef Job / electric guitar, vocals
- Fred Mühlböck / vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, flute
- Lutz Rahn / Hammond H100 organ, PPG synth, Mellotron, electric piano, clavinet, Solina strings
- Heino Schünzel / bass, vocals

 Few albums unveil a new member with a live recording, but that's precisely what Novalis did with their first (of two) 1977 releases. KONZERTE is a live document that also serves as a prémiere for the band's new frontman, Austrian singer Fred Mühlböck. Mühlböck is probably the first real singer the band ever had. Prior to his membership, the vocals were understated in a Camel sense, there just to have someone singing. But Mühlböck actually has something of a vocal presence: he's dramatic without falling into the trap of having fits of spastic, tasteless "hard rock" histrionics like so many others. He also plays guitar, so earlier pieces like "Wer Schmetterlinge lachen hört" can be interpreted in fullest glory. Also, he's a flute player, adding additional texture to an already full and rich sound.

 This is a very good live concert from one of the most original Krautrock bands. It captures Novalis at their creative peak. The long compositons contain many wonderful changing climates, from mellow, classical and folky to up-tempo rock and bombastic symphonic. The keyboard sound is magnificent, especially if you like the vintage keyboards, to me they always sound so warm and distinctive.

Novalis - 1977 - Brandung


01. Irgendwo, Irgendwahn (4:35)
02. Wenn nicht mehr zahlen und figuren (3:03)
03. Astralis (8:50)
04. Sonnenwende: (16:56)
 a) Brandung (3:42)
 b) Feuer bricht in die Zeit (3:56)
 c) Sonnenfinsternis (3:30)
 d) Dämmerung (5:48)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums, percussion
- Detlef Job / guitars, vocals
- Fred Mühlböck / vocals, acoustic guitar, flute
- Lutz Rahn / Hammond organ, clavinet, PPG-synth, Mellotron, acoustic & electric pianos, strings
- Heino Schünzel / bass, vocals

By the time of their fourth studio album, Brandung (1977), Novalis had added new vocalist Fred Muhlbock to the line-up. As well as singing, Muhlbock also played acoustic guitar and added some very welcome flute to the band's sonic palette. For me this album represents Novalis at the apex of their career. I understand what others have said about the band adopting a more commercial approach here, and of having largely discarded the pastoral sound that characterised their two previous albums. Muhlbock's name features prominently among the song writing credits, so he must have had a big say in this change of direction.

Ok, so Novalis nail their colours to the mast straight away with Irgendwo, Irgendwahn. This is just finger-clickin' sing-along pop with a Mellotron added. I for one won't criticise Novalis for this song though. Prog gods Yes released the radio-friendly Wondrous Stories in the same year; what's sauce for the goose. Wenn Nicht Mehr Zahlen Und Figuren is more in traditional Novalis mode, being a quiet reflective ballad featuring acoustic guitar and chiming electric piano. This is followed by the near 9-minute Astralis, with lyrics that I believe were inspired by the band's early-Romantic namesake author. This is the album's main highlight in my opinion, with earnest vocals, memorable melodies and interesting instrumental development. This song also features Lutz Rahn playing one of my favourite keyboards, the clavinet. I don't know if Carlo Karges made off with the band's clavinet when he left after the second album, but I missed it on Sommerabend. Maybe the instrument didn't suit the material on that album. Whatever the case, it makes a welcome return on a couple of tracks here.

The remainder of the album is taken up with the near 17 minute Sonnenwende, which I believe may be a companion piece to Sommerabend's title song. Sonnenwende is a multi- part suite featuring four distinct tracks, the first being the instrumental Brandung. This features nice interplay between Muhlbock's flute, sounding very like Mellotron-flute, and Detlef Job's twanging guitar. The groove here is very much in the hypnotic style that Novalis excelled at, although it gets funkier just after halfway with some more of that clavinet. The second section, Feuer Bricht In Die Zeit, continues in similar up-beat mode but the final two sections are more in keeping with the band's pastoral leanings. Sonnenfinsternis is a contemplative ballad with sensitive flute and Hammond interplay. Dammerung continues in similar vein with tender synthesizer backed by acoustic piano and guitar, while Muhlbock's fervent vocal brings things to a suitably dramatic climax.

I was fortunate enough to get a copy of the deleted Repertoire/Brain version of this several years ago without having to pay 'silly' money. However it's now widely available in a mini gatefold version, so now's your chance to get hold of this fine album. Borderline progressive maybe, but delightful nonetheless.

Novalis - 1976 - Sommerabend


01. Aufbruch (9:37)
02. Wunderschätze (Originaltext von Novalis um 1798) (10:37)
03. Sommerabend (18:17)
 a) Wetterleuchten (3:50)
 b) Am Strand (4:20)
 c) Der Traum (3:50)
 d) Ein neuer Tag (4:25)
 e) Ins Licht (1:52)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums
- Detlef Job / guitars, vocals
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards
- Heino Schünzel / bass, vocals

 Novalis incarnated one of the finest expressions of German symph prog, with their third album 'Sommerabned' being regarded by many as one of their top achievements. Tehir prog style is heavily influenced by Nektar, 73-75 era Pink Floyd - just similarly to their more veteran compatriots of Eloy -, and to a certain degree, 70-71 era Genesis and early BJH. The compostions are not too complicated, but despite their relative simplicity, the melody lines and harmonic textures are quite attractive and effective: Rahn's role on keyboards proves to be crucial at his point, creating the perfect ambience for Job's guitar solos and some of his own, while the rhythm section allows the themes breathe at ease, in an evocative manner. The opening instrumental is a powerful entry, IMHO, the best number in the album, since its energy is managed with gentle skill. 'Wunderschätze', whose lyrics are teaken from a Novalis' poem, starts in a lyrical mood with a prominent role for acoustic guitar arpeggios: later, in the interlude and the closing section, things get a bit harder in order to prepare the way to the bombastic climax. Finally, the namesake 18-minute suite comprises the "best of both worlds", that is, the energy of track 1 and the lyrical introspectiveness of track 2. IMHO, this is the less successful number in the album, since it fails to create a more varied structure that would have made perfect sense otherwise, given the overall duration of the track. With too few tempo changes, only the cleverly crafted chord changes that take place now and then keep this suite from becoming monotonous: anyway, the performers' finesse is always there, and all in all, this is a very good album. Recommended, though not a masterpiece.

Novalis - 1975 - Novalis


01. Sonnengeflecht (4:06)
02. Wer Schmetterlinge lachen Hört (9:16)
03. Dronsz (4:53)
04. Impressionen (nach Themen der 5 Symphonie von Anton Bruckner (8:55)
05. Es färbte sich die Wiese grün (Originaltext von Novalis um 1798) (8:16)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums
- Detlef Job / guitar
- Carlo Karges / guitar, keyboards
- Lutz Rahn / keyboards
- Heino Schünzel / bass, vocals

Novalis's second album is a good example of mid to late 70's German symphonic rock , although the album is also verging on the hard rock line as many of their peers did also. I am thinking of Birth Control, Jane on one side Eloy , Grobschnitt on the other. Novalis , unlike many bands, did not become professionals until 1978 (they had five albums done already) as they became really more and more popular with each new album but also as each one of those became increasingly commercial and less progressive - they say so themselves.

Three main changes between this self-titled album and their debut Banished Bridge: first the text/lyrics are in German , the producer is Achim Reichel (Embryo) and there is a very welcome guitar presence in the term of not one but two guitartist present here, most notably Karges (ex-Tomorrow's Gift and Future Nena"Luftballon"). Karges is especially an excellent addition as he will write exactly 50% of the tracks on this album and KB man Rahn the other 50%. The sound is still heavily KB rooted with the good old Hammond but also moogs , clavinets and all. However, the guitars bring in an equilibrium lacking on their debut and by now they sound a bit like the Deep Purple we all love but much more progressive than the Mk II line-up.

The 9 min+ pièce de resistance of side 1 is simply excellent with many twists and turns sprinkled with Wagnerian touches (well they are Germans , right) , but wait till you get to side 2 with the Anton Bruckner derived themed Impressionen and the last track with lyrics from romantic poet Karl Friedrich "Novalis" von Hardenberg and superb interplaying between Karges , Rahn and Job. With the latest re-issue , comes a bonus live track of Impressionen, a bit different than the studio and not interferring with the playing of the album.

After this album , Karges will leave , leaving Novalis to do a few more albums (less succesful artistically-wise IMHO, but I am in a minority) . This album is their pinnacle and shows best what theydid best , a sort of hard-prog so much in vogue in Germany during those years.

Novalis - 1973 - Banished Bridge

Banished Bridge

01. Banished bridge (17:06)
02. High evolution (4:27)
03. Laughing (9:10)
04. Inside of me (inside of you) (6:40)

- Hartwig Biereichel / drums, percussion
- Lutz Rahn / organ, mellotron, piano, synthesizers
- Heino Schünzel / bass
- Jürgen Wenzel / vocals, acoustic guitar

Debut album from this Hamburg quartet (standard prog formation, even if the guitarist does not go electric), Banished Bridge is one of the earlier example of a German symphonic prog (the group preferred calling it "Romantic Rock" and their group's name was taken after one of Germany's best known romantic poet), and Novalis will be around until at least the mid-80's. Although their artwork is as bland (dare I say blank? ;-) as you can get, the least we can say is that the music inside the sleeve would've deserved a much better treatment.

Although the album was not groundbreaking (in an artistic way, because nationally they were precursors), this has been one of the most highly regarded album (with every right to) by specialists. The lengthy epic (17 mins) title track is one (if not THE) of their best track and is certainly the basis of Novalis' sound. Starting out on an almost tribal beat with birdsongs mixing the ones from my backyard, this slow starting epic is taking its damn sweet time (is that a flute? Let's hear it again ;-) with haunting organ ever crescendo-ing (never seeming to reach its apex) with its almost-whispered (female?) vocals. Pure marvellous joy and sine-chills garanteed.

After the side-long suite of the first side, could Novalis actually top that or at least equal it? Well they certainly come close with the short High Evolution and its superb organs greatly underlined by a Mellotron. The 9-min+ Laughing is a superb and tense epic, where keyboardist Rahn roams between Jon lord, Keith Emerson, Ken Hensley and Vincent Crane. Que du beau monde, mon cher!! Inside Of Me is relatively weaker but still hold its own.

It is a real shame that Novalis will never really repeat this album's success (artistic anyway), but the unstable nature of the band's line-up will hurt them throughout their career. No less than three change of personnel will happen before their second album will be released. On the whole, this album may be slightly less complex than Brandung or Sommerabend, but here the enthusiasm more than makes up for it, and the general feeling of ecstasy will not be quiote as prevalent on their following releases. Easily their best, IMHO, but then again, what do I know?

Mosaik - 1977 - No1


01. Future (7:14)
02. Brandung (3:36)
03. Krokus Deal (5:42)
04. Death Of A Bird (4:49)
05. California (3:26)
06. Grippe-Trip (6:09)
07. Rainy Day (6:34)
08. Seewind (7:27)
09. Abfahrt (3:20)

Klaus Müßeler (electric piano, synthesizer),
Georg Kordt (guitar),
Wolfgang Stange (drums),
Heinz Jopen (bass),
Manfred Rönspeck (alto saxophone, flute)

History of the group started with the fact that in 1971, vocalist and bassist Jurgen Wentzel Heino Schunzel placed in a newspaper ad for teammates. As a result, they were joined by organist Lutz Rahn and drummer Hartwig Biereichel. Together with guitarist Carlo Karges musicians formed a group Mosaik, which later changed its name to Novalis.

Pretty good groovy fusion roughly along the lines of Moira, Missus Beastly and other bands from the April / Schneeball staple. Considerable rarity of the original LP made it quite a sought after item among the krautrock collectors, but in fact Mosaik hardly brings anything new to the table - the best tracks here, particularly those with dreamy flute or sax leads alongside jazzy rhythmic backing, recall Embryo with the ethnic mode off, other cuts fall squarely into the late 1970s German fusion camp. Still, Mosaik definitely excel at what they do, and the instrumental prowess of the band is not to be missed. Might be a worthy candidate for a CD reissue on the Garden of Delights label.