Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Erna Schmidt - 2000 - Live '69-'71

Erna Schmidt
Live '69-'71

01. Erna Schmidt (7:20)
02. Weiss Gott (3:57)
03. Pass - Weites Luftmeer (5:00)
04. Woischwiemon (5:25)
05. La Folie D'Espagne (7:02)
06. Kleines Idyll (4:51)
07. Rulaman (6:44)
08. Ein Tag Aus Dem Leben des Menschen P (9:25)
09. Reif Für Die Insel (5:31)
10. See Ya (3:50)

- Hubert Stytz / guitar
- Hartmut Mau / flute, sax, oboe, ocarina
- Walther Laible / bass
- Wolfgang Mathias / drums

In the early 60s a band named R & B CORPORATION was founded near Stuttgart which was playing conventional beat music with Wolfgang Mathias at the drums. Hubert Stütz (guitar) joined in 1965 and brought up some new blues rock elements. Further on the band crossed the frontiers to improvised music oriented at Jimi Hendrix, bands like Cream or Ten Years After and soon they became known in southern Germany. Walter Laible (bass) joined in 1967 and they played as the support for Rory Gallagher, Brian Auger, Procul Harum, Alexis Korner and others.

According to the upcoming krautrock movement they started to write their own music/lyrics and decided to change the band name. In a proper sense the story of ERNA SCHMIDT was now opened in 1969. The band continuously enlarged with Rolf Schiegl as the second drummer, Sam Drake (flute, piano), hammond player Romi Schickle, also known as a member of PROF. WOLFFF, Peter Mayer (vibraphone) and a brass section.

They gigged all over Germany and could also be seen on stage at the legendary Quartier Latin in Berlin. Known for incredibly long improvisations, usually being stoned on the stage and jamming all the way, often together with guest musicians, they developed to a very popular live band in the meanwhile.

The next change occured when Schiegl and Drake left the band at the end of the year but Hartmut Mau came in as a substitute who played several wind instruments and was part of a circle around bass player Helmut Hattler, a founding member of KRAAN. Now as a quartet they had a widespreaded repertoire of selfcomposed songs consisting of improvisations and provided with variations on every gig. Due to a friend of drummer Mathias 20 hours of recordings of that time survived which were remastered by Mick Baumeister in his studio. The band decided to publish only some excerpts which are having an excellent sound quality.

The album 'Live '69 -'71' was finally released by the Garden Of Delights label in 2000 with a 32-page colour booklet. The songs are sought out very well showing the band on a high musical/technical level and avoiding endless noodling. Stütz's various guitar playing alternating between psychedelic, heavy and jazz rock is remarkable and combined with Mau's flute the songs sometimes are close to Jethro Tull.

The first TV appearance came in spring 1971 and some professional studio recordings followed for example at the wellknown studios of SWF Baden-Baden. Due to the Count of Metternich, who gave the possibility to live in his country mansion at Wintrup, the band changed the domicile to the northwest of Germany. Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser of the Ohr label offered ERNA SCHMIDT a recording contract - but it was never put into action. Probably the main reason was that Hartmut Mau didn't want to become a professional musician. He left the band. Other flute players were auditioned but nobody met the band's expectations.

MISSUS BEASTLY's Jürgen Benz tried to help but gradually doubts about the musical concept began to increase. And when the band was searching for a new bass player because Walter Laible left, Helmut Hattler decided to come with his friends. But the collaboration failed. Whereas KRAAN arised at Wintrup the disbandment of ERNA SCHMIDT couldn't be stopped anymore until they finally gave up in the springtime of 1972.

The completely instrumental songs are from 1970 in the majority - representing a more conventional line-up with bass, drums, guitar and flute/saxophone - progressive rock with folk, psych and jazz elements. Despite they have been a very demanded live band, known for endless improvisations, the selected recordings are compact (only one song nearly reaches the ten minute mark), well-composed and presenting them on a high level. The style is not very unique on the other hand, influenced by wellknown bands and artists in fact but also combined with meditative jamming parts. The excellent groover Woischwiemoin for example remembers me at Jimi Hendrix's Band Of Gypsys and is one of the songs faded out after some minutes.

Erna Schmidt as the band song per se contains a great part by bass player Laibel sometimes playing like John Wetton in his early years - a powerful and haunting track. Pass - Weites Luftmeer folksy/jazzy Tull drenched with great flute work, La Folie D' Espagne in a more classical Focus mood and the psychedelic Rulaman are showing other facets of the band. It only remains for me to add that Hubert Stütz (also named Stytz) is heading the recordings with his excellent varied guitar contributions stylistically oriented at Jimi Hendrix in parts.

Hopefully there are also recordings existing from ERNA SCHMIDT's earlier respectively more experimental phase and the former members decide to publish the rest of the recorded stuff sometime. Nevertheless this album, released by the Garden Of Delights label in 2000, is a very good document of their musical abilities and I recommend to check it out

Erlkoenig - 1973 - Erlkoenig


01. Erlkoenig impression (8:30)
02. Tomorrow (6:02)
03. Thoughts (9:31)
04. Castrop-Rauxel (7:13)
05. Blind alley (8:07)
06. Divertimento (8:40)
Bonus tracks
07. The lad in the fen (7:28)
08. Love is truth (2:30)
09. Run away (3:10)
10. Monday morning (4:51)[/size]

- Eckhardt Freynik / keyboards
- Friedrich Krüger / guitar
- Michael Brandes / drums, vocals
- Günter Armbrecht / bass

This relatively short-lived (from 1972-77) obscure German symphonic/kraut band consisted of three members from a band called Paradise on Earth, these were; keyboardist Eckhardt Franke, drummer Michael Brandes and bassist Gunter Armbrecht, when guitarist Friedrich Kruger joined, the band name was changed to ERLKOENIG (taken after the German poem of the same name, written by the famous poet Goethe), this line-up lasted until the band disbanded in 1977. ERLKOENIG played a very interesting and unique blend of krautrock and symphonic rock, it would probably be fair to characterise them as a symphonic prog band with evident krautrock leanings. The music of ERLKOENIG is dominated by the organ skilfully and inventively played by the main composer Eckhardt Franke, much fiercer than your average symphonic prog band. The music is full of intensity, beauty, virtuosity and fairy-tale like imagery. Their output is largely instrumental but when vocals are added it has a very unique and interesting sound as to serve the mysterious nature of the music, and also a very charming German accented pronunciation.

Unfortunately ERLKOENIG only released one self-titled LP during their almost 6-year long career; it was released in January 1973. It was originally privately pressed in only 1000 copies, mainly to be sold at concerts. In 2001 it was released on CD on the Garden of Delights label with 4 bonus tracks. And in 2004 it was reissued on vinyl on the Amber Soundroom label, limited to only 500 copies, with an alternative order of tracks and one bonus track.

It's very unfortunate that ERLKOENIG arn't more known than they are, for the average prog listener there should be a lot of interesting music to seek out. If you like organ-driven music with lot of dynamics and intensity, do yourself a favour, track down a copy of ERLKOENIG's self-titled debut.

It's a hard album to analyse, principally because it is Krautrock at it's most raw; clearly (early) Pink Floyd inspired, but with snippets of other bands, like the Doors, Amon Duul II and Hawkwind thrown in for a heavy keyboard and guitar-driven outing with more evidence of improvisation than composition, yet a strong coherence to the almost random seeming structures that lends a unique vitality to the music that overrides the underlying simplicity.

To that end, I will not attempt any kind of academic analysis, as to do so would be, well, so academic.

"Erlkoenig Impression" begins with a tasty introduction of Mellotron and drums that instantly sparks that Prog Rock feeling. It then dives into one of those riffs that just makes you think "Oh no - what are they thinking!". It kind of reminds me of the Doors in some ways - but in a very naff way. It's worth going through, however, as this album just gets better and better. The next quiet section, which reminds me a little of early Genesis paves the way nicely for a high-intensity section reminding me of early Floyd - with maybe a hint of the James Bond theme tune. then a piano driven section - the ideas come rolling and tumbling, but rarely completely tangentially; always making some sort of bizarre sense. We return to the gentle "Genesis" section and back to the "high intensity Bond" section and onwards and backwards to the initial "Doors" section via some nice improve and well orchestrated changeovers.

"Tomorrow" follows this, and we get some vocals for the first time. These are of a reasonable quality and nicely mournful. The keyboards produce some nice classically inspired melodies, and the arrangements are full of doom-laden drama. I get flavours of the Beatles "Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite", then a wild drum solo is unleashed, seguing gently into a piano driven section with the classically inspired melodies, and some odd but effective chord changes to break it all up. The jump from piano back to organ is a bit startling, but we can make allowances for the cheap production. The return to the vocal section is loose, but inspired.

"Thoughts" is 9 and a half minutes of Krautrock bliss - a nice organ intro feeds into a winding guitar part drenched in wah wah and detuned to perfection. Wonderful Iron Butterfly meets the Doors with an injection of hi engery stuff. Each band member keeps absolutely sensitive to the musical direction, no more and no less. IN other words, no groundbreaking music or virtuosic fireworks - but boy, does it rock!

The structure is a kind of ABC, ABC, ABC, DE, with plenty of organic flow from one section to another and re use of thematic material producing a cohesive whole that feels much shorter than it is.

A wonderful retrospective intro kicks off the next section, which is another piano-driven affair that goes on to work out a Russian-sounding melody fragment, which feeds into a relaxing jazz-influenced section that develops nicely through the pianists' playing around with the original tune and taking it to some wonderfully introspective levels. This segues into a kind of fanfare, which sets up expectations for a more rocking interlude, but Erlkoenig play with this expectation, teasing expertly, building up, dropping down, then eventually settling into a jazz-influenced groove with "Classical" overtones - a kind of flavour of what Renaissance could have been like if they'd only dropped the silly pretentious Bach and Beethoven quotations. The next section begins with a sitar-sound from the guitar, which creates a subtly different mood and texture, but no less dark and moody.

Side 2 begins even more strongly with "Castrop-Rauxel"; a drums and Hammond crash give way to a rippling Hammond lick, joined by the guitars and stretched out before the very Barrett/Floyd vocal entry. Again, the backing has flavours of the Doors and Iron Butterfly, but Erlkoenig develop it their own way, via a nice funky drum beat reminiscent of Can. The atmosphere is sensitively built towards the next vocal entry.

The overall structure is very simple - but very elongated to the point of obscurity, and subsequently it's Erlkoenig's working of the material that grabs the attention rather than the content. And it's all good. Good enough to be far greater than the sum of its parts - in other words, this is not rock music for the over-analytical, but drift-along progressive psychedelia. it's Krautrock in its neat form!

We could go on picking and picking at the music, and observe the same kind of constructions at work, the same influences throughout - but that would be to miss out on the overall beauty of the work and the ultimate success of four musicians in bringing their musical minds together and creating something unique and progressive that just gets better and better as it progresses.

The music is badly (cheaply) produced, and the musicians very loose - and right at the very edge of their abilities, but the charm remains throughout, and the ideas flow thick and fast. This is a great addition to any collection of prog rock, and a perfect door into Krautrock that is highly recommended especially to fans of Pink Floyd's early material, Hawkwind, the Doors, Iron Butterfly and Amon Duul II. There are even moments of Shocking Blue in here among other tasty treats!