Monday, March 30, 2015

Steve Maxwell Von Braund - 1975 - Monster Planet

Steve Maxwell Von Braund
Monster Planet

01. Monster Planet (8:59)
02. Shadowfax (10.01)
03. Spirit (14.13)
04. Crystal Forest (8:18)

- Steve Maxwell Von Braund / synthesisers, alto saxophone
- Geoff Green / lyricist
- Gil 'Rats' Matthews / drums, bass guitars
- Jim Keays 'The Boy From The Stars' / vocals
- Henry Vyhnal / electric violin

Maxwell lived in Germany and became fascinated with the German Kosmische movement. Upon arriving in Australia, he began a similar type of scene and started Cybotron who have a strong penchant for the mid 70's Tangerine Dream style. "Monster Planet" however recalls more the Cosmic Jokers "Planeten Sit In" album. The Von Braund album even uses the same day-glo blue and yellow colors of the Cosmic Courier clan.

it's time to highlight the highly lit sounds of Aussie space cadet Stephen Maxwell Von Braund. Mr. Von Braund's later activities in the more well know (relatively speaking) duo Cybotron would make him something of a name brand in cosmic synth circles during the 70's and 80's, but while Cybotron's arc went from rhythm boxed and Library-like confections to, latterly, hamfisted symphonic pounding, this first pre-Cybotron outing of Von Braund's (barring an anomalous but very Steve Hillage-like full band-abetted acid rock eruption on the first track) is mostly just signaling though the haze on the edge of time, with gurgling cosmic tides rippling past as attenuated synthetic strands coil off into infinity or churn menacingly in the foreground in a very Kraut-y electronic fashion.

P.L.J. Band - 1982 - Armageddon

P.L.J. Band

01. Intro (5:03)
02. I See People (4:29)
03. Ezekiel (3:49)
04. Dye (4:54)
05. Armageddon I (7:29)
06. Armageddon II (7:03)
07. Void (2:12)
08. Theme (4:58)
09. Starwish (1:44)

- Laurentis Macaeritsas / lead vocals, 12-string guitar, keyboards
- Antonis Mijelos / lead guitar, acoustic guitar
- Jimmy Vasalakos / bass, backing vocals
- Pavlos Kikrilis / rhythm & classical guitar
- Tolis Skamajouras / drums, percussion

This is such a unique recording. Rightly listed under Psychedelic / Spacerock yet there is this Krautrock flavour throughout. This band is from Greece and they released this album back in 1982. Soon after it's release though the government started to destroy these records feeling they contained blasphemous lyrics. I wish I had a copy of the lyrics because I haven't heard what they apparently heard. Mind you there is some Greek lyrics, but the rest is in English. The cd versions that came out in the nineties were copied directly from an LP. Interesting that there are three guitarists playing on this album. Mostly lead guitar with rhythm guitar, but there is 12 string guitar as well. It's just cool hearing that guitar interplay.

"Intro" opens with the wind blowing as synths, guitar and drums join in. This is pretty trippy stuff. Love the guitar that comes in after 2 1/2 minutes, very psychedelic. The wind is back and check out the guitar after 4 minutes. Nice. Great start. "I See People" is a hair raising song as we can hear spoken vocals and the noise of a crowd. It's like a prophet is preaching on the street or in a market while people mill about. Synths take over when he stops with strummed guitar as the tempo picks up. Spoken words and a calm return after 2 minutes. "Ezekiel" continues that theme only this time we get these monotone female vocals quoting Ezekiel's words that he received from God. These words tell the people that judgment is coming,desolation and destruction will fall upon the land from the hand of God. It ends with "...then you shall know that I am the Lord." This is followed by Post-Rock styled guitar. Cool. The guitar starts to cry out before 3 minutes as the other guitar is strummed. Synths end it.

"Oye" opens with gentle guitar. Spoken vocals 1 1/2 minutes in as the sound gets much fuller. The guitar starts to light it up before 3 minutes with synths in the background. It turns spacey 3 1/2 minutes in as vocals return. "Armegeddon I" and "Armageddon II" are the two longest tracks, each over 7 minutes in length. The first one opens with the sound of water, drums, synths and gentle guitar as Latin spoken words come in. The guitar, synths and vocals become more prominant 4 minutes in. "Armageddon II" is the more energetic of the two. A good beat with strummed guitar to open. Guitar lights up the soundscape after a minute. Nice. Vocals cry out after 3 minutes as the synths dominate the sound. The guitar is lighting it up again after 4 minutes and later at 5 1/2 minutes. Great tune. "The Void" is as the title might suggest an experimental one. "Theme" opens with church bells before gentle guitar and drums come in. Synths are very prominant. "Star Wish" ends the album with some hope as we get an uplifting soundscape with actual singing for the first time. Gentle guitar helps out. Drums, bass and synths come in after a minute.

This is one of those special albums i'm so glad to have in my collection. It's one of a kind really.

P.L.J. Band - 1979 - Gaspar

P.L.J. Band

01. Wake Up (3:07)
02. Summer Will Come For Me Again (2:52)
03. Gaspar (3:15)
04. Transmigration (3:19)

- Laurentis Macaeritsas / lead vocals, 12-string guitar, keyboards
- Antonis Mijelos / lead guitar, acoustic guitar
- Jimmy Vasalakos / bass, backing vocals
- Pavlos Kikrilis / rhythm & classical guitar
- Tolis Skamajouras / drums, percussion

PLJ Band played a psychedelic-flavored calm Rock with emphasis in the alternating acoustic and electric guitars and the narrative vocals of Maheritsas, although his foreign accent is very apparent in the English lyrics, while the sound of the group was very mellow with limited instrumental passages and lots of atmospheric nuances.Hypnotic bass grooves, traditional tunes played in an electric version and smooth drumming were the basic components of their early material, which was doubled by the discreet acoustic textures.Some jazzy vibes and loose mood is evident in the electric guitars of Maheritsas, but this EP lacks in dynamics and energy.The recording quality is not exciting either, very muddy with a just bearable mix.The last track ''Transmigration'' is all instrumental with evident influences from the British Psychedelic Rock scene, based on a steady groove and some improvised guitar solos.

Gaspar, the first release PLJ BAND - Ball published his own money in 1979, a limited edition of 1,000 copies, the album was realized during concerts. Currently, this ultra rare and almost impossible to find. The EP contains 4 tracks sung in English, was never released in any other format. This official reissue from the master tapes.

Cozmic Corridors - 1973 - Cozmic Corridors

Cozmic Corridors
Cozmic Corridors

01. The Summit - 9:55
02. Mountainside - 8:43
03. Dark Path - 3:06
04. Niemand Versteht - 7:43
05. Daruber - 11:08

- Alex Meyer - minimoog, hammond organ, fender rhodes, vocals
- Peter Förster - 12-string guitar, electric guitar
- Pauline Fund - vocals
- Hans-Jürgen Pütz - percussion, effects

A very obscure mid-70′s band who made at least one album under the guidance of Toby Robinson. These were unknown until recently rediscovered. They were a mysterious and lazy relaxed band, generally abstract and moody, often with the accent on Terry Riley styled organ, along with synthesizers and guitars. Apart from some female German spoken text, the mood often reminds of some such avant-garde cosmic Italian acts like Pierrot Lunaire or Franco Leprino, though it does also bridge the realms from Cluster through to Emtidi, on a more esoteric level.

Biomechanoid - 1980 - Biomechanoid


01. Dark Plasma (4:30)
02. Elements (4:55)
03. Sing From Space (4:30)
04. Strange Lady (3:00)
05. Plastic Gnome (2:05)
06. Voices (1:46)
07. Metallic Agony (5:40)
08. Lost Planet (5:30)
09. Asteroids (2:20)
10. Interstellar Insects (2:28)
11. Galaxy Recall (2:07)

Joel Vandroogenbroeck: Keyboards

Producer - Joel Vandroogenbroeck 
Notes: Coverpainting by H.R. Giger (Biomechanoid 75)

Biomechanoid is the classic 1980 album by composer and flutist Joel Vandroogenbroeck. It’s 1980, in Munich, Germany, upstart production music label Coloursound Library releases their debut album. Capitalising on the success of Ridley Scott’s Alien film, the label dropped Biomechanoid, featuring cover art commissioned by HR Giger – whose horrific Necronom IV lithograph served as the basis for the design of Alien – and the music of the relatively unknown Joel Vandroogenbroeck. Comprised of bleak, cinematic synth soundscapes and percussion, the album served as an inaugural calling card for what would be a decade of dizzying solo releases by Vandroogenbroeck for Coloursound, running the gamut from Mesopotamian ethno-folk to synth sequencer funk to electro drum breaks to in-utero ambient delights.

Though the Belgian-born Vandroogenbroeck, 74, may not be a household name; in an ideal world, he would be. As the founder, flautist, harpist, sitar player and keyboardist of the seminal acid-fried Swiss psych outfit Brainticket, he spearheaded the groups three main (and collectible) releases in the early 70s – Cottonwood Hill, Celestial Ocean and Psychonaut. Combining a love of exotic instruments coupled with mind-bending out-of-body excursions, the ever-changing collective developed something of a cult following throughout Europe and earned a reputation as one of the heavier psych outfits on the circuit – which was something of a double-edged sword. While their experimental sound resonated with hippies everywhere, it didn’t with the authorities, who associated the act with heavy drug consumption and subsequently began a ban of their music, especially the Psychonaut album, if for the title alone. After that bitter brush with censorship, the group quietly disbanded in 1972.

After the dissolution of Brainticket, Vandroogenbroeck departed for the island of Bali with the intent of learning to build and play the gamelan – an ensemble of primarily percussion instruments from Indonesia. It would become yet another weapon in his ever growing arsenal of exotic instruments: he was already proficient in the sitar, harp, kalimba, assorted percussion oddities and all woodwinds by this point. Vandroogenbroeck became so enraptured with the frenetic sound of the gamelan that he subsequently left the tropics to start up a joged bumbung (a variation on a gamelan) band back in Switzerland. While playing small festivals and civic events with this group, Joel began to slowly gravitate towards the synth-heavy kraut sounds of artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze at the same time. And once he began dabbling with oscillators, he never turned back.

After inking a library deal around this time with the nascent Coloursound label, who gave him complete creative control, Vandroogenbroeck began turning out releases at a rapid rate, often three to five a year, and under a variety of aliases like V.D.B. Joel, J.V.D.B, and Eric Vann. Starting with the desolate synth drone of Biomechanoid, he continued to expand his sound palette on while on Coloursound, moving from early arpeggiators on Computer Blossoms to percussive sound collage on Birth Of Earth; and from Oberheim DMX drum breaks on Video Games & Data Movements to Apple II ambient programming on Digital Project. Biomechanoid stands after all these years as an album full of dark, strange, disturbing soundscapes, the obscure side of Brainticket, proving how Joel was still a creative artist.

Brainticket - 2015 - Past, Present & Future

Past, Present & Future

01. Dancing on the Volcano (Part I) 8:52
02. Dancing on the Volcano (Part II) 21:30
03. Reality of Dreams 6:45
04. Proto Alchemy 7:22
05. Riding the Comet 6:18
06. East Moon 6:26
07. Singularity 5:03
08. Egyptian Gods of the Sky 7:23
09. Brainticket Blues 6:12

Joel Vandroogenbroeck
    keyboards, synthesizer, guitar, flute, vocals
Nicky Garratt
Jürgen Engler
    synthesizer, talk box, guitar, keyboards
Jason Willer
Kephera Moon
    synthesizer, vocals

I just knew a new Brainticket album would come my way. After all there was the Space Rock Invasion tour that included them, Huw-Lloyd Langton (ex-Hawkwind), and Nektar, so it was time a new Brainticket album came our way. After all 15 years passed since the last one, Alchemic Universe, while welcomed by many, many did not take to well to its techno leaning. I'm happy to report with Past, Present & Future, the techno approach has thankfully been ditched, in favor of real drums, again! Members of Die Krupps, UK Sub, and Nik Turner's band, and local musicians from the Oakland, California area, are in this version of Brainticket, along with (naturally) Joel Vandroogenbroeck, now 76. The album was recorded mainly in Oakland, but also parts of it in Pinar Studio, Joel Vandroogenbroeck's home studio in Mexico (where he's resided since 1984). It's Brainticket, I hear elements of the Brainticket of old, like Cottonwoodhill, Psychonaut, and Celestial Ocean, but they don't rehash that, and bring in something new as well. I also love the production, no loudness wars that make listening a headache regardless of quality (go listen to Eloy's The Tides Return Forever or Ocean 2, great music, but that loudness war makes listening to them a headache due to unnecessary volume). Also the fact the music doesn't sound overly contemporary, but not overly retro either (I do hear both analog and digital synths). Kyrsten Bean (I believe) sounds so unbelievably like Carole Muriel you'd think it was her under an assumed name. Just one listen to "Dancing on the Volcano Part 1" or "Egyptian Gods of the Sky" and you'll see what I mean! "Dancing on the Volcano Part 2" features an extended funky jam that gives way to an ambient part, and some nice flute playing from Joel Vandroogenbroeck. "Reality of Dreams" has a more Eastern feel to it, complete with sitar. A couple cuts venture more into '70s-like prog instrumentals like "Reality of Dreams" and "Proto Alchemy", while "Egyptian Gods of the Sky" will remind you of Celestial Ocean with the spoken dialog and Egyptian theme. Then there's "Brainticket Blues" I get a kick off! Blues does Brainticket style, you will never mistake this for BB King or Muddy Waters. First you have Joel Vandroogenbroeck's flute playing. Then you have Kyrsten Bean's spoken dialog sounding like Carole Muriel, and it sounded like it was lifted right off Celestial Ocean. You obviously hear the blues style, but nothing like regular straight-up blues (which usually bores me). Usually Brainticket takes themselves seriously, but "Brainticket Blues" shows that rare not-so-serious side. To see 2015 gets started off with some this good, I'm happy to see a new Brainticket album. Just what I needed, and if you like Brainticket, this one should be in your collection.

Brainticket - 2011 - Live In Rome, October 3, 1973

Live In Rome, October 3, 1973

01. Intro (1:11)
02. Intro / Egyptian Kings (5:16)
03. Jam 1 (3:17)
04. Jam 2 (1:11)
05. Egyptian Kings (reprise) (2:10)
06. Jardins / Rainbow (8:24)
07. Era of Technology (Part 1) (4:46)
08. Jam 3 (2:00)
09. Era of Technology (Part 2) (3:49)
10. Visions (3:52)
11. Intro (1:40)
12. To Another Universe / The Space Between (7:32)

- Joël Vandroogenbroeck - vocals, organ, piano, flute, sitar
- Martin Sacher / bass, flute
- Rolf Hug / guitar, tabla, vocals
- Jane Free / lead vocals, percussion
- Barney Palm / drums, percussion

BRAINTICKET are considered primo, brain-frying Krautrock pioneers coming from, of all places, Switzerland. Indeed, the debut album, 'Cottonwood Hill', is a freaked-out piece of relentless Psychedelia that needs to be heard to be believed, with their 2nd album 'Psychonaut' being an improvement (or a down-step, depending on your POV) - more refined and focussed. Moving on, 'Live In Rome '73' was taken from a gig based on their 3rd album, 'Celestial Ocean', and, what we have here may be a memorable gig for sure, but the sound quality is that of a half-decent audience recorded bootleg, which tends to marr the overall enjoyment for many (myself included), but it is always a welcome listen just to hear such an obscure band in a live environment. The line-up consists of main-man Joel Vandroogenbroeck (keys, vocals, flute, sitar), Barney Palm (drums, perc. vocals, effects) and Carole Muriel (vocals, synth, zither), and, despite lacking the bottom-end 'oomph' of a bass guitar, they put on quite a good show. Highly experimental in nature, we are treated to many spacey jams and improvised segments (Intro, Jams 1, 2 and 3, Era of Technology) along with some of their more impressive and arranged tracks - Egyptian Kings is a fantastic highlight here with a great, main riff driven by synth, Muriel's ooh's and aah's and kozmik ramblings and a mighty Hammond solo from J.V. The two longer pieces - Jardins/Rainbow, and also To Another Universe/The Space Between showing off a more typically Krautrock inclination - highly acoustic parts with Palm's creative and inspired hand-percussion, uncredited guitar (?) and more of Muriel's narratives, blending into synthesised experiments and mesmerising drones powerful enough to drag the listener into their universe. Indeed, this recording is no starting place for the uninitiated, but those familiar with this highly interesting band may appreciate an all-too-rare live document, which happened to be made commercially available, even as a gatefold LP with a different cover-art.

Brainticket - 2000 - Alchemic Universe

Alchemic Universe

01. Life's mirror (8:10)
02. Transformation of a stream (10:14)
03. Within Venus (5:40)
04. Alchemic universe (10:31)
05. Relics'n roll (12:28)
06. The subspace between (3:36)
07. A dream's reflection (7:11)
08. Time (2:09)

- Lance Bunda / words
- Carol Muriel / vocals
- Joel Vandroogenbroek / keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, flute, vocals

Welcome my little progressive rock space cadets to the "Alchemic Universe"... a place where your brain is going to get spun 180 degrees. Years ago I was introduced to the music of BRAINTICKET which became an immediate addiction for me. Over the years BRAINTICKET continued to release several albums and recently have released a wonderful little deep space album which I am quite fond of. Gone is the 70's psychedelia element, but "Alchemic Universe" blends the finer aspects of space travel more in a TANGERINE DREAM'ish/ of KRAFTWERK sytle. This wonderful album is full of tons of space effects and some great voice overs... Without a question we are transported into another dimension with some excellent space grooves and moments of wierdness. "Alchemic Universe" is perfect for those rainy Sunday evenings for sitting outside getting a bit damp while you brush your teeth... A wild one but I love it... Highly original!

Brainticket - 1982 - Voyage


01. Voyage Part 1 (19:07)
02. Voyage Part 2 (18:06)0

CD bonus tracks:
03. Skyline [Analog 1970] (8:10)
04. Underworld Paths (7:20)
05 .Nebula (4:45)

- Hans Deyssenroth / keyboards, synths, computer
- Barney Palm / drums, percussion, strange sounds
- Wilhelm Seefeldt / synths, computer
- Joel Vandroogenbroeck / keyboards, flute, guitar, vocals

ack in 1973 after the release of Celestial Ocean, BRAINTICKET had pretty much disappeared. Eventually, around 1979 Joël Vandroogenbroeck resurrected BRAINTICKET, but this time, as an all-instrumental keyboard/percussion-dominated outfit with no guitars. Being the early '80s, there were no record labels willing to release this stuff, so Joël Vandroogenbroeck simply released this privately. "Voyage", being an early '80s recording, sounds suspiciously like a 1976 recording. Nothing '80s sounding here, the clavinet, Fender Rhodes electric piano Mini Moog and lots of other electronics and percussion dominate here!

The album simply consists of two side length cuts, all improvised, and the music turns out quite impressive. I heard somewhere that when Purple Pyramid reissued "Voyage", they accidentally used the music for the previous album, from 1980, called "Adventure", for this disc. If that's the case, that explains why Voyage sounds like it was released before "Adventure", even though it was released after. I have to get the LPs of both albums to know if that is true. But regardless, BRAINTICKET, in the early '80s, somehow forgot the '70s was over, and this album ends up being the most '70s sounding album I've heard from an early '80s release. Fascinating album, and if you like analog synths, you'll like this.

Brainticket - 1980 - Adventure


01. Adventure Part One (19:20)
02. Adventure Part Two (18:12)

CD bonus tracks:
03. Machinery [Analog 1970] (10:19)
04. 3 Worlds (11:53)
05. Robitika (3:10)

- Hans Deyssenrath / keyboards, synths, computer
- Barney Palm / drums, percussion, strange sounds
- Wilhelm Seefeldt / synths, computer
- Joel Vandroogenbroeck / keyboards, flute, guitar, vocals

"Adventure" is a heavy cosmic voyage into the epicenter of your mind. As most of you know by now BRAINTICKET were and are still one of my personal fav's from the Krautrock - Space genre and for good reason. BRAINTICKET's music sustains real "head-music" aspects without any repetitive electronica to guide us..instead flutes, clavinets and synths combine to create huge sonic landscapes for your mind to wonder. On "Adventure" the psychedelia found on their earlier recordings is replaced with heavy electronic and synthesizer shrines and monuments. One of the most attractive aspects to this music is actually in the lovely percussion and deep analog synths used throughout. As always BRAINTICKET use a large number of different electronic sounds for texture creation and sound effects.designed to totally freak you out. Originally this album contained two side long songs and the fine folk at Cleopatra have kindly added 3 lovely bonus tracks to. An enormous album which needs to adorn all good electronic music collections.

Brainticket - 1974 - Celestial Oceans

Celestial Oceans

01. Egyptian kings (5:48)
02. Jardins (2:09)
03. Rainbow (2:51)
04. Era of technology (7:30)
05. To another universe (4:55)
06. The space between (3:02)
07. Cosmic wind (5:23)
08. Visions (5:30)

- Jane Free / vocals, percussion, sounds
- Barney Palm / drums, percussion, vocals, baja
- Joel Vandroogenbroek / keyboards, flute, guitar, vocals

BRAINTICKET's third release finds the band stripped down to a trio. We get a different female vocalist for the third album in a row in Carol Muriel who also plays synths and zither.

The album starts off with my favourite BRAINTICKET track "Egyptian Kings". Everytime this song came on at work this week it had my full attention. It's one of those songs you hit the repeat button for when it's over. It starts off with some intricate sounds and lots of atmosphere. A full sound arrives a minute in. Male and female vocals are spoken. Low end guitar, organ, flute and drums lead the way. It has such a groovy, addictive rhythm. The organ before 5 minutes has a Canterbury flavour to it. "Jardins" features zither throughout, sounding a lot like a harp actually. Female vocals are spoken. Acoustic guitar and flute add to the sound. It blends into "Rainbow" where we get an Indian flavour added. The sound builds after a minute. Spacey synths all by themselves after 2 minutes to end it.

"Era Of Technology" opens with organ as we get more spoken words all speaking at once. No real melody until drums come pounding in at 1 1/2 minutes. Cool sound as spoken words continue.The song changes completely 5 minutes in for the better. Flute, zither, vocal melodies and percussion fill out the sound. "To Another Universe" opens with what sounds like vibes as percussion comes in. Synths and some catchy organ (later) create the sound. It blends into "The Space Between" as spoken words join existing melody. Words stop after 2 minutes. Synths and percussion to end it. "Cosmic Wind" is a very mellow and spacey song. Big surprise given the title. Zither and flute lead the way. Strummed guitar arrives 4 1/2 minutes in. "Visions" features some beautiful sounding piano melodies for 2 1/2 minutes. The tempo then picks up as percussion is added. Synths 4 1/2 minutes in. It ends with male and female vocals saying "Egyptian kings" over and over with a spacey background.

Brainticket - 1972 - Psychonaut


01. Radagacuca (7:24)
02. One Morning (3:51)
03. Watchin' You (5:15)
04. Like A Place In The Sun (6:28)
05. Feel The Wind Blow (3:32)
06. Coc'O Mary (6:08)

- Jane Free / lead vocals, tbilat, tambourine, slide whistle, sounds
- Jöel Vandroogenbroeck / organ, piano, flute, sitar, sanze vocal, rumors, generator, arrangements
- Rolf Hug / lead guitar, acoustic guitar, tablas, vocals
- Martin Sacher / electric bass, flute
- Barney Palm / drums, percussion, strange sounds
- Carole Muriel / additional vocals (4,5)

The original BRAINTICKET had already collapsed after the recording of "Cottonwoodhill". Some of the members went to join future member of the Swiss prog band ISLAND (who released the album "Pictures" in 1977) Benjamin Jäger, and named the group TOAD. That group sounds little like BRAINTICKET, or like a precursor of the "Island" sound, but more like conventional hard rock. Meanwhile organist/flutist Joël Vandroogenbrock simply resurrected BRAINTICKET with brand new musicians (amongst them being Carol Muriel, Barney Palm, Jane Free and others).

The result being "Psychonaut" was an obvious reaction to their previous album, as this album was the complete opposite, going for actual songs here and avoiding any disturbing experiments. "Radagacuca" is that prime example, which starts off with some trippy organ, some echoey flutes, and of course, silly lyrics. "One Morning" is a wonderful, piano oriented piece with pleasant vocals. "Watchin' You" is one of the more heavy, rocking pieces, and is by far the most rocking piece I ever heard BRAINTICKET do. "Like a Place in the Sun" features some spoken dialog, with parts reminding me of EARTH & FIRE (that's where people mistakenly think BRAINTICKET was a Dutch band, although Brainticket purposely obscure their nationality, as the band often consisted of international musicians). "Feel the Wind Blow" is a much more laid-back, acoustic piece, with George HARRISON like guitars. "Coc'o Mary" is a heavily percussion-dominated piece that sounds like a cross between SANTANA (because of the Latin-style percussion) and JETHRO TULL (because of the Anderson-like flute). Incredible album, which shows everything that was great in the early '70s!

Brainticket - 1970 - Cottonwood Hill

Cottonwood Hill

01. Black Sand (4:05)
02. Places Of Light (4:06)
03. Brainticket Part I (8:21)
04. Brainticket Part I [Conclusion] (4:36)
05. Brainticket Part II (13:14)

- Ron Bryer / guitar
- Werner Fröhlich / bass
- Helmuth Kolbe / keyboards
- Cosimo Lampis / drums
- Dawn Muir / vocals
- Wolfgang Paap / percussion
- Werni Prahlach / bass
- Joel Vandroogenbroeck / keyboards, flute, vocals

 Perhaps one of the most radical recordings I've got in my collection. This is basically a different BRANTICKET with just flutist/organist Joël Vandroogenbroeck the only person in common with all their following albums. Even percussionist Barney Palm isn't present. You get future members of a band called TOAD, as well as Dawn Muir. The first two cuts, seem pretty tame. You get "Black Sand" which is an instrumental piece with organ. "Places of Light" features more great organ work, while Dawn Muir spouts out some psychedelic poetry. Nothing too much more radical than the prog and psych you expect from the time. But it's the other 2/3 of the album, entitled "Brainticket" that justifies the radical nature of the album. It's basically one fuzz organ riff repeated over and over with Dawn Muir under a serious psychedelic orgasm, tons and tons of electronic effects, sounds of jackhammers, electronic sirens that never lets up.

My mother thought I was completely out of my mind for listening to this, and she was used to hearing some of my other more radical albums like TANGERINE DREAM's "Zeit". This experience obviously broke the band up. Several of the other guys went and joined future Island (as in the 1977 prog album Pictures) guy Benjamin Jäger and formed the more conventional hard rock band TOAD, while Vandroogenbroeck simply assembled a new BRAINTICKET, and gave us "Psychonaut" which was a reaction against "Cottonwoodhill". Of course, "Cottonwoodhill" will not be to everyone's taste, I don't recommend this around children, or anyone with a weak stomach. But for those who want something outrageous, get this album.

Arktis - 2006 - Last Arktis Tapes

Last Arktis Tapes

01. Speed Boogie (3:44)
02. Is It Real (2:55)
03. Hey Boy (3:08)
04. Great Spring Feeling (6:12)
05. Quak Quak (3:04)
06. Very Progressive (18:04)
07. Furious Flight (8:44)
08. Slide Experience (9:44)
09. Just Walking (9:21)
10. Student's Idyll (live) (4:03)
11. Sky Drive (live) 5:07)

The final release from this band is another compilation album like the previous one of mostly unreleased tracks and live tunes. Some good music on here but this isn't as good as the previous record. Lots of guitar led songs but it gets tiresome after a while hearing mostly the same style over and over for over 74 minutes.

"Speed Boogie" opens with the guitar swirling before a full sound kicks in. Some good pickin' on this one. "Is It Real" is a catchy vocal track. It's okay but the best part is the instrumental section starting after 1 1/2 minutes. "Hey Boy" is another commercial sounding vocal tune. "Great Spring Feeling" is excellent as the guitar leads throughout this intrumental.

"Quak Quak" features lots of guitar noodling. "Very Progressive" is good with the guitar, bass and drums jamming away for some 18 minutes. "Furious Flight" is another good guitar driven track. "Slide Experience" is more of the same really. It's good but this is the fifth of six straight tracks in this style and these aren't short songs. "Just Walking" is the final instrumental.

"Student's Idyll (Live)" is a live version of a song from the debut album. "Sky Drive (Live) ends it wih another live tune.

Arktis - 1999 - More Arktis Tapes

More Arktis Tapes

01. Picture
02. Rare girl (slight return)
03. Stepping Ahead
04. Guitar emotion
05. Organ Growler
06. Highlands
07. Rollin' and Grumblin'
08. Proud and loud
09. Arktis Boogie
10. Space Walk
11. Let the music play
12. New Rock (live)

- Klaus Blachut / guitar
- Karin Töppig / voice
- Klaus Göllner / bass
- Harry Kottek / drums

After three failed attemps at getting signed to a label by releasing their own albums privately, ARKTIS called it quits.This particular release is a compilation of unreleased tracks, live tracks and a couple of long improvs. At 74 minutes this certainly has it's hits and misses but overall this is my favourite release from the band. I had mentioned earlier that I was surprised at how good the bonus tracks were on their first three albums and wondered why they weren't on the albums because some of these songs were not only amazing but better than the ones they used. Well here's more evidence that this band was very talented and maybe didn't always release the songs maybe they should have.

"Picture" is a favourite of mine with the melancholic guitar that is restrained. Vocals after 2 minutes are reserved. A little more energy but not much more before 4 minutes then back to that earlier mellow vibe wih vocals. "Rare Girl (Slight Return)" rocks out pretty hard then "Stepping Ahead" comes in with it's slow but raw style. It does pick up 1 1/2 minutes in and even more after 3 minutes.They are jamming folks.The guitar is lighting it up 8 minutes in.

"Guitar Emotion" sounds great with the guitar, bass and drums leading the way. It picks up 6 1/2 minutes in then settles as a bass solo takes over before 8 minutes.The drums and guitar then return. "Organ Growler" is catchy with organ coming in over top. Guitar before 3 minutes then the tempo picks up. "Highlands" has this laid back guitar and sound. I like it. It builds then settles back before 5 minutes.

"Rollin' And Grumblin" has these raw guitar leads that are fantastic. "Proud And Loud" has lots of ripping guitar in it. "Arktis Boogie" is just that.

"Space Walk" is much better. Killer tune. "Let The Music Play" isn't the best. A weak vocal track really. "New Rock (Live)" opens with the band or the song being introduced in German. Sounds like it belongs on the debut album. I like it.

Arktis - 1976 - On the Rocks

On the Rocks

01. Dangerous Love (4:31)
02. Since You've Been Gone (5:35)
03. Never Come Back (5:00)
04. Please, Call Me (5:26)
05. Loneliness (20:01)
Bonus track:
06. Y.T.T. (5:57)

- Karin Toppig / vocals
- Harry Kottek / drums
- Manni Dick / guitar
- Axel Maurer / keyboards
- Bernd Kolf / bass

 This was ARKTIS' third attempt at a self-released album in order to get a record deal. Unfortunately the third time wasn't the charm. Actually after the last album two important members being the lead guitarist and bass player left the band feeling disillusioned with everything.The female singer and drummer decided to keep the band going and recruited not only a new guitarist and bass player but a keyboardist.They decided to make this album similar to the debut with shorter songs on side one of the LP and a side long suite on side two. As usual Conny Plank gave some assistance in the studio. After this was released they were actually working on album number four but when the news came out that this was their worst selling album to date they folded up the tent and called it a day. I feel that this is the worst of the first three albums. Funny thing though is that the bonus tracks on each of the first three albums are in most cases better than one they decided to release on the actual albums. And this is proved by the following release called "More Arktis Tapes" which is a compilation of songs they didn't use on their albums. It's their best release by far !

"Dangerous Love" is an uptempo track with vocals. A guitar solo comes in after 2 minutes and again late to end it. "Since You've Been Gone" is another uptempo track with vocals similar to the first one really.The organ floats in the background again. Nice guitar solo 3 minutes in.

"Never Come Back" is where they slow it down with vocals and soaring guitar. Not a fan of this one at all. Way too long. "Please, Call Me" is uptempo like the first two with vocals.The guitar cries out to end it. Not a fan of this one either.

"Loneliness" is the side long 20 minute suite.The weird thing about this one is that it reminds me of THE CHURCH with those reserved vocals and that repetitive melancholic sound. I like the bonus song better than the album tracks.

I would have sworn with this album and the previous one that it was a guy singing. She doesn't sound at all like she did on the debut but she's the only one listed as the singer so...I guess she decided to sing in a deeper more reserved manner which was too bad really.

Arktis - 1975 - Tapes


01. New Rock (5:56)
02. Boogie (3:01)
03. Small Talk (4:44)
04. High Fly (5:57)
05. Walkin' With My Baby (2:57)
06. Pique-Nique (6:07)
07. Dan 1 (3:22)
08. Deep In (7:39)
09. Rock'n'Roll (3:30)
Bonus tracks:
10. Evolution (16:17)
11. Speeding Up (13:17)

- Karin Töppig / voice
- Klaus Blachut / guitar
- Klaus Göllner / bass
- Harry Kottek / drums

This is the second straight self-released album by the German band ARKTIS who were trying to get the attention of a label to sign them.There would be one more self-released album after this then they gave up as no label seem interested. Because they didn't get a contract based on their debut album released a year earlier in 1974 they changed their style on this one.They would do the same for the third album as well. Lot's of instrumentals on this one and Karin has changed her vocal style unfortunately.That heavy Psyche stlye is replaced by Boogie, Beat and other styles.There's more variety here which isn't a positive in my opinion. No side long suite either unless you included the bonus tracks which I don't.

"New Rock" is a top three and it reminds me of the debut with that dark intro as the female vocals then guitar join in. I really like the guitar that comes and goes over top. "Boogie" is a catchy instrumental. It's okay.

"Small Talk" is better with the strummed guitar, bass and a beat.The electric guitar comes in before a minute. Nice.The vocals on this one trade off with the electric guitar the rest of the way. A top three. "High Fly" is my final top three as we get some heaviness with the guitar playing over top.The tempo picks up before 3 1/2 minutes.

"Walkin' With My Baby" is the start of five straight instrumentals.This one is fairly simple with guitar and a beat. "Pique-Nique" is also a laid back instrumental. "Dan 1" is strummed guitar with a beat throughout.

Arktis - 1973 - Arktis


01. Student's Idyll (4:02)
02. Outcasted (5:34)
03. Jeff the Fool (3:25)
04. Rare Girl (20:08)

Bonus tracks (recorded 1974)
05. Is it Real (2:45)
06. Sky Drive (4:27)
07. Don't Hang Around (4:21)

- Karin Toppig / voice
- Klaus Blachut / guitar
- Harry Kottek / drums
- Klaus Gollner / bass

This is a pretty cool sounding band from Germany listed under Krautrock here.This is very much a guitar driven, heavy Psyche album with a female vocalist. Not the proggiest album out there although we do a get a side long suite which is the highlight of this 1974 recording. I'm just a sucker for this style of music, especially the upfront guitar.This is a self-released album by the band as they were trying to get signed by a label. In fact the next two albums would also be self-released and they never could get signed oddly enough even with the help of Conny Plank.

"Student's Idyll" hits the ground running with a rumbling heavy sound and the guitar leading the way.The vocals join in quickly.They are in English throughout. I'm just not a fan of this straight-forward tune though.The guitar starts to solo before 2 1/2 minutes and continues until after 3 minutes when the vocals return. "Outcasted" has more of a focus on the vocals although there is still this good raw sound. It settles after 3 minutes as the vocals stop and the guitar leads. She's back after 4 1/2 minutes. It's okay.

"Jeff The Fool" has these lyrics that describe how bad he (Jeff) is and she ends the line each time with "...people say i'm crazy hey !". Oh boy. Another uptempo, guitar led tune. Love the guitar solo from after a minute until after 2 1/2 minutes.

"Rare Girl" is the over 20 minute closer. This is the one that saves this album from being very average. This has a darker sound to it as the guitar opens then bass, drums and vocals join in. She's even singing in a more serious manner and with some attitude. A change 2 minutes in to a brighter sound and no vocals until 3 1/2 minutes in. It kicks into a fuller sound at 5 minutes with the guitar leading and no vocals. It settles 6 1/2 minutes in with the guitar still leading and sounding great. A calm 9 1/2 minutes in then it kicks in heavily until 18 minutes in. Nice.Then the opening soundscape with vocals is reprised. Amazing tune !

Tyburn Tall - 1997 - Live... And Passion

Tyburn Tall
Live... And Passion

01. Fanfare for the Common Man
02. Peter Gunn
03. America
04. In the Hoof of the Cities (Broken People)
05. I am America too
06. Brandenburger Concerto no. 3
07. Black Magic Woman - Gypsy Queen
08. I'm a Man
09. Prelude
10. Gimme Some Lovin'
11. Child in Time
12. Friday

- Hanns Dechant / drums, percussion
- "Pino" Cirillo / guitar
- Klaus Fresenius / vocals, percussion
- Werner Gallo / guitar
- Stefan Kowa / bass
- Reinhard Magin / keyboars

"Live...and Passion" is a quite unusual live album recorded in 1996 by shortly re-united heavy-prog German band called Tyburn Tall. To be more interesting it seems that it was only some kind of anniversary concert and the band never played again after it was over. It's really a pity 'cause this performance was quite good especially taking in consideration that most of these musicians seem to already quit music industry when they were playin' it. So we can call it Tyburn Tall's "last stand"!

Anyway "Live...and Passion" concert disk includes live version of 2 songs from TT's debut album, 2 completely new compositions & 8 covers of well known prog-rock or mainstream rock artists.

Overall it's a very inconsistent work. Seems that these guy's main idea was to please everybody, so we have pompous organ/synth-driven instrumentals ("Brandenburger Concerto no. 3", "America", "Fanfare for the Common Man"), jazz standard ("Peter Gunn"), R'n'B/pop songs ("Gimme Some Lovin'", "I'm a Man") and heavy-prog epics ("Child in time"). All in all this concert is too disjointed, sound like victim of copy-paste formula, it's just lacking any clear direction. Maybe if they decided to include more of their own material like my favorite "War Game" from their debut LP, it would be better. In general it's not so bad, there are many very entertaining moments (especially those organ runs are great),

Tyburn Tall - 1972 - Tyburn Tall

Tyburn Tall
Tyburn Tall

01. War games
02. In the heart of the cities
03. I am America too
04. Strange days hiding

Bonustracks GOD-CD:
05. Lost Angeles
06. Bring out your dead

Stefan Kowa / bass
Hanns Dechant / drums, percussion
Klaus Fresenius / vocals
Werner Gallo / guitar
Reinhard Magin/ keyboards

"Tyburn Tall" is a sadly little known German band which was able to record only one studio album during spring time of prog-rock music - year 1972. I'm not overenthusiastic saying that it's one of my favorite albums from this country and definitely aheavy prog gem. Original pressing of this LP had only four but highly entertaining tracks dominated by ultra-heavy and always busy Reinhard Magin's Hammond B3 organ who sounds like clever student of Jon Lord or Ken Hensley.

1. "War Game" - album starts off with truly splendid epic track which is a real highlight here. First few minutes are occupied by magnificent version of J.S.Bach's most famous composition "Fugue & Toccata in D Minor" which is mostly played without any supportive drum beat. I know that this composition was covered by so many other prog-bands, that some people may already feel sick and tired about it, but for my it's one of the best performances out there (along with Trikolon's version). Anyway about 3rd minute this "introduction" is over and Klaus Fresenius shows up with his vocal section. And here starts a first problem 'cos this guy's voice is more then controversial, to be honest it's terribly strange and for some people unbearably goofy. Sounds like wailing of psycho-maniac who used to sing blues but right now he's trying to sound as cocky/rocky as it's possible to please all heavy metal fans. But don't mind him (in fact he's not so bad...after couple of repeated listenings), he's not going to spoil all fan 'cos the real treat of this track is extremely sharp, heavy-as-hell & frenetic organ playing of Mr. Magin. I bet you didn't hear so many & so crazy Hammond solos from a long, long time!

2. "In The Heart of The Cities" - this one is much more vocal-oriented so we can listen to bigger amount of cheesy sounding screams of lead vocalist who seems to have some real problems to keep his voice in-key with the main melodies, but I suppose it's just additional fan of listening to Tyburn Tall... Thankfully in the middle of the song we can witness some long, psychedelic organ & guitar solos. In general it's a rather good track, slightly more guitar-oriented than the rest of these guys material but we still know that keyboardist is the boss here. While the first track reminds me Emerson's formation - The Nice, "In The Heart of The Cities" sounds more like Beggar's Opera inspired.

3. "I Am America Too" - the shortest song on "Tyburn Tall" begins with some busy, up-tempo organ & piano section but soon Klaus Fresenius joins again to scream his head off to convince us that he's America.... Yeah, if you say so... Never mind, the most important is probably best Reinhard's Hammond solo which appears soon after vocal part. Oh man, this is a really cool organ performance, very melodic & clearly classical influenced. ELP, Triumvirat, Collegium Musicum - all of them spring to my mind when I listen to it.

4. "Strange Days Hiding" - the longest track includes only few vocal parts because it's mainly extended rock jam. As usual I really like Hammond solo hear, this time it's very similar to Jean-Jacques Kravetz's style (Frumpy's keyboardist) - wild & gritty. Werner Gallo also presents us some energetic electric guitar solos a la Ritchie Blackmore. However the biggest mistake was including tiresome 5 minutes drums solo which seems to last forever. When I listen to this staff I can clearly imagine that it's early Deep Purple Mark II recording, in the beginning of their career they also used to play such lengthy but truly dynamic instrumental jams.

+ Bonus from CD version:

5. "Lost Angeles" - as a bonus CD edition of "Tyburn Tall" includes 2 covers from Colosseum repertoire. "Lost Angels" begins with 3 minutes instrumental "intro" driven by mad organ chops & psychedelic bass/drums beat. But vocal fragment of the song isn't so satisfying. Klaus Fresenius tries so hard to sound as goofy & unbearable as Colosseum's vocalist - Chris Farlowe and unfortunately he succeeded... But I still think that this version is better then original. Really!

6. "Bring Out Your Dead" - 2nd track originally recorded by Colosseum is a great instrumental composition filled with memorable Hammond B3 leads over very tight, jazz-like rhythm section. Fantastic performance which can be easily compared with original without any shame.

To sum up: Tyburn Tall's sole studio album is a real treat for fans of organ-drenched heavy prog with few symphonic influences. Highly recommended for fans of such bands as Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster and Birth Control, but more technical music played by The Nice or Quatermass isn't far away from Tyburn Tall too. If you like such music I can also advise you to check other 70s German bands: Frumpy, 2066 & Then, Trikolon/Tetragon, Murphy Blend and Amos Key.

If not those goofy vocals and 5-minutes, dragging drum solo in "Strange Days Hiding", I'd give 5 stars rating for this effort. But such flaws are quite visible there so I can only give it 4,5 stars. Anyway it really deserves larger recognition in prog-rock world.

Agitation Free - 2011 - Shibuya Nights

Agitation Free
Shibuya Nights

01. You Play For Us Today - 6:12
02. Sahara City - 2:48
03. In The Silence Of The Morning Sunrise - 6:22
04. Shibuya Nights - 6:15
05. First Communication - 6:25
06. Dialogue & Random - 1:22
07. Ala Tul - 6:15
08. Laila - 7:38
09. Nomads - 6:47
10. A Quiet Walk - 6:27
11. Das Kleine Uhrwerk - 4:48
12. Malesch - 5:42
13. Drifting - 3:54
14. Rücksturz - 2:57

- Michael Hoenig / keyboards, synths
- Gustl Lütjens / acoustic & electric guitars
- Burghard Rausch / drums, percussion
- Michael 'Fame' Günther / bass
- Lutz 'Lüül' Ulbrich / acoustic & electric guitars, ukelele

guest musician:
- Issey Ogata / ukelele

 AGITATION FREE were invited to play three gigs in Shibuya/Tokio some years ago, February 2007 exactly. It was a passionated Japanese fan who sponsered their mini tour. This also connoted the first band reunion since 1974, at least when speaking of the line-up consisting of Lutz 'Lüül' Ulbrich, Michael Hoenig, Burghard Rausch, Gustl Lütjens and Michael 'Fame' Günther. So this should be regarded as a sensation for sure, so much the more in Japan. The band has a relatively big reputation there, Hoenig and Lüül both are immortalized in the prog rock section of the Tokyo Tower Wax museum for example.

Their song compilation predominantly represents the first two studio albums 'Malesch' and 'Second', besides the legendary live performances highly acclaimed while certainly contributing to the establishment of the krautrock genre. But also two new elaborations are given, which therefore even means something new to the table. 'I'll fly the airplane ... and you play for us today' - it all starts with the original airport samples recorded on their 1971 tour in North Africa. Die-hard fans will adore this renewed intro, I'm sure. However, I took the chance to see them live in Berlin March 2012 ... and the lift-off there has been way more extended and experimental - a revelation really.

Now back to Japan 2007, the origin ... or maybe 2011 because some years are admittedly gone in the meanwhile when considering the release date. No hurry, the band took all the time in the world to offer a technically flawless production finally, an amalgamation handed out by Michael Hoenig. Musically they turn into a tribal groove with excellent spacey guitar and synth interaction where the short Sahara City appears in an oriental and hallucinogenic outfit. Shibuya Nights is a completely new song, a reminiscence to the gig location called 'Shibuya O-West'.

The songs often live from the interaction between both guitars and are trimmed with a modernized approach a bit. However the spirit of the good old days is still noticeable for sure. AGITATION FREE deliver a prolific presentation of their musical legacy on 'Shibuya Nights' after more than 30 years. And there's still a shimmer of hope that this won't be the end of the story.

Of all the German prog-rock bands, Agitation Free was certainly one of the most musically adventurous. Their sound featured the pioneering electronics of Michael Hoenig, one of Germany's best at creating atmospheric melodies and powerful, layered soundscapes which both enhanced and defined the bands style. Also featured were guitarists Lutz Ulbrich and Gustl Lutjens whose magic fingers could conjure up exotic Eastern scales or soaring melodic melodies with ease. Drummer Burghard Rausch and bassist Michael "Fame" Gunter were a polyrhythmic rhythm section extraordinaire that propelled the music.

The original band that recorded the early 70's LP's split up in 1974. In 1999, a reunion album was recorded without Michael Hoenig who could not participate because of prior Hollywood engagements.

It was almost 35 years after first disbanding, in February 2007, when the original band reconnected to perform a series of concerts in Tokyo on the occasion of Hoenigs addition to the Prog-Rock section of the Tokyo Tower Wax Museum. Lutz Ulbrich had already been a wax-presence there for several years. As fate would have it, all came together perfectly. Unbenounced to them, a multitrack recording was made of all 3 concerts at Shibuya O'West, which led to Hoenig compiling an edit in the original musical sequence of the 3 concerts. After applying some "digital sonic archaeology" the resulting recording offers clear evidence, if there was ever any question, that Agitation Free is the best of the German bands.

The new album is truly an Agitation Free "best of." It features five tracks from their 1972 release Malesch and five from 2nd (1973). It also includes three new compositions, plus "Nomads," my favorite track from their 1999 reunion album, River of Return. Programmed perfectly, the track sequence creates a magical, mystical tour through those halcyon days when inspiration flowed freely, guitars and imaginative synthesizer soundscapes comingled to conjure up sonic panoramas of far-off imaginary lands.

The album's production features a flawless mix and immaculate mastering, employing a superb mixture of audio-verite effects which are partly original sound recordings from their 1971 Egypt-Middle East tour. Airplanes, conversations, trains and synthesized segue ways create a non-stop listening experience which completely captures your imagination. Musically, it also features a multitude of highlights, as virtually every track explodes from the speakers.

The opening track "You Play for Us Today," gets the album off to a running start with its deep, loping percussive beats underpinned by Gustl's sizzling guitar and Michael's synthesizer interplay.

"Sahara City" begins with original Arabian percussion, which disappears into a dense multi-layered soundscape of ambient synthe textures laced with the Eastern overtones and sonic exotica.

"Shibuya Nights" is a new composition that rattles your eardrums with Michael's and Burghard's deep primal drumming. Gustl's layered guitar twang and sustained notes literally ooze from the speakers, propelled by the heavy undulating rhythm. The whole thing underscored by Hoenig's modal electronic textures.

"Laila" opens with a crash; leading into some beautifully layered dual guitar soloing that conjures up visions of the improvisational mojo once created by Quicksilver's Duncan and Cipollina. A powerful heavy jam, it serves as the album's centerpiece.

That track flows right into "Nomads," which once again revolves around amazing ritualistic rhythms and percussion. They serve as the backbeat for another celestial-music mantra overflowing with multiple layers of Lutz's spiraling lead guitar and Michael's synthetic textures. The rhythm section throughout the album is truly outstanding.

"Das Kleine Uhrwerk", from "River of Return", is a nice exotic change of pace featuring dual Ukuleles played by Lutz and and special guest, actor Issey Ogata and electric slide guitar by Gustl. Together, they intertwine weaving a sonic tapestry of delicate folk/jazz fusion that dances lightly over a nimble rhythm section.

The album closer, "Riicksturz," is pure prime-era Floydian power surge. A heavy, dramatic guitar piece, it again features Gustl's sustained lead lines spiraling high over a dense, dramatic musical arrangement climaxing with crash-and-burn synthesizer/ guitar feedback. Fade to applause....

The album's ultimate triumph is that much of the music, first performed four decades ago, serves not only as an excellent reminder of those times, but, as played here makes for even more compelling listening in today's homogenized environment.

Gustl reflects on the concert experience, Back in the 70's, at the tender age of 20, we where "trying" to tell a story, today we are able to do so. I remember that in Tokyo I was experiencing moments when "IT" was playing with me, as if everything I ever learned about music was available at this very moment. All kinds of licks and phrases fell into the right place. While playing I visualized Woodstock and Jimi s "All Along the Watchtower" Santana, Duane Allman, Jack Kerouac, Carlos Castaneda... The freedom of improvisation AF built on stage summing up my vision of that time. It all came true in those Shibuya nights with that band and that audience, the fantastic stage crew, and last, but not least our amazing host, Gen Fujita-san...

I think when you listen to this album you might well experience the same effect. The five musicians of Agitation Free came together again and after almost 40 years have reincarnated their creative vision. That says something universal about not only the music, but also the musicians who performed it. It is a rare accomplishment in these days of cash-in reformations and rock-until-you-drop old-timers. This is one of those special recordings, which provides ample proof that music indeed can be timeless.

Agitation Free - 1999 - Other Sides of

Agitation Free
Other Sides of

01. Atlantic overcrossing – 5:34
02. Abulafia – 6:17
03. 6th floor – 5:11
04. Deliverance – 4:23
05. Latino Catherine – 3:36
06. Get it out – 4:21
07. Offstage – 2:46
08. Song fur einen Proletariersohn Teil 1 – 5:38
09. Song fur einen Proletariersohn Teil 2 – 2:54
10. Song fur einen Proletariersohn Teil 3 – 1:35

- Michael “Fame” Gunther / bass
- Gustav Lutjens / guitar, vocals
- Mickie Duwe / vocals
- Harald Grobkopf / drums
- Dietmar Burmeister / drums
- Jochen Bauer / drums
- Konstantin Bommarius / drums, percussion
- Manfred Opitz / keyboards, vocals
- Christian “Bino” Brero / piano
- Bernd Gruber / keyboards
- Klaus “Maus” Henrichs / saxophone
- Lou Blackburn / trombone

This posthumous release is actually two core members playing all sorts of fusion jazz with invited guests, rather than an actual Agitation Free album.

The sound is more akin to second period Doldinger’s Passport.

Agitation Free - 1999 - River Of Return

Agitation Free
River Of Return

01. River Of return (8:24)
02. 2 part 2 (5:46)
03. Fame's mood (4:10)
04. Susie sells seashells at the seashore (10:01)
05. The obscure carousel (5:16)
06. Nomads (7:07)
07. Das kleine Uhrwerk (5:04)
08. 177 spectacular sunrises (13:08)
09. Keep on (3:57)

- Lutz "Lüül" Ulbrich / guitar, keyboards
- Gustl Lütjens / guitar, keyboards
- Burghard Rausch / drums
- Johannes "Alto" Pappert (ex-Kraan) / saxophone
- Michael "Fame" Günther / bass, keybopards
Guest musicians:
- Chris Dehler / overtonevoice, Didgeridoo
- Koma / Bagpipe
- Minas Saluyan / percussion
- Bernard "Potsch" Potschka / guitar, Mandoline, Udu

I am not always sure groups should reform some twenty or thirty years later. Some are reforming just for a tour and are in for the fun and generally out to give the fun to the fans also. Where things are getting slippery is when they feel obliged to write a studio album and they are unable to catch the greatness of their heydays, unfortunately unable/afraid to write stuff as they were younger. So generally, I am wary and avoid common rock bands 's returns.

Nothing of the sort here: Agitation Free's latest release is quite fine (although it does not match the heights of their first two albums) and quite worthy of them. Most of the core members are in in fine form and many guest provide the world-music instruments. All of the tracks are of very good standard , maybe not of the impossibly high adventurous type of the early 70's, but manage to resemble what a fan might hope for such an album: honest , worthy and artisticly sound.

Most tracks will remind you of the good old days but without any nostalgic feelings that might alter your judgment. The downpoint might be the didgeridoo brak on the first tracks that seems to be uncalled for but is soon forgotten. The adding of a sax player (he obviously is very influenced by Supertramp's Helliwell) gives Lutjens and Ullbrich some space to breathe. Recommended to any Agit Free fan but do not expect Malesch-calibre stuff even though there are winks/hints of it.

Agitation Free - 1998 - At The Cliffs Of The River Rhine

Agitation Free
At The Cliffs Of The River Rhine

01. Through The Moods (13:28)
02. First Communication (8:56)
03. Dialogue & Random (0:57)
04. Laila (10:03)
05. In The Silence Of The Morning Sunrise (4:41)

- GustI Lütjens / guitar
- Lutz 'Lüül' Ulbrich / guitar
- Michael 'Fame' Günther / bass
- Michael Hoenig / keyboards
- Burghard Rausch / drums

Although AF inherited a major status in Krautrock history, their historical output was only of three albums, which is quite few compared to ADII, ART, Can, Kraftwerk, Embryo etc. But 00's, AF's total official output includes at least that many posthumous releases, of which At The Cliff Of River Rhine stand as the only one as essential and the only live album, which allows to think more could be heading our way, for there were lots of their gigs recorded. The Cliff part title does provide some confusion though, as it might hint that this record might have been recorded on the romantic Rhine (Koblenz to Mainz), at say Lorelei or something. .. But no, if indeed the live setting did happen in the Rhine valley, it was in Cologne, where the river lies calm and flat in what we can barely still call a very wide valley and there is not a cliff in sight for 100 km. This leaves the title taking inspiration on a cool-looking artwork that seems to inspire itself on the fantasmagoric world of Roger Dean. However these tracks had seen a previous release on Cd in a bootleg form under the title "At Last AF Is Free", because the concert had been a WDR radio broadcast.

This recording however is absolutely pristine and probably one of the best I've heard (apparently no overdubbing either) and it came a few months after the release of their second album (which explains the predominance of tracks of that album in the concert). Sonically very similar to their Second album, and still retaining the ABB edge of that album (there is a tracks that very reminiscent of "in memory of E Reed"), due to their double drummer attack of the previous year (yet un-documented), their usual twin guitar turbo drive (Ullbrich & Lutjens) and Hoenig's particularly superb electronic burbles (amazingly clear & audible for this live setting), etc.. No one single glitch on the whole 47 minutes of the broadcast. Not all that essential a posthumous release if you own their Second album, but if you're an AF fan, you'll know you'll need this.

Agitation Free - 1995 - Fragments

Agitation Free

01. Someone’s Secret – 17:11
02. Mickey’s Laugh – 9:56
03. We Are Men – 10:17
04. Mediterranean Flight – 3:58

- GustI Lutjens / guitar
- Lutz Ulbrich / guitar
- Michael Gunther / bass
- Michael Hoenig / keyboards
- Burghard Rausch / drums

Recorded live in 1974, here the band plays in a psyche jam style with excellent guitar, as usual. The music can be described as a cross of Pink Floyd and Grateful Dead for the acid guitar sound. But there’s also a more jazzy direction in “Fragments”, thanks to keyboards. “Fragments” has been also compared to Santana, mainly because of percussions.

The summit is reached with the piece “We Are Men” which begins with excellent drum and aerial keyboard layers, contributing to this floating, almost jazz rock feel, but the psychedelic guitar parts and the space rock developments reminds that it’s top psyche prog jam style.

Agitation Free - 1974 - Last

Agitation Free

01. Soundpool – 5:54
02. Laila II – 16:58
03. Looping IV – 22:41

- Michael Hoenig / synthesizer, keyboards
- Dietmar Burmeister / drums
- Michel Gunther / bass
- Gustl Lutjens / vocals
- Burghard Rausch / drums, keyboards, vocals
- Jorg Schwenke / guitar
- Lutz Ulbrich / guitar, keyboards

This live album is very different but somewhat the logical follower of “Second” but reversely so. Here the electronics predominate the electric and acoustic music. It was recorded partly live in 1974 and partly in spring 1973 from a radio broadcast and parts from a successful French tour the next year with yet another guitarist.

The first side is made up of two tracks and they don’t make for an easy adaptation of Agitation Free’s evolution since their second album. Gone is the warm pastoral sound of “Second” or the torrid cosmic feel of Malesch. We are left with a glacial music, sometimes not very well recorded The flipside is filled by a sidelong comp “Looping IV”, which is relatively eventless. as this is mostly electronic layers and sounds evolving and leading to some delightful music that AF had gotten us used to in their first two.

This is a definite tougher listen. You’ll find that it never gets fully tamed, but in time, you should warm up to it.

Agitation Free - 1974 - Second

Agitation Free

01. First Communication – 8:10
02. Dialogue & Random – 1:51
03. Laila, Part 1 – 1:41
04. Laila, Part 2 – 6:47
05. In The Silence Of The Morning Sunrise – 6:33
06. A Quiet Walk: a) Listening b) Two – Not Of The Same Kind – 9:15
07. Haunted Island – 7:11

- Stefan Diez / guitar
- Micheal Gunter / bass
- Micheal Hoenjo / synth, keyboards
- Burghard Rausch / drums, assorted percussions, voice, Mellotron
- Lutz Ulbrich / guitar, 12 string guitar, Bouzouki

In some ways, “Second” is the logical successor to Malesch with its twin guitar “attack”; these two are so mellow that it seems a shame to call them an attack. But the name “attack” is now apt for the drumming since the group enlisted a second drummer, thus giving an exacting edge that only the Allman Brothers Band had before. Losing the second drummer just prior to recording their aptly-titled Second, AF retained all of the inertia and the album has a fantastic ABB fluidness wherever necessary. Graced with a drought, than rain season artwork, this second album lost all ethnic touches of Malesch, one passage excepted, proof that their debut’s rep was indeed overdone.

Starting on the First Communications, you can hear the Floydian cosmic/psych influences of Malesh will also be relatively absent as well. Dialogue & Random is an electronic free jazz improve leading into the two-part Leila, which is strongly reminiscent of the ABB’s Elizabeth Reed and fades into Silence Of The Morning sunrise with electronic birds chirping along to tranquil electric guitars gliding along the organ mist layers. Superb music. The birds lead you to a slow Quiet Walk into a cosmic dark hole (Tangerine Dream’s Zeit is not far away here) if it wasn’t for an electric Indian-laced guitar (the only real ethnic moment of this album), before stretching itself out maybe a tad too long. The closing Haunted Island is the only sung track of the album, filtered, almost recitative over a superb mellotron, and once over, the two guitars take over and soar in the sky for a grandiose finale.

Although AF’s second album holds some fairly different influences, trading in the Arabian and cosmic /psych Floyd ambiance, for a more pastoral west coast sound, both albums can be regarded as AF’s crowning achievements, although neither reaches perfection.

Agitation Free - 1974 - Malesch

Agitation Free

01. You Play For Us Today – 6:15
02. Sahara City – 7:51
03. Ala Tul – 4:57
04. Pulse – 4:51
05. Khan El Khalili – 5:34
06. Malesch – 8:24
07. Rucksturz – 2:11

- Peter Michael Hamel / keyboards
- Michael Hoenig / synthesizer, keyboards
- Michel Gunter / bass
- Uli Pop / bongos
- Burghard Rausch / drums, keyboards, vocals
- Jorg Schwenke / guitar
- Lutz Ulbrich / guitar, keyboards

A classic of the German space genre, Agitation Free’s music is a combination of progressive rock and new instrumental music, with touches of Jazz and passages dedicated to an experimentation near to ambient. Their originality is due to the blend electronic and repetitive musics with a lot of ethnic elements.

Malesch, the band’s debut, was recorded after a trip to Egypt. The Middle Eastern influence brought back from this sojourn courses through the veins of the music, with live banter and incidental music recorded in Cairo serving as a link between tracks.

The album contains seven tracks running more or less continuously based in improvisational rock, with the individual tracks serving to divide the music by mood conjured. Like a lot of jamming, parts of tracks begin with the band finding its feet before everyone is on the same page, at which point the results are captivating and hypnotic.

Agitation Free is not as noisy as many of their peers, and sound almost like e-music at times (it is of note that Michael Hoenig later wrote some of the best Berlin school electronic music). There is a definite Middle Eastern sound aimed for, which is somewhat superficially achieved but leads to some nice harmonic variety all the same. Apart from closing track “Rücksturz”, with its stunning riff, no individual cut here blows me away. It is the aggregate of all the cuts which results in a half hour of excellent, involving mood music.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fashion Pink - 2002 - Encore

Fashion Pink
Encore (1969-1971)

01. I See You (1970) 4:17
02. Dharma For One (1970) 11:19
03. Watch Time Flow By (1969 1:41
04. I’m A Man (1970) 3:53
05. The Was A Time (1970) 10:17
06. Forget It, I Got It (1969) 3:01
07. Peeling Beans (1969) 3:23
08. Watch Tim Flow By (1971) 3:16
09. Why Am I So Blind (1971) 2:45
10. Thesen Und Antihesen (1971) 3:36
11. Variation I (1971) 1:57
12. Bass In Race (1971) 1:37
13. You Just Knock Me Out (1971) 0:35
14. Scheibe Durch Den Urwald Getrommelt (1971) 4:08
15. Variation II (1971) 0:35
16. Brainstormin (1971) 5:09
17. Variation III (1971) 1:06
18. BRAINSTORM “Stars on Stage” (1975) 12:10

* Roland Schauffer / guitar, bass, saxophones, vibraphone
* Eddy V. Overheidt / organ, electric piano, clavinet, vocals
* Reiner Bodensohn / bass, flute
* Joe Koinzer / drums, percussions
* Harald Wagner / bass (1-5)
* Helmut Rusch / guitar (6, 7)

Schauffer and Rusch had played together before in other bands. In the summer of 1968, they contacted Eddy von Overheidt and Jürgen Argast – and “Fashion Pink” was born. The band was complete when Joe Koinzer joined them.

Rusch modelled himself on Jimi Hendrix and was the first to play a Fender Stratocaster including a Marshall-tower. Fashion Pink were the first in Baden-baden to play so called progressive underground music, mixed with jazz elements and free-jazz intermezzos. However, this line-up was only short-lived, since Helmut was drafted by the army and Jürgen left the band due to differences about the music.

Argast was replaced with Rainer Bodensohn, who had originally learnt to play the guitar, but later on chose the transverse flute as his main instrument and also played bass. Before Helmut left the band in October 1969, Fashion Pink were the first of many bands to give a guest performance with the radio station Südwestfunk (today SWR) in Baden-Baden, and so this promising up-and-coming band recorded songs in Südwestfunk’s recording studio U1. On 15.6.1969, the band including Rusch recorded the titles “Peeling Beans” (composed by Roland Schaeffer) and “Forget it, I got it” (Spooky Tooth).

The titles of this album impressively show the development of the band, the influences that worked on it, its models and how the band eventually found their own style, which became even more distinct in the follow-up band “Brainstorm”.

The titles 01-07 are the ones that were recorded in Südwestfunk’s studio U1 between 1969-1971. The live version of “Watch time flows by” was recorded off the mixing desk during a live appearance in Ludwigshafen in 1971. Titles 09-17 were originally recorded for a cosmetics company mini LP, only sent to their own customers. Parts of the titles were to be used in later musical epics.

In early 1972 the band changed its name into Brainstorm. The bonus track “Stars on stage” was recorded live during a gig in Ludwigshafen on 29.6.1975 under this name.

This CD contains further studio recordings from 1969-1975 + 2 live tracks. The music is a gradual progression from short psychedelic jams through to longer more structured symphonic Krautrock pieces. It contains some fine cover versions- amongst others Tull's "Dharma For One" (11:00 minutes), the Spencer Davis Group's "I’m A Man" and lost studio-LP track "TAC Beiersdorf" (never officially released). 75 minutes, great stuff!

After the CD Fashion Pink “… to Brainstorm” had been published on Long Hair, LHC 3, in winter 2000, we received an email from Canada by former band member Helmut Rusch (guitar), upon which we revised the history of Fashion Pink’s origin and are now able to give the following account:

The band was founded in 1968. Their first gig took place on 12.10.1968, the line-up included Roland Schaeffer (vocals, guitar, saxophone, bass), Eddy von Overheidt (organ, vocals), Helmut Rusch (lead guitar), Jürgen Argast (bass) and Joe Koinzer (drums). Before, Roland and Helmut had played with the Pop Mops and Reaction, and soon after with a trio called Blues Act (1968), although their involvement with Blues Act was short-lived. In summer 1968 they contacted Eddy and Jürgen – and Fashion Pink was born. Eddy von Overheidt had been vocalist and guitarist with The Edwardians, a band who played Rock’n Roll Standards and titles by the Beachboys. Jürgen Argast had played with The Checkmates. The band was complete when Joe Koinzer joined them. He had played titles by John Mayall, Yardbirds and B.B. King with The Snakes. Fashion Pink were considered Baden-Baden’s Super Group. Rusch modelled himself on Jimi Hendrix and was the first to play a Fender Stratocaster including a Marshall-tower. Fashion Pink were the first in the region to play so called progressive underground music, mixed with jazz elements and free-jazz intermezzos. However, this line-up was only short-lived, since Helmut was drafted by the German Armed Forces and Jürgen left the band due to differences about the music. He was replaced with Rainer Bodensohn, who had originally learnt to play the guitar, but later on chose the transverse flute as his main instrument and also played bass. Before Helmut left the band in October 1969, Fashion Pink were the first of many bands to give a guest performance with the radio station Südwestfunk (today SWR) in Baden-Baden, and so this promising up-and-coming band recorded songs in Südwestfunk’s recording studio U1. On 15.6.1969, the band including Helmut recorded the titles “Peeling Beans” (composed by Roland Schaeffer) and “Forget it, I got it” (Spooky Tooth). Once he had served his time Helmut went to England, and from there he moved to Toronto in 1980. And, as he tells us in his email:” People call me Colin now.”

The titles of this CD impressively show the development of the band, the influences that worked on it, its models and how the band eventually found their own style, which became even more distinct in the follow-up band “Brainstorm”. The titles 01-07 are the ones that were recorded in Südwestfunk’s studio U1 between 1969-1971. They are published on CD for the first time. The live version of “Watch time flows by” was recorded off the mixing desk during a live appearance in Ludwigshafen in 1971. Titles 09-17 are special, since they had been published on a mini LP (T.A.C. Beiersdorf) recorded by order of the cosmetics company Beiersdorf. Eddy’s father Werner von Overheidt, editor with the Südwestfunk, who was working as a pianist and arranger as a sideline, had got in touch with Beiersdorf (e.g. Nivea), who were looking for a special “gift” for their customers. They thought of gratifying their customers with a so called soundtrack. In early 1971 Fashion Pink recorded the titles themselves and acted as producers. Parts of the titles were to be used in later musical epics. The LP was never publicly released. It was only ever given as a present to Beiersdorf customers and is now available on CD for the first time.