Monday, January 19, 2015

Exponent - 1974 - Upside Down

Upside Down

01. Duplicate (8:19)
02. Last Spring (8:17)
03. Thoughts (6:33)
04. Dream (19:13)

Rudiger Braune: Drums
Dirk Fleck: Bass
Martin Kohmstedt: Guitar
Rudiger Elze: Guitar

Not only for fans of Krautrock: Exponent - a previously unreleased album from 1974.

Before the Krautrock project from Wuppertal changed the bands name to Exponent in 1974 they used the name „Upside Down“ (1971-1974).
The project features Frederic Mirage on the Moog synthesizer! They played on a lot concerts also together with other bands - for instance Novalis and Hölderlin.

A typical promotion letter from 1974 (from Exponent's Management) in the style of which it gets sometimes added to promo records was rediscovered. A copy of it is included in the package. 300 copies!

Produced at Studio Neubauer in Düsseldorf were several Krautrock bands recorded their releases. For instance: Dom – Edge Of Time

Well... here's the next big thing for archival progressive rock collectors (recorded in 1974). Imagine Spektakel as played by Eloy. Oh... did I get your attention there? Good, that was the plan. This is more German symphonic than classic Krautrock, and I know many of you are nodding your head, saying "yep - know wha'cha mean, Tom". This is definitely a dream for keyboard fans, and there's oodles of organ, Moog, electric piano, and mellotron to absorb and treasure. While there is guitar, it definitely plays second banana to the awesome banks of keyboards. And, as indicated prior, the album is geared more towards the symphonic progressive genre with plenty of meter breaks and compositional acumen. This is not a atmospheric Krautrock zone out. Side 2 is a bit more of a blues based jam, and also possesses a slightly lesser sound quality, but still no less awesome of a listening experience - perhaps calling out a more classic German sound ala Sixty-Nine here. Yes, there's been a Sixty-Nine sighting (look them up) Sixty-Nine. On the topic of sound quality, it's very good for an archival recording, but hardly Abbey Road Studios standard, so be sure to keep expectations in check. Exponent is begging for a CD issue as well. Top drawer this one goes in.

Zoppo Trump - 2009 - Zoppo Trump

Zoppo Trump
Zoppo Trump

01. Man of Peace (1971)
02. Queen of War (1971)
03. Get Out of the Fixer Circle (1972)
04. Confusion (1972)
05. From my Window (1972)
06. Six of Eight (1972)
07. Dream of Hope (1972)
08. Wellengang (1976)
09. Fluktuation (1976)

Ferdi Eberth (voc, g, sax, org)
Ulrich Beck (g)
Martin Buschmann (p, org, Mellotron, alto sax)
Thomas Laleicke (b, backing voc)
Udo Preising (b)
Nicky Gebhard (dr, perc)
Wolfgang Hahn (dr)

Zoppo Trump from Dortmund are known in collectors’ circles only for the sampler LP “Scena Westphalica” (Forderturm Records UP I/76), on which they are represented with their highly praised pieces “Wellengang” and “Fluktuation”. In addition to these tracks, the CD contains another seven tracks of a perfect sound which had been studio recordings and had not been released until then. Style: progressive rock slightly influenced by jazz and classical music, however mostly without any wind instruments. There was a sporadic use of the Mellotron and English vocals. Comparable to Streetmark. Udo Preising had come from Electric Mud. Nicky Gebhard later joined Wallenstein, and Martin Buschmann, son of the well-known jazz- musician Rainer Glen Buschmann, joined Cochise. For some time, by the way, Dieter Gorny was on bass for Zoppo Trump. There are, however, no recordings from this period of their band history.

The first two tracks here are when Zoppo Trump still existed as a guitar/keys-bass-drums trio. The music has a certain sophistication, but is also quite informed by the West Coast USA psych sound. At this point, they could be considered a parallel group to Walpurgis. Summary: Good not great. However change was on the horizon. Adding dedicated guitarist Ulrich Beck in 1972, which freed up band leader Ferdi Eberth on the Hammond organ, resulted in a remarkable progression for the band. As represented by tracks 3 to 7, Zoppo Trump sound more like their Krautrock contemporaries who adopted jazz characteristics as additives to their psychedelic Krautrock stew. Comparisons to bands such as Out of Focus, Thirsty Moon and Eiliff would not be an exaggeration here.  This gets us to the two previously released tracks from 1976, that were initially on the "Scena Westphalica" compilation. Eberth rebuilt the band from the ground up, himself switching back to guitar, while adding three new members on keyboards/sax, bass, and drums. Here the band trades in their psychedelic Krautrock chips for a sound entrenched in more standard forms of jazz rock. Overall, an extraordinary musical document, which clearly demonstrates that Zoppo Trump could very well have released one of the all-time great Krautrock albums had they the proper chance. Only drawback is the less than stellar sound quality throughout (though still very listenable and miles better than bootleg standard).

Vikings Invasion - 1975 - Vol. I

Vikings Invasion
Vol. I

01. The Mirror
02. The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock
03. Blues Special
04. Listen To Four Guitars On Your Corner
05. Shadow Boogie
06. Rolling Times
07. Dark Line Child
08. Moon Of Alabama
09. Rhapsody On A Windy Night
10. Answer  For My Life
11. Across The Street (bonus)

Charles Sterchi (vocals, guitars)
Eric Eberhard (bass)
Gerhard Burri (drums)

A convincing argument about the development of American punk rock was that it was the first moment in the history of white rocknroll when the musicians no longer pretended to be black. After Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, and all the rest, punk was an honest form of rock music, which at last admitted that striking a black pose was increasingly untenable for rockers bloated on white America’s corporate cash, especially in light of the small progress American society had made during the years of rocknroll’s development against its systemic racism—progress that crystallized exactly how far society still needed (and needs) to go. Coupled with this argument is one about punk’s inherent racism, or, as Seth Sanders and Mike O’Flaherty write, in “40,000,000 Ronald Reagan Fans Can’t Be Wrong” in The Baffler #15, “Punk was also the first white rock music to confront the racial divide and take it as a fact of life . . .Punk’s frankness about race bled over into winking acceptance of the racial divide.” These authors look to the Ramones in the first sentence and the Electric Eels in the second.

Theirs is a canny argument, but it is limited, like so much punk historiography, because it fails to see the full complexion of punk rock. The argument relies, for the most part, on the name-brand bands, even though the Eels might not usually be considered as such. Hugely important to the shit-fi pantheon, the Eels were, in their own way, as marginal as you could get, but their self-imposed marginality from mainstream white America differs from that of blacks or Latinos, which is anything but self-imposed. Musical marginality falls into a different register from race-, gender-, or class-based marginality, though they are often interrelated. As Sanders and O’Flaherty elaborate, when the Electric Eels “used lines from a KKK pamphlet, did it matter that ‘Let’s pull the triggers on the niggers’ was blank irony, that there were probably no black people in the club?” At first, this question seems pretty damning because the shock value of such a statement is nil if the white working-class roughnecks, who famously wanted to beat up the Eels for their play homoeroticism, raised their glasses to such a statement rather than grabbing pool cues and preparing for battle, but on deeper inspection, that word “probably” strikes me as problematic. It might seem impossible to know if there were any blacks in the club, but the historian should attempt to find out the answer definitively (just send the Eels an e-mail!).

More importantly, however, the historian should be aware of how the construction of history itself introduces biases and magnifies lacunae. Here’s the rub: punk rock’s “race problem” cannot be denied or willed away by the myriad good intentions of the idealists who’ve populated the punk and hardcore scenes (especially Europe’s, where the word “class” thankfully ist nicht verboten—well, none of this is quite accurate if we locate punk in a worldwide context). Nevertheless, this problem may be one more deeply attributable to punk historiography—with its fetishization of the retrograde; its focus on the white male groups who actually were able to enter the mainstream’s discursive space; its love of characters like Lester Bangs, who played up the racial divide—than to punk itself. These authors could’ve picked a hundred obscure bands besides the Electric Eels, but their point might not have held. Say, The Bags, Screaming Urge, Pure Hell, Ducky Boys, Bad Brains? Uh, no. Or any all-white bands that did not adopt (crypto-)fascist imagery? I’m not saying these authors are wrong, but they are not exactly right either. There’s just too much to punk to sum it up with blanket statements. The acknowledgment that a band like the Eels deserves mention alongside the Ramones shows that the authors are at least dimly aware of punk’s breadth outside the usual Ramones-Pistols-Clash axis but yet are not quite ready to take it all on. (Still, I gotta say, you should read the whole essay, because it’s lucid, articulate, and intelligent.)

So what is all this talk about punk’s, and punk historiography’s, race problem doing in a review of a Swiss-German basement hard/blues rock reissue? It’s there so I can contradict it. Here goes. Because I was not much moved by any music before discovering punk, and I didn’t start to listen to much outside punk for over a decade of so identifying, I now think I was unknowingly infected by punk’s race problem. As my interest in basement ‘70s hard rock grows—due to its affinities with punk, of course—I repeatedly find that what initially prevents me from really going nuts for the music is its bluesiness. Even Black Sabbath, the pinnacle of ‘70s hard rock/heavy metal, gets too bluesy for me at points. Ergo, as the blues is an intrinsically black American musical form, and the basis for all rocknroll until Joey Ramone came along, who, as Sanders and O’Flaherty say, was, “the first white rock singer to not even pretend to be black,” I can’t help but feel that my own distaste for flecks of a black musical idiom was conditioned by its absence in punk rock, the reason for my love of music. So is there a kernel of truth to the generalization made by mainstream punk historians about its white sound? Yet the problem with saying that because I digested the Ramones only slightly more than I did The Plugz or Bad Brains, I thus became a subconscious musical imperialist and racist, is the essentialization of race built into such a statement. It is not that the list of bands above (The Bags, Screaming Urge, etc) comprises bands whose members were not all white, rather it is that the meaning of racial terms is forever unsatisfying and questionable.

Talking about the construction of race is delicate precisely because we must avoid essentialization, which seeks to delimit and codify the possibilities of identity construction with tropes and to create tautologies. An argument that follows the definitions of race to their logical conclusion would be: punk rock can’t be “black” because black people don’t play punk, they play only blues or funk, etc. But inherent to this argument are the opposing stereotypes of what it means to be white or black, a self-effacing opposition that conceals its own dialectic. The whiteness of the Ramones cannot exist without the blackness of the blues, or, indeed, of the ‘60s pop that influenced them, and yet the blackness of the Bad Brains’ sound (ie, the reggae songs) cannot exist without the white British appropriation of a black postcolonial music form—reggae—by Strummer et al. And suddenly, because of these contingencies, as soon as we latch on to what we think these terms mean, they slip from our grasp and become something new, a problem exacerbated by the fact that here we are using them not to discuss people but to discuss music. Such a loaded term as “black,” reified and removed from the everyday, experiential, and multiple historical contexts of its construction, begins to lose any critical usefulness. To say the blues is black music demands a history that is intertwined with the vagaries of consumer capitalism and America’s deeply vexed race relations. What about all the white blues musicians, not to mention white audiences? Is it the blackness of the creators or the listeners that obtains in music history? So we find ourselves at something of an impasse. Casually, it makes sense to say that punk de-blacked rocknroll, but such a statement relies heavily on stereotyping. Scrutiny, which brings up exceptions to the generalizations, makes the issue murkier, not clearer. The questions, put simply, revolve around whether race can be a descriptive term for music, and thus, a surrogate for qualities that inform taste.

Does all this rumination amount to apologism for my own sensitivity to ‘70s hard rock’s overt use of blues-based song structures? At first, this effort might not even make sense, considering that no Ramones song, although Joey didn’t pretend to be stereotypically black as did Mick Jagger, could possibly have been written without the 12-bar call-and-response foundation that was unquestionably built by black musicians, but then we must remember that this musical form entered the mainstream white imagination through its expropriation by white music industrialists. Maybe my taste is actually inherently not racist, because it is not built upon that expropriation!

And then let’s lay another problem or three on top: Vikings Invasion was a pre-punk German-speaking-Swiss left-wing hard rock group playing American-style blues-rock in England, sung in English. At last, the possibilities of the hybridity of a term like “black music” are revealed. In addition to this hybridity is the shit-fi aspect, which is often, though not exclusively, related to economics: Vikings Invasion is caveman-simple rock recorded live in a what sounds like a rehearsal room. There is nothing intricate or subtle about these Swiss dudes’ cretinous playing. They played loud. They played thuddingly dumb. But they also played the blues. And so listening to this CD causes me internal debate: do I enjoy the lo-fi and stupid sound more than I dislike the bluesiness? (I’m at risk of giving you the wrong idea: it’s not that I am repulsed by the blues, more just that it sticks out and distracts me—probably because something like it was, as I said, so notably, and punkily, absent in the formative years of my music listening. An analogy might be this: I love shitty recordings. Someone who grew up listening to professionally recorded music would likely find the “bad” recording of what I love distracting, as I find the blues influence to be.) Luckily, the more I listen to the CD, the more the distraction fades, and I can appreciate both the lo-fi nature of the music and the music itself.

Is Vikings Invasion proto-punk? It depends on whether you buy the theory about the shift to punk as being marked by the moment white musicians faced with sober senses the real conditions of their lives and their relations with their fellow men—ie, the racial divide. And if you do, it depends whether you think a band needed to be “white” in sound to be an ancestor of punk. Did Nico’s or the MC5’s race problems, which manifested in quite different, though perhaps related, ways, have anything to do with the lack of discernable blackness in Discharge? I doubt it be could proven. What’s more important is context. This CD’s reissue label situates Vikings Invasion on the periphery of Krautrock, which seems plausible because it was recorded in 1975 and the band hailed from the Swiss/German border. Considering the musical complexity and innovation associated with Krautrock, as well as 1970s Germany’s deep anxiety about the subtlest manifestation of latent fascism (shining a light upon that latent fascism is ultimately what the Red Army Faction intended to do), Vikings Invasion are—well, not easy to pin down. If it can be argued that punk dropping the pseudo-black façade of white ‘60s/’70s music enabled acquiescence to the racial divide, then so too can the patronizing appropriation of black culture be labeled racist, or at least suspiciously acquiescent to “othering.” Or, outside the US, where Vikings Invasion’s micro-press LP was probably never heard (there’s that “probably” again), and acknowledging Krautrock’s “winking acceptance,” to appropriate the term of Sanders and O’Flaherty, of the violently anti-fascist, terrorist Red Army Faction, was sounding black some expression of solidarity with an openly oppressed people? To further complicate the picture, Vikings Invasion used T. S. Eliot’s poetry as the lyrics for two tunes. Surely Eliot, the accused anti-Semite who didn’t find totalitarianism particularly objectionable, was rolling over in his grave when this LP dropped and his words were tossed over left-wing blues-based tunes. At least they didn’t quote Ezra Pound.

Vikings Invasion started out with the name Dreieinkeitsmoses, meaning Trinity Moses, taken from a Brecht play (that’s why, beyond the ‘70s long-hair zeitgeist, I assume them to have been at least modestly left-wing). In addition to Eliot, they used Brecht poetry for lyrics too. Their British record label, which signed them after they won a contest sponsored by Melody Maker in 1975, made them change their name to Vikings Invasion, ostensibly confusing Switzerland with Sweden. The LP was called “Vol. 1,” but no second volume ever appeared. The record is as unpolished a release as one can imagine a big label of the ‘70s producing. It has the feel of a demo, and this CD includes one 11-minute bonus rehearsal track, which does not have a particularly noticeable difference in fidelity from the LP itself, except for a thicker guitar tone and a pretty awesome wah guitar solo. My favorite song is “Listen to Four Guitars on Your Corner,” which you’ll be shocked to learn is one of the heaviest and least bluesy tracks. Two other highlights are the other heavy slugger “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” (right click to download) and “Answer for My Life,” with a title befitting a ‘90s Tokyo hardcore record. Both songs have up-tempo parts (most of the songs are rather slow), and the latter’s is over a minute of uber-simple proto-punk. This nicely done CD reissue includes great band photos and fact-filled liner notes, as well as apparently excellent sound reproduction, sourced from vinyl. “Vol. 1” was bootlegged in the 1990s, but the liner notes inform us, “This bootleg’s sound is a hell of a lousy.” Chances are that you won’t find the original or even the bootleg any time soon. Maybe this humble CD won’t inspire as much introspection in you as it did me, but it does add one piece, if a rather peripheral one, to the puzzle of how punk came to exist, and of what exactly rocknroll consists, especially with regard to race.

Vinegar - 1971 - Vinegar


01. Missi Solis (12:15)
02. Sawmill - Teil I (5:22)
03. Sawmill - Teil II (5:05)
04. Der Kaiser auf der Erbse (7:04)
05. Fleisch (7:04)

Biemann, Jochen (guitar)
Dormagen, Dagmar (vocals, flute)
Grahn, Wolfgang (drums)
Gulbatscher, Ambrosius (Gulbratsche)
Liesegang, Bernhard (bass, vocals)
Modrow, Ralf (organ, vocals)
Zwirner, Rolf (guitar, violin)

This obscure group made an excellent album in the "garage/underground/progressive" mold way back in 1971. Vinegar could be ranked along with Mammut as one of the most important exponents of the genre. For your amusement, here's a closer look at their fascinating album: "Missa Solis" (12:15) starts off in a slow, lyrical and sinister way, not far removed from a Floyd-type depression from 1969. A violin comes in and makes a short solo appearance to great effect, before the guitar and organ develop the main theme. "Saw Mill Part I" (5:22) is a garage rock song with Renate Knaup-like vocals that soon sets off to an outer space of strange sounds - "A Saucerful Of Secrets" reborn. "Saw Mill Part II" (5:05) is more like Amon Duul II, driven by violin, organ and guitar. "Der Kaiser Auf Der Erbse" (7:04) goes in another direction, suddenly drunk Goths enter the studio! The last track is "Fleisch" (7:04), an instrumental return to the almost classical themes introduced in the second half of "Missa Solis". In conclusion: this album is quite fabulous, go out and get it!

VINEGAR is a psychedelic rock band from Germany formed by Wolfgang Grahn, Bernhard Liesegang and Jochen Biemann. The three men attended school together, but it wasn't until they were in the university that the idea of forming a band had becomed more concrete. After some time playing together, they added a new member, Dagmar Dormagen (who was a very close friend of Wolfgang and lived just around the corner from his house) to sing in the band. By the end of 1969 Rolf Zwirner and Ralf Modrow joined the group and the line-up was established. They named their band VINEGAR because they wanted to make music that was "hard to digest" as opposed to the "sweet stuff" others played. The band split after the recording of their first album because of musical differences.
VINEGAR made one recording only in 1971. Their sound ranges from rocking guitar riffs to soft violin passages and haunting organ passages as well. There are songs that also consist of jams, but the overall sound is more structured. In some parts of their songs they can be compared to AMON DUUL II or PINK FLOYD.
Recommended for fans of Krautrock, psychedelic/ space rock fans who are looking for a little bit more hard rock in their

Virus - 1973 - Remember Live

Remember Live

01. Everybody Knows That I've Got That Feeling (4:06)
02. This Is No Anarchy (4:46)
03. Remember (5:25)
04. Rock 'N' Roll (3:41)
05. In Any Way (5:01)
06. Settle Down (4:00)
07. Living In The Country (7:28)
08. King Heroin (5:14)
09. Woods Fun (10:08)

- Jorg-Dieter Krahe / keyboards
- Jurgen Schafer / vocals, bass
- Werner Vogt / vocals, bass
- Reinhard Ifflander / guitar
- Jurgen Dose / saxophone
- Axel Nieling / percussion
- Wolfgang Rieke / drums

 This is a high-energy, blues-based hard rocking live album from a band with little documented history but who seem to have done an admirable job of keeping up the paces while they were on stage.

Despite being German and existing in the early seventies, this is more modern hard rock than it is progressive or Krautrock. There aren’t any grandiose lyrical themes or complicated arrangements, but there is an abundance of horns (mostly saxophone) which wasn’t particularly mainstream in that period.

The sound quality is pretty good for a live album, although the Garden of Delights reissue is surely cleaned up from the original vinyl (which I have not had the pleasure to hear, but is a reasonable assumption anyway). The band manages to keep up a high level of energy throughout, and there aren’t any mellow tracks. The keyboardist Jorg-Dieter Krahe sounds a bit like Jon Lord with a dose of acid under his tongue, and Wolfgang Rieke’s drumming isn’t overly ornate but he is quite intense at times.

The title track has some great guitar licks all through the song, including an extended instrumental piece. The band has a tendency to lay into longish jams all through the album, not surprising considering the times and the fact that they were in stage at the time. I would be interested to hear one of their studio albums in comparison, but as yet haven’t had the chance.

A few of the tracks here aren’t much more than heavy rock with little if anything progressive about them, “Rock 'n Roll”, “King Heroin” and “Settle Down” in particular. The last of these sounds a bit like the heavier parts of the first couple of Chicago albums, mostly thanks to the saxophone and keyboards.

The album closes with another jam session, the ten-minute long “Woods Fun” with extended keyboard funkiness and free-form jazzy saxophone. This must have been a crowd pleaser on a dark summer evening under the skies (I’m imaging this was the setting, but who knows…).

I suppose these guys are forgotten for a reason, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend this album for someone trying to discover progressive music. But the tunes are all originals, the sonic quality of the music is quite good, even for 1973, and folks who get into long jamming heavy rock will probably dig this album a fair bit. Three solid stars for sure, and recommended mostly to fans of bands like Uriah Heep, Cactus, Colosseum – stuff like that.

Originating from Bielefeld in Northern Germany, the roots of Virus go back to the early-1960's, with Bernd Hohmann in the school band The Moonbirds, later joining up with Man's World, a rock 'n' soul band, who gradually transmuted into Virus circa 1970. Another Virus root starts in 1966, with Wolfgang Rieke of the award winning Percy & The Gaolbirds. All the founding members were experienced talents and well-known musicians of the Westphalia region.

Virus were justly one of the most legendary of Krautrock bands, notably in that their debut took the Pink Floyd type of space-rock sound onto new uncharted realms. REVELATION was aptly titled, being full of invention and surprises within long tracks that sported extensive guitar work-outs, swirling organ, free-riffing and lots of interactive musical interplay, no less so that on the very free adaptation of "Paint it Black" and a most astonishing diversion on a "Saucerful Of Secrets" theme! But, like Gila or Tangerine Dream, Virus were by no means plagiarists, what they did was to venture beyond such influences and come up with a style all of their own, resulting in a powerful cosmic excursion that's largely instrumental and full of surprises. Certainly an album of revelations!

But, scarcely a month on from recording REVELATION, two-thirds of the band: Reinhold Spiegelfeld, Bernd Hohmann and Werner Monka had split-off forming the hard-rock psychedelic band Weed.

For many years the line-up on THOUGHTS remained a mystery, as no such details were credited on the sleeve, although the front cover showed six people. Recent documentation from Garden of Delights credits the band as: Wolfgang Rieke (drums) and Dieter Krahe (keyboards) remaining from the previous line-up, joined by: Jurgen Schafer (vocals, bass), Werner Vogt (vocals, bass), Bernd Rosner (guitar) and Axel Nieling (additional drums, percussion). The female vocals happened to be by a guest, a friend of Conny Plank's, who may or may not have been the rumoured Elga Blask. The person on the cover in furs and chintzy glasses is said to be Wolfgang Rieke! No wonder THOUGHTS was in such a different style to the debut, and with two very different lead vocalists songwriting was more a key factor of the music. A more hard-rock and blues focus meant a step towards more song oriented Frumpy, but with a wild psychedelic edge, and lyrics about drugs and paranoia, much closer to Pilz label-mates Dies Irae. The same line-up (with slightly altered instrumentation) were also featured on the HEAVY CHRISTMAS album, with two sizzling numbers that were nothing less than extraordinary.

We always wondered what happened to Virus after THOUGHTS, a question that was answered with REMEMBER documenting a WDR radio concert from April 1973.

Surprisingly most of the THOUGHTS line-up was still intact, except they had new guitarist Reinhard Ifflander, and the addition of a winds player, taking the music to a jazzier, slightly soul-spiced rock fusion. Less original, yet still rather good, the Frumpy edge is even more notable, with elements of Vanilla Fudge, CBS brass-rock acts, Emergency and Creative Rock all creeping in to the blend. With only one known track "King Heroin" from THOUGHTS, the rest amounted to an unpublished new album worth of material.

Failing to find a contract for this new material the band eventually folded in spring 1974. Shortly before that, however, Micky Stickdorn had joined on drums. He and Werner Vogt continued together with Jurgen Kochbeck's new band Skyline.

Virus - 1971 - Thoughts


01. King Heroin (5:37)
02. Manking, Where Do You Go? (4:59)
03. Theme (0:23)
04. Old Time Movie (4:14)
05. Butterflies (4:25)
06. Take Your Thoughts (6:09)
07. Sittin' And Smoking' (2:55)
08. Going On (4:32)
09. Deeds Of The Past (2:13)
10. My Strand-Eyed Girl (4:13)

- Jörg-Dieter Krahe / keyboards
- Bernd Rosner / guitars
- Werner Vogt / vocals, bass, guitar
- Jürgen Schäfer / vocals, bass
- Wolfgang Rieke / drums
- Axel Nieling / percussion, drums

As mentioned already in their biography second album by German band Virus revealed quite a significant change in their sound compared to their debut. Little resemblance to psychedelic Krautrock can be found on this one here which had been recorded by an almost completely different line-up. There were even rumours saying that Heep's Ken Hensley had been involved in making this record. And actually the style presented here wouldn't be that far away from the one of that famous British band and could be described as organ-dominated heavy blues rock. Probably not to be called really that much progressive in the literal sense and by far not unique what we get offered here since there were plenty of bands during that era doing a similar kind of music. But on the other hand this one's anything than a boring affair I would say and still worth a couple of spins assumed one likes early 70's hard rock. Fans of early Purple, Heep, Sabbath or Black Widow might be interested to check it out but I doubt that this record can be considered relevant for any Prog fan. Very solid proto-Prog though and worth

Virus - 1970 - Revelation


01. Revelation (12:14)
02. Endless Game (12:17)
03. Burning Candle (5:27)
04. Hungry Loser (10:30)
05. Nur noch zwei Lichtjahre (7:50)

- Reinhold Spiegelfeld / bass
- Bernd Hohman / flute, vocals
- Jörg-Dieter Krahe / keybpards
- Wolfgang Rieke / drums
- Werner Monka / rhythm guitar

Virus were a psychedelic band originating from Bielefeld in Northern Germany. Their music incorporates Pink Floyd's space rock, heavy keyboards somewhat reminiscent of Deep Purple all put together into long songs filled with jams. They released only two albums -- "Revelation" (1970) and "Thoughts" (1971). The album was recorded in Star Studios, Hamburg and produced by Konrad Plank. The Virus lineup for the first album is: Werner Monka (guitar), Jorg-Dieter Krahe (organ), Bernd "Molle" Hohmann (vocals, flute), Reinhold Spiegelfeld (bass) and Wolfgang Rieke (drums).

"Revelation" starts as a straight forward psychedelic track and develops as the song conines forward. Towards the middle of the song comes in a cover of the Rolling Stones song -- Paint It Black. Another homage is found in the second song where at the end you can hear a Saucerful Of Secrets choir bit. This album is very inventive and contains surprises along the different tracks. These songs have long guitar playing parts and exciting organ playing, both demonstrating very good musicianship.

The second album "Thoughts" is a big change from their first one. The lineup change considerably as well, leaving only Krahe and Rieke from the original group. The new members were: Axel Nieling (drums), Jurgen Schafer (bass, vocals), Bernd Rosner (guitar) and Werner Vogt (bass, guitar, vocals). In this album they abandoned their long tracks and space rock and psychedelic nature. This album presents a more mainstream approach with blues rock songs. Therefore this would not be of interest for those looking them for their psychedelic and progressive sound.

In the early 90's race to release rare German from the early 70's, three labels raged on: Repertoire (with their big means, they managed most of Phillips and subsidiary Vertigo and much more outside the country), Ohrwaschl (who released the legendary Ohr label as well as the other legendary label Kuckuck) and Second Battle, who always seemed to get the second choice material (getting stuck with Light Of Darkness, King Ping Meh and Gift. Lately of course, Garden Of Delights have been taking most of the cake, serving us a bunch of goodies (a few less ripe though), but when comparing labels specializing into German re-issues, Second Battle always seems to get the lesser ones.

This quintet recorded just two albums, this debut by excellent producer Konrad Plank in Munich - where so much of Germany's "spacier" rock was being recorded. You might want to think of a cross of Floyd (for the heavy freak-out bouts) with some early 70's UK heavy progressive between Purple (Jon Lord for the organs) and early Sabbath (Geezer Butler on bass), or Raw Material.

The lenghty opener is a good 12-min+ improvisation based on the Stones' Paint It Black (a fave of mine and of many progheads as this was one of their most covered tracks), but this is maybe one of the best homage ever done to the track (along with metalheads Anvil and fellow early proggers Jody Grind). Endless Game (also above the 12-min mark) starts very slowly with great organs underlined by a superb and delicate guitar, being replaced gradually by a flute and bass riffs and then heavy freaking passages not far away from Floyd (around atom Heart Mother), simply great if not completely original, though!! Burning Candle is however a much shorter and harder track and can be thought of Alvin Lee jamming with Ten Years After. The 10-min+ Hungry Looser is again sensibly harder rocking, until the song breaks into a bluesy piano, and it could be the low point in the album, but hardly worth pushing the SKIP button on your remote control. The album closes on a 7-min+ psych deliria bringing you gladly back to the first few tracks. This heavyly Floyd-influenced track is simply awesome and much recommended if you are about to spark a Jamaican cigar.

They will then move to the ultra small (and now very collectible) label Pilz, but their second album (with only two original remaining members) will be a far cry from the great haunting atmosphere dominating this one. But with Virus, they struck a pretty good one, with this heavy psychedelic group specializing in lenghty space rock tracks (sometimes approaching Floyd at its spaciest) and dreamy voyage around our atmosphere. Yes, it was about time that Second Battle actually got the better release, leaving Ohrwaschl the worse one. Yes it was about time Second Battle actually released a superb album inn their re-issue series. Hardly groundbreaking but quite enjoyable.

Vita Nova - 1971 - Vita Nova

Vita Nova
Vita Nova

01. Quomodo manet
02. Vita Nova inventions
03. Whirl wind
04. Istanbul
05. Sylvester
06. Wildman
07. Inventions finale
08. Heva-cleva
09. Adoramus
10. Sunt alteri
11. Adoramus finale
12. Tempus Est

Bonus tracks on cd release:
13. Lacrimosa
14. Olymp 99

- Eddy Marron / all guitars, solo vocals
- Sylvester Levay / vocals, vintage keyboards, Hohner clavinet, hybrid harpsichord
- Christian Von Hoffman / drums, vocals

VITA NOVA was founded by three musicians of a quite different origin, Eddy Marron (guitar, bass, vocals) who was born in Eastern Germany but emigrated to the west, studied concert guitar and already became a profi musician with twenty years, Sylvester Levay (keyboards) with hungarian parents but born in Serbia who could already take classical piano lessons as a young boy and Christian von Hoffmann aka Chris Hoff (drums) born in Switzerland which played together with Levay in the Ambros Seelos Band.

Because they were unhappy to play only music which other people claimed to hear they met Marron sometime at the beginning of the 70s with the intention to work out something new. With VITA NOVA (New Life) they got an adequate promising name for the new band and according to the latin title additionally an important aspect of their music was defined. Levay rented the Munich Union-Studios for some days in February 1971 where they could work out their 'progresssive' music without any constraint - unconventional because of the use of a Hohner Clavinet first of all. It have been hard times. Because they had to meet the obligations of their regular bands there was less time to sleep and only during the night and morning time a chance to join the studio. Lyrics were written by Levay's brother-in-law Adalbert Hayduk and performed in latin - another unconventional aspect of the band - similar to the band OS MUNDI on the album 'Latin Mass' reflecting the upcoming protest against ecological destruction.

The eponymous album is very experimental and blending psychedelic, jazz rock, symphonic and classical elements showing the high professional abilites of the VITA NOVA members. Consisting of 12 mainly short tracks it was released the same year by the austrian Life Records label with a limited edition of 500 copies. Being a rare and searched vinyl the band decided to republish the album. Despite the original tapes got lost a well-preserved LP was taken as the master. Penner Records, a forerunner of the german Garden Of Delights label, could present a digitally remastered version in 1995 with two bonus tracks which were originally produced for a planned single.

VITA NOVA never gave live performances. Apparently there have been no further intentions and therefore the band disappeared soon after the album recordings because every member began to reach for new experiences. Eddy Marron founded his own music school and could also attract attention with two DZYAN albums from 1973/74 and as a short-time member of MISSUS BEASTLY. Sylvester Levay is a wellknown composer who for example got a grammy for his song 'Fly, Robin, Fly'. Christian von Hoffmann actually has a music shop and is playing fusion music.

VITA NOVA delivered an unique eclectic sound at the beginning of the 70s and is worth of receiving attention

Yggdrasil - 1972 - Yggdrasil


01. Something On My Mind (5:13)
02. Birds Still Flyin' in the Rain (7:51)
03. Mothers and Seeds (7:17)
04. I'm Setting Old (4:42)
05. Lizzy's Song (4:43)

2009 CD reissue bonus tracks:

06. Harmonie I (1:40)
07. Harmonie II (3:34)
08. Sommer in Sizilien (2:31)
09. Maultrommelpiece (0:16)
10. Stille Tage (3:35)
11. Fliegende Fische (2:30)
12. Lizzy's Song (2:00)
13. Chaos Blues (1:25)
14. Timeless Time (5:54)
15. A Long Distance Call (4:27)
16. Things and Steps Ahead (3:39)
17. Today it Just Seems (2:57)
18. It's up to you, Lizzy (2:40)

- Walter Waldosch / vocals, recorder, bass
- Peter Jakob / flute
- Werner Vill / vocals
- Fred Beck / guitar, flute
- Uli Kellner / guitar, bass
- Reinhold Fries / drums

YGGDRASIL were a German folk band who existed briefly in the early 70s, disbanding shortly after recording several tracks not commercially released at the time. The few (10) proofs pressed from the master acetate have never appeared in known collections, but the original five song collection was reissued along with several demos and assorted other songs by Garden of Delights in 2009.

Yggdrasil from Munich named themselves after the world ash or yew tree of the Germanic tribes and played progressive rock of a calmer nature, with flute, violin, and English lyrics. They are hardly known, as their own LP, recorded in the Robert Meilhaus Studio, didn’t get beyond the so-called metal acetate, a pre-state which can be played. In summer 1972, only 10 copies were produced by Meilton; they have never appeared in collector circles. These records could probably be sold for a four-digit amount today. The CD contains the five LP tracks plus eight instrumentals from 1970, then soundtrack to the TV series “Sommer in Sizilien” [Summer in Sicily], as well as five demo tracks recorded in the rehearsal room. Fortunately, there was still a copy of the LP master tape.

70's underground band from Munich.They were formed in 1970 by Walter Waidosch (violin, flute, bass), Jacob Fisher (piano, bass, guitar) and Peter Jakob (sax, flute), soon joined by Werner Vill (vocals), Fred Beck (guitar, flute) and Reinhold Fries (drums).Yggdrasil played live mainly in pubs, discos ans school parties with only a limited number of appearances in more serious venues and they recorded some tracks at the Bavaria Studio, which got lost in time due to an unacceptable sound.As Fischer left the band in 1971 for a period of 18 months to complete social services due to being a conscientious objector, Uli Kellner joined Yggdrasil on guitar and bass and this line-up recorded some tracks for an upcoming album at Meilhaus Studio in 1972.The vinyl lasted no longer than 30 minutes due to limited financial sources and never escaped the premature stage of the metal acetate edition, reputedly produced in no more than 10 copies.Today the luck of these copies is unknown and the 2009 Garden of Delights CD reissue comes from Walter Waidosch'es master tape, with no less than 13 bonus tracks.
Impressively Yggdrasil's sound had reduced Kraut Rock influences, they appear to be closer to the smooth style of British Folk Rock bands, as they headed for more refined arrangements and had a gifted vocalist singing in English with a clean and sensitive color.Their supposed only LP, covered here in the first five tracks, is an epitome of soft and elaborate Psych/Prog Rock with folky undertones, containing lots of flute work and acoustic guitars, often interrupted by decent electric textures with some nervous guitar plays.They seem to be closer to the psychedelic side of Folk Rock, the rhythm section is pretty groovy and the flute parts are mostly atmospheric, but they had also a great sense of melody on these pieces, while the electroacoustic shifts are more than welcome and pretty tight.So, prepare for some mellow Prog Folk, where the absolute highlights are Vill's incredible voice and the strong amount of interesting flute moves.
Tracks 6-13 come from 1970, when the band draw some attention, covering the music for the TV series ''Sommer in Sizilien''.All tracks were recorded at the Scala Studio in Munich and suprisingly offer an even more progressive attitude due to the presence of Jacob Fisher, who was an accomplished pianist/keyboardist.So, next to the familiar Folk Rock style of the band stand some great acoustic piano lines and the presence of Hammond organ, giving Yggdrasil a deeper and more convincing sound.The arrangements remain smooth and melodic, somewhere between Psych and Prog Folk Rock, with many loose jams and delivered in a totally instrumental mode.
Tracks 14-18 come from a couple of studio rehearsals of the group during their existence, the recording quality here is pretty poor and the band offers a more electric-based Folk Rock, featuring eventually the strong appearance of violins, now they sound a bit like compatriots EDEN with a more pronounced Folk content.These could have been some really cool tracks if have been recorded properly.
As Jacob Fisher rejoined Yggdrasil afte his services, the band continued for some time as a seven-piece group, while most of its members ran another group called Weed until 1977.It was about the same time when Yggdrasil dissolved, as Vill quit the band, Peter Jacob lost his passion for music and Reinhold Fries joined another act named Fun.All members sporadically abandoned the music industry, while Fred Beck became a drug addicted and unfortunately died in 1983 due to liver failure.
Not much Kraut Folk in here, but if you enjoy the softer side of Progressive Rock and a good dose of folky, flute-driven soundscapes, this is a great album.Warmly recommended.

Galaxy - 1978 - Visions


001. Ladies in the Wind
002. Morning of the Magicians Part One
003. Supermarket
004. Consequences
005. Visions
006. Excerpts “Time” Part Two
007. Warrior of the Endless Time
008. Atomic Flight    

Thomas Asche - Bass
Bernd Steinhardt - Vocals, Guitar, Percussion
Heiko Beck - Drums, Percussion
Frank Dahmne - Vocals, Guitar
Gottfriend Antpohler - Keyboards

Not too be confused with another, more renowned, German group of the same name, which in the same year released the album Nature’s Clear Well, the Bremen-based Galaxy are yet another in a series of mega-obscure bands uncovered by Germany’s Garden of Delights label. Unfortunately, this is one item that probably deserves its underground status. Originally released in a small, 500 copy pressing, which was essentially sold to friends of the band, this album sort of has “garage band” written all over it. The most obvious comparison would be to early Eloy, but with perhaps even more of a hard rock vibe. To be fair, the band has some good ideas, as the songwriting displays a knack for catchy hooks. Unfortunately the album is rather bogged down by the unimaginative, lead-footed drumming, which lends an air of amateurishness to the entire affair. Indeed, the band does not sound particularly tight here, despite the fact that they had apparently been together for almost three years prior to the recording of the album. Having been recorded in the band’s home studio, the production also leaves something to be desired, as the trebly bass and the loud, consistently behind the beat, hi-hat have a tendency to grate on the nerves. Vocals are delivered in English, by way of a German-accented caterwaul. At times, they can actually be appealing, but unsurprisingly tend to wear thin due to overuse.

Songs like the melodically varied “Warrior of the Endless Time,” the mellow, symphonically inclined “Morning of the Magicians: Part One,” and, in particular, the dynamic title track, all contain a wealth of nice ideas, particularly by way of the guitar and keyboard playing. Many of the pieces begin with tasteful acoustic guitar, before moving into more anthemic, keyboard led portions, or into heavy electric guitar passages. Opener “Ladies in the Wind” is an aggressive rocker, and has what could have potentially been a great hook, but one which is unfortunately driven into the ground over its six plus minutes. To be sure, there is probably enough here to appeal to the hardcore German rock aficionado, those who would probably forgive the decidedly unpolished, unprofessional feel of the album in any case. However, with that said, casual fans will probably want to pass on this one. - Greg Northrup [December 2002]

Galaxy - 1978 - Nature's Clear Well

Nature's Clear Well

01. Nature's Clear Well - 10:50
02. You've Really Got It Fixed - 4:23
02. Warning Walls - 5:15
04. Dreams Out In The Rain - 6:23
05. I've Come From A World - 4:19
06. Wish I Were Happy - 6:14

- Richard Kersten - lead vocals, acoustic guitar
- Heinz Kühne - all guitars, backing vocals
- Norbert Abels - keyboards, backing vocals
- Herman Beckert - bass
- Victor Bergmann - drums, percussion

 A few housekeeping items are in order here. First, the name of this band is not Galaxy, it is Waniyetula. Like so many coke-addled record executives in the latter seventies, the ones at Venus Records got the brilliant idea that they needed to practice deception to capture music fan’s interest (as opposed to simply supporting the musicians on their labels and leaving the whole ‘interest’ thing up to the fans). Secondly, this is not a Swiss band – they’re German. Not being from that part of the world, I am understandably surprised at how often that mistake gets made with German musicians that don’t sound like either Magma or the Scorpions. Weird. Finally, the album cover that is usually shown for this record is not the only one it was released with. The better one features a spaced-out sketch of a statue that appears to be on another planet, and looks like one of those monolith statues on Easter Island. Very cool.

So despite all the confusion, and the relative obscurity of the band, this is an excellent record. The lyrics are introspective, and are apparently supposed to represent an other-worldly view of earth through the eyes of visitors from afar. Kind of similar to the perspective of Klaatu’s ‘Hope’ album, or the Kansas tune “Nobody’s Home”. You know, the world is full of a bunch of self-destructive humans who would do well to look to the skies for inspiration and a better way of living. Pretty cheesy and idealistic, especially for 1978, although if I’m not mistaken this was actually recorded in 1976 but not released until ’78.

But anyway, the music is quite good, melodic with lots of funky guitars, mellow keyboards, and harmonic vocals. And speaking of the vocals, these guys don’t sound German at all. In fact, lead singer Richard Kersten starts off the album sounding an awful lot like Parallel or 90 Degrees & the Tangent vocalist Andy Tillison, and ends up coming off as a slightly jazzy Rupert Holmes (remember ‘The Piña Colada Song’?). And the rest of the band does a pretty fair job of parroting the rest of the Tangent on most of the backing vocals as well. Well, parroting isn’t quite the right word since this album predates any Tangent album by more than a decade. But you get the point.

The keyboards are quite good for the time period, and are a perfect example of the neo symphonic resurgence that peaked a couple years before this was released. The album had virtually no promotion that I can remember, and ended up almost immediately in the cutout bins when it was imported to America. It has since been released on CD, but still isn’t exactly well-known.

The title track is the best on the album, and like I said it sounds very much like a good Tangent album – mellow vocals, intricate and vibrant keyboards and piano, jazzy guitars (including a lot of acoustic guitar), and a varied tempo that makes the track seem even longer and more epic-like than its eleven minutes.

The rest of the album is in much the same vein, with the exceptions of “Dreams out in The Rain” which has an Alan Parsons Project feel to it; “I've Come from a World” which sounds like it was recorded apart from the rest of the album and has a latter-seventies borderline arena-rock anthem groove; and the closing “Wish I Were Happy”, which was clearly written to be performed at the end of a live concert (acoustic guitar strumming, string synths, and a jam session ending.

This is a very good album, as I said at the beginning. It was poorly promoted, badly positioned by the band’s label, and just generally not given a chance to be successful. The band would end up putting out an album under their real name several years later, and a couple decades after they broke up Garden of Delights (God bless those guys!) put out a compilation of early recordings, including “You Really Got it Fixed” and “Wish I Were Happy” from this album. Neither of those recordings has the feel of understated grace that this one has though, so if you have to choose, get this one.

Waniyetula - 2006 - Iron City

Iron City

01. Lindis Farne (live 1971) (8:50)
02. Wish I were Happy (1974) (2:38)
03. You've Really Got it Fixed (1974) (0:31)
04. Iron City (1974) (11:23)
05. Look at the People (1974) (12:17)
06. Alone (1978) (5:59)
07. Valley of Unrest (1978) (7:05)

- Heinz Kuhne / guitar, vocals, keyboads
- Herman Beckert / bass
- Thomas Goerdten / drums
- Richard Kersten / acoustic guitar, vocals (2 - 7)
- Norbert Abels / keyboads (2 - 7)

Unreleased studio and live tracks from 1971-1978. All songs written by the band except two tracks which feature the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.

While Waniyetula still remain a well-hidden secret of the 70's German Kraut-Rock scene with only one official album during their existence, their history is definitely long and worth-mentioning.They came from Frankfurt-am-Main and evolved from the Beat group The Empty C in 1969 originally as a trio of Heinz Kühne (guitar, vocals), Hermann Beckert (bass) and Thomas Goerdten (drums).As with Fashion Pink/Brainstorm their full story of the early years were well documented by Garden of Delights in 2006 in a CD release entitled ''Iron City''.

In 1971 the trio had a good live activity and the track ''Lindis Farne'', which opens the album, is a good proof of their very early sound.This is typical but quite cliche instrumental Hard/Psych/Kraut Rock with jamming and improvisation elements, based on Kühne's long and repetitive guitar sections and a psychedelic rhythm section with little imagination.

By 1974 the band featured two more members, singer/acoustic guitarist Richard Kersten and keyboardist Norbert Abels.The addition of Kersten, which became also the band's main composer, resulted to a change of name, now Wanyietula were Galaxy, and musical direction.This period is represented with four long tracks, between 10 and 13 minutes, where keyboards and melody play also a significant role in Wanyietula's sound.Their style now was somewhere between ELOY, NEKTAR and MESSAGE, sounding more like an English than a German band.Nice psychedelic guitars are blended with expressive vocals and interesting moog solos to result an approach with elements from both Psychedelic Rock and 70's Classic Prog styles.Instrumental parts are still a great part of the band's music with a bit loose arrangements.

As Galaxy they released only one album (shortly after which Kersten left the band) and then the crew switched the name back to the original Wanyietula.However the band never returned to the early Wanyietula style, on the opposite we are talking about 1978 here and the second Wanyietula formation had fully transmitted into a late-70's Symphonic Rock band.Two tracks from this period are great examples of this fact.Very close to the likes of ANYONE'S DAUGHER or AMENOPHIS, Wanyietula's music was now very refined with emotional arrangements full of interesting guitar melodies and synth explorations, while the band used the multi-vocal harmonies and distorted vocal lines more and more.The presence of the some piano inteludes is also another new enrty, yet the sound remained fairly progressive and quite adventurous.

This album holds both significant historical and musical interest.A rather unknown band is fully presented here from their very early stage and sound to its transformation into a Melodic Prog act, most of the tracks are satisfying and there is also a very nice booklet with the history of the band along with rare photos of the members, making ''Iron city'' at least a recommended purchase, especially for fans of non-standard German Kraut/Prog with a flexible sound.

Waniyetula - 1983 - A Dream Within A Dream

A Dream Within A Dream

01. The Foreboding (4:24)
02. Alone (6:19)
03. Feathery Bird (4:57)
04. Valley of Unrest (7:06)
05. A Dream Within a Dream (4:57)
06. Song of Master and Boardswain (4:39)
07. If I Could Tell You (3:49)
08. Dreamland (5:37)
09. Yessertronics (3:40)

Bonus tracks
10. Vision (4:21)
11. Light my Fire (Doors)(7:35)
12. Lindis farm (8:36)

- Heinz Kühne / guitar, vocals
- Herman Beckert / bass
- Stephan Remes / drums, vocals
- Norbert Abels / keyboads

Yet another one-off courtesy of the Garden of Delights label, A Dream within a Dream sounds rather more like the work of seasoned and synergistic musicians. And with reason, for they had actually been together for years and produced an album under another name, but this is the one to get. Sort of a companion piece to APP's "Tales of Mystery and Imagination", "A Dream within a Dream" sounds curiously similar to Parsons at times, perhaps in the vocal styles and the use of an echo chamber atmosphere in the vocals. Sure there are updates resulting in a more polished 80s sound, but it does not detract in the least, and the songs develop enough to feature some appealing progression, particularly in valley of Unrest, while "Dreamland" is a fine number whose origin I question. I cannot find songwriting credits but the chorus sounds like something I have heard before. Other highlights are "Alone" which begins sleepily and develops into a gothic tune with plenty of organ, synthesizers, clangy guitars and vocal harmonies, "Feathery Bird" and "If I could tell you". I am reminded of Eloy at times, but the voice is less accented. This is a disc that traps a spacey atmosphere and draws you into it as in a dream. Recommended to fans of German symphonic rock.

WANIYETULA were a band that existed for nearly a decade and a half, but one whose career was marred by bad timing and bad marketing.

The band formed in 1969, but would not release an album ("A Dream Within a Dream") under their own name until shortly before their demise in 1983. The band did record a full-length studio album in 1975 (with the help of SCORPIONS producer Dieter Dirks), but when it was finally released in the U.S. in 1978, progressive music was already in decline and their label issued the album ("Nature's Clear Well") under the band name GALAXY (see that band's listing also in the Archives).

WANIYETULA followed up "Nature's Clear Well" with another trip to the studio to compile a thematic project based on the literary works of Edgar Allen Poe. Once again, the band fell victim to poor timing as the ALAN PARSONS PROJECT released "Mysteries & Imagination." to great acclaim first, and the project would flounder for several years before being realized as the watered-down work "A Dream Within a Dream". Garden of Delights Records would reissue the album in the nineties, and included three tracks from a discontinued and rare live compilation ("Concert '71"), which included the band's cover version of the DOORS standard "Light My Fire".

The band's sound has been compared to other eighties commercially-progressive bands such as SAGA and UK, but their compositions have a decidedly late seventies feel to them, particularly in the dissonant vocals and understated digital keyboards.

Hoelderlin - 2007 - Hoelderlin 8

Hoelderlin 8

01. Angel (5:40)
02. Nice To Be Real (5:07)
03. You (8:45)
04. Forget Me Now (4:17)
05. Late (3:53)
06. Caleidoscope (6:07)
07. On The Bridge (6:34)
08. Come To Me (4:45)
09. The Mechanism Of Antikythera (6:15)
10. Rivers (5:29)

- Ann-Yi Eötvös / vocals, violin
- Dirk Schilling / guitars, grogramming, vocals
- Andreas Hirschmann / keyboards, vocals
- Hans Bäär / bass, guitars, vocals
- Michael Bruchmann / drums

 It's party time for the fans of the legendary German progressive folk band Hoelderlin: a new band and line-up (with only drummer Michael Bruchmann as an original founding member) since their latest effort entitled Fata Morgana from 1981, an European tour and lots of digitally remastered albums with bonustracks, new booklets and liner notes, see their website for details!

And how about their current sound? Well, if you like their acclaimed mellow prog folk on the debut album Hoelderlin's Traum you will be pleased with the new CD Eight: most of the 10 compositions sound dreamy with acoustic guitars, violin and pleasant vocals (female and male). The female singer has an important role, she colours the music very beautifully with her a bit high pitched but warm voice. Some songs sound a bit more powerful like the splendid On The Bridge (from dreamy to compelling and bombastic featuring in the end a raw and great build-up guitar solo with hints from Neil Young) and the mid-tempo songs Come To Me and The Mechanism Of Antikytherea, the UK progfolk band Mostly Autumn comes to my mind. I was also delighted about the wonderful pieces Forget Me Now (with intense violin work) and the final track Rivers delivering a dreamy atmosphere with soft organ waves, sensitive piano play and warm vocals, beautiful!

If you are up to warm, melodic, tasteful and a mainly mellow blend of prog and folk (with the emphasis on folk), this album will be yours!

Hoelderlin - 1981 - Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana

01. Fata morgana (4:15)
02. Lena (4:17)
03. Hallo (3:35)
04. Manchmal (4:22)
05. Supermarkt (4:42)
06. Lärm (3:48)
07. Kamikaze (4:35)
08. Das alte Lied (5:00)

- Hans Bäär / bass, keyboards, vocals
- Jochen Grumbkow / keyboards, vocals
- Bernd König / keyboards, vocals
- Tommi L'Ohr / guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Eduard Schicke / drums
- Rüdiger Braune / drums (5)
- Wolfgang Schubert / saxophone (1)

OK - I admit this is not your fathers "Holderlin." Not symphonic prog rock at all really. In fact, it is very reminiscent of the new wave pop rock era of its time.
But, this is a wonderful record if taken from that perspective. Beautiful melodies (mostly sung in German) mixed with great (not over the top) production. The energy is just right for the style, and there is still some prog moves here and there - especially compared to the new wave era of the time.
Some of the progressive community really hated this style that a few of our early heroes went. I too always want long, meaningful songs, done in a progressive arrangement. Tull's "Under Wraps" comes to mind. Man did the prog fans bag on this one. And in actuality, this is a wonderful record and quite progressive if taken for the fact that Ian's muse went this way. AND it kept them in the public eye (MTV interviews, video's played in rotation, etc...) while the industry wondered (or is it wandered?) aimlessly where to go next.
So, even though some of this sounds a bit dated, the music holds on its own. BTW - the remaster is well done, and since the music is not in anyway conceptual, the extra tracks (I usually hate extra/bonus tracks - just give me the album as it was released!) fit quite nicely, and in fact add to the completeness of the outing.

Hoelderlin - 1979 - New Faces

New Faces

01. Somebody's callin' (5:46)
02. I want you (5:11)
03. Cold winds (3:13)
04. Gentle push (3:48)
05. High in Shanghai (6:15)
06. The shouter (3:45)
07. Foodsteps (4:42)
08. Weekend (2:54)

- Hans Bäär / basses, lead vocals (6), backing vocals (4)
- Rüdiger Elze / acoustic, electric & slide guitars
- Christian Grumbkow / lyrics & motorics
- Joachim Grumbkow / keyboards, clavinet, backing vocals (4)
- Tommy L'Ohr / synthesizers, guitars, lead vocals (1-4)
- Eduard Schicke / drums, percussion
- Michael Bruchmann / drums (4)
- Bernd König / vocals (3-7)
- Christopher Noppeney / vocals (2)
- Büdu Siebert / flute (7)

I can see why this album would get some bad reviews, but unjustly so. For one thing, Hoelderlin are one the more underrated bands on the site. It may have something to do with them being listed in the wrong genre of PROG. FOLK, where their first album, Hoelderlin's Traum, really only qualifies in that genre. Hoelderlin took a 4 year break after Traum, coming back sounding more like mid-period Camel/Caravan meets SFF, 10cc and the Alan Parsons Project. Anything after Traum should be listed in Symphonic Prog. If you enjoy Camel's _Breathless_ album, Hoelderlin's NEW FACES should be on your priority list. The track _I Want You_ sounds very 10cc meets Brian Wilson. _Cold Winds_ sounds like something you might hear on Camel's Nude and it actually sounds longer than its 3 minutes. _High In Shanghai_ sounds very SKY meets Camel's Rain Dances and is a great instrumental on par with anything by Camel. _The shouter_ is very 10cc at their headphone candy best. _Footsteps/Weekend_ is a cross between the finest parts of 10cc, Camel's Breathless, and may sound a little like SFF instrumentally near the conclusion. Of note to fans of SFF, Eduard Schicke is the new drummer on this album adding a bit of jazz rock fusion to the mix, sounding not unlike Andy Ward from Camel. I must stress, for fans of Camel's _Breathless_, Holderlin's NEW FACES comes highly recommended. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Hoelderlin - 1978 - Live Traumstadt

Live Traumstadt

101. Intro (1:29)
102. Schwebebahn (6:33)
103. Häktik Intergaläktik (8:08)
104. Circus (8:04)
105. Phasing (11:07)

201. Streaming (8:15)
202. Die Stadt (12:12)
203. Mad house (7:24)
204. Sun rays (8:44)
205. Soft landing (8:57)

- Hans Bäär / bass
- Michael Bruchmann / drums
- Joachim Grumbkow / keyboards, backing vocal
- Christoph Noppeney / viola, vocals
- Pablo Weeber / guitars

After a series of three studio albums of above-average symphonic prog (and a prog folk debut fairly different to what they had been din of late), Hoelderlin released the obligatory double live record. Recorded over two consecutive nights, in late 77, the album actually makes a correct recap of those three albums, just before the band will change musical direction the following year. Unsurprisingly we find the line-up of the Rare Bird album, where both Kaseberg brothers are gone from the stage and only one of the Grumbkow brothers is still around (on stage since the other is behind the desk). The newcomers have well adapted to the group, changing only lightly the general sound of the self-titled album band, and if the playing is very apt, there are times when the band sounds a bit flat on this record. In retrospect, the following changes of direction might have seemed judicious, since the band was coming to exhaustion, but the proghead has every right to be displeased with future albums of theirs.

Anyway, after the ever-exciting Schwabebahn (the lead off track from their great eponymous album), the groups heads for their recent Rare Bird album with Intergalaktik (better live than studio), then the centre of the album will be axed towards the C&C album with the both the clowns and the clouds side getting a fair share of exposure, but as the studio album had let us guess the Clouds side was much more inspired, the same can be said in concert. Circus does not really gain much, while Mad House is only marginally better in this version; it is the Streaming-Phasing duo (presented in the reverse order though) that gets the full honours here. Two previously elsewhere- unavailable tracks are present here; with the 12-min+ Die Stadt (The City) and the finale almost 9-min Soft Landing. None of those two tracks bring much new to Hoelderlin's musical propos, but are a definite bonus to confirmed fans of the group. The lenghty Die Stadt is actually a showcase for solos of the band members and present the inevitable lengths, although the exercise is not completely useless either, since it is one of the better such showcases. The ill-named finale is anything but tranquil and provides as good an outro as the lead-off Schwabebahn was an intro. But this highlight comes a bit too late, toooooo bad!!!

Not my ideal track selection for the ultimate presentation of Hoelderlin's classic period, Traumstadt (making a useless reference to their early folk prog album) is a fairly good introduction to their symphonic rock.

Hoelderlin - 1977 - Rare birds

Rare birds

01. Häktik Intergaläktik (8:33)
02. Sky-lift (4:17)
03. Before you lay down rough and thorny (7:25)
04. Rare bird (7:45)
05. Necronomicon (6:15)
06. Sun rays (8:55)

- Hans Bäär / bass
- Michael Bruchmann / drums, percussion
- Christian Grumbkow / lyrics
- Joachim Grumbkow / keyboards, voc (4)
- Christoph Noppeney / viola, vocals
- Pablo Weeber / guitar, vocals (3)
- Manfred von Bohr / drums (5)

Fourth album from Hoelderlin with the last pair of brothers being broken, Christian Grumbkow providing the lyrics and artworks, and managing the band, his spot taken by Spanish Pablo Weeber. Released end 77, this album is the last one susceptible to interest progheads (outside the double-live album coming the following year) as they will experienced much line-up and musical direction changes after this album.

The least we can say is that not much remains from the debut or the eponymous albums, and Conny plank is not involved anymore with the group. Not that the album is bad, far from it, but the magic is gone and when hints of it are present, they are still the highlights, but do not shine the same way. By now Joachim Grumbkow is not main songwriter anymore (fairly democratic sharing of credits, actually with newer members actively contributing). The opening Intergalaktik holds some glimpse of foregone greatness, but the following Sky Lift (Bäär-penned but not quite reaching heights of C&C) is lacklustre, while Rough And Thorny (penned by newcoming Weeber) is still worthy of the previous album and works well because of Noppeney's violin.

The second side of the vinyl is opened by the title track, which just another average Hoelderlin track but followed by the brilliant instrumental track Necronomicon (penned by Weber), which is a real scorcher and the album's highlight. The magnificent ambiances (reminiscent of the eponymous second) of the slightly fusion-esque aerial theme are quite enthralling, while the closing Sun Rays is yet another typical track of theirs, which means nothing exceptional by the time of this album's release even if the closing three minutes are worth the detour.

Clearly with every new album Hoelderlin was losing original members, inspiration and most likely a bit of faith as well. Although still a worthy prog album, much worth the occasional spin, this was to be their final prog offering, with its share of moments (but also weaknesses), but the-times-they-are-changin-again!!

Hoelderlin - 1976 - Clowns & Clouds

Clowns & Clouds

01. Mad house (6:50)
02. Your eyes (6:05)
03. Circus (9:09)
 a) Tango mili
 b) Marching
 c) Sensations
04. Streaming (7:07)
05. Phasing (12:12)

- Hans Bäär / bass, guitars
- Michael Bruchmann / drums, percussion
- Christian Grumbkow / lead guitar
- Joachim Grumbkow / keyboards, cello, vocals
- Joachim Käseberg / live sound
- Christoph 'Nops' Noppeney / viola, acoustic guitar, vocals
- Jörg-Peter Siebert / saxophones, flutes, percussion

Hoelderlin's second album was followed by the departure of Peter Kaeseberg, a fact that did not prevent the band from a large promoting tour, introducing new bassist Hans Baar.The more than 70 live dates of Hoelderling included gigs in Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden besides Germany, while they regularly appeared in various TV broadcasts.Entering 1976 they revisited Conny Planck's studio with Karlheinz Borchert sitting on the production chair.Büdi Siebert appears again on sax and flutes in this ''Clowns & clouds'' album, released once more on Spiegelei.

This was another collaborative work stylistically speaking, combining the complex and fiery side of Kraut Rock with the delicacy of British Symphonic Rock in five long compositions, although the resemblances with GENESIS become here even stronger with the vocals of Jochen Grumbcow sounding now extremely similar to the voice of PETER GABRIELand the guitar touch of Christian Grumbcow closing more and more the STEVE HACKETT sensitive tunes.Even this way the music is top notch with pronounced folky vibes and emphatic instrumental deliveries with both complicated and elegant parts.Moreover there are also plenty of intense, lyrical moments surrounding the good musicianship of the band.Each track contains lots but tightly linked variations, evolving from laid-back overtones with a theatrical atmosphere to dense instrumental textures with nice interplays.These are characterized by some excellent violin work of Classical nature, smooth flute passages and the monster work of Jochen Grumbcow on keyboards, switching from jazzy electric piano to orchestral Mellotrons and from atmospheric synthesizers to irritating organ moves.As a result ''Clowns & clouds'' fails a bit in terms of originality, but still offers some great moments of professional music and well-crafted arrangements with a huge instrumental background.

Typical 70's Classic Prog by Hoelderlin.Adeventurous, demanding, rich but still melodic and poetic.Far from trully personal, but the contained music is absolutely sufficient and impressive.Strongly recommended.

Hoelderlin - 1975 - Hoelderlin


01. Schwebebahn (7:12)
02. I love my dog (5:38)
03. Honeypot (8:48)
04. Nürnberg (3:00)
05. Death Watch Beetle (17:32)

- Michael Bruchmann / drums, percussion
- Christian Grumbkow / acoustic & electric guitars
- Joachim Grumbkow / keyboards, flute, string vox, clavinet, Mellotron, lead vocals (4-5)
- Peter Käseberg / bass
- Joachim Käseberg / guitars
- Christoph Noppeney / viola, acoustic guitar, lead vocals (2-3-5)
- Zeus B. Held / alto sax (2)
- Norbert Jacobson / clarinet (3)
- Conny Planck / voice & synthetizers help (5)

Some three years after having recorded a stunning folk prog album Holderlin's Traum, the group took three years to record and release their second album to label Pilz and Ohr going broke. Only in early 75, did the group (with a slightly rearranged name) finally got around to this excellent second album (on the collectible Spiegelei label), although fairly different-sounding and with their female singer De Ruig now gone.

The sound had definitely slid from a prog folk one to a more conventional symphonic tone, not far from Genesis (this similarity was not helped by the fact that they will sing in English from now on), but their music was not derivative. Although this album is rather a far cry from the hippy idealism of the debut, the group still has the same dedication to make excellent music, not least helped by multi-instrumentalist that allows for such instrument as flute, cello, violin to spice-up the sextet's music, with two guest on woodwinds and the ever indispensable Conny Plank at the production helm. If I say the sound is quite different, the progressive folk influences are still quite present at times. Too bad the artwork is quite amateur (done by guitarist Christian Grumbkow as will the two following album's artwork also), but his brother Joachim is also the main songwriter.

From the opening instrumental track (a head-twisting drama-filled scorcher and finishing in a duel with a symphonic orchestra) to the closing Honeypot (almost 9-min mini-epîc), side 1 of the vinyl is a very impressive show of great songwriting close to what the British masters were doing at the time, greatly helped with an excellent production job. Stuck in between is a shorter track bringing you a more muscular Genesis-type of prog with credible Gabriel-like vocals, but this is never overpowering, but not accidental either.

The second side is filled by an almost-sidelong epic, the 17-min+ Death-Watch-Beetle, but preceeded by a short sweet catchy Nurnberg. Building from a slow crescendo, the track takes its own time to come to its centrepiece, taking meanderings with piano and violin duos, but the singing is maybe at its weakest (at least at the start of this track, but the English lyrics are dispensed with very correct delivery, even if it is obvious they are not native speakers), but the tracks is a never ending tempo change, thanks to the inventive drumming of Bruchman. Almost grandiose, but not perfect: some obvious flaws appear.

Although a departure from their debut album, Hoelderlin (with its pair of brothers - Kaseberg and Grumbkow) hit right on the button with this superb confirmation of their talents. Warmly recommended.