Friday, July 13, 2018

Birth Control - 1972 - Hoodoo Man

Birth Control
Hoodoo Man

01. Buy! (7:10)
02. Suicide (6:16)
03. Get down to your fate (7:58)
04. Gamma ray (9:44)
05. Hoodoo man (8:25)
06. Klaustoß (2:40)

Bonus tracks on 2005 reissue:
07. Nostalgia (single A-Side) (3:37)
08. Gamma Ray, Part 1 (Single version) (3:30)
09. Gamma Ray, Part 2 (Single version) (3:53)
10. Hope (Live 2004: Bluesgarage Isernhagen) (5:54)
11. She's Got Nothing On You (Live 2004: Musiktheater Rex In Lorsch) (4:59)

Bruno Frenzel / guitar, vocals
Wolfgang Neuser / organ, keyboards, synth, church organ, vibraphone
Bernd Koschmidder / bass
Bernd Noske / drums, percussion, vocals

George Mac Knickerick / bagpipes
Peter Föller / vocals (11)
Peter Engelhardt / guitar (10,11)
Sascha Kühn / keyboards (10,11)
Cyborg Haines / bass (10)
Sascha Delbrouck / bass (11)

Whilst the first six albums from this taboo-baiting outfit are all well worth exploring, it is probably 'Hoodoo Man' which best personifies the lightning-hot heavy rock sound Birth Control were, during their earlier days at least, so adept at producing. Featuring yet another controversial sleeve design - this time it's a gruesomely overweight woman toying with what can only be described as some kind of bizarre, wind-up skeletal junkie - 'Hoodoo Man' finds the German outfit in blistering form. Indeed, everything about 'Hoodoo Man' simply exudes confidence, the improved production quality showing off the group's razor-sharp brand of manic, high-tempo power-prog to ear-shattering effect. This time around then the focus is very much on bristling grooves, crazed organ solo's and pumped-up riffs, the evil, psych-tinged sound of 'Operation' now fully mutated into a powerful new strain of galloping proto-metal best emphasised by the crushing rhythms of 'Suicide', the gloriously anthemic strains of fan-favourite 'Gamma Ray' and, best of all, the charging organ-drenched groove of 'Get Down To Your Fate'. A remarkable song, 'Get Down To Your Fate' is Birth Control cruising at full steam, rushing breathlessly through eight minutes of heavy prog mayhem as frenzied organs, chiming guitar licks and drummer Bernd Noske's throaty vocals swirl into a manic whole that never lets up for a minute. As progressive as it is heavy - bluesy foundations underscore the more experimental elements - 'Hoodoo Man' pulls of the very difficult trick of allowing its creators to wander freely among the seared landscape reaped by their own sonic carnage, yet never losing focus and heading off into those frustratingly over-elaborate prog cul-de-sacs that many groups fall into, ultimately going nowhere. Not Birth Control. Every track here has a purpose and a power, the dynamic tone set by opening gambit 'Buy!' meticulously maintained throughout. By their own admission, this was always a group in search of the easy shocks, an image that has at times undoubtedly overshadowed the actual music being cooked up, yet here the combination of deliberately provocative imagery and pulsating heavy rock makes for a wonderfully heady brew. Among their very best, 'Hoodoo Man' comes highly recommended. Heavy stuff indeed. 

Birth Control - 1971 - Operation

Birth Control

01. Stop little lady (7:16)
02. Just before the sun will rise (7:35)
03. The work is done (5:56)
04. Flesh and blood (3:27)
05. Pandemonium (6:34)
06. Let us do it now (11:09)

Bonus Tracks on 1997 reissue:
07. Hope (4:19)
08. Rollin' (3:54)
09. The Work Is Done (4:00)
10. What's Your Name (3:35)
11. Believe in the Pill (3:42)

Bruno Frenzel / guitar, vocals
Reinhold Sobotta / organ
Bernd Koschmidder / bass
Bernd Noske / drums, vocals

Often bracketed within the paradigms of Krautrock but actually much more of a progressive rock outfit than anything else, Germany's Birth Control enjoyed a prolific period of activity during the 1970's after the release of their conservative-baiting self-titled debut from 1970, a deliberately controversial album whose sleeve design featured a large picture of an oral contraceptive pill. Designed as a deliberate backlash to the recent statement by the then pope Paul VI, who claimed that any kind of contraceptive was evil and immoral, Birth Control were staying true to their counter-culture origins, as each member had previously been part of various radical groups during their student days, a factor which bled into their musical ideas and informed the early part of their careers with great success. Although the first album featured a more gritty, psychedelic bent, it would be their defining second release, the excellent 'Operation', that would grant the group the public exposure and critical kudos needed to really kick-start their careers, not only in their native Germany, but throughout Central Europe as well. Again, at the group's behest, the cover art proved divisive, as the four-piece had opted for a rather gruesome image of a giant cartoon cockroach feasting on helpless - and almost naked - little babies(!), and again West Germany's conservative and religious right howled out loud in derision(some music shops even banned the LP!) However, as in many cases past and present, all the controversy actually did was stir up more media interest in the group than their detractors wanted, and 'Operation' eventually proved a modest success throughout central Europe. Featuring Bruno Frenzel(guitar, vocals), Bernd Koschmidder(bass), Bernd Noske(drums) and Reinjhold Sobotta(organ), 'Operation' showed a real musical transition from the group's rough-hewn debut. Album number two proved to be smarter, tougher and much more musically-complex, with carefully-crafted composition's such as the fiery 'Stop Little Lady' and the genuinely-catchy 'Flesh & Blood' opening up a new phase in Birth Control's evolution. As a group whose line-up would, over the years, consistently chop and change, it is remarkable how much the Berlin band's sound developed throughout the mid-seventies. 'Operation', with it's evil-sounding organ breaks, wiry guitars and intricate progressive passages, showcased a dextrous band playing without constrictions in a deliciously free- form rock style. Follow-up albums, such as the superior and cleaner-sounding 'Hoodoo Man' and the impressive concert album 'Live', would again take the Birth Control ethic even further in symphonic prog territory, with meaty guitars and frenzied keyboards adding new layers to the groups ever-developing sound without compromising their initial ideals. It is on 'Operation', though, where Birth Control would really create their first genuinely- exciting pieces of music, combining elements of cosmic Krautrock with bits and pieces of wildly explorative progressive ingredients to create a darkly-brewed concoction of metallic German rock that stands up as one of their finest albums to date. As the decade continued the line-up would again change, with the 'Operation' line-up eventually fragmenting and the band turning towards a more commercially-orientated sound as the 1980's loomed. Despite this, however, Birth Control will always be remembered for a clutch of brave, taboo- busting albums that dared to challenge the status quo through the judicious - and highly- original - use of ball-breakingly heavy, experimental kraut-prog. They really don't make 'em like this anymore.

Dutch album front cover on the Charisma label

Dutch album rear cover on the Charisma label

Birth Control - 1970 - Birth Control

Birth Control
Birth Control

01. No drugs (4:01)
02. Recollection (6:24)
03. Deep inside (4:40)
04. Foolish action (4:32)
05. Sundown (10:02)
06. Change of mind (4:42)
07. Light my fire (5:40)

Bonus tracks on 1997 reissue:
08. No Drugs (1970 Single) (4:07)
09. All I Want Is You (1970 Single) (4:13)
10. October (1969 Single) (3:43)
11. Freedom (1969 Single) (4:01)

Bruno Frenzel / guitar, vocals
Reinhold Sobotta / organ
Bernd Koschmidder / bass
Bernd Noske / drums, vocals

So-called pillbox cover: a circular gatefold.
On the back cover Koschmidder is spelled 'Kaschmidder', inside the cover the name is correct.

Recorded in the Audio Studios-Berlin 1970

Resonable heavy psych, with The Nice-esque proto-prog tendencies on organist Reinhold Sobotta’s two instrumentals: “Recollection” and “Sundown”. The rest of the songs aren’t terribly memorable, the band had clearly not found their voice yet. But speaking of voices, drummer Bernd Noske’s authoritative yet surprisingly nuanced hard-rock voice is already a force to be reckoned with even at this early stage. Low point is the rather pointless cover of “Light My Fire”.

Not a must-own, but far from bad. If you have some of their other albums already and are curious about the group’s origins, I certainly see no reason why you shouldn’t check this out.

Distinctly naive, in both writing and musicianship and quite dated, even for 1970. Must be seen as a work in progress as the next 3 or 4 albums were very high quality, yet it does include flashes of real interest. 

I was really pleased when I checked out this album.  The guitar sound is very raw and punky for the time that it was recorded.  There's also some nice organ playing (kinda reminds me of the Doors at times).  The lead singer also sounds like he has taken a few notes on Jim Morrison's vocalisms.  It's also nice to hear a song that's anachronous to the rampant drug culture of the times, that's about the band's love of music that can be played and enjoyed whilst not high ("No Drugs").  This is a quality Krautrock release that is as enjoyable for me as some of the biggest names in the genre.

Cover Variations:
USA 1970 Cover

1973 Reissue with different name 

1976 Reissue with different name