Amon Düül II – Wolf City

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Among my personal acquaintances of the musical kind, everyone seems to have the first two albums but after that commitment seems to wain for many which is damn weird as here we are on album #4 and the force is in full effect. Not to mention it was on JC’s list of 50 in the old “krautrocksampler” book back in the day. It’s not like it hasn’t been reissued a bit. Stop slacking people!

Album opener “Surrounded by Stars” is absolutely visionary, a song so vivid it draws a world around you, Renate a shaman holding your hand as she walks you into the skies. Just the simple format of classic rock given utter inspiration to paint wonders on the walls of your life. The rest of Side A is a little confusing in terms of tracklist because of who is credited on what but its meant to be two songs, “Jail-House Frog” and “Green-Bubble-Raincoated Man”.

They begin a little more conventional, but only relatively. It would still be incongruous even on a Hawkwind or Jefferson Airplane album. It almost meets the blueprint of popular space rock but there’s always that extra layer of madness with the Düül. Nearly two thirds of the way we get our first appearance of Chris Karrer on the lead vocals and the weird just got weirder. It’s frentic cosmo-prog until it suddenly fades out into bar-room piano and alien swamp field recordings. A choir synth fades up like a monolinth then the whole band jump in for a sax-led frenzied ritual.

Side B starts with the title track which is pretty rock ‘n’ roll and an unknown lead vocalist (about four vocalists are credited but only one is in lead). The Hawkwind hook-up begins to make more sense but then you get “Wie Der Wind Am Ende Einer Stasse” which has an intro that sounds like a horror film synth score before going for the backpacker vibe with sitar and tablas.

“Deutsch Nepal” is just fearsome, vocals by character actor Rolf Zacher barked in German like at the last cabaret on the Universe’s edge. The music a cosmic synth stomp though darkened nebula. It’s simultaneously surreal and natural, both by order of being unearthly in concept but divine in execution.

“Sleepwalker’s Timeless Bridge” starts off as a very blissful instrumental but somehow evolves into a bit of a Moody Blues thing. There really are several moments on this album where the Düül wink at the mainstream while stroking their strange progeny. It’s a cheeky ending to an album that shows that given half a mind they could have been the German Jefferson Airplane if they wanted to be but they clearly loved being their own weird selves.

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