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.

Amon Düül II – Yeti

Yeti the dog meets Yeti

Yeti the dog meets Yeti

“Yeti” is an iconic album in every sense. It ticks all the right boxes from its cover artwork, which adorned the front of Julian Cope’s scene-stirring book “Krautrocksampler” to the timeless songs that regularly find their way into my DJ sets because they always please the people. It is a classic all the way and not just within its genre. The website besteveralbums.com, which claims to have aggregated over 20,000 different greatest albums charts, puts it at 43 in its chart for 1970, which may not sound particularly high until you consider who else was releasing albums in that year. It ended up between The Rolling Stones and Joni Mitchell.

Hitting the ground running, it opens up with the frenetic rhythms of the thirteen minute “Soap Shop Rock” cycle. It is described as being four songs but feels like one long ever shifting song and even ends with the same breakdown it began with. Chris and Renate share the lead vocals and shifting gear all the time, their voices ghostly and almost operatic.

Side two opens with the timeless “Archangels Thunderbird”, a storming rock song that makes you want to grab your hairbrush and sing into it while shaking your butt to those chunky drums. However, the next song “Cerberus” is a guitarists bonanza with all the stringers furiously strumming away like an amphetamine American primitive with bongos. Nothing can quite prepare you for the psychedelic Dalek explosion of “Eye-Shaking King” with its guitar intensity and crashing rhythms.

People often talk about Can’s “Tago Mago” as being a radical format for an album but here a year earlier we have the exact same thing: a double LP with one the first record featuring more conventional song based music and the second disc featuring just wild improvisations. OK, the second disc of “Yeti” has nothing as paint-strippingly nuts as “Aumgn” but it is all improvised jams and sees them getting their furthest from tradition and harkening more to the original Amon Düül with even a few members of the other collective joining in for the final jam, “Sandoz in the Rain”.

Sumptuous vinyl and CD reissues of “Yeti” have been in abundance ever since a new generation discovered the innovative 1970’s German music scene so you really should have at least one copy of this album in your collection. It is no exaggeration to describe “Yeti” as a cornerstone of the German cosmic sound.

Amon Düül – Paradieswärts Düül

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Amon Düül records are known to be snapshots from chaotic freak-outs: “Disaster / Lüüd Noma”, “Collapsing / Singvögel Rückwärts” and “Psychedelic Underground” – each one a glorious racket, a whirlwind made of distorted guitars, bass, drums, piano, bongos and tambourine. I love them all, but…

“Paradieswärts Düül” is quite the opposite: An easy-going record consisting of three psychedelic-folk tunes. “Loooooooooove Iiiiiiiiiiis Peeeeeeeeeeace / Freedom Is Haaaaarmooooonyyyyyy” – the chorus of the first song is like the mantra to the whole record and that song in particular is incredible. Repeated endlessly the message is as evident as tautological – inescapable. And who am I to disagree? I’m singing along: “Loooooooooove Iiiiiiiiiiis Peeeeeeeeeeace / Freedom Is Haaaaarmooooonyyyyyy!”

Out of all the music recorded by Amon Düül/Amon Düül II I think “Paradieswärts Düül” is their finest moment. Considering the mighty “Phallus Dei” that’s maybe a controversial statement, but still: “Paradieswärts Düül” is IT!

Why? Because: “Loooooooooove Iiiiiiiiiiis Peeeeeeeeeeace / Freedom Is Haaaaarmooooonyyyyyy!” – you brightly-coloured butterfly, you!

Seriously, the record’s a gem, give it a try and you’ll immediately become a dedicated disciple of that hippy-dippy Kindergarten.

Its second track “Snow Your Thurst And Sun Your Open Mouth” begins as a loosey-goosey jam that at 5:15 minute is suddenly interrupted and uplifted to a hazy sky full of marshmallow clouds. And when the sky has cleared up again, the “Paramechanische Welt” awaits! Turn on, tune in – and bongo away!

Back in 1970 the trip ended when the Bongos faded out, but – oh, mercy of the late birth! – the vinyl-rerelease of “Paradieswärts Düül”, made available through WahWah-Records in 2008 also contains two extra tracks!

There’s the sleepy “Eternal Flow” and – compared to “Paramechanische Welt” – the electrified and bluesy “Paramechanical World”, which sound-wise is somewhat close to “Love Is Peace”. So, “Paradieswärts Düül” is coming full circle, so to speak, but remember: “I’m searching with my friends for a land where every circle has its end, … and now everybody: “Loooooooooove Iiiiiiiiiiis Peeeeeeeeeeace / Freedom Is Haaaaarmooooonyyyyyy!”

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review by Holger Adam