Monday, November 24, 2008

Ax Genrich - Highdelberg (1975)
Ax Genrich's first release after quitting Guru Guru has none of his signature acid guitar freakouts that made him famous on the first Guru Guru albums! Over all, this sounds a lot like a series of jams, played with friends dropping by to play, the whole thing is very relaxed. It reminds a lot of Mani Neumier's album "Mani und Seine Freunde" which came out the same year and had a lot of the same musicians. Since it's a collection of improvisations, there's no real focus and the songs amble from one style to another. The best track is 'Kosmische Phyrze', a gentle rock-guitar based instrumental. This album may not be on anyone's 'Top Ten' list or anything but it's still a worthwhile release, as these guys are all world-class players and the musicianship is top-notch.

1. Der Platzhirsch 4.24
2. Odenwald-Polka 4.49
3. Wapitis Ruckkehr 3.50
4. Kosmische Phyrze 8.00
5. Super Normal Rider 5.01
6. A National Affair 4.14
7. No Matter, No 769 4.02
8. Saure Drops Und Susser Wein 6.24

Ax Genrich - Guitar, Vocals
Mani Neumeier (Guru Guru) - Drums, Percussion
Helmut Hattler (Kraan) - Bass
Jan Fride (Kraan) - Drums, Percussion
Peter Wollbrant (Kraan) - Guitar
Joachim Roedelius (Cluster) - Electronics
Dieter Moebius (Cluster) - Electronics


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See ya!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cosmic Couriers - Other Places (1996)
I found this in a used CD store last year and can't find a review to use so I'll just give the bare bones. "Cosmic Couriers" is three veteran Krautrockers - well I guess two veteran Krautrockers and a veteran German industrial rock guy! Dieter Moebius (Cluster), Mani Neumier (Guru Guru), and Jurgen Engler (Die Krupps). In the space of four days in 1996 they recorded these nine tracks live, all improvised, with no overdubbing or corrections of any kind. As you can imagine this is not about songs or tunes, this is all about atmosphere. Great gloomy, moody, krautrocky atmosphere, oceans of electronics (and Engler's vintage Gibson guitar) grounded by Mani Neumier's fantastic drumming. This is the original release on Hypnotic Records, it seems to have been reissued on at least two other labels. Although the cover says "Cosmic Couriers 1", it appears that there never was a second meeting of this bunch though they did appear together later on the Amon Guru project.

1 Culture In A Small Room (7:41)
2 Anabolica (4:42)
3 Der Wandler (8:21)
4 De Nema (6:27)
5 Huhn Fisch Ente (7:39)
6 Chill In (5:50)
7 Dat Loop (6:41)
8 Sumpfige Wasser (5:46)
9 Other Places (6:31)

Dieter Moebius - Korg Prophecy
Mani Neumier - Drums, Percussion, Sequential Circuits, Pro One
Jurgen Engler - Arp 2600, Korg PS3100, Oberheim SEM Module, Roland SH7, Gibson ES295


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Monday, November 10, 2008

Michael Chapman - Fully Qualified Survivor (1971)
"The title of Michael Chapman's break-through, second album showed remarkable prescience if it is seen as being a prophetic comment on his subsequent musical career. The last three decades have seen Chapman ride a series of peaks and troughs, but always retaining his personal musical integrity, if at the cost of the major commercial success of some of his more pliable contemporaries.

But it needn't have been that way. For one thing Fully Qualified Survivor shared many of the same key personnel (Mick Ronson, Paul Buckmaster, Gus Dudgeon) that featured on the early David Bowie and Elton John albums. The mix of acoustic guitar with string arrangements and heavy blues-rock lead guitar, might sound an incongruous combination, but it works well here, and the sound of the record fitted in perfectly with the dominant introspective trends of the era. You could easily imagine a couple of the songs fitting discretely onto Bowie's Hunky Dory. Small wonder then, that John Peel was to describe the album as one of his favourites of that year.

So what exactly is it that makes Fully Qualified Survivor the classic album it is and stops it being merely another interesting period piece? Well, on a simplistic level, the record acts as a useful overview of most aspects of Chapman's career. In the course of the record we hear straight rag-timey instrumentals alongside rocking chordal numbers; hard riffing blues guitar (courtesy of Ronson) mixing with baroque string arrangements (courtesy of Buckmaster); Eastern modes and loose slide guitar sharing space with lyrical torrents of Dylanesque phantasmagoria, and yet still picking up on those small, commonplace, details that often make a song real.

But what unifies all the songs and makes the album special is a shared theme of regret. His lyrics persistently refer to the passing of time, and various forms of decay and failure.

This must surely be the response of one of life's born romantics, who is continually disappointed by the vagaries of life and frustrated by the inability of things to be as they should. If it all sounds a little bleak, Chapman at least manages to stoically take comfort in sitting with his dog and making a young man's mock-heroic claim that at last he's got his "loneliness together". For all the subtle instrumentations and clever lyrical observations, we should never forget that Michael Chapman is one of the most rhythmical and percussive of guitarists - listen to "Soulful Lady" to hear how a chord progression can be played with gusto on acoustic guitar, or. the intro to "Trinkets and Rings" to hear how to make a track groove. Finally, Chapman might not always be the most conventionally tuneful of vocalists, but listen to the way he emphasises the word "snide" in 'Stranger In The Room' and deny that his voice communicates disgust better than any tutored vibrato ever could.

Michael Chapman today might be unfairly less well-feted than some of his contemporaries, but he remains, in every sense, a fully qualified survivor."(Steven Wilcock - originally published in Triste)

"Michael Chapman, apart from being a prolific English songwriter whose revered work spans four decades, is probably the best guitar smith you have never heard. While his skills are best evidenced on this album’s predecessor, Rainmaker, the original songwriting and tight production, seemingly informed by all music that came before it, steal the show here.

It’s as if every style of rock music were somehow harnessed and tamed into Michael’s unique folk vision. The album sounds fresh as anything recorded today, yet still of its time, sparkling with punchy drum fills and orchestral arrangements. The album opens with an understated triumph: experimental strings create a soundscape for the soothing rhythm of Aviator to “take my time away.” I cannot think of another 9 minute song that doesn’t seem to last long enough. The lyrics on the album evoke a feeling of hopelessness, and there is a kind of sad tone but all together I believe it can be an uplifting album. This may be thanks to sharing much of the same personnel responsible for early albums by Elton John and David Bowie. During Fully Qualified’s hardest moments, though, I hear a striking resemblance to Bowie’s classic Man Who Sold The World.

Stranger In The Room and Soulful Lady lend a classic rock balance to softer songs like the immortal Postcards From Scarborough, by far the most famous Chapman song. Through several interludes, we are treated to Chapman’s masterful six-string suites. I know my fair share of fingerpicking but still have trouble believing that Naked Ladies & Electric Ragtime is actually performed on one guitar by one person. In any case, it’s a piece that should be standard fare in guitar workshops the world over. But note that I’m not talking about the trite electric guitar leads, performed by Mick Ronson who would team up with Bowie for Space Oddity thanks to this record.

Fully Qualified Survivor is an exceptional collection of songs and your best introduction to one of England’s great underappreciated artists. One of the best." (Brendan,

1. The Aviator
2. Naked Ladies And Electric Ragtime
3. Stranger In The Room
4. Postcards Of Scarborough
5. Fishbeard Sunset
6. Soulful Lady
7. Rabbit Hills
8. March Rain
9. Kodak Ghosts
10. Andru's Easy Rider
11. Trinkets And Rings

Michael Chapman - Guitar, Piano
Mick Ronson - Guitar
Barry Morgan - Drums, Congas
Rick Kemp - Bass
Gus Dudgeon - Scraper
Paul Buckmaster - Cello on "The Aviator"
Johnny van Derek - Violin on "The Aviator"


Part 1__Part 2__Part 3__Part 4

See ya!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Propeller - Let Us Live Together (1973)
In 1973 German guitarist Achim Reichel took a break from his experimental works with A.R. & Machines to record a 'fun' project, a straightforward rock album, with some of his ex-bandmates from The Rattles and Wonderland Band, a couple of them went on to form Randy Pie. This is great early 70's song oriented rock, with the tunes ranging from a kind of southern boogie to Beatle-ish pop. The songs are top-notch, some are real catchy, the musicianship by all concerned is top level, and Mr. Reichel's guitar playing is awesome.

Track List:
1. Oukie Doukie Woman
2. Kix
3. Let Us Live Together
4. Sugar Pudding
5. Mojo
6. Let It Rock Let It Roll
7. Right of Love
8. O.K. L.A.
9. Apache Woman
10. Look Into My Eyes
11. Devil's Symphony - Bonus Track

Herbert Hildebrandt - Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Achim Reichel - Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Dicky Tarrach - Drums
Peter Hesslein - Guitar
Peter Wede - Piano, Organ


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