Amon Düül II - "Live in Tokyo"
(Mystic Records MYS CD 107, 1996)
From Aural Innovations #2 (April 1998)
Vocalist Renate Knaup shouts 'Wake Up!' as legendary German 'kosmische' artists Amon Düül II start into the title track from their 1995 reunion CD, Nada Moonshine #. I assume that statement is autobiographical as the band has just woken up' from a twenty-year hiatus, if you ignore the various other permutations of Amon Dhhl (with and without the numerical designation) that persisted through the late 70's and 80's. While those groups featured (at most) one member of the original band, this newest reincarnation consists of core members Chris Karrer (guitar, sax, violin, vocals), Lothar Meid (bass, vocals, keyboards), and Knaup. Drummer Peter Leopold, while part of the band on the new studio recordings, was apparently unable to make the trip to Japan, replaced by the appropriately-named Wolf Wolff. Artist and part-time keyboardist Falk U. Rogner was responsible for the light show and cover art (oddly, an inverted image of the Eiffel Tower).
The 70-minute live set presented here is a fine one, although they left off several classic tracks ('What You Gonna Do?' from Utopia, and Yeti's 'Eye Shaking King') from the performance, presumably because of to time limitations. The recording quality and especially the mix are suspect in places, with the vocals often being too prominent; usually the reverse is true. The band's performance is also very hit-and-miss, with some of the more intricate tracks sounding quite uneven. You might expect that with a group whose music is so innovative, and you have to remember how long it has been since they've performed together. They're a little rusty.
Highlights include the killer riff of the classic 'Deutsch Nepal,' complete with Meid's sinister vocals, and 'Wolf City,' which features a keyboard solo from guest Michael Ruff and some freaky sax 'honking' from Karrer in the spirit of Nik Turner. New track 'Casteneda da Dream' is a real winner, but the rapidly-paced duel vocalization of Knaup and Karrer is hard to pull off live. The hip-hoppish 'Kiss Ma Eee' is also hastily done, but concludes with a nice falsetto-style aria from the fearless Knaup. A seemingly ad-hoc rendition of the traditional 'La Paloma' (complete with German lyrics) leads into Pyragony's 'Flower of the Orient,' which never seems to get going until the final part. The show winds up with encores 'Archangel Thunderbird,' another krautrock anthem, and a bit of free-form jazzy funk entitled 'Jam Hai.'
This recording has a 'rehearsal' quality, which I will forgive them for now. As such, this is something that is interesting mainly to the most loyal fans of AD2 (like myself), and can bide me over until more new recordings appear on the horizon. New fans should go back and find 1972's Wolf City and then Nada Moonshine # to get a 'then and now' perspective.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson