By Keith Henderson
From Aural Innovations #9 (January 2000)
Instead of picking up where we left off last time, I'm going to pull a George Lucas and present a prequel to my oxymoronic Part One that appeared in AI#8 (October, 1999). To bring any newcomers up to speed, the Garden of Delights label (born in Bochum, Germany as Penner Records) has worked diligently over the past seven years to uncover and restore long-lost recordings in the psychedelic and progressive vein from that hotbed of originality that was West Germany in the decade of the 1970s. The accompanying mosaic map displays quite well that music of this variety emanated from all corners of the three amalgamated, Western-influenced political zones. Of course, while American and British rock certainly became prominently established in West German culture, it was also true that a number of the most innovative artists broke new ground and boldly created a genre since defined by us outsiders as 'krautrock.' In looking over the Garden of Delights catalog (particularly these earliest releases), it appears to me that many of these groups were less 'krautrock' and perhaps more 'displaced sounds' from America and elsewhere in Europe. No doubt that this is why many of these works didn't make much noise outside their own local territories, whereas more definitive and groundbreaking stuff like the Berliner kosmische artists as well as Neu!, Kraftwerk, Can, and Faust made krautrock a phenomenon outside its home country. Of course, this leads to a bit of a dilemma... how to fairly judge a German band that lacks many distinctive characteristics indicating its homeland? In recent years, I've become well aware that my expectations about any new album are at least partly dependent upon the country of origin, but I also realize that this behavior is a tad unfair. So in the end, I've tried to avoid the temptation of assessing negative points to an artist here just for not sounding 'German' enough. With this more culturally-neutral stance, I hope that my judgements will reflect only the musical content and little else. And there's a lot of good music here to explore.
To get on with it, I discussed in the last issue (Part One) the most recent GoD releases (Cat. Nos. CD 021 through CD 036) representing the period 1997-99. Now, let's go back a bit further (starting in 1992) and cover the first eighteen CD's in the Penner/GoD catalogue (once more ignoring the 'Psychedelic Underground' sampler discs, CD 010 and CD 020). At the end, I'll sum up with a run down of my overall impressions and also present a synopsis of the side-label 'Psychedelic Gems' that has collected up all the other odds and ends. OK, onto the discs...
The band Epidaurus (from nearby Essen) had the pleasure of making the first appearance on the old Penner label, with their reissue of their 1977 album 'Earthly Paradise' (CD 001). From a band with two keyboardists (Gerd Linke and Günther Henne) and no guitarist, this is obviously one very 'symphonic-style' prog work, and not a bad one at that. As you might imagine, the sound lies somewhere between Genesis and Eloy, with that rich and colorful sound built from layers of organ, piano, Moog synths, and Mellotron. Christiane Wand adds ultra-high soprano vocals to the two tracks on the first side, both the majestic and dreamy sort. Wand's voice is a little too extreme for my tastes, but it helps to keep things from getting too stale. "Andas" is a more energetic tune and features some pretty interesting bass lines by Heinz Kunert if you can pick them out from underneath the many layers of keyboards. Guest Peter Maier also adds a touch of flute in lieu of any vocals. We'll see Epidaurus reappear later in the article, and then we'll discover that 'Earthly Paradise' is by far their superior work. In addition to these two, they also released the 'Just a Dream' LP in 1980 under the name Choice (not recommended by those in the know).
From Bad Kreuznach, the trio Ice produced a couple of 7" singles in the mid-70s before completing their lone album 'Opus 1' (CD 002) in 1980. A mix of progressive-styled melodic tunes produced sans keyboards (well, almost), Ice created unusual works (10 separate ones on this Opus of many parts) both musically and lyrically. It's these peculiar German idiosyncrasies that I enjoy so much, and I found this one quite a fun listen. Adventurous hard rock bands of contemporary age are hard to come by as New Wave and the hair-metal genre dominated the early 80s market, so Ice undoubtedly had few peers and I commend them for their fortitude. Guitarist Heinz Gerber has a bright, clear sound and a light touch on the fretboard, a style that could be mistaken for Uli Roth of the Scorpions. He and bassist Herbert Benz share the vocal duties and they both come across very well in their heavily-accented English. Leading off Side Two, "The Big Sleep" including its chamber music "Intro" is the album's highlight, a well-constructed and generally riff-free progressive piece. Heavier guitar and bass rhythms underlie most of the tracks on the first side, and so Ice display their versatility in songwriting mainly on the flipside. Not much of a psychedelic element frozen into the Ice repertoire, but an interesting album nonetheless. One note: the vinyl transfer of 'Opus 1' isn't quite up to the standards that all of the later de-popped GoD products display.
Sundome and the Night's 'In Lean Hours' (CD 003, 1993) is one of the rare 'new' albums on the GoD label, quite obvious from its hour-plus length alone. Accordingly it reflects more modern times, and so it has more of an 'alternative edge.' The lead-off track, "I Ran For You" resembles a slightly raunchier R.E.M., both tuneful and aggressive. Singer Uwe shows quite convincingly that he can belt out his vocals with the best of 'em, and usually does so without going too far. I imagine that the anthem "Codine" as presented herein is a bit more boisterous than the original by Buffy St. Marie, and by the end everything turns rather chaotic with wild strokes from UC Kuhlmann's Hammond organ. "Borderline" is the rare subtle and sophisticated track on 'In Lean Hours,' and they pull it off quite effectively. "Calm, Cool, and Collected" then belies its name and presents a strange amalgam of crunchy guitars and spoken-word vocals, and also the first truly psychedelic sounds - an element that continues throughout the middle section of the album. So while they're more of a kick-ass bar band than 'thinking man's music,' I still found Sundome and the Night to present an interesting mix of prominent organ passages within the punk/psych ethic. And they *can* play their instruments.
McOil were a late 70s heavy progressive rock group from southern Germany with only a 7" single and the album 'All Our Hopes' (CD 004, 1979) to their credit. The foursome developed a full-bodied sound on the back of Karl Wild's hearty mid-tone guitar riffs (think Boston). Keyboardist Walter Litz also served as the band's vocalist, sounding gruff and powerful like Graham Bonnet (ex-Rainbow). The title track is your standard epic progressive multi-part suite, but I can't slag it off as it's pretty well done. Next, they turn around with the very heavy and psychedelic "This Time Should Never End," and now I'm sold on McOil as a winner (even with the drum solo...not so bad, really!). If the band had been from England instead, they almost certainly would've been lumped in with the NWOBHM (rightly or wrongly), and considered one of the better ones I imagine. And rightly so...McOil might not have been a trend-setter in Germany, but they produced some really intelligent heavy rock. Well, the 'intelligence' of the hard-rock polka that introduces the bonus track "A Better Day" (the B-side to the 1978 single) is debatable, but that's an exception!
The most represented band on the GoD label with three CDs to date, Arktis' self-titled debut (CD 005) recorded in 1973 appeared first. Often along the lines of Captain Beyond, Arktis wrote heavy blues rock tunes with a psychedelic slant colored by Karin Töppig's potent voice. The first two of the four album tracks are more in the standard classic rock style, but are interesting works nonetheless. "Jeff the Fool" shows off more psychedelic tendencies in a short form (just 3 1/2 minutes) with even a hint of Amon Düül II's weirdness. In contrast, the album's finale "Rare Girl" clocks in at 20 minutes, their answer to "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida." Following the initial 'song riff' and Töppig's gritty vocals and then a loose bluesy jam, the freaked-out portion then kicks in about half-way and carries us on through to the song's final reprisal. Personally, I found their strength to be in their structured works as their jams were somewhat tentative, although that tendency seemed to reverse by the next album. Three bonus tracks are tacked onto the end to fill 45 minutes, all recorded by Conny Plank in 1974 for an intended second that never materialized in the end. The latter two are unspectacular, but "Is it Real?" is a cool uptempo swirly number, even though the title phrase sounds more like "It's a Drill!!" given the heavy accent. All in all, my favorite of Arktis' three works on GoD.
Florian Geyer was a strange entity, a trio from Rhineland that derived their name from a knight from the time of Martin Luther and then over time guitarist/vocalist Manfred Wolff took on the character's identity (á la Alice Cooper). Not the most talented group of musicians, the three developed an odd formula of psychedelic sounds thrust into uncomplicated glam-rock style songs for 'Beggar's Pride' (CD 006, 1976). Early pre-Schenker UFO was sort of like this also, but Wolff's nasally, slightly comical voice (the bastard child of John Fogerty?) makes Geyer a little more polarizing I imagine. It's hard to decide whether the end result is endearing or just plain frivolous, but in small doses (like the 10-minute psych jam "Town Hill" by itself), I can find myself enjoying their work. For bonus material, several singles (including one from 1983 by the renamed Hurrican) and a second aborted album from 1980 are all included, filling up all of the 74 minutes of disc space. The freakish synths on "Morphin" added greatly to the sound, and there's even some sophistication in the writing. Wolff's singing still leaves something to be desired, otherwise I'd give this track really high marks. Most of the others are business as usual, however.
From near Bremen, the quartet called Grave was an active live band for most of the 70s and in 1975 recorded (by simple means) nine tracks, six of which were pressed onto vinyl in small runs as 'Grave 1' (CD 007). Here on CD, all nine are presented as well as four more recorded by a reunited lineup in 1989, creating over an hour of music. Grave wrote intelligent classic rock style songs and performed them quite competently, but the murkiness of the recording and the loss of certain instruments in the mix (most noticeably some important lead guitar parts) seriously diminishes the overall quality of this work. Some strong moments are found in Lutz Wowerat's bubbly psych guitar intro to "Please Günter Play the Bass," which Günter (Wendehenke) then proceeds to do quite diligently. But my favorite tune is the Guru Guru-ish "Funky Stadtkommandant" (a classic krautrock title if there were was one), wonderfully inventive and of course, highly peculiar...and luckily decently recorded. Two of the newer (professionally-recorded) bonus songs (featuring guest vocalist Anke Meyer) are surpisingly good material with more of a folk melody bent. I'd really like to give this a stronger recommendation as I think I would've become a big fan of Grave as a live act, I just wish they'd made a better quality archive of their original works.
From Emmerich near the Dutch border, Lightshine was another short-lived mid-70s band with only a single release to their credit. 'Feeling' (CD 008, 1976) was intended for Sky Records, but when that fell through they released it themselves. Lightshine's compositions were very artful and even elegant at times, and while not performed with precise timing, the five always displayed a true spirit of invention. The 10-minute "Nightmare" is perhaps the high point of the 42-minute album, featuring several cosmic-styled guitar solos by Joe (no surnames given). Three of the five contributed vocals and for but a coupled bouts of insane cackling during "King and Queen," all the vocals are well done. The title track finale is another appealing tune (despite some silly lyrics), especially when Joe's guitar and Olli's synths join up to take us on a more extended astral journey. 'Feeling' is a very impressive effort that should please fans of the dreamy works of 'In the Court of the Crimson King.' (Re)discoveries like these must be what makes the difficult job of running the GoD label entirely worthwhile.
The Sub (or just Sub) were an entity from Munich that only lasted long enough to record a few singles and one studio album that they oddly titled 'In Concert' (CD 009, 1970) after dubbing in faux audience applause. The 18-minute "Sub Theme I" though sounds rather like Deep Purple doing one of their long improvisational readings of any number of their classic tunes. Keyboardist Johannes Vester was undoubtedly up to the task on the throaty Hammond parts and Klaus Kätel did a fair job with his guitar despite the rather thin, pinched sounds so common given the amplifiers of their day. Vocalist Christian Wilhelm has the kind of voice suited for blues rock (like Mike Harrison of Spooky Tooth). Hence, cover versions of "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man" are a perfect fit, and with some interesting arranging, these aren't as worthless as you might imagine. If it's psychedelia you want, check out "Ma-Mari-Huana" (presented in two versions here) - it's a classic freak-out. Overall though, the bulk of the album (62 minutes with the bonus tracks) is closer to Traffic, for good or bad. With fine musicianship on display, Sub made an undergroud rock album on par with some of their 'classic' contemporaries. You decide whether it's worth your time.
From Reinhold Magin's Bach-inspired organ intro (to "War Game") alone, the major thrust of Tyburn Tall's self-titled debut (CD 011, 1972) is apparent. This five-piece from Speyer undoubtedly listened to a lot of Deep Purple (and some Argent as well) and were game for their own try. Magin's abilities are impressive, as is the muscle shown by Werner Gallo and Stefan Kowa on six- and four-string guitars, respectively. Vocalist Klaus Fresenius is the key issue though - his often screamin' falsetto undoubtedly will put some listeners right off. He only occasionally gets on my nerves to a breaking point, so I can get through an uninterrupted listen. Four lengthy pieces (and two bonus tracks) was all it took for Tyburn Tall to fill up nearly an hour's worth of mini-symphonies carved from heavy rock. The Colosseum tune "Lost Angeles" is one of the bonus additions, nicely done here in the form of a cool kraut-groove psychedelic romp. No matter what, this album is a preferable buy to their live reunion disc (CD 021) full of self-indulgence.
Following their aborted 1974 recording session with Conny Plank, Bonn's Arktis regrouped to self-produce their second full-length work simply called 'Arktis Tapes' (CD 012, 1975). The album starts out with a pair of southern-fried boogie rock songs, but then diversifies from there into more familiar territory. I followed them through the rock ballad ("Small Talk"), the psych jam ("High Fly"), and the bluesy "Walkin' with My Baby," but they lost me with the old 50s-style R&B track "Pique-Nique." A few more mediocre efforts close out this rather forgettable album with far too little Karin Töppig on display. However, the disc is made salvagable by the bonus track "Evolution," 16 minutes of inspired heavy psych jamming, that while still rhythmically simplistic is much improved in togetherness. The 13-minute "Speeding Up" has some bright moments as well, though suffers from repetition. Hard to judge this one in the end, their worst album as originally released, but then also containing some pretty good improvisational works.
From the Stuttgart area, Siddhartha existed for four years but only got around to making a single recording 'Weltschmerz' (literally 'The World's Pain') (CD 013, 1974). A five-piece lineup with both organ (Martin Mörike) and violin (Gerhard Kraus), they also brought in a guest female vocalist (Gabi Roßmanith) and others on flute and even tuba! The end result was a more symphonic version of Amon Düül II, that is even labelled 'pretentious' by the label-owner's own liner notes. Well, that's a matter of opinion - for me, their adventurous (or weird if you prefer) writing style makes Siddhartha one of the most 'krautrock' bands on this label and one of my favorites. The album only amounts to 37 1/2 minutes (sadly no bonus tracks available), but they had well over an hour's worth of musical ideas. From the rock chamber music of "Tanz im Schnee" to the eerie gothic sounds of "Times of Delight" to the totally off-the-wall "Weit Weg," Siddhartha proved to me that they were grossly underappreciated and deserved a longer life. A side note: the quality of this vinyl transfer is as good as it gets... worth the extra effort!
A trio of displaced but highly-trained musicians, Vita Nova's self-titled LP (CD 014, 1971) was more a one-off studio project as they never actually played live. The original album can be divided up into a middle section of six short vignettes (including piano and drum solos), and another half dozen longer tracks, half again with Latin vocals. Sounding at times like the UK band Egg, Hungarian-born Sylvester Lemay's keyboards (including the Hohner Clavinet) take a dominant role although Eddy Marron (aka Ed Ugly-Ugly) contributes some lead guitar as well as bass and vocals. Vita Nova is of course highly experimental, no surprise given that Marron soon went on to Dzyan at the time of their classic avant-garde recordings 'Time Machine' and 'Electric Silence.' This is a good album to witness exemplary keyboard playing and the drumming by Swiss-born Christian Hoffmann (aka Chris Hoff) is also impressive, but songwriting is always key. And while the finale "Tempus Est" is a very enjoyable tune, both melodic and complex, this album could've used more like it. The two bonus tracks help to raise the total time past 40 mintues and also present another pair of instrumental prog anthems of high quality. Overall, a pretty good album, especially given its early place in the chronology of progressive rock music.
Though Epidaurus had officially broken up soon after 'Earthly Paradise' was finished, in years to follow the members had continued their association in bands like Choice, Herne 3, and Lander. In the early 90's, they decided to reform as Epidaurus once more and record some old songs written in 1978, the material released here as '...Endangered' (CD 015, 1994). With the same orchestral sound and with access to state-of-the-art recording technology, '...Endangered' comes across as simply too slick and over-produced to be effective in any way. Many of the later songs like "Take Me Back" and "Tinker or Tailor" are truly generic pop and I don't hesitate to blow these off immediately, but the first few tracks ("Intro/Tonight" and "October 1919") are decent enough songs (Poor Man's Eloy perhaps?). The band would just do themselves a favor and forget the studio dials and just put some more spirit into their performance once they had something. Christiane Wand's voice is still instantly recognizable, and I have to say I like her vocal performance here more than before. Too bad the songs are brought down by new agey schmaltz and bubble-gum pop melodies.
Out of the same community of artists in Munich that included Amon Düül, Embryo, and Out of Focus also came Ejwussl Wessahqqan (CD 016, 1975), a strange name culled from the writings of Clark Ashton Smith. Embracing the improvisational spirit of the day, the all-instrumental trio recorded long winding, rambling jams with the focus on the freakish sounds emanating from Michael Winzker's keyboards (often treated organ) in lieu of guitar. The second track though is a really interesting 10-minute trippy excursion of 'sitar-guitar' against an electronic matrix (sounds like a mix of electric guitar and didgeridoo). "Hobbl-di-wobbl" is also one of the better album-side-filling psych/improv pieces I've heard, a flood of electronic wizardry let loose during the latter half. The sound recording is a little muddy, but comes across well enough considering they only used two-track recording and no overdubbing. Nearly a half-hour of bonus material is added onto the original 40-minute work, including a pair from 1980 by the renamed spinoff Koala Bar. With guitarist/vocalist Wolfram Graser in the lineup, this entity took on more of a traditional (ok, anachronistic) psych/folk flavor, but these are among my favorite moments on the disc. Recommended.
Gurnemanz hailed from Aachen in Rhineland, an acoustic folk troupe that existed from 1972 to 1979. After self-producing several cassettes in the early years, they managed to get a limited edition LP release on the EMI Electrola label in 1975 ('Spielmannskinder'). Their second LP, 'No Rays of Noise' (CD 017, 1977) was pressed in larger numbers on EMI's Songbird label. Of the six touring members credited, only four were full-time instrumentalists, a pair of guitarists, another on the double bass, and vocalist Manuela Schmitz. Other instruments like flutes of various sorts, harmonica, and even kazoo appear often, duties shared by most members. Their lyrics were normally sung in English with a few also in German, and Schmitz sometimes sang duets with guitarist Lukas Scheel. Schmitz has a clean and pretty voice (not unlike Sandy or Joni), with lyrics the sort of whimsical portraits of nature you might expect. Though billed as progressive folk rock, 'No Rays' is to my ears very traditional troubadour folk, a treat mainly for Ren. Faire lovers, and full of too much sameness for my tastes. The plentiful bonus tracks (live versions of songs meant for a third album entitled 'Blue Moon') indicate that at the very end (late 1979), the band added a drummer and some electric guitar and so widened their repertoire. Not soon enough to suit my tastes.
Helmut Teubner is an electronic musician and studio engineer who has performed with the rock band Medias Res, but as a solo artist creates music along the lines of Larry Fast's Synergy. Or with the addition of guest guitarist Kai Reuter as on the 10-minute title track to 'Heaven's Light' (CD 018, 1989), the sound is more akin to Chris Fournier (Fonya) here in the states. Even with the antiseptic, sparkly clean approach, I can find much to like in Teubner's rich tapestries of sound, but what I can't stomach are the crummy programmed drums. Later in the album, sax player Ralf Nowry supplies the melody for "Per Aspera Ad Astra" and "The Lucky Side of Life," pleasant though not particularly ambitious. "Longing for Heaven's Light" is probably my favorite tune, the excellent soloing by Reuter shining out from Teubner's spacey web. I'd like to hear Teubner and Reuter perform with a vocalist and a live drummer - then you'd have something really special. With this one is more than a lab experiment, it's still two ingredients short of a proper cosmic stew. Teubner also released "The History of Secret Life" in 1992.
Eela Craig are unusual amongst the GoD label artists for two reasons: they were from Linz, Austria, and they have been relatively prolific, releasing six albums (and numerous singles) over their long, but sporadic, career. Their debut work 'Eela Craig' (CD 019, 1971) was an odd assortment of pseudo-progressive rhythms within a traditional jazz and blues framework. The initial shrieking yells from vocalist/saxophonist Wil Orthofer are worrisome, but beyond this his singing sticks to a pretty decent bluesy style. The finale four-part "Indra Elegy" is the album's most evolved work, coming across well with some edgy guitar riffing from Heinz Gerstmair countered by dreamy flute passages from Harald Zuschrader. From the 15-minutes of bonus tracks, there is the light and airy acoustic piece "Yggdrasil" and then the Mellotron-lovers treat, "Stories" b/w "Cheese," both of which I liked better than the decent, but unremarkable album material. Their 1976 followup album "One Niter" was apparently more completely symphonic prog, and I've seen it receive some high marks by progfans, but thereafter the band seemed to go toward less interesting styles.
Part Two now brings us to closure on the Garden of Delights label, though as I alluded to in the preamble, the strongest releases in the GoD catalog are mainly found within the higher catalog numbers, indicating that the best stuff is likely yet to come. But to summarize, I will once more present a prioritized list of the first 18 releases according to my own tastes, which you may or may not find agree with yours. Presumably, if you've followed AI for any length of time, these tendencies have become known to you and so then your purchasing decisions will be that much more informed.
The must haves...
Siddhartha - Siddhartha (CD 013)
Lightshine - Feeling (CD 008)
McOil - All Our Hopes (CD 004)
Ejwussl Wessahqqan - Ejwussl Wessahqqan (CD 016)
Ice - Opus 1 (CD 002)
Next on the list...
Arktis - Arktis (CD 005)*
Sundome and the Night - In Lean Hours (CD 003)
Epidaurus - Earthly Paradise (CD 001)
Vita Nova - Vita Nova (CD 014)
Tyburn Tall - Tyburn Tall (CD 011)
Eela Craig - Eela Craig (CD 019)
Helmut Teubner - Heaven's Light (CD 018)
Grave - Grave 1 (CD 007)
You don't really need these...
Florian Geyer - Beggar's Pride (CD 006)
Sub - In Concert (CD 009)
Arktis - Arktis Tapes (CD 012)
Gurnemanz - No Rays of Noise (CD 017)
Epidaurus - Endangered (CD 015)
*Note: In Part I, I accidentally listed CD 022 as S/T 'Arktis' in the final summary, instead of its real title, 'On the Rocks.'
Remember, I can't give out direct GoD contact info as the label doesn't engage in retail sales, but Garden of Delights releases are often available through major import dealers and specialty psychedelic rock outlets (you know who they are and if you don't, check Part I). And if you have any questions/comments/suggestions for Walter, we here at AI would be glad to pass them along for you.
Psychedelic Gems - Psychedelic Gems #1-#4 (PGCD 01 - PGCD 04, 1996-1998)
In the process of searching out old, forgotten recordings in the attics and basements of various record labels and musician's homes, a number of 7" singles and demos were uncovered that each represent the entire output of certain obscure bands from the psychedelic era. For re-release in the CD era then, it seemed only natural to create a side label from Garden of Delights for which to compile these individual rarities onto several hour-long digital archives. To date, four of these compilations have been released, with a fifth apparently on the way (to feature such artists as Nyrvana Pancake, Chain, Giants, Trademark, and B.S.H.).
PG#1 and PG#2 are quite alike, both being largely derived from singles that appeared on the German CCA label. Each features 15 tracks from the period between 1970 and 1976, mostly the sort of classic bluesy rock that was so prevalent in England and the US. However, there appears here the occasional standout track that shows something more evolved going on. For instance, the Stuttgart trio Dom starts off PG#1 with a pair of highly inspired instrumental tunes ("Dom" and "Devil's Grandma") that while unrefined and noisy, are really excellent psychedelic ramblings with a touch of Guru Guru madness. Later, The Devils (from Paderborn) present three tracks recorded in 1973 that were actually never before released by CCA. The seven-minute-plus "Way of Love" is the pinnacle of their efforts, with a nice mixture of dirty train-like riffing and bluesier stuff, following the more swirly psych "World of Empty Wishes." Pax Vobis contribute four tracks, generally recalling the organ-dominated rock of Rod Argent, here given the occasional neo-classical twist. Not at all bad, but a little bit 'dated' in spots. The Ooze also present an organ-heavy style but with a harder edge, rather much like Iron Butterfly covering the Doors... not particularly original anyway. PG#1 wraps up with two each from Blues Ltd. and Scramp, both from the northern part of Germany (Osnabrück and Lübeck, respectively). Blues Ltd. is like a jazzier version of the other Argent-inspired bands, with heavy syncopation and lots of mid-song changes. Scramp is more psychedelic, but too amateurish and too poorly recorded to recommend.
PG#2 samples two each from four different bands and then six recordings from Fifth Dead, a long-lived (1971-1986) but hardly prolific band from Koblenz in Rheinland. Fronted by guitarist/vocalist Dirk Crecelius, Fifth Dead developed a peculiar psychedelic-blues sound with a commonly herky-jerky composition style. Of the six tunes, all recorded between 1973 and 1976, "What Can We Do" is the true standout, an extended march-style psychedelic journey with extra-cool heavy 'buzz-guitar.' "Bumble Bee" is another one I liked, seeming to presage the hard-drivin' sound later patented by Diamond Head in the UK (part of the so-called NWOBHM). Unfortunately, Crecelius' voice is not my favorite, and tempers my overall response to the band.
Amongst the remaining four bands on PG#2 is none other than the mega-80's superstars the Scorpions, a band I have to admit to liking to some extent even during this latter age (up to a point around 1982 when they simply ran out of ideas). Of course, I was always most fond of their earlier material featuring either Michael Schenker or Uli Jon Roth on lead guitar. Presented here is their very first demo recording from 1971, two songs that later were redone for the debut 'Lonesome Crow' album, their only true 'krautrock' album (produced by Conny Plank), if you will. The version of "I'm Going Mad" is interesting mainly for the different guitar fills that Schenker offered, but suffers from poor recording of the drum track. The groovy prog number "Action" is noticeably better in this regard, though because Klaus Meine never laid down the vocal track for this demo, it sounds rather incomplete. The Swiss band Alaska Range actually leads off this disc with a couple of uninspiring folksy/blues numbers displaying only marginal musicianship. Later, Lazarus' Bra (of Stade, near Hamburg) improve on this formula with a pair of classic rock tunes recalling Steppenwolf and Spooky Tooth (who they actually opened for). Vocalist Bernd Hadeler is at least tolerable, the playing shows some talent, and the compositions are well thought out... the music just isn't all that notable and not particularly psychedelic. Another oddly-named band, Red Fug, showed more promise especially with the instrumental "March 16th" (b/w "The Journey") a 1973 recording that turned out to be their only release as they broke up the following year. The band seemed to embrace a 'psych/improv' ethic in composing their works and this approach is really what krautrock was mostly about.
There's no question that PG#3 is the one to get right away! To start, My Solid Ground contributes the fabulous 25-minute prog/psych/stoner symphony called "Flash," an alternate and extended version of the song that appeared on their only full-length (self-titled) release on Bacillus (1971). Dag Erik Asbjornsen raved about this album in his 'Cosmic Dreams at Play' compendium, and based on this single effort, I agree. Guitarist/vocalist Bernhard Rendel wrote the piece, but the keyboards of Ingo Werner and the overall flavor of the music is way ahead of its time, considering it was recorded in 1970. Werner later played on the lone Baba Yaga album ('Phonola,' 1974), likened to mid-70s Brainticket. From Saarland and related to the band Gää, Mr. Grabstein (later just Grabstein, meaning Tombstone) recorded only a single song ("Smoke," 1975), and that appears next on PG#3. Another strong work, a little like the early Scorps material (as above), but with some more interesting ideas and a variety of cool guitar sounds. Vocalist Uwe Peter has an unusual voice, but it doesn't take too long to get used to it. Later unreleased Grabstein recordings still exist and may appear soon on CD. The band Werwolf (sic) contributes the final three tracks on PG#3, but bringing up the total time to over an hour. A 1970's/early 80's folksy symphonic band from Olpe in Sauerland, I'd liken them to a mix of Hölderlin and Grobschnitt (staying in the country for sake of comparison). All three tracks (recorded in 1979 and previously unreleased) are strong and feature nice atmospheric bits (á la Eloy) and the clear sax and flute tones of Michael Schlimm. Their lone album ('Creation,' 1982) was reissued on CD here in the states on Ken Golden's Lasers Edge label. Vocalist Ellen Wiederstein left the band before that recording session, so this is her only appearance with the group. All in all, this selection of stuff is very strong and one of my favorites from the GoD family.
Psychedelic Gems #4 is back to the old formula... seven bands represented by pairs of three-minute classic rock works (ultra-rare 7" vinyl) mainly from the late 60's/early 1970's (ordered chronologically). Chicago Sect offered "Chain Reaction," seemingly based on the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" and a cover of the Zombies' "She's Not There." The Empty C, despite showing some similarity to Jefferson Airplane's psych/blues formula, were not exactly proficient musicians and their two tracks aren't very impressive. The Hardships (who later morphed into the Royal Servants - see GoD review Pt. 1) contribute "The Work" b/w "Follow Me," both very 60's-ish tunes that offer nothing new. Apple Pie (from Wuppertal) provide the first interesting piece "Maurice," a blues stomp along the lines of Steppenwolf or Cream. And I didn't mind the pair ("Sold Out" and "God's Own Land") by Yoice, an Italian-based band of mixed ethnicity that combined folk, blues, and psych elements and Nicola Pankoff's organ (in the style of Procol Harum's Matt Fisher).
Moving on to later material... Waterloo is my favorite group on PG#4. The lone band to offer four tracks (all from 1976), Waterloo has an interesting history and lots of connections (Fred Muhlbock of Novalis was an early member, and drummer Eddie Pfisterer later played with Bullfrog and also with Arthur (brother of Roye) Albrighton in Trysapter). "The End" is oddly engaging, a weird disjointed funky-jazz rhythm colored with strange noises, whereas "The Painter" features a fast choppy guitar rhythm and a quiet, psychedelic bridge section. This ten-minute section of PG#4 is the lone saving grace behind this weakest of the four compilations. The other two Waterloo tracks (never before released) are poorly recorded and characterized by uninspired noodling. From Heidelberg, Acid weren't really like their name suggests, and produced only the one single ("Acid" b/w "She's Alone Again," 1979). I'd call them 'Poor Man's Uriah Heep,' except that Uriah Heep was already a 'Poor Man's
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