AMON DUUL II
Amon Duul II is one of Germany's more interesting bands. Formed as a commune in the late sixties, the original Amon Duul had one recording session, an epic affair which resulted in hours of acid-trip jamming, many of the participants non-musicians who just found something to bang on in a vaguely rhythmic fashion. This session has resulted in a number of albums, the best-known of them the well-named DISASTER. Following that session the commune broke into two groups - musicians in one, the non-musicians in the other, which kept the original name. The musicians formed Amon Duul II.
I can confidently state that none of the albums released by the original Amon Duul is worth your money or your listening time. And in my personal opinion, the first half-dozen or so of Amon Duul II's albums fall into the same category - but they do have their devotees. In 1975 the band decided to change direction, begin writing music that had melodies and harmonies, and try a more mainstream approach. The result of this was a double-LP, MADE IN GERMANY. But this album was never released outside Germany, nor exported in any quantity, because Atco had picked up the group for U.S. release, and a single-LP version was released instead outside Germany. The non-German MADE IN GERMANY was song-oriented, as would be future albums (in the seventies), but it lacked the scope and indeed the overall concept of the original album, which dealt with the history of Germany, and had one track in which an American-sounding MC "interviews" (in English) Adolph Hitler, whose responses (in German) are taken from recorded speeches.
Repertoire Records, a German label devoted to reissues (hundreds of titles, most of them British in origin) is now reissuing the Amon Duul II catalog. Thus far it has released on CD the following albums: PHALLUS DEI, YETI, TANZ DER LEMMINGE, CARNIVAL IN BABYLON and WOLF CITY of the pre-MADE IN GERMANY albums, and, in addition to the complete version of MADE IN GERMANY, VIVE LA TRANCE and PYRAGONY X among the later albums (leaving only ONLY HUMAN). These albums come well-annotated, and are done with some care.
My favorites are the post-MADE IN GERMANY albums which include Stefan Zauner on keyboards (I also like his solo albums): they have rich and original melodies. MADE IN GERMANY itself is all over the map, from an overture scored for symphony orchestra (written by their producer, who felt the album required one) to the "Hitler interview," and with a few strong songs (the only material that survived the cut on the single-LP) thrown in. Its strength is in the change of direction it presaged, more than in its own material. But it's good to see the original album finally escape the confines of Germany.
The original band collapsed after the release of ONLY HUMAN, but a few additional albums trickled out in the eighties by successor bands using the name. In the late eighties the original members regrouped, but their new efforts, hailed by fans of the early Amon Duul II as a return to the pre-melodic days, are loose-jointed space-jams, lacking structure and emotional content. I find them disappointing. Back to Dr. Progresso
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