zondag 28 november 2010

Amon Düül II - 1972 - Carnival In Babylon

Amon Düül II
Carnival In Babylon

1. C.I.D. In Uruk (5:30)
2. All The Years 'Round (7:20)
3. Shimmering Sand (6:33)
4. Kronwinkl 12 (3:52)
5. Tables Are Turned (3:34)
6. Hawknose Harlequin (9:48)

- Danny Fichelscher / drums, congas
- Karl-Heinz Hausmann / keyboards, electronics
- Chris Karrer / acoustic & electric guitars, violin, Soprano sax, vocals
- Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz / vocals
- Peter Leopold / drums, tambourine
- Lothar Meid / bass, vocals
- John Weinzierl / acoustic & electric guitars, vocals

+ Joy Alaska / backing vocals
- Olaf Kübler / Soprano sax, door
- Falk U. Rogner / organ

As ADII continued their usual chaotic way with constantly shifting line-ups (including the returning of a few older members), the group's sound naturally kept on changing. CIB is indeed the logical continuation of TDL, but in all logic, CIB belongs to ADII's second era/trilogy, while TDL can be linked to the group's first period/trilogy. Indeed the musical emphasis is now shifted on much tighter songs (all things relative, this remainig ADII) which are noticeably shorter and only two of them above the 7-mins mark. Graced with a carnival paper exotic bird over a setting sunset, the inside gatefold sporting a group shot in somekind of botanical gardens, but clearly inclined to represent some tropical forest under the Equator or other (as the title indicates). The for-now septet (quintet on the pictures and at release time with a UK tour on hand) also included guest Rogner (who signs all the lyrics, too) and saxman Kübler; the group recording the album in late 71 (intended originally as a double album) in their Munich hometown.
As hinted by the title and artwork, this album delivers at times an exotic feel through some ethnic folk tracks: All The Year Rounds & Tables Are Turned are both Knaup-sung and making me think of the Yeti folk tracks lost on that album. Some other tracks, like In Uruk are still hovering the psychedelic 60's and some superb descending lines over a quite-intriguing guitar solo ending the track. The longer-but-trimmed Hawknose Harlequin and the bass-driven and organ-underlined Shimmering Sands are two of the albums most memorable tracks, while Kronwikl is the album's better known track and also sporting a good bass line.
Although I've only ever seen or heard the Mantra label release of this album (and to be honest I've checked the Captain Trips version), I'm sure there are more recent releases offering some bonus tracks, most probably an extention of Harlequin, trimmed from 40 to 10 minutes to fit in the single lp or more of the same. If this album doesn't seem to click in directly, you might want to try the previous Lemminos and the next Wolf City and you'll find the Carnival does sit quite well between thes two albums

This is a terribly underrated album. The problem with a band like Amon Duul II is that their sound and approach changed very radically as their career progressed, which means that you will have fans from all sides of the fence each harshly criticizing what they think to be the "bad albums" -- that are actually awesome -- which simply happened to have departed from their particular range of taste. This album (the band's fourth) is a completely different affair than the three that preceded it, in that it begins to focus more on songwriting, vocal work, and a degree of cohesion; as opposed to turning all the amplifiers up to 11 and freaking out for entire album sides (which is equally delightful, of course). So, naturally, all the stoned "early ADII fans" hear Carnival for the first time, and come away saying ridiculous things like, "It's a pop album! There's no improvisation! They've lost it!" This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, it's on THIS album that ADII's lead guitarist (John Weinzierl?) really comes into his own, and proceeds to rip it up gloriously all over each and every track! The ten minute epic "Hawknose Harlequin" is one of my absolute favorite ADII songs, with a lengthy instrumental outro section that contains some of the most delectable guitar jamming I've ever heard. What's more, the "raw" sound quality of their previous releases has been replaced by a pristine, gorgeous sonic atmosphere replete with vocal harmonies (Vocal harmonies? ADII?!?), shimmering keyboards, washed-out sound effects, and tone-perfect guitar breaks (at times reminiscent of Hendrix's prettier moments). Needless to say, I adore this album (and it's follow-up "Wolf City") equally as much as I do the drugged-out insanity best represented on the first three releases, and at various points in time, Carnival in Babylon has actually been my *favorite* ADII album. So, when you've "freaked out" enough for one day listening to their earlier stuff, check this one out and prepare for one of the most perfectly chilled-out musical gems to ever come out of Germany. 

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