The Munich-based band Amon Duul was one of the first German bands to emerge out of the psychedelic era. Founded as an anarchic musical commune in 1967 by former jazzer Chris Karrer with Ulli and Peter Leopold, Amon Duul soon sent out a proud declaration: 'we are eleven adults and two children which are gathered to make all kinds of expressions, also musical'. They appeared at the Essen song festival in Autumn 1968. Shortly thereafter they split into two separate groups. Amon Duul's activities ceased after a couple of years, but Amon Duul II survived through the seventies and became one of the most important German groups. The group formed around Chris Karrer in the Autumn of 1968. Their first gigs were very erratic, as some of the members had just started playing their instruments. This lack of a conventional musical experience helped Amon Duul II to establish themselves as one of the major underground acts in Germany. Their reputation grew fast and they soon secured a signing with Liberty. In early 1969, Phallus Dei ('God's penis') was recorded with two new members: Peter Leopold (drums, he switched from the other Amon Duul group) and Dave Anderson (bass, an Englishman who had been a roadie for Kippington Lodge). Rogner now switched from bass to keyboards. Also two guests were involved: Christian Burchard (vibes, see Embryo) and Holger Trulzsch (percussion, see Popol Vuh). Olaf Kubler was the man responsible for the innovative production. He was also a jazz musician, most known as saxophonist with Doldinger's quartet). The album was a genuine late psychedelic masterpiece, a landmark in German rock. They were probably the first German band that was confident enough to present large amounts of improvised music. Phallus Dei was a travel through mysterious science fiction soundscapes, sometimes predating the sound of groups like Hawkwind. This album, like all the subsequent ones up to 1973, had spectacular psychedelic cover artwork. Most of these designs were made by Falk-U Rogner. "Phallus Del" filled up one whole side of the album, and had one of the most ridiculous stereo panning ever recorded (try to listen to it with headphones!). It was their first large scale improvisation, hinting at the things to come on their two next albums. Other memorable tracks was "Luzifers Gholom" and "Dem Guten, Schonen Wahren" with strange, harsh vocal parts from Shrat. Chris Karrer contributed with some nice electric violin parts and had guitar battles with John Weinzierl. One of the band's concerts at the time was filmed, resulting in a musical cult movie "Amon Duul plays Phallus Dei". The soundtrack for the film "San Domingo" was recorded later the same year and for this they were awarded a Bundesfilm prize.
Percussionist Dieter Serfas left before the sessions for their double album Yeti, recorded early in 1970. As such, it offered more time for their large variety of ideas: the first record had pre-written (i.e. reasonably consistent) acid rock songs, with all time classics such as the "Soap Shop Rock" suite, "Archangels Thunderbird" (also released as a single) and "Eyeshaking King", with its incredibly raw fuzz guitar on overgear and distorted vocals. The second record realized their full potential as makers of improvised music: the title track "Yeti" spawned 1 1/2 sides of stunning instrumental material, while the loose and mellow closing track was a re-union session with members from the other AD fraction. In the Spring of 1970, Shrat left Amon Duul II to form Sameti, while Dave Anderson returned to England and joined Hawkwind. Lothar Meid, an old friend of Chris Karrer, became their new bassist. He was a talented musician with his roots in jazz. In 1969 he co-founded Embryo, but quit before their debut album. Along with Jimmy Jackson he then played in a band named Tambarin around 1969-70.
1970 had been a very successful year for Amon Duul II. They were voted the "best underground group" by readers of the magazine Musical Express. Fortunately the band decided to follow a similar path in 1971, and released another double album, Tanz Der Lemminge, in March. It was constructed very much the same way as Its predecessor: one record of reasonably tight compositions and the other dominated by more experimental instrumental material. The result was even more successful this time! This was Amon Duul II's music at their experimental peak. Karrer and Weinzierl revealed their individual composing talents in their respective side long suites with the outrageous names: "Syntelman's March of the Roaring Seventies" and "Restless- Skylight-Transistor-child". Both were divided into several sub-titles, some of which were segued once again! The collage editing technique on these tracks recalled Grateful Dead's classic album Anthem For The Sun. For me, the group never surpassed this material: a tour-de-force of changing moods, acid guitar, surrealistic images, sitars and strange vocals. Record two contained a weird instrumental opus entitled "Chamsin Soundtrack" where each part showcased a different angle of the Amon Duul II sound. "The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church" on side three was a fascinating otherworldly trip into the floating reigns of the unconscious, guided by echo ridden, manipulated guitars, piano, bass and attacks of percussion. Imagine a revised, extended version of Pink Floyd's "Quicksilver" from the More soundtrack and you might get close to it! The three tracks of side four displayed Amon Duul II's loud and powerful raga space rock, sounding like an extension of "Interstellar Overdrive".
The next album Carnival In Babylon was recorded late 1971 in the Bavaria Studio. It had a more melodic and accessible style. Apparently Amon Duul II had calmed down a bit by now since the intense acid images of their first three albums. Some of the six tracks were even verging on progressive, ethnic folk rock, lace "All The Years Round" and "Tables Are Turned". These were sung by Renate Knaup, who was offered much more space on this album. Their traditions of long improvisations were maintained by the 10 minute long "Hawknose Harlequin", apparently edited down from a 40 minute long jam session. "Kronwinkl 12" (written by Weinzierl) continued another Amon Duul II tradition: that of short, catchy acid rock songs, although this time a more straight performance. Falk Rogner contributed to this album as 'guest' only, their regular keyboard player was now Karl-Heinz Hausmann. This relationship didn't last for long, as Hausmann left the group again at the end of 1971. A more important departure around the same time was Peter Leopold who wanted to study medicine. Soon after, also Lothar Meid left to join Doldinger's Passport. With three members gone, Amon Duul II were soon scheduled for their first UK tour (in June 1972). Karrer, Weinzierl, Knaup and new drummer (and guitar player) Daniel Fichelscher pulled off the tour with the guest appearances from Reinhold Spiegelfeld (bass) and Rainer Schnelle (organ).
Some rumours about disbanding were brought to an end by the release of Wolf City (recorded in July 1972). Falk-U Rogner and Lothar Meid were back in action again. This album was surely a great success, a firm Amon Duul II favourite among many people. Almost every track was outstanding in its own right: "Wie Der Wind Am Einer Strasse" was an ethnic rock fusion, sounding almost like Popol Vuh. The title track was a forceful rocker with vocals from Lothar Meid. "Sleepwalker's Timeless Bridge" displayed Fichelscher's talent both as a drummer, guitarist and vocalist. A whole lot of guests were involved as usual, among them Jimmy Jackson (organ), Al Gromer (sitar), Rolf Zacher (the strange vocals on the infamous "Deutsche Nepal"), Olaf Kubler (sax) and Pandit Shankar (tablas). Recommended particularly for those who may find their earlier albums too weird!
When Peter Leopold returned to Amon Duul II in late 1972 the band was extended to a septet. In December 1972 and January 1973 this line-up toured UK. Some recordings found their way onto album Live in London (see below). Lothar Meid left after this to record with Achtzehn Karat Gold. After a third and last UK tour (without a regular bass player) in the Spring of 1973, Fichelscher also left - to join Popol Vuh as a full-time member. BBC recordings from this tour were released in 1992 as Live In Concert. They reveal a chaotic, loud and aggressive Amon Duul II playing interesting versions of songs mainly from their 1972 and 1973 albums. This album release also included two out-takes from the Dance Der Lemminge sessions.
The next studio album Vive La Trance (1973) revealed a band in the process of losing their previous musical direction. It included as many as 11 tracks, almost as many as all their earlier ones altogether. The result wasn't really too bad, but Amon Duul II were now becoming more accessible and song-oriented. Most people agree that the album is uneven, although fans of Hawkwind's style when they featured Robert Calvert might enjoy it. Only the longest track "Apocalyptic Bore" was memorable. The album introduced a new member: Robby Heibl (bass). Guests were Peter Kramper (piano, their engineer), Lothar Meid and Keith Forsey (drums).
At the end of 1973 Amon Duul II were in disarray and to make things worse, members drifted in and out of the band all the time. Karrer and Weinzierl did their best to keep the band in some shape, but presumably they weren't able to foresee the next week's line-up! They managed to accomplish a French tour in Winter 1973-74 with Jutta Weinhold (vocals), Conny Veit (guitar). Nick Woodland (guitar), Andy Wix (bass) and Peter Leopold (drums). At this stage, few believed the group would survive. In August 1974 the seventh album Live in London was released to fulfil the contract with United Artists. This comprised old material from the second UK tour (December 1972 and January 1973), edited and manipulated in the studio. For this reason the album was tighter than their 1970 and 1971 studio left albums, from which the repertoire was chosen. United Artists also released a collection of singles and shorter LP tracks in 1975: Lemmingmania was a highly enjoyable collection of the group's shorter acid rock classics and was a good opportunity for the fans to hear the tracks "Light", "Between The Eyes", "Rattlesnake-plumcake" and "Lemmingmania", all previously only released on singles. It was packed in a nice silver sleeve with lemmings.
At last, Karrer and Weinzierl surprisingly managed to re-assemble Knaup, Meid, Leopold and Rogner for the recordings of Hijack (released October 1974). They had signed a new record deal with Nova in Germany and Atlantic in the UK. Regrettfully the album was a patchy collection of mediocre pop rock songs, much like a second Achtzehn Karat Gold album. Many of the best contributions came from Lothar Meid, who composed more material this time than on the previous albums. Unfortunately, as Meid left soon after the album was completed. He made some solo albums, but failed to gain commercial and artistic success. The bass player from the Vive La Trance sessions, Robby Heibl returned to the group. A third guitarist, Nando Tischer, was also added, again expanding the group to a septet. Their ambitious project Made In Germany was recorded in July 1975. This was the first of four albums to be produced by Jurgen S. Korduletsch. He added strings and brass to some tracks. The session musician Thor Baldursson contributed with additional keyboards. It was their third double album and told the story about a certain and fictitious Mr. Kraut. Due to bad sales, the original issue was soon withdrawn and replaced with a condensed single LP version in a different cover. Although better than the two preceding studio albums, it was still lacking a bit in energy and inspiration. The group's financial account was in deficit, which caused half the group (Heibl, Tischer, Rogner and Knaup) to leave in frustration. Karrer, Weinzierl and Leopold still managed to keep the band running due to their strong will. The tenth album Pyragony X was released in October 1976, with the help of two new members: Stefan Zauner (keyboards, vocals, guitar) and Klaus Ebert (bass, vocals, guitar). Strangely enough, the two new members had almost taken full control over the band's musical direction with their fairly good keyboard-dominated symphonic pop rock. Only the eastern sounding opening piece "Flower Of The Orient" bore any resemblance with the old Amon Duul II sound.
01. Kanaan 4:02
02. Dem Guten, Schonen, Wahren 6:13
03. Luzifers Ghilom 8:34
04. Henriette Krotenschwanz 2:03
05. Phallus Dei 20:47
06. Freak Out Requiem I 4:03
07. Freak Out Requiem II 3:48
08. Freak Out Requiem III 0:43
09. Freak Out Requiem IV 7:49
10. Cymbals in the End 0:31
Peter Leopold / drums, percussion, piano
Shrat / bongos, violin, vocals
Renate / vocals, tambourine
John Weinzierl / bass, guitar
Chris Karrer / violin, guitar, sax, vocals
Falk Rogner / organ, synth
Dave Anderson / bass
Dieter Serfas / drums, electric cymbals
Holger Trützsch / Turkish drums
Christian Borchard / vibraphone
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