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Lucifer's Friend ~ 1976 ~ Mind Exploding
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Cosmic Dreams: Hecht, Horns, Hesslein and Rietenbach were all member of the sixties beat band German Bonds. This group disbanded at the turn to the seventies. Hecht and Horns had played in German Bonds since 1965, Hesslein replaced original guitarist Rainer Degner (who went on to make the weird Bokaj Relsiem-album) in 1968 and Rietenbach became their drummer in 1969. Hecht, Horns and Hesslein studied graphics and design at the Hamburg Art School from 1970, but also found time to make records: first the Electric Food album for Europa, then Asterix for Decca. These contained short hard rock tracks. In November 1970 they recorded the instrumental backing tracks for another studio project named Lucifer's Friend. The British vocalist John Lawton, then touring in Hamburg with his band Stonewall, was engaged to complete the vocal tracks. The album was released on Phillips in January 1971 and was pretty well received by German record buyers. As a result Lucifer's Friend became a permanent group which took on live appearances.
The music on the album differed in many ways from other German heavy progressive groups such as Armaggedon, Wind, Virus, Gift, etc. Lucifer's Friend sounded 100% Anglo-American with their archetypal vintage heavy metal, perhaps modelled on Deep Purple's In Rock. The album had eight guitar-based tracks with influences from blues, soul and to a lesser extent classical music. By the way: the bald-headed man that appeared on the front sleeve, and on most of their following LPs, was a certain Mr. Hans Helberg, born in 1915. In 1971 there were numerous project albums recorded by Lucifer's Friend musicians (sometimes with pseudonyms) released on budget price labels: Flash - Flash (hard rock), Children of Quechua - El Condor Pasa (contemporary pop-rock), Pink Mice - In Action (instrumental pop-rock adaptations of classical music) for Europa. These are mostly easy-going "B-records". I have also heard rumours that they were responsible for the obscure Brother T And Family album The Bralling of Rock on Fass 15.008 in 1970. In January 1972, a second proper Lucifer's Friend album was recorded at the Windrose and Star studios in Hamburg. It was agreed that Lucifer's Friend should continue to exist, but from now on just as a studio project. Where the Groupies Killed the Blues (1972) was quite similar to the first one in its musical style, but had strings and brass arrangements added by Hecht. It was one of the first LPs to be released on the German 'swirl' Vertigo 6360 600-series. The USA-licensed release on Passport sold increasingly well. Meanwhile the members earned their mortgages by session work for The Les Humphries Singers and The James Last Band, either as musicians or arrangers. In addition, they continued to make project albums - it's hard to make a living out of rock music, you know! Albums released around 1972 were Fantastic Pikes - Synthesizer Sound Machine, Pink Mice - Synthesizer Sound and Peters Sunday & Birds of Fire - Fly Me Up. The third Lucifer's Friend album was recorded between January and February 1973. I'm Just A Rock'n'Roll Singer was another Vertigo 'swirl' release. This was more commercial and, sadly, had even more orchestral arrangements than Us predecessor. Nevertheless it became the best selling German album in USA in 1973' But in their homeland their reviews were getting worse. Rietenbach left the band and was replaced by Herbert Bomholdt. The trend of gradually decreasing musical quality was followed on the successive albums Banquet and Mind Exploding. Lucifer's Friend's music tended to be rather shallow and anonymous. Banquet was their most orchestrated work and included more than 30 session musicians. In Autumn 1976 John Lawton quit Lucifer's Friend to join Uriah Heep as a replacement for David Byron. In spite of a ten year long lifespan, Lucifer's Friend failed to make any real classic albums. They are most of interest for fans of heavy metal. From a progressive rock collector's point of view, the two first albums could be interesting musically (you'll only enjoy them if you can tolerate John Lawton's creaky heavy metal vocals), and the third one since it is a "swirled" artifact.
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