The Krautrock & Progressive Box Set, by various artists
This album touts itself as a 6 cd deluxe limited edition and as a secret archive of German progressive and hard rock music. It seems difficult to see the only limit or secretive nature of this album as being the lack of appeal of German rock music of the 1960’s to mainstream audiences. That is not to say that this music is bad. There is more than an hour of music on every one of the 6 cds here and some of it is even good, although much of it is of limited mass appeal–the only song I knew from this collection going into it was a much shorter version of “Classical Gas” than appears here. It is hard to put these songs into categories, because they fit various trends, but it can be said that the instrumentation of these songs resembles in many cases the rock of the late 1960’s and early progressive music and the hooks and lyrics are frequently repetitive and there is a lot of noodling here that drags some of these songs well beyond the ten minute mark. The average length of these songs on this collection is more than six minutes and much of that length is simply not warranted by the quality of the material here.
In terms of its material, this collection contains sixty songs on six disks that includes multiple tracks from such luminaries of German progressive and hard rock like Carmen, Andromeda, Consortium, Mogul Trash, Matthew Fisher, Agitation Free, Beggars Opera, Jerusalem, Johnny Warman, Ashkan, and numerous other tracks from still more obscure acts. In terms of the tracks themselves, some of them have obviously classical inspirations like “Classical Gas” and “Impromptu in E Minor” while others have a strong basis in fantasy such as “Poem About a Gnome” and quite a few have a strong basis in political views, including “Puppet King” and “Death Of A King.” By and large the artists in this collection appear to have early understood the riffs of rock music, mastered the technology of synths and turned their own experience and observation and rumination into lengthy tracks that were written without the thought of being massively popular songs on the radio. Most of these songs would not, even in edited form, find a home on classic rock radio, but there is something compelling about the creativity to be found here all the same.
While I cannot say I found any new favorite songs out of this collection, and frequently found the material to be a bit on the tedious side, the fact that Germans were able to take the Rock & Roll that they were listening to in cities like Hamburg and Munich and create it themselves within a short time after having heard it suggests the ability of rock & roll music to be copied and assimilated by other people. This is music that deserves to be heard even if it is not as appealing as some other acts of the time are, because it represents an early effort to understand and create rock & roll that would become much more proficient as time went on. If the Germans were not exactly pioneers in hard rock or progressive rock, the efforts seen here would certainly pay off in a successful regional music scene that continues to this day to produce striking and intriguing and occasionally very enjoyable music. This collection is more about the beginnings of such efforts though, those who were the leaders in making rock music of a particularly German kind, although much of it is in English. The results are at least intriguing.