Tag Archives: german music

a rare treasure – Harmonia ‘Live 1974’

WE HERE AT THE AURAL DUSTBIN ARE PRETTY MUCH CATEGORICALLY AGAINST ‘LIVE’ ROCK RECORDS.  THEY RARELY ADD ANYTHING TO THE DISCOGRAPHY OF AN ARTIST, USUALLY SOUND LIKE SHITE AND CERTAINLY DON’T ACCURATELY REPRESENT THE “EXPERIENCE” OF SEEING A BAND LIVE.  SO WHY ARE THEY SO UBIQUITOUS?  PERHAPS BECAUSE IT IS A WAY FOR A BAND (OR ITS’ RECORD LABEL) TO MAKE MONEY OFF AN EXISTING CATALOG OF WORK WITHOUT THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH MAKING A STUDIO ALBUM?  OR IS IT JUST BECAUSE THERE ARE ENOUGH RABID FANS TO BUY THEM?  EITHER WAY, WE USUALLY HAVE LITTLE TO NO INTEREST IN ALMOST ANY LIVE ROCK/POP ALBUM.  USUALLY.

TWO NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS SPRING TO MIND: KICK OUT THE JAMS BY THE MC5 AND LIVE 1974 BY HARMONIA.

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF REASONS WHY THIS HARMONIA ALBUM SHOULD  BE CONSIDERED ON PAR WITH THEIR STUDIO ALBUMS MUSIK VON HARMONIA, DELUXE AND THE POSTHUMOUSLY RELEASED TRACKS & TRACES (with Brian Eno):

  1.  THERE IS LITTLE TO NO AUDIENCE NOISE (AND IF THE STORY IS TRUE, THERE WERE ONLY 50  PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE AT THIS SHOW TO BEGIN WITH). 
  2. THE SOUND QUALITY IS GOOD AND SURPRISING CLEAN FOR A LIVE RECORDING FROM 1974.  THE LEVELS OCCASIONALLY DIP OR RISE WITHIN A GIVEN TRACK, BUT THE TONES ARE REMARKABLY CONSISTENT WITH THEIR STUDIO ALBUMS.
  3. UNLIKE THEIR OTHER ALBUMS WHICH FEATURE SHORTER SONGS WITH TIGHT ARRANGEMENTS, THE PIECES ON THIS DISC ARE LOOSE AND SOMETIMES EPIC.  OF THE FIVE TRACKS ONLY ONE IS 5:20, THE OTHERS LOGGING IN BETWEEN 10 AND 17 MINUTES!  THE FEEL IS SOMETIMES DARKER AND EVEN MENACING, SHOWING AN EXPANDED CAPABILITY IN THE SONIC ARSENAL OF HARMONIA.
  4. THE SONGS ON LIVE 1974 DO NOT APPEAR ON ANY OTHER HARMONIA ALBUM.    

ADMITTEDLY, WE ARE KRAUTROCK FREAKS AND WE PUT HARMONIA HIGH ON OUR LIST OF FAVORITES FROM THE GENRE.  PERHAPS THIS MAKES OUR OPINIONS BIASED ON THE SUBJECT, BUT SO BE IT.  LIVE 1974 STANDS AS A RARE EXCEPTION TO OUR “NO LIVE ALBUMS” RULE AND ONE YOU SHOULD INVESTIGATE FOR YOURSELVES.

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die wunderbare Klänge von Deutschland

THE DOLLAR-BINS OF THE WORLD ARE FILLED WITH MANY, MANY RECORDS.  SOME OF WHICH ARE PROBABLY THERE FOR A GOOD REASON: THEY’RE NOT REALLY THAT GOOD.  OTHERS HAVE BEEN WRONGFULLY RELEGATED TO AN UNKIND FATE, LANGUISHING IN DARK OBSCURITY WITH LITTLE HOPE OF GRACING THE MODERN TURNTABLE.

WE’VE TAKEN MANY OF THESE ALBUMS HOME OVER THE YEARS WITH HIGH EXPECTATIONS, ONLY TO HAVE OUR ENTHUSIASM SQUASHED BY SOME TRULY MEDIOCRE, IF NOT POOR, RECORDS.  HAPPILY THOUGH, YOU OCCASIONALLY GET LUCKY AND FIND A JEWEL AMIDST THE JUNK –  MUSICAL SCRAPBOOK OF GERMANY vol. 1 IS ONE OF THOSE GEMS.

CAVEAT: WE LIKE TRADITIONAL GERMAN MUSIC.  BUT, WE HAVE RESCUED SOME FAIRLY AWFUL RECORDINGS OF BEER-HALL SONGS AND TRADITIONAL HUNTING SONGS.  WE’VE ALSO FALLEN PREY TO COVERS FEATURING SOME LOVELY Fräulein PRESENTING MUGS OF BEER OR FLOATING IN ALPINE VISTAS, ONLY TO FIND THE RECORDINGS WITHIN TO BE LACKLUSTER.

MUSICAL SCRAPBOOK OF GERMANY vol. 1 HAS A NUMBER OF THINGS GOING FOR IT.  IT CONTAINS SOME VERY FAMOUS SONGS (WHICH MANY WOULD RECOGNIZE EVEN IF THEY THINK THEY KNOW NOTHING OF GERMAN MUSIC) THAT ARE CROWD-PLEASERS FOR SURE.  YET THE QUALITY OF BOTH THE RECORDINGS AND THE PERFORMANCES ARE WHAT PUT THIS DISC ABOVE MOST OTHERS (it is on the TELEFUNKEN label after all).  THE TONE IS CRISP BUT DYNAMIC, THE VOICES ARE (mostly) REALLY GREAT, AND THE ACCORDION SOUNDS ARE AMAZING (SOMEONE NEEDS TO TEACH ME THE ENGINEERING TRICK).  THE HORNS HAVE THAT WONDERFUL REVERB PRESENCE, LIKE THEY’RE PLAYING AT THE OTHER END OF A VAST BEERHALL FROM THE MICS.

SO IF YOU HAPPEN TO SEE MUSICAL SCRAPBOOK OF GERMANY vol. 1 DISCARDED IN A DOLLAR BIN NEAR YOU AND YOU JUST NEED TO DON YOUR LEDERHOSEN AND HEAR ‘In München Steht Ein Hofbräuhaus’, DON’T BE AFRAID TO BRING IT HOME.  IF NOTHING ELSE IT ALSO PROVIDES AN AMUSING WAY TO WAKE UP YOUR HUNGOVER ROOM MATES [ALBERT].