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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Amon Düül II: Carnival In Babylon


1) C.I.D. In Uruk; 2) All The Years Round; 3) Shimmering Sand; 4) Kronwinkl; 5) Tables Are Turned; 6) Hawknose Harlequin.

Miles ahead of the usual speed of progressive rock, Amon Düül II reached their most audacious peak in 1971 — two years ahead of Tull's Passion Play and three years ahead of Tales From To­pographic Oceans and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway — and, by 1972, the band was all but ready to «sell out». Those few admirers who held their breath, expecting the follow-up to Tanz to blow their minds to even higher heavens, must have lived out a depressingly anti­cli­mac­tic experience. The fol­low-up was a single LP; rather uniform in style and manner of execution; low on psychedelic jamming, but high on folksy singing; and, worst of all, rather flaccid and limp compared to the monster hard rock grooves of Yeti and (occasionally) Tanz.

Now the very idea of an elitist, far-out-there group making their sound more accessible to general audiences has nothing sacrilegious about it per se. Unfortunately, I have to side with those who consider this first attempt on Amon Düül's part more of a failure than a success. No parts of the record are «awful» — in fact, I would be hard pressed to imagine how exactly, at that point in time, it would be at all possible for those guys to churn out straightforward musical trash — but, basically, the results are neither too stunning, nor too memorable.

What this is is «mood-oriented» music, shorn of the excessive sound layers of Tanz; the rhyth­mic grooves once again get longer, returning us to the style of Yeti, but they are also less based on crunchy guitar riffs and more on generic, acoustic-based blues and folk patterns. In short, now they sound more like 1968-69 era Jefferson Airplane than ever before — the major distinction be­ing the German voices of Weinzierl, Karrer, and Renate Knaup, who seem to be trying really hard to almost sound serious, which may be one of this album's worst flaws, because it is frankly im­possible to get a «serious» reaction to Renate's vaudeville overtones or the male singers' strongly pronounced German accents.

In the process, they manage to come up with their «poppiest», most «song-like» number to date: 'Tables Are Turned', driven forward by a homely-psychedelic riff fed through a Leslie cabinet or some similar shit, is very pretty (I still prefer they'd invited a Sandy Denny to sing it instead), and, after many years, still leaves the most lasting impression, alongside 'All The Years Round' (ano­ther cozy and elegant summertime folk ballad, and another song that would have benefited im­mensely from the presence of one of the folk-rock greats, even though Renate does give it all she can). But the other numbers are merely okay, and, coming off the majestic turbulence of the pre­vious two albums, feels like a cold water bucket to me.

As subjective as these impressions are, I have yet to hear anyone prefer Carnival In Babylon to the band's next album — Wolf City does such an amazingly better job at combining the bedlam spirit of classic Amon Düül with «accessibility» that it just about totally annihilates the very pur­pose of Carnival's existence. Still, as a transitional effort, it does deserve minor attention.

Check "Carnival In Babylon" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Carnival In Babylon" (MP3) on Amazon

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