AMON DÜÜL II: UTOPIA (1973)
1) What You Gonna Do?; 2) The Wolfman Jack Show; 3) Alice; 4) Las Vegas; 5) Deutsch Nepal; 6) Utopia No. 1; 7) Nasi Goreng; 8) Jazz Kiste.
Strictly speaking, this is not an Amon Düül album at all. After a temporary quarrel / split within the band, bassist Lothar Meid and producer Olaf Kübler went into the studio on their own, grabbing some session musicians along the way, to record some of their personal ideas; this «side project» was ambitiously entitled Utopia (funny enough, the very same year that, in a very different place, Todd Rundgren concocted his own Utopia). However, as the recording went by, the band managed to patch up its differences, and most of the original members (Karrer, Weinzierl, etc.) ended up contributing their services to the album as well, as «guests». Consequently, the record has always been associated with Amon Düül II — and, eventually, in the CD age re-released as credited simply to Amon Düül II, so this is where it fits in the discography.
Overall, Utopia leans even closer to the «accessible» side of the music world than Wolf City; but this does not make it an anomaly in the catalog, because the band's subsequent albums would go on and on «normalizing» the tunes. It is more disciplined and less unpredictable, yes, but the material is still inspired, turning it all into art-rock of the highest degree. In fact, it may well be the most diverse of all their records — each of the eight tracks is an attempt to work with a different palette. Naturally, some attempts are more successful than others, but I cannot find a single «really bad» or «really boring» track here. See for yourself:
No. 1: upbeat catchy folk-rock with San Franciscan overtones, but denser, thicker arrangements and much more aggressive guitar soloing. No. 2: Dark, quasi-Satanic blues-rock with medieval vocal harmonies, like a black mass for headbangers. No. 3: For the first time ever on a Krautrock album — tender piano-and-flute balladry! Not very memorable per se, but per its uniqueness, definitely so. No. 4: Shuffling danceable acoustic guitar, jazzy brass riffs, folksy flute, bluesy electric guitar soloing — 'Las Vegas' has certainly never experienced that kind of cross-genre entertainment. No. 5: A re-recording of 'Deutsch Nepal' with weaker, less satisfying vocals — the only blunder on here, although the gothic music is impressive all the same, so no potential complaining on the part of those unaware of Wolf City.
The last three numbers are purely instrumental. No. 6: Closest in spirit to old-school Amon Düül, a four-minute psychedelic jam (phasing, looping, echoing, Mellotron clouds, swirling, mind-blowing guitar runs, the works). No. 7: Solemn, stately, organ-driven wordless gospel anthem, building up towards a mighty crescendo — if it weren't so blatantly optimistic in mood, it could have been a masterpiece. No. 8: Someone's been listening quite heavily to Bitches Brew, so it seems. Snuck this thing on any Miles Davis album from his «fusion» period and most people will probably not notice the difference.
Hopefully, this brief description will suffice to stimulate interest. There is no such internal coherence here as there used to be, and I wouldn't say that the sum of it all could be greater than its parts — the «Sci-Fi Babylonian» aura of Wolf City has mostly dissipated — but, basically, around 1973 Amon Düül II were on such a roll that they could simply do no wrong, not even when left unguided by conceptual ideas. Utopia may not blow your mind, but it is one fabulous way to keep it entertained. Thumbs up.
Check "Utopia" (CD) on Amazon