AMON DÜÜL II: LIVE IN TOKYO (1996)
1) Nada Moonshine Union; 2) Black Pearls Of Wisdom; 3) Dry Your Ears; 4) Castaneda Dream (In Another World); 5) Deutsch Nepal; 6) Kiss Ma Eee; 7) Speed Inside My Shoes; 8) Lilac Lillies; 9) Wolf City; 10) La Paloma; 11) Flowers Of The Orient; 12) Surrounded By The Stars; 13) Archangel Thunderbird; 14) Jam Hai.
The main point of this release, as I attempt to reconstruct it, was to assert that Nada Moonshine # was, God forbid, by no means merely a pretext to get together, go on tour, and play some oldies. Believe it or not, the briefly resuscitated Amon Düül II actually insisted on the album's relevance — and, climbing up on the stage, concentrated almost exclusively on new material. Evil conspirators might drop poisonous hints that, perchance, the band had simply forgotten how to play the old stuff (and their not being able to get Weinzierl back in the fold guaranteed that the proper old sound was hardly recuperable). But it is more polite to presume innocence and believe that the band's worst fear was to come out before their audiences as an «oldies act».
With 6 out of 14 songs faithfully recreating the latest studio album, Live In Tokyo seems to go for overkill. However, despite occasionally unfocused bits and spoiled vocal notes, many of these songs work better in a live setting. The most obvious improvement is 'Lilac Lillies', done here without the annoying techno beats — still not a very good song, but, at least, shed of its unnatural and ridiculous packaging. Others simply replace the excessive use of echos and electronics by a more «natural» approach, and that's a big plus.
Most of the old material is from Wolf City — three big numbers that are performed quite close to the original versions, and honestly reproduce their «Babylonian Gothic» atmosphere (particularly 'Deutsch Nepal'); guitarist Felice Occhionero is at least capable to reproduce the «regular» guitar parts of old, so that the band can play its old «song-like» successes. Eventually, they even go into 'Archangels Thunderbird', done a bit too noisily for my taste (the old live version from Live In London, with its violin parts, is much more impressive), but still decent.
There isn't really much more to say about the record, except to stress that the assessment of Mr. Stephen Thomas Erlewine at the All-Music Guide («...the group is no longer experimenting — they are simply recreating their sound, and that slavishness prevents the music from being anything other than a nostalgia trip») is completely off the mark, given the setlist. Most likely, Mr. Erlewine just threw on one track whose title he happened to remember ('Deutsch Nepal'), compared it with the studio version, and then hastened away to review Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love before dinnertime.
Fact of the matter, subtle changes are introduced almost everywhere: if there is one thing the band is determined to prove here, it's that anyone wanting to talk about «nostalgia trips» should be dragged out into the street and shot. It's an entirely different matter if Amon Düül's attempt to reform in a progressive way was a success or a failure. It seems that they themselves were hardly satisfied — the band's official site omits both Nada Moonshine # and Live In Tokyo from its discography section. But credit must be given for trying, and trying in a way that was not simply copying current trends, but actually «upgraded» the old sound with a mixed bag of various tricks, some modernistic, some retro. Live In Tokyo is, therefore, quite a respectable companion to its studio counterpart, and demands the same modest thumbs up reaction.