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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Amon Düül (UK): Hawk Meets Penguin


1) One Moment's Anger Is Two Pints Of Blood; 2) Meditative Music From The Third O Before The Producers Part 1; 3) Meditative Music From The Third O Before The Producers Part 2.

Upon resigning from the «regular» Amon Düül II, guitarist John Weinzierl, as one of the found­ing fathers of the band, decided that he had as big a claim to the name of «Amon Düül» as anyone else — and, in the early Eighties, realized that claim by reteaming with another of his former bandmates, bassist Dave Anderson. Adding former Van der Graaf Generator drummer Guy Evans and former-don't-know-who Julie Waring on vocals, the foursome set themselves a brave task — re-establish the good name of Amon Düül (II) after it had been so seriously tarnished in the late 1970s, with the band losing direction, relevance, and, ultimately, all meaning.

The «new» Amon Düül relocated to Britain (after all, only one of the members was German), and released its first album under the same old moniker of Amon Düül II. At the time, it was not as confusing as it might seem, considering that the «old» Amon Düül II had just released its last al­bum in fifteen years (Vortex); but these days, the usual convention is to call this incarnation of the band «Amon Düül (UK)», for reasons too obvious to discuss. The main question, though, is — does the actual music sound «Amon Düül-ish» enough to justify the name preservation / usur­pation / whatever?

Yes and no. Hawk Meets Penguin, despite a title that would rather suit the likes of The Resi­dents, is steeped in traditional prog-rock values, and, therefore, is a record as commercially mori­bund by the standards of 1982 as they come. There are only two compositions altogether (one of them splintered in a small introduction part and the main body to suit LP requirements), designed and structured as slowly developing mood pieces — so one might say that Weinzierl and friends were trying to recapture the spirit of Tanz Der Lemminge, as the only album from the classic Amon Düül II that was just as completely mood-oriented.

But neither of the two suites actually recaptures the spirit except in name only. The first one, 'One Moment's Anger Is Two Pints Of Blood', instead sounds like fairly «normal», atmospheric, Bri­tish prog-rock à la «easily accessible» side of the Canterbury scene — think mid-period Caravan or, even more precisely, Camel. The dominating bits are stern, gallant, slightly medievalistic key­board melodies, and Julie Waring's wordless chanting. There is a lengthy build-up, but around the six minute mark, the main melodies emerge as fully formed, and they are fairly impressive, if not at all «challenging» for the hardcore prog fan. The combination of slightly sci-fi synth tones and, in stark contrast, Julie's folksy vocalizing works very well — count me in on an assessment of the whole thing as «humbly beautiful», even if not for one second truly «Amon Düül-ish».

The second part is an entirely different matter: it is a twenty-three minute long chaotic piece, much of it running along in the mode of free-form, rhythmless improvisation, until, finally, two thirds into the «tune», they manage to slide into some sort of half-jazz, half-Latin groove. Frankly, it all sounds very boring to my ears; and it is not clear who exactly they were trying to seduce with this heavily derivative, poorly staged cacophony of random mantras, shouting, whooshing synth noises, and screwy percussion as late as 1982. Even the final groove is limp and utterly pur­poseless. If anything, it does not even remind so much of Amon Düül II as it does of the original Amon Düül I — with technically superior and more inventive musicianship, perhaps, but without any of the shock value that this A-R-T could claim in 1969. Only hardcore «genrists», I am sure, will prefer the second part to the first here — those people who value the worst of Eric Dolphy over the best of Duke Ellington, just because the former is E.D. and the latter is D.E.

So you probably already guessed that Hawk Meets Penguin is no «lost masterpiece» out of the depths of the Amon Düül family; but the first side, at least, is an entertaining (and, if you agree to subscribe to the charm of Julie Waring, perhaps even tear-jerking) link between that family and melodic prog-rock of the British variety. A link that will hardly downgrade anybody's musical collection, that is; and one that is not that difficult to procure, considering that, since 2005, most of the Amon Düül (UK) catalog seems to be back in print.

Check "Hawks Meets Penguin" (CD) on Amazon

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