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Grobschnitt - Ballermann CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.69 | 154 ratings

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4 stars Beginning with a heavily accented address to the fans from the depths of the studio, "Ballerman" immediately establishes the wacky sense of humour of Eroc and the band's ability to blend this silliness with intricate progressive rock without sounding nearly as ridiculous as...that sounds.

This was the era of the double album, but most of these suffered from overextension and recycling of the same ideas ad nauseum. Grobschnitt avoided this trap by producing two distinctly different works, unified by their overall philosophy yet almost in different genres. Neither overshadows the other. The first disk is the more conventional if you will, but hardly so. It covers the breadth of symphonic progressive rock of its time, referencing the British masters as well as German contemporaries, while undeniably stamped with the group's own signature. In lesser hands, "Sahara" would have been the throwaway it appeared destined to be, but it is an infectious bouncy rocker with plenty of lively percussion and treated vocals. "Nickel-odeon" sports a bluesy jacket that reminds me somewhat of countrymen JANE and someone else I can't put my finger on, while contemporary NEKTAR might be the reference point for the more mellow "Drummer's Dream", which includes delicate acoustic guitar interludes. "Morning Song" is also ballad like and showcases some crunching organs in the breaks. Again the band draws on myriad influences but it's hard to pinpoint anything overt. Some of the organ is oom pa pa like and imparts a circus atmosphere. The longest track in this first part is "Magic Train" which opens with cascading pianos not unlike RENAISSANCE circa "Prologue", but also containing perhaps a fifth of "Firth" if you will. This gives way to rough cut vocals backed by little but mellotron, drums and bass, before the main guitar riff gets going, and it is hard to dismiss, powered by the rhythm section and punctuated with shifts of pace, with an ending more than a little redolent of "The Musical Box".

The "Solar" music suite gets its airing on disk 2 and it is a potent piece of space rock even performed within a sterile studio. Instrumental except for the opening segments and subsequent occasional vocal histrionics or whispered entreaties "Can you hear solar music", it allows the band to explore what music emanating form the sun might sound like. Compared to the definitive live version to appear several years later, this one is more subdued but has many excellent segments tied together at once both neatly and roughly. All instrumentation gets its moment of sunspot splendour, but the synergy of the artists allows this to sound like a group effort at all times.

I especially want to mention how well this stands up to repeated listening as it morphs from an eccentric yet intriguing stranger to a trusted friend. Yet another essential 1970s effort emanating from Germany.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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