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Can - Tago Mago CD (album) cover





3.94 | 600 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Contrary to the evidence presented elsewhere on this site there really aren't too many albums, prog or otherwise, deserving an unconditional five-star accolade, and in my not entirely unbiased opinion the majority that do originated in Germany during the early 1970s. But while I treasure the tongue-in-cheek acid deconstructions of FAUST, the irresistible momentum of NEU!, the sometimes intimidating deep-space void of early TANGERINE DREAM, so forth and so on, I tend to go all to pieces when contemplating the music of CAN.

And why not? They were, without exaggeration, one of the major creative forces of the 20th Century: a band so far beyond the usual genre pigeonholes of rock, jazz and/or classical as to defy any easy analysis or interpretation. For the record, I would slot them somewhere in between electric MILES DAVIS and the less accessible output of "Larks Tongues"-era KING CRIMSON, with one ear always tuned to the distant future: their "instant composition" improvs, for example, bear an uncanny resemblance to 1990s CRIMSON double-trio "Thrakking", minus the digital cosmetics.

Every CAN album in their pre-Virgin Record catalogue is arguably a masterpiece, but none deliver the impact of this monumental 1971 release, originally a double disc of vinyl, now conveniently packaged onto a single CD. Describing the music is always a challenge, and not just because it never stands still from song to song. The band seemed to exist somewhere outside the mundane concerns of the music industry, in a self-contained, self-sufficient bubble of pure creativity (they would often jam for days on end in their home-built "Inner Space" studio, recording everything along the way). The result of all that uninhibited freedom was a landmark album covering a spectrum of styles, from stoned tribal psychedelia ("Mushroom Head") to relentless 18+ minute grooves (the astonishing "Halleluwah") to the completely unclassifiable collages of "Augmn" and "Peking O", neither of which would have seen the light of day without the farsighted insistance of Hildegard Schmidt, band manager and wife of keyboardist Irmin Schmidt.

These last two cuts in particular act as a sort of sonic litmus test, separating the casual listener from the dedicated convert. It takes a strong constitution and a wide open mind to navigate the hellish soundscapes of the former and the sometimes strident silliness of the latter, in which Damo Suzuki's maniacal hyperactive babbling is set against a rinky-dink drum machine pushed to maximum speed. Want to clear a room of unwanted visitors in a hurry? Crank this sucker and watch them flee. Then you can enjoy the blissful chill-out of the closing track, "Bring Me Coffee or Tea", without having to suffer the uninformed criticisms of your Philistine friends and neighbors.

Fans expecting to hear classic German Art Rock are advised to explore instead the more traditional (i.e. Anglo-influenced) Progressive music of bands like NOVALIS, GROBSCHNITT, WALLENSTEIN, ELOY et al. But adventurous listeners needing an introduction to the social-political-subversive world of Krautrock (a term of highest respect, keep in mind) need look no further.

Neu!mann | 5/5 |


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