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Can - Rite Time CD (album) cover

RITE TIME

Can

 

Krautrock

3.01 | 42 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The surprise reunion in the mid-1980s of the original late '60s line-up of CAN must have caught a lot of fans by surprise, arriving as it did after a decade of silence from the band at large. And it sounded like nothing the group had ever done before, least of all the crude but quintessential Krautrock of their debut album "Monster Movie", released a full generation earlier, back when the band was (unfortunately, to native English speakers) still known as THE CAN.

But how could it have sounded the same? CAN was a band that rarely (if ever) repeated itself, and this particular set of musicians hadn't played together for something close to 15 years, ever since vocalist Malcolm Mooney was forced to quit the music business (at the insistence of his shrink, according to CAN legend).

The chance discovery years later of an unused airline ticket voucher behind his couch led Mooney to resume contact with his erstwhile bandmates, who by then had all but abandoned the spent force of their once formidable alliance. But a recording session in southern France soon followed, and the resulting album has to rank among the most belated follow-up efforts in rock music history.

The years apart at least seemed to have recharged their creative batteries, showing some of the energy and intuition conspicuously missing in the band's last few studio albums. The music is certainly more song-driven than before, but each track was clearly built out of some impromptu collective jamming, over which Mooney improvised his meandering, stream-of-consciousness (and typically out of tune) vocals. The singer's strictly amateur "performance" is (as in "Monster Movie") an acquired taste, but it fits snugly within the CAN ideal of pure, unrehearsed musicianship: "instant composition", in CAN vernacular. And there's something uniquely endearing about his habit of singing "something, something." when he can't think of any actual words.

The remaining instrumentation is, as always, flexible. Guitarist Michael Karoli could sub on violin when needed; drummer Jaki Liebezeit doubled on trumpet and piano. And Holger Czukay was always more comfortable "playing" a short-wave radio rather than his bass guitar, when he wasn't indulging his perverse fascination with the French horn (played with all the enthusiasm and skill of a grade school band beginner, and all the more vital for it).

Don't expect anything like the raw Krautrock thrashes of their early LPs. But anyone wanting to compare apples to oranges might find more similarities than expected. The production here has a polished, high-gloss sheen unheard of in the band's two-track tape days, but with only a slight stretch of imagination you can still draw a (relatively) straight line from older Mooney tunes like "Fall of Another Year" and "Connection" (both off the 1976 "Unlimited Edition" set) to the new album opener "On the Beautiful Side of a Romance" or the driving groove of "Movin' Right Along".

The element of chance, so invaluable to CAN's best recordings (but lacking from later efforts), is also alive and well, albeit in a more (dare I say it?) mature form. But on closer inspection the album may not be as haphazard as it likes to sound. Look at the odd chronology: it was recorded in 1986, mixed in 1988, and finally "edited" and released in 1989. Why the long delay? My guess is that the songs were painstakingly assembled, bar by bar, on the editing table from a jumble of loosely organized segments. If it's true, someone (probably Holger Czukay, whose solo albums are monuments to early sampling technology) made a heroic effort to make the album sound as cohesive as it does.

And the symmetry of the project makes perfect sense, rounding off twenty years of sometimes startling creative music-making with the same quintet that started it all. It's a fitting bookend to a long and (still) influential career, and not a bad encore for a bunch of guys all (with the exception of the younger Michael Karoli) near 50 years old when the album was finally released.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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