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Abacus - Abacus CD (album) cover

ABACUS

Abacus

Crossover Prog


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4 stars This record is a grand debut in my opinion. It contains plenty of bizarre soundscapes and field recordings along with some great progressive arrangements musically. Abacus is a group that many may not be familiar with. I definitely recommend checking out their albums if you can find them. On their later releases, they were able to balance more straightforward arrangements (think Horslips) with their earlier psychedelic and prog elements. A great band all around IMHO. Enjoy!
Report this review (#18401)
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars For someone who had previously only heard this band's later material, this album came as quite the surprise. The two-part "Pipedream Revisited" is the very quintessence of the album, bursts of symphonic organ/synthesizer and touches bordering on avant-garde weirdness in a sort of holdover psych/Krautrock framework. Topped off by the charming, clear-toned voice of British singer Chris Williams, this is for sure something for sure to enjoy.

There are nice little touches throughout the album; from the energetic Hammond organ workout on the instrumental "Capuccino" to the sitar on "Song for Brunhilde". "Chestholder" sums things up aptly with a sound collage re-capping the rest of the album. One of the less-appreciated, yet more inspired, Krautrock obscurities.

Report this review (#43513)
Posted Saturday, August 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
3 stars Are you calculating with abacus?

Maybe ABACUS could be categorized as a krautrock band if only this album is considered. But some other releases followed with a more mainstream rock orientation. This eponymous release consists of blues and heavy rock music with much Hammond organ in the vein of some other german bands at that time. A little bit experimental, not very unique but a good listenable one without a doubt.

Pipedream revisited is the album's centerpiece with a classic inspired Hammond organ but also piano, synthesizer and sitar inclusions. A rough guitar provides some heavy rock moments and the vocals are fascilating a very happy flavour. This song is worth a listen - excellent. It sounds like Deep Purple meets ELP when you're listening to the instrumental Cappucino - one of the better songs not only because of a nice guitar solo. Don't Beat So On The Horses is wellknown for me - I already must have noticed this in the 70s too - but it's one step further to the following mainstream orientation. The same with the songs for Brunhilde (very folky with acoustic guitars) and for Yoko & Ono. Radbod Blues is another track which should be pointed out. Somewhat surprising with deformed vocals, highspeed parts, a short drum solo, american saloon piano - ingredients which are making this song very interesting. The album is closed by Chestholder once more Hammond drenched with a jazzy orientation and happy swinging - nice song which gets crazy 'til the end mixing and confusing some fragments of the other songs.

Report this review (#156283)
Posted Saturday, December 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was pleasantly surprised when I recently heard the album "Abacus", given the relative obscurity of this German prog act of the early 1970s. It contains all typical elements of symphonic style: long compositions, change of tempo and dynamics, multi-part suite-like themes and certain "grandeur" feeling.

The best example for this is the opener 9,5-minutes "Pipedream Revisited". Excellent melodies, interesting instrumental passages of organ, guitars and above all bass and effective vocals. Indeed, it is almost impossible to hear any bad music produced back in the year 1971, but "Abacus" is definitely above average. Another personal highlight is acid- folksy "Song for Brunhilde" with beautiful atmosphere underlined with sitar drone sounds, giving it a slight psych touch, which is quite captivating. "Song for John and Yoko" is of course an ode to the pop icon with slight cynical approach. Excellent Hammond and acoustic guitar leads into the song while later fast-stomping part has a healthy dose of pop irresistability.

"Radbod Blues" presents a deformed voice patterns and some drums solo acrobatics, while heavy Hammond sounds a bit like ELP or ATOMIC ROOSTER. There are also improvisational jazzy parts on piano followed by bombastic mechanical laughter device. "Chestholder" invokes bits of SWEET SMOKE laid back jazz jamming and similar vocals, strenghtened by nice Hammond solo.

The outro contains typical symphonic approach with re-cycling the previous themes of the album but also there are signs of experimentation with noise, loops and electronics. This portion reminds us of the current Krautrock scene in Germany from which ABACUS naturally took some elements. All in all, this is a fine, unpretentious album that should be listened to many times. The one deserving much more attention.

PERSONAL RATING: 3,5/5

P.A. RATING: 4/5

Report this review (#221283)
Posted Monday, June 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Over 40 years of history (with some breaks inbetween) for this German band from Hamm, which evolved from the 60's Beat band The Fashions.The Fashions had built their career as a supporting group to British bands touring Germany and eventually were heavily influenced by this sound, especially when they were joined by ex-Grail singer Chris Williams, leading to the formation of Abacus.The rest of the crew were guitarist Charly Schade, keyboardist Chris Barutzky, bassist Klaus Kohlhase and drummer Felix Hans.Their self-titled debut was recorded in August 71' and released the same year on Polydor.

This is very good and often complex full-blown Progressive Rock with also some instant melodies, reminiscent of CRESSIDA, SPRING, FANTASY and GREENSLADE, while the closest German comparison would propably be mid-70's BIRTH CONTROL.The sound of the band is strongly driven by the sparkling organ runs and solos of Barutzky and the soft guitar touches of Williams and Schade with the opening track being a highlight of genuine early-70's Progressive Rock, featuring great keyboard exercises and massive guitar hooks along with softer vocal moments, performed under some very demanding musicianship overall.The rest of the album includes heavy organ jams next to fiery grooves and melodic themes with Abacus achieving a nice balance between complexity and accesibility.A couple of tracks like ''Song for Brunhilde'' and ''Song for John and Yoko'' though are quite different, featuring plenty of acoustic guitars, smooth atmospheres and even some sitar, delivering more of a psychedelic than a progressive vibe.

Nice document of early-70's Classic Prog with some fantastic energy and a fair amount of interesting compositions.Anyone into British-styled or organ-driven Progressive Rock should check out this album.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#840951)
Posted Saturday, October 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars 'Abacus' - Abacus (49/100)

Abacus' 1971 debut is arguably the best thing they ever did; while later albums have since been met with the progressive community's dismissal or ambivalence, the self-titled debut has found itself a comfortable niche in the prog rock canon. Like Van der Graaf Generator, Emerson Lake & Palmer and their lesser-known contemporaries in Aardvark, Abacus sought to bring keyboards to the front of an otherwise guitar-dominated style of music. To current ears Abacus at their best sound like they're fusing symphonic prog and Krautrock, and that's all the more of a reason to feel disappointed that this self-titled debut fails to live up to its potential. While the first pair of tracks are very solid, cloying songwriting ultimately prevails, leaving the album feeling much less effective than it should have been.

It's a fairly common point of weakness for debuts, but Abacus end up feeling like they mean to cover as much ground as possible, rather than focusing in on their strongest suits. No doubt the band wanted to get all of their best ideas pressed to record so as to make the best first impression with listeners, but it's resulted in an album that suffers the lack of consistency and coherence. "Pipedream Revisited" is a strong mini-epic that highlights a pastoral atmosphere in their sound, and the excellent organ-based instrumental piece "Cappucino" follows it up nicely. If a brash take on symphonic prog pulls them one way, it's the pop stylings of the past decade that pull them back the other. "Don't Beat So On The Horses" fares decently with the melodic, hook-oriented approach, but everything from the Sitar-infused raga track "Song for Brunhilde" onwards feels half-baked in comparison. It's not the idea of fusing the two styles together that makes the album so uneven, it's the varying extents of success they've had with the different approaches that does it. Virtually every positive thought I have of Abacus is based in their most complex, instrumental work. The rest doesn't fare nearly as well.

Though Abacus are German, they've cleverly entrusted the use of a British vocalist, and even though his voice is a tad too nasal for my tastes, his voice fits Abacus' sound more comfortably than a potentially heavily accented German vocalist would have (I'm looking at you, Eloy!). Although their songwriting is uneven and generally weak, Abacus themselves prove themselves to be quite capable musicians. "Pipedream Revisited" and "Cappucino" both demonstrate that Abacus have chemistry and precision enough to go around. Like many of the bands that have attempted to fuse traditional prog rock with pop writing however, the pressure for simpler songwriting limits their opportunity to express the extent of their musicianship. It almost feels like a bad tease, really; after two excellent prog compositions, Abacus sink into poppy psychedelia, and not even well-written pop at that. I'd much rather have heard more of their heavy psych instrumentals than a bloody "Song for John and Yoko", and I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment.

Abacus are really part of an unwitting pantheon of progressive acts that demonstrate skill and potential aplenty, but ultimately fail to match up to it. As good a note as "Pipedream Revisited" starts the album off on, the majority of the songs here range from mediocre to weak, with "Radbod Blues" earning its keep as a downright annoying piece of music. Abacus demonstrated a lot of untapped skill here, but for every moment of potential excellence enjoyed on this record, there's another spent either bored or irritated.

Report this review (#986576)
Posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013 | Review Permalink

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