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Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) - Stern Meissen - Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen CD (album) cover


Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen)

Symphonic Prog

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4 stars "Reise Zum Mittelpunkt Des Menschen" is one of the two SCM's concept albums (the other one is "Weisses Gold"). The music on both albums has a countinuous flow supported by leitmotivs. The longest track "Hinwendung" shows a lot of ELP instrumental bombast but in a more original manner than TRIUMVIRAT (it's closer to SFF). While I like the symphonic dual keyboard playing the sounds gets cold and plastic over time. "Weisses Gold" album sounds much warmer but "Reise Zum Mittelpunkt Des Menschen" is more complex, especially the gloomy "Romanze". This track shows band's compositional skills in extended tonality. In spite of the title don't expect any romantic sounds in this one. At the end of the track is also a short but remarkable piano solo. The vocals are used very sparsely on this album in difference with "Weisses Gold". To sum it up: "Reise" and "Weisses Gold" are the only worthwille SCM's albums you should get. Others are not on the same musical level as these two. I prefer "Weisses Gold" but it's a matter of taste. Both albums are recommended!
Report this review (#29068)
Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Apparently Stern (Combo) Meissen were on stage in the mid- to end-seventies an absolute legend in the GDR but had to struggle with censorship, so their published regular albums mostly didn't do them much justice, and after the "Reise" they turned their backs on prog and morphed into an at times hardly endurable pop group.

"Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen" is quite an exception to this. It's a very fine album, although it came in 1980 too late - too late for what is considered to be the best time of the band, but also even in their own country the tides of music changed and the audience wanted more direct and less complex music - unfortunately it got far more of the latter than the former.

The music on "Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen" is very keyboard-oriented. There's only keyboards (two keyboarders), bass, drums and vocals. The vocals are only there for a few minutes, but these few minutes demonstrate very well the quality of the vocalist, Reinhard Fissler, and his very characteristic expressive voice. Fissler adds some warmth to the overall rather cool musical landscape on this album. The instrumental performances are very strong. Of course the keyboard work plays the key role. The Stern are obviously fans of ELP, their sound is unsurprisingly somewhat behind the "western time", and one can criticise the GDR-icon Thomas Kurzhals and Wolfgang Kramer for using a bit too much of that influence. Another reference is the West German symphonic band SFF. That said, not only are the keyboards virtuous and technically flawless, they are also somewhat less showy than Emerson's (if somewhat less wild and unpredictable). One way in which the "Reise" has an edge over all ELP work (except perhaps "Pictures at an Exhibition") is that it is very organic; it's a concept album in which all the compositions serve the overall musical message. The composition work is clearly classically influenced. There's some dynamic in terms of speed and intensity on this album, some parts are very calm and melodic, others more powerful, but overall the sound is quite homogeneous. This is in contrast to all other works of the Stern, in which there are always some attempts at different styles, at times welcome but more often than not rather on the annoying side for a prog fan. The "Reise" though is pure prog. Overall, the compositions are a good tasteful mix of complexity and musicality and very well done, if a bit on the cool intellectual side (as easily happens with lots of keyboard and no guitar).

The drummer Michael Behm and the bass player Peter Rasym also deserve to be mentioned. Behm is virtuous and precise, but the secret star of the show is Rasym; the bass on this album is not only flawless but very creative and colourful, and at the same time fits seamlessly into the overall teamwork. Surely a five star performance by this internationally probably totally unknown bassist.

Despite the ELP references, this album stands easily on its own as a highlight of GDR art rock which has its very own atmosphere and characteristic; actually it is the strongest GDR prog album that I know by some distance; unfortunately the Stern themselves never came close before or after (I don't know their 1996 released 1976 live album, which may be a contender).

Report this review (#1786517)
Posted Sunday, September 24, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars The band Stern Combo Meissen has, with this release, shortened their name to Stern Meissen. A good thing, too, as combos were a moniker of dance bands in the 1960's. "Reise Zum Mittelpunkt Des Menschen" (translation: "Journey to the Center of Man") is a concept album that tells the story of exploring ones fellow man by literally "driving into him as if into a mountain". Apparently, the lyrics on this album were much maligned in the German press, but fortunately for me, I don't speak German, and the vocal passages are minimal! On a positive note, the vocal performance in wonderfully melodic. Fans of keyboard-oriented prog will love the lush Moog, Mellotron, Hammond organ, Clavinet, and assorted polysynths (perhaps a Yamaha CS-80) on this album. The ELP influences really shine, here. Bass and percussion provide forward-leaning rhythms throughout and are brilliantly "in the pocket" with one another. One track segues directly to the next, without gaps. There were some personnel changes on this album. Martin Shreier, former drummer and bandleader, moved solely to the mixing board. Norbert Jäger who did vocals, percussion and lyrics was gone, as was drummer Werther Lohse. Michael Behm filled the drummers position, and Peger Rasym picked up the bass. This is a wonderful album which is the rightful successor to "Weisses Gold", ignoring the ignore-able "Der Weite Weg". If you're new to Stern Meissen, this (or "Weisses Gold") is a good place to start. Tracks 4 and 5 are the best. If you're a fan of ELP, this album should tickle your ossicles and fully engage your frontal lobe. Four stars.
Report this review (#2269257)
Posted Sunday, October 13, 2019 | Review Permalink

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