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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Embryo is an other pretty cool and cult german band which emerged at the beginning of the seventies from the krautrock scene. In this CD the musicians deliver a kind of totally free jazz experience mixed with a great dose of psychedelic and acoustic elements. This is their first, their strangest but without doubts my favorite. Despite that 'Opal' can disconcerted the less initiated of the listeners, it is a must for prog collectors. Historically this album stands among the best ever released in the Kraut-jazz genre.
Report this review (#30614)
Posted Thursday, May 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars One of those historically important albums, one of those that made Germany the third force in 70's rock after UK and US and second in prog (after UK and before Italy and France kicked in). This album is as important and relevant as Yeti and Lemmingen from Amon Duul II , Tago Maco from Can , UFO from Guru Guru , Gila's debut album , Malesch from Agitation Free and Ash Ra Tempel's debut and Faust's first two albums. Later on there will be more of them from Neu! , Kraftwerk but less relevant to prog. Those albums helped define German rock for the following decades and Embryo became internationally reknowned for their particularly free and ever inventive jazz-rock often tainted with world music a bit in the mould of Agitation Free's Malesch. Klaus Doldinger's Passport will also dable a lot into this area. Christian Burchard is of course one of the founding members of Amon Duul II but also the leader in this band.

I have only heard the old release without the bonus tracks but I am piqued with curiosity as for the 26 min long track but it could be also full of long soloing and the tracks are not from that era.

Report this review (#30616)
Posted Tuesday, December 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars EMBRYO's "Opal" is a pure Krautrock masterpiece and certainly one of the more influential albums too that contributed to the genre. EMBRYO's band leader Christian Burchard (drummer/percussionist) was at the time hanging out with the AMON DUUL commune of freaks who had a symbiotic influence on each others music. Also joining Burchard on this debut album was John Kelly the future guitarist for TEN YEARS AFTER who gets lots of opportunity to add his fine fret work. "Opal" is predominantly an instrumental album with few voices and lyrics. I love Edgar Hoffman huge electric-violin and sax work here which really brings home the fusion of jazz and psych elements that they were intending to explore. Best way to maybe describe this album would be to imagine a sax playing fusion- era Miles Davis aka BITCHES BREW, with a touch of CAN and AMON DUUL II tossed into the equation. The album is a drastic fusion of rock, jazz, blues, soul and psychedelia and is a true milestone in the genre of psychedelic progressive rock.
Report this review (#53072)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 3,5 stars actually...

Trully important German progressive band,formed in 1969 in Munich bt the main forces Christian Burchard and Edgar Hofmann.A year later they recorded and published their first LP ''Opal'' with its characteristic bizarre cover.''Opal'' is regarded by many as one of the best kraut-rock albums ever.The truth is I don't find it a masterpiece,but it is really a very strong release in general.It is dominated by long instrumental jazzy interplays with weird rhythms and excellent jamming saxes,supported by rocking/psychedelic electric guitars.On the other hand there are moments where the music is covered by the intense spacey atmosphere based on obscure cellos and percussions.Of course,every jazz band who respect themselves adds the appropriate doses of bluesy-oriented guitars and EMBRYO make no exception.The release is supported by two bonus tracks,especially the 26-min. ''Luft'' is the definition of good (but rather long) improvisated jazz rock.Finally,I can say that you should enjoy this work by one of the best kraut-rock bands ever.

Report this review (#145062)
Posted Tuesday, October 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars For the most part I would describe this record as having a strong 60's psychedelia flavour to it. There is some Free Jazz, and of course this is Krautrock all the way. Cool to see Roberto Detree playing his motocello on this one. He would go on to play in the band BETWEEN. There are 2 bonus tracks which were recorded around the same as the album, but there is a different bass player on it. His name is Lothar Meid, he would go on to play on PASSPORT's debut as well as on the "Live In London" release by AMON DUUL II from 1973. The second bonus track is over 26 minutes long and is really a Free Jazz jam. It is quite good with the sax leading the way throughout.

"Opal" is very 60's sounding with almost whispered vocals. The bass is prominant and I really like the guitar solo that goes on and on. This is my least favourite track. "You Don't Know What's Happening" is sort of a mysterious track with violin that helps give that mood. He yells the vocals at times and at other times they're psychedelic sounding, almost like they echo. Cool tune. "Revolution" opens with an uptempo guitar/bass/drum melody. Sax comes in replacing the guitar. Love that part. The tempo keeps shifting back and forth. Nice drumming.

"Glockendspiel" has the bass and drums as it's base as the sax offers up some dissonant and melodic sax melodies over top. Very impressive instrumental. "Got No Time" is a short spacey tune. "Call" is a great sounding song with prominant sax. Again the drums and bass shine. Some excellent guitar as well. "End Of A Soul" features spoken words about a soul being dead. It's kind of humerous. The music is outstanding in the background. "People From Out The Space" opens with some atmosphere before we get a melody a minute in. The sax, drums and bass stand out. Great sound 2 minutes in. A guitar solo before 3 minutes. Violin a minute later. The sax is back and it sounds amazing 7 minutes in.

A significant album in it's day that stands up very well after all these years. A low 4 stars.

Report this review (#172297)
Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Embryo - Opal (1970)

Heavy psychedelic rock, avant-garde, fusion, free-jazz, spoken word, proto-punk... this debut album by German Krautrock outfit Embryo is an eclectic mix of styles. Listed as jazz- rock/fusion, this debut clearly belongs to the Krautrock movement. The wild experimental vision of Embryo is original.

All songs are different, there are many styles in all compositions, the drums are very free, the vocals are wild & strange and the spoken word on 'End of Soul' is really funny. The guitars have a rhythm and blues sound, but there are many experimental passages if you listen carefully. The bass is often frantic and the wind-section gives the music it's avant-garde feel.

Most of the material is instrumental. There are some clear fusion-influences (perhaps from Miles Davis) with wild jazzy sax playing over psychedelic rock chord progressions. Some of the instrumental have a free-jazz feel with seemingly directionless experimentation that can be enjoyed after repeated listening. The drums/percussion are in the spotlights during most composition. I can't say I like everything (for instance the frantic drumming on You don't know what's happening), but it's a brave vision and many ideas are really good. The energetic approach of drummer Christian Burchard is an essential part of the sound of the band.

An eclectic mix, but what is the result? A mysterious jazz-rock/psychedelic record that at first sounded like avant-garde to me. Every spin I understand more of this strange formula, resulting in appreciation for their brave vision. The recording is good and really helps Embryo to get a spacey atmosphere at times.

Conclusion. A good krautrock record, that is said to be important for the genre. Easily overlooked because of Embryo being (rightfully so) place in the jazz-rock/fusion sub-cat. Recommended to fans of psychedelic music, fusion (with a focus on experimentation) and avant-garde. Three and a halve stars, rounded up because of the wild & free experimentation that results in an original record.

Report this review (#353462)
Posted Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Welcome to one of Germany's finest. Embryo is a Münich-based Krautrock band that was formed around drummer Christian Burchard after parting ways with Amon Düül II in 1969. The band went through a lot of different line-ups. Actually, from the gang gathered for this debut, only saxophone player Edgar Hofmann would be a longstanding companion for Burchard.

Opal is the most kraut-y album in the entire Embryo catalogue, featuring loosely flowing psychedelic rock music with lots of jazz influences. On the songs where the psychedelic elements prevail (such as the first two), the bands reminds a lot of Amon Düül II's Phallus Dei, not in the least due to the hazy vocals and the importance of the violin ("motocello") in the sound. From Revolution onwards the saxophone starts taking the lead and it provides a jazzier angle, not unlike Nucleus' old albums. But due to the stellar psych-blues guitars of future Ten Years After guitarist John Kelly, this still remains a rock album above anything else.

The original album was quite short but the CD re-issue adds interesting bonus material from earlier 1969 recordings. You Better have some Fun blends in perfectly with the album. The 26 minutes free improvisation Läuft presents a totally different side of the band, not dissimilar from the wilder Ash Ra Temple material, but with saxophones leading instead of guitars. The inventive and intuitive playing of Burchard is very similar to Schulze's drumming with ART.

It's impossible pointing out favorites here. All tracks are quite brilliant, regardless whether the kraut psychedelicca, the brass-rock of the free-jazz influences take precedence. Maybe the opener and People from out the Space could deserve the highest praise. It's an essential Krautrock album and a unique title in Embryo's impressive discography. With the next album the band would venture into much more jazz-rock and world oriented directions. 4.5 stars

Report this review (#382527)
Posted Tuesday, January 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Embryo are a German group who started out in the psychedelic/krautrock mold, but soon went into a jazzier and more world music oriented sound. This is their first album. The music here sometimes sounds similar to the debut album of Amon Duul II, Phallus Dei. Members of Embryo appear on that album. There is a violin sound on the album which is supposedly done on something called a motocello. Also some sax in addition to the drums and guitars. A little bit of organ can be heard as well. Although not as jazzy as later albums, there is still a jazz influence here.

The title track is a very late 1960s sounding psych rock song with violin. The repetative violin/motocello in the middle is hypnotic. After a free and loose beginning, "You Don't Know What's Happening" goes into a tom-tom dominated spacey part with echoed vocals. Then a psych rock chorus. The two parts alternate. "Revolution" is a very energenic and upbeat instrumental. Love the bass sound here. Great drumming. Skronking sax solo in the middle. Sax plays the main melody of the song. "Glockenspiel" does not feature a glockenspiel. The most jazzy song on the album, another instrumental. You hear what sounds like steel drums but I'm not exactly sure what they are. Very loose song, sounds almost improvised. Slightly spacey song as well.

I'm not sure if the "Call" here has anything to do with the "Call" on the latter album Steig Aus. This is kind of a cross between jazz-rock and psych rock. One of the better tracks which also an instrumental. Decent guitar solo. Some noticeable organ here. "End Of Soul" has more violin/motocello. Vocals again but no singing; the lyrics are spoken (in English). More jazz-rock meets psych rock. "People From Out The Space" is the stand out track. Starts very spacey. After a repeating bassline some catchy sax playing. Great drumming. A little bit of wordless vocals. Nice riff on the bass around 2 1/2 minutes as the guitar solos. The main sax melody is great and memorable.

Most CD versions have two bonus tracks. Drummer Christian Burchard will be the only member here to appear on all future Embryo albums. This would be of interest to Krautrock fans. I prefer the more jazzy and eclectic version of the band, particularly the period 1971-74. This is a good album but they would do better. 3 stars.

Report this review (#447683)
Posted Saturday, May 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Embryo is undoubtedly one of the leading bands "parked" under the Krautrock umbrella. The reality is that we are talking about an extremely versatile bunch of artists whose overall output is closer to Jazz-Rock/Canterbury than to any other genre. (Well, until much later when they'we embraced Ethnic music almost exclusively.)

For a first album "Opal" is a rather courageous approach, incorporating Psychedelic elements with a definite leaning towards Jazz. Virtually instrumental with lots of unhurried improvisations. We are in 1970 and at times there is also a definite R&B influence, not unlike John McLaughlin and Jack Bruce collaborations of that era.

The album has a charming feel as if it was recorded in a small club in front of a sympathetic and carefree audience where the band is not constrained by precious studio time. Chances are that the tracks would have been recorded in a studio as in a one-take, anything goes manner.

"Untamed" is the expression that springs to mind and thankfully, the band has retained that sense of artistic freedom for many years to come. People who are not adverse to jazzy elements will find Embryo an interesting band to further explore.

Report this review (#900688)
Posted Monday, January 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars The German band Embryo is labeled Jazz rock/fusion here on PA, and based on their total output, that label is pretty accurate. However, Embryo's debut, "Opal," is the lone true Krautrock album of the band's career. That's not to say that none of their other works contain elements of Krautrock, but "Opal" is by far the furthest they went in that direction. Each song is jazzy, but the Krautrock vibe is dominant here. Lots of cool sax and violin are in the mix, and the splendid guitar work of John Kelly (also of Ten Years After fame) really gives the tunes a good heaping of late 60's Anglo-American psychedelic rock influence, but filtered through the West German sensibilities of the time. While mostly instrumental, the first two tracks, "Opal," and "You don't know what's Happening" both include the unique singing styles that are a bit of an acquired taste, and "End of Soul" has cool, quirky, spoken word parts that are quite humorous. I have the Materiali Sonori CD version of this, and it includes 2 bonus tracks that are basically endless jazzy noodling (clocking in at about 30 minutes) that don't offer much additional substance to the album, at least in my opinion anyway. All in all, a wondrous, jazz-tinged, psychedelic/Krautrock, opus that I highly recommend to anyone who can appreciate that eccentric genre that came out of West Germany in the late 60's/early 70's. 4 stars.
Report this review (#1545603)
Posted Monday, March 28, 2016 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Out of all the bands that emerged out of Germany from the big bang of progressive rock developing during the late 1960s, EMBRYO has sustained itself throughout the decades into the modern day mostly due to its being a musical collective that has seen over 400 members come and go throughout the years with Christian Burchard serving as the founder and driving force, however much of this longevity also comes from it having emerged as one of the most creative and versatile bands that has been filed under the umbrella term Krautrock. While that label more often than not connotes some sort of psychedelic mind bending qualities (Amon Duul II, Exmagma, Guru Guru) prevalent in the music, it also covers the heavier blues oriented rock bands with progressive touches (Birth Control, Electric Sandwich), the more electronic oriented artists with rock elements (Kraftwerk, Neu!) as well as the jazz-fusion crowds such as Eiliff, Brainstorm and Out Of Focus.

EMBRYO stood out in that it pretty much tackled all of the above with not only a heavy emphasis on jazz-rock but also managed to slip in healthy doses of 60s infused psychedelia, traces of blues oriented rock, electronic atmospheric ambience and went even further by tackling a wide variety of the world music stock by incorporating many styles of ethnic music. The tale of Munich based EMBRYO actually had its origins as far back as the mid-1950s when multi-instrumentalist Christian Burchard began his eclectic musical origins at the tender age of 10 after meeting his childhood friend percussionist Dieter Serfas. Eventually they formed their first band Contemporary Trio in 1964 and when the two parted ways, Burchard would finally create his dream band EMBRYO in 1969 as he was riding the wave of the progressive rock trends that were emerging at breakneck speed. The initial lineup consisted of Burchard (drums, vocals), Ralph Fischer (bass, vocals), Edgar Hofmann (saxophone, flute, percussion) and John Kelly (guitar, vocals). In addition to these core musicians there are also four guest musicians playing cello as well as backing vocals.

The original band arrangement wouldn't last long and would only play together on this debut album OPAL, which gives album #1 a very unique overall sound in the vast canon of EMBRYO's eclectic output. Even right from the start EMBRYO stood out in the pack of the Krautrock scene with a keen musical vision already polished to near perfection as they delivered tight jazz-rock compositions with African percussive drive and plenty of throwbacks to the most kosmsiche representations of the German psychedelic scene. OPAL deftly straddles the line between the psychedelic aspects of Amon Duul II type of Krautrock with that same heavy bass driven groove as heard on their first two albums "Phallus Dei" and "Yeti," yet incorporates a seriously fierce delivery of not only post-bop driven jazz but also the more avant-garde sax frenzied touches ("Glockenspiel") of what Ornette Coleman created all throughout the 60s. The tracks keep a fairly busy high-powered tempo with nice chord changes and instrumental tightness that was above average for many bands of the era in the Krautrock world.

While most tracks are instrumental there are brief moments of vocals (in English) such as on the opening title track but are usually semi-spoken in dramatic poetic prose rather than bursting into fully-fledged singing but soulful outbursts of singing do occur ("You Don't Know What's Happening" for example.) Needless to say, the vocals are not the strong point and hint to a clear Can connection however the music itself is much more dynamically performed with a strong emphasis on a heavy busy groove with lots of jazzy touches alongside various ethnic influences ranging from the African percussive drive to the rather Middle Eastern touches on the closer "People From Out The Space." While EMBRYO would go on to develop even more sophisticated albums and become one of the most revered and well known of the German bands that outlasted the majority of its contemporaries, this first offering that finds itself more rooted in the 60s heavy psych scene is quite the treat itself as there are no weak tracks but rather one grooviliscious ethnic jazz jam after another. While this seems to be the more neglected origins of EMBRYO's nascency, i find this one to be quite exciting.

Report this review (#1940137)
Posted Wednesday, June 20, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hailing from Germany during the rise of Kosmische Musik, better known as 'Krautrock' even today, Embryo took their own path in the direction of Jazz Fusion, though a not-uncommon 'departure' from the scene we can likewise see in groups such as Out of Focus and Kraan. With this note, I will add, Krautrock is far more singular in its focus on spacy soundscapes bolstered by pulsating rhythms (generally), when compared to, say, Grunge (probably the most obvious example of a so-called genre, splintered into at least three main stylistic camps) [See my trial footnote below]. Excited to finally be digging into another classic deutsche Gruppe!

Opal begins with the title track, "Opal" of course, a not-too-surprising muddy start. Drummer-vocalist Christian Burchard bashes the kit amidst a bleeding drone from Ralph Fischer's fuzzy bass and what sounds like the wild slashing of a viol (I have no idea what it is; the mystery of this phantom string instrument is today's theme haha). It's a killer opener; one helluva statement. The Avant-Garage sound brings to mind early, early The Who and The Kinks, and Syd Barrett's (and Saucerful-era) Pink Floyd. What I thought was that same distant viol--it can't be Edgar Hofmann's reeds, can it?--sounds off on the next, "You Don't Know What's Happening", a cool though dark dirge. The open snare married with rolling toms brings about an exotic feel, built up most convincingly by the soft trill of the guitar from John Kelly.

Up next is "Revolution", and Embryo brings the beeves. Rapid-fire rhythm section showing bits of imperfection may charm here. We finally hear the first real glimpse of Hoffman's sax, a happy occasion. I will say, too, Burchard's drumming here is most impressive, split up across speakers, and fortified, I assume, by auxiliary percussion aplenty. Great jam, still plenty 'of the time', yet I think looking forward to some of the more punky Art Rock of the mid-70s. The song closes out with a real fine guitar solo as the band fades to black. The most distinguishably jazzy number, apparently carrying on in the same key as "Revolution", is "Glockenspiel", a low-yet-moderately-played Pysch-Jazz with pulsing bass and a continuation of sax soloing. Bell-like strikes from the guitar, truly an interesting element to hear, period, counterpoints the saxophone nicely. "Got No Time" is a truly low-and-slow interlude of sorts, lasting just a minute and a half.

We return to something all the more familiar with the warm thumping of "Call", another sporting more tasty sax soloing to start. This is certainly classic Kosmische! Approaching the middle, the guitar takes over the lead spot, performing just-out-of-the-box lines, which certainly pulled me in closer by my ear. The organ--I assume then the Monticello credited to non-member Robert Detree--increases in underlying supremacy as we return to the theme and the track comes to a close. Something I thought of earlier, I believe on "You Don't Know What's Happening", in addition to a sort of Beatnik vibe thanks to spoken monologues, "End of Soul" features almost folksy somethings here and there (again, uncredited strings? It's a bit confusing honestly), to me reading more as like Pentangle, and less like the much darker Comus. This track is a great showcase of the rhythm section, especially the bass. Great performance from the guitar, too. Finally, we get the near-8-minute "People from out the Space", which I can't imagine even in 1970 was an accidental mistranslation, but who knows? And indeed, as the title implies, this is the spaciest of the bunch, right out the gate. The rolling drum figures are so of the time (praise be), and the saxophone in this context especially feels preceding to Gong, like "Fohat Digs Holes in Space" from Camembert Electrique a year later (1971). I'll call it: with its near-comparably-strong opener, Opal's bookend closer is most essential of the bunch. Fantastical Space Rock for your earholes!

So overall, a killer debut from a well-beloved German band, and I once again say, I can't wait to hear more.

[Sorry if this is self-importance speaking, but the three camps of Grunge are 1) a gritty Post-Hardcore with slight early Alternative influence (e.g. Mudhoney, Green River, early Nirvana); 2) a more overtly heavy sound owing to Thrash Metal specifically (e.g. Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Melvins); and 3) a likely later, established Grunge with overt Alt influence (e.g. latter-day Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, early Foo Fighters, STP). I guess I've wanted to say this for some time haha.]

Report this review (#2929705)
Posted Thursday, June 1, 2023 | Review Permalink

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