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Brainstorm - Smile A While  CD (album) cover



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3 stars BRAINSTORM were a German Canterbury band... that's right kids... a German Canterbury band offering very complex songs dripping with fusion flute and saxophones performances. I would not recommend this album to anyone who does not love fusion as this album is pretty heavy in its core fusion delivery. BRAINSTORM take dimensions of SOFT MACHINE and whip in elements of CARAVAN, John COLTRANE and NATIONAL HEALTH. "Smile A While" was their first release under the name of BRAINSTORM but they were originally know as "Fashion Pink". This album is full of dynamic and inventive jazz influenced progressive rock and membership in the band includes the zainy GURU GURU band Member Roland Schaeffer.
Report this review (#30717)
Posted Sunday, May 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars This has been featured on a number of ‘worst album cover’ lists over the years, and you can certainly see why. At least The Mothers of Invention had the decency to mostly cover themselves and restrict their photo to the chest up when they had a similar cover. I wonder if this is where the Go-Gos got the idea for their first album cover? One of these guys ended up in Guru Guru, another band known for tasteless album covers, which is not surprising I suppose.

The music is Canterbury, or at least it is as near as I can tell. Sort of a slightly-mad fusion kind of thing going on, which is largely how I hear Canterbury, so I suppose that fits. The musicians seem to have a sort of self-deprecating sense of humor, so I’ll give them credit for that.

According to the band’s notes they were previously known as Fashion Floyd as a sort of sick tribute to Pink Floyd, but changed their names, probably to avoid confusion (not!).

Nothing really to get excited about for the most part. “Bosco Biati WeiB Alles” features a drum solo, which is pretty weird for a fusion album. And the opening of “Snakeskin Tango” sounds like a singer whose crotch is caught in the mic stand grip. There are also a few live tracks which are comparatively more straightforward upbeat jazz with some pretty decent guitar work and a lot more vocals in a rather funky vein.

But overall this is clearly something that hasn’t held up well over time, and is probably best relegated to the collections of fans of the band (if there are any). And yes – I’ll admit I was only interested in this album to hear what kind of music would be covered by such a gaudy picture. Can’t say I’m overly surprised. Two stars.


Report this review (#127480)
Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Brainstorm were a German band that played fusion with a sense of humour. This can clearly be heard on this album. They certainly did not take themselves too seriously. While I would not say these guys defined the genre in any new way, one has to keep in mind that it was still a pretty young genre back then. I personally like their second album better than their first; my favourites are Bosco Biati Weiss Alles and the Snakeskin Tango, which has some outrageous vocals at the beginning. The cover is simply hilarious; I don't know about the CD version, but the vinyl version had a lot more photos of them in their costumes on the backside, in which they sometimes assume ridiculous poses. 3.5 stars for this album; since I have the feeling this album has been done some injustice I will round it up to 4.
Report this review (#160191)
Posted Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars OK, cover of this album is absolutely terrible, we all can agree on this simple fact. But we don't listen prog because of image, right ? And about music, I can say that it's standard prog jazz (or Canterbury if you want), nothing special. With few nasty surprises, Zappa-like (supposed to be like) features and shouts of craziness., but done in a way that I can't admire so much. I wanted, but for that, this music would have to be more deep and interesting, so far, it's just randomly (so even it's not predictable, it's still plain) changing styles.

3(-), no, this is not the way how it should be done.

Report this review (#248869)
Posted Sunday, November 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Blooarrghh!

I'm sorry, that was me being sick all over my Mac after looking at the front cover. What on earth were they thinking on??!! Easily the worst record sleeve in the history of music. I mean, for crying out loud, what they're wearing is what I found in my mums washing basket when I was 10 years old. Gross... simply foul.

Luckily for Brainstorm, the music is far,far better, otherwise I'd be running after them with a Panzerfaust. In a funny way it reminds me of 'The Two Ronnies' (which, for Europeans - was a hilarious British TV comedy duo from the mid 70''s). Jazzy Krautrock is the order of the day, but it's played brilliantly. Such a shame. One of the finest Kraut Albums I've heard - yet annihilated by the sleeve.

Every time I look at this album I feel like throwing it in the bin - then when I listen to it - it turns out to be great.

What was a definite 4 star has been downgraded to 3 simply because of the abysmal cover. I mean - can you imagine showing this to your friends?

Report this review (#299722)
Posted Sunday, September 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I consider BRAINSTORM and EIDER STELLAIRE as my two biggest discoveries of 2011. I must admit that I wasn't expecting much when I purchased BRAINSTORM's two studio albums mainly because of the low ratings on this site, which by the way leave me somewhat baffled. They were a German Jazz / Fusion band who began as FASHION PINK before changing their name to BRAINSTORM. It was a fairly new concept back then this idea of businessmen brainstorming ideas and they liked the meaning of that name in relation to their music. These guys were all virtuosos, playing the most complex passages with ease. It was when they were called FASHION PINK that the guys discovered the music of SOFT MACHINE, Frank Zappa, CARAVAN and the like and so they started to make more complex music. The keyboardist especially liked the sound of Mike Ratledge and Dave Stewart's distorted keyboards and promptly did the same with his.They also used echo effects and decided that what little vocals they did use would be in English. Now the album cover is controversial no doubt about it. It's one thing to dress-up like women ala Frank Zappa and MAX WEBSTER album covers both of which are hilarious, but to dress-up in women's undergarments ? I should mention that Roland the sax player would go on to play with both GURU GURU and EMBRYO.

"Das Schwein Trugt" hits the ground running and you gotta love the distortion. It settles before 1 1/2 minutes as the sax solos tastefully. It kicks back in at 3 1/2 minutes as we get some nasty organ that comes and goes. "Zwick Zwick" opens with the drums, flute and sax standing out. It's just a pleasure listening to each one of these guys play. The distorted organ after 3 minutes brings SOFT MACHINE to mind. "Watch Time Flow By" is a vocal track and he really sounds like his singing has been influenced by Robert Wyatt and Richard Sinclair. A beat with flute helps out. "Bosco Biati Weiss Alles" is Jazzy with prominant bass, sax, drums and more. A drum show 3 1/2 minutes in then some distorted organ 5 minutes in followed by a calm with vocal melodies. Nice. It kicks back in again as contrasts continue. We get an intense finish.

"Snakeship Tango" has some crazy sax then vocal expressions as a catchy soundscape takes over. "Smile A While" has these deep bass sounds with atmosphere to start. It picks up 1 1/2 minutes in and builds with the sax leading then flute. This is great ! Vocals 2 1/2 minutes in are brief then the flute leads again. More fuzz after 6 minutes. Nice. A calm before 8 1/2 minutes then the sax starts to lead. It settles with flute after 10 minutes and we get reserved vocals before 12 1/2 minutes in this laid back section. It kicks in again as he sings "Smile a while" and we get more fuzz late. Killer stuff. "You Are What's Gonna Make It Last" is catchy with vocals and some guitar too. I like it ! "Don't Forget" is the very short closing instrumental. I have to mention the first bonus track called "Thesen & Antithesen" because it sounds amazing and it goes on for 14 minutes.

A very solid 4 stars and one that SOFT MACHINE and MOVING GELATINE PLATES fans might want to check out. Enjoy the cover boys !

Report this review (#579345)
Posted Thursday, December 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Really a god job! I was searching for some recordings simillar to music that Soft Machine did in their "classic" years and that was IT. Simillar and still - very innovative.

"Smile A While" (actually I did smiled after taking a quick glance on nic kitsch cover) starts with a nice blast of "Das Schwein Tr'gt" (which is also a funny title) with beautiful reeds unisono and fuzzy organ sound. Tha mellow Canterbury tune is breaked by jazzy "Zwick, zwick" with fantastic nervous pulse and fine rough solos. The "Bosco Biati WeiB Alles" suit is a great example of European fusion with bit of Wyatt's influence - on the contrast with "Snakeskin Tango" with amusing scream. Album ends with 15-minutes suite - however in this point I feel a bit bored, looking for more interesting themes or bass lines that doesn't happen.

The CD reissuie comes with fine booklet, with biographical essay and some photos, and bonus tracks, including live and some from previous episode (when group existed as Fashion Pink).

Report this review (#643011)
Posted Wednesday, February 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Brainstorm were one of the very first German jazz-rock bands i ever knew about-living in Canada, where the band is virtually unknown, having Smile A While was like connecting with a needle in a haystack. But, boy, do i feel lucky I stumbled across this brilliant gem.

Though with one of the worst album covers in existence, it's what is inside this album that counts. Smile A While is wild and woolly European fusion at it's best, what i like to label "bonkers, but brilliant". Their approach to jazz-rock on this record is mostly unbridled and frenetic, though at times they can slow things down and even get a bit moody, though never loosing your interest for a moment. The early seventies atmosphere created by Brainstorm on this debut of theirs is spot on, and very special-it is like a true time journey connecting with it.

The vocals are average, but what makes up for that is the group's instrumental prowess, highlighted by frenetic runs with electric organ, sax, a bit of guitar, along with some tasty flute soloing, and great serpentine bass lines. The quirky and complex drumming of Jo Koinzer leads the way, being one of the single most under-rated fusion drummers on the planet.

Whether tracks are long or short, it's an exciting trip, though they hit their creative peak on the long title track, where they have more room to jam and branch out, instrumentally.

All in all, this album has stood the test of time for me, and i never tire of it-5 stars.

Report this review (#874226)
Posted Sunday, December 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars It is a real misfortune that bands like this had such a short life. It is true that this music is not for all ears, jazz rock fusion, very similar to the Soft Machine in the early 70's. One has to be trained in complex music to catch the delights of this album. The members are true musicians, impressive mastery of the instruments, the music has a high level of composition spite of being jazzy, and it occasionally offers some winks of humor a la GONG. They use highly varied melodies that can be well tolerated by those not accepting well the improvisational and somewhat rigid rhythmic sections and dissonant sound repertoire of experimental fusion. The longer tracks, as the album title track and Thesen and Antithesen, are particularly enjoyable, with time for all of them to play virtuous pieces surrounded by a wrapping atmosphere created by the rhythmic section. Drums are subtle, always in second plane but creating marvelous paths for the others to walk smoothly. It is music to listen to, not to talk about it. What I said, a pity they left such a short production.
Report this review (#1632249)
Posted Saturday, October 15, 2016 | Review Permalink

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