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Schicke & Führs & Fröhling

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5 stars Symphonic Pictures is the debut album from this German trio. And WOW what a debut! This is really classic and essential stuff for any lover of mellotron based instrumental symphonic prog.

The opening track Tao is very enjoyable and sets a really nice mood for the listener. After a nice little interlude comes the next "real" song, Dialog. It starts off as a nice, happy little mellotron based symphonic prog song, but after about one minute it really surprises the listener with an extremely cool, sinister sounding, melody which the rest of the song evolves around. In my opinion one of the coolest riff I can think of! The next track is a short, very quirky, but enjoyable interlude.

And finally we have arrived to the last track, the 16-minute long epic Pictures. There is so much to say about this song, but I will shorten it down to one word: AMAZING!! A lot of people say that Änglagård's Jordrök is a complete ripoff of this song, which of course isn't true. However, listen to the mellotron riff around 2 minutes into the song and compare this to 1 minute into Jordrok. No way this is a coincidence :) Anyway, this track is one of my personal favourite prog rock epics, at least from the latter half of the decade! There are just so many great riffs and breathtaking passages ! Completely essential!

Give yourself a treat and get this album. Now.

Report this review (#35024)
Posted Thursday, May 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars SFF is one of my all-time favourite German prog acts, and what's more, I find their stunning debut album "Symphonic Pictures" as a definitive apex in prog history - let alone, in the German prog scene. Two members of this trio, Schicke and Fröhling, came right out from the ranks of Spektakel, joining forces in order to pursue a more focused kind of music, with one foot in the British symphonic melodic trend and the other in the cosmic realms of krautrock in a most stylish fashion. Once they casually met a young classically trained keyboardist named Gerhard Fürhs, the band was completed right after a common artistic goal had been properly agreed. SFF's musical vein is parallel to those of Pulsar, as well as compatriots Novalis and TD (circa "Ricochet" and "Stratosfear"), which means that 73-75 Pink Floyd's eerie psychedelia was a major point of reference for the first musical ideas created by SFF. This factor is logistically enhanced by the fact that guitarist Fröhling also doubled on mellotron and string synth, Fürhs made a heavy use of bass synth whenever a bass part was not played by a real bass guitar, and also drummer-percussionist Schicke did some stuff on Moog - the massive use of keyboards turns out to be quite effective when doing cosmic explorations and also when it comes to elaborating symphonic orchestrations.. But again, this is not the whole picture, since there are also fusion elements, soaring synthetic experimentations and somber ambiences cooking in the band's sonic melting pot: in fact, some of the most melodic passages in the album may remind the listener of "Moon Madness"-era Camel, which I consider more a coincidence than an influence. The opening track 'Tao' sets the mood for the album and catches the listener's attention by storm, due to its various attractive motifs and the fluid linkage that sustains them altogether: this is one perfect epitome of the trio's musical essence and versatile creativity. 'Solution' and 'Sundrops' are the shortest pieces in the album, both showing the most relaxing side of SFF: in some ways, it may remind us of early Vangelis' bucolic side, albeit a bit more ethereal and more structured. The 5 ½ minute long 'Dialog' comprises two well distinct parts: the first one is a jazz-oriented section with a symphonic twist, while the second one goes to darker places without getting too oppressive (SFF never get too cathartic). The sidelong 'Pictures' is the definite monster track in the album, and definitely, their most ambitious composition ever. Its monumental structure is solid enough to comprise the most somber passages in the album, as well as some other spacey ones that provide an effective contrast: shades of Prokofiev and Wagner can be noticed in many of the mellotron washes that appear here and there. As I said before, SFF is not a band that bears a dramatically dark side: for all the disturbing images that 'Pictures' portrays in many of its specific sections, there is also a sense of grandeur that helps to maintain a touch of class all throughout this track, and so, it is not impending doom what is evoked by this track, but a sense of conflict delivered in a most elegant manner. In short, based on my observation of the creativity, magic and great performances comprised in "Symphonic Pictures", I must conclude that it is a masterpiece, and therefore, is a must for any good prog collection.

[I respectfully dedicate this review to the memory of Gerhard Fürhs, who passed away 11/3/92]

Report this review (#35025)
Posted Thursday, May 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars SFF's classic has a very good reputation among the fans of symphonic prog fans. Anglagard are known for being a clone band of this band. However, I couldn't find any similiarity between SFF and Anglagard. SFF is dull, easily forgottenable and not so so impressive as much as I had expected them to be before I heard them. I couldn't find a single song that has aspired anything positive. No offence SFF's fans, but I neither consider this is a classic nor a good album.
Report this review (#36000)
Posted Friday, June 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars If I were asked to explain to someone what is progressive music (at least as we understood that concept in the 70s), I would play them this album. This is a powerful trio that unleashes the full arsenal of symphonic prog weaponry, fat, rich synths, wailing mellotrons, blistering guitar (from a double-neck with bass), and very orchestral percussion and arrangements. At the time this came out, this music was at the edge of our tolerance for dissonance (weaned on Yes & Genesis as we were)...after years of Crimson, Henry Cow, Art Bears, Zorn, etc., it sounds pretty tame today by comparison, but still packs a wallop. Our impression of Germans was strongly influenced by these teutonic, pounding marches and merciless non-tonal themes.

"Tao" announces the bands intentions in full, hard progressive with no frills or knick-knacks, just gorgeous melodies and big orchestration, from a tight, economical unit. The keyboards are always especially sharp and effective, from the fat Moog bass to the cutting Clavinets and gorgeous but strangely threatening Mellotron strings. Piano is also used very sparsely and exactly, often for single line, chromatic figures. The arrangements are such that the separate instruments can always be clearly heard & recognized. "Tao" is the more up theme of the album, "Solution" and "Sundrops" are more like pleasant interludes to recover from the heavy onslaughts. "Dialogue" is really a masterful one, another mechanically repetitive atonal theme for piano, later doubled on Clavinet, that doesn't fail to develop, and find it's opposite response in a burning guitar melody.

The epic is "Pictures" itself, which opens apocalyptically with an ominously distorted Mellotron choir...the modernistic, simple motif which follows mutates from Mellotron strings to Mellotron flute, before being drowned out by a marching horde led on by the deranged Mellotron choir. It's rare that Mellotrons are used so much to play melodies as they are here, but SFF arrange them deftly, so that somewhat simple atonal figures are repeated, then doubled on synths or Clavinets, and the Mellotrons fall back into a scary string tapestry supporting the rest. "Pictures" is a very satisfying composition, not long for the sake of it, but each theme is carefully developed and given the right amount of time to come to fruition. It's no wonder that Zappa was impressed enough by the demo of this album that he planned to produce it, but bowed out when his work on the masterpiece "One Size Fits All" didn't permit it.

My CD of Symphonic Pictures is a double, coupled with their next album, Sunburst, and some live versions of that as well. One can only imagine that the expectations were great after this stunning debut, but the followup is pale, harmless and already clichéd prog with none of the adventurous, challenging spirit of Pictures. But for all lovers of 70s progressive, Symphonic Pictures will not fail to delight and astound.

Report this review (#74209)
Posted Thursday, April 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is a MELLOTRON tour-de-force! SFF music is so intelligent, dazzling, intense and colourful, that it is not easy to stop the cd player... "Tao" is for sure one of the best compositions of the 70's. The energy of the music is so powerful and intense, just for itself it is a little masterpiece! Excellent playing on the other songs, the guitar is always present, making an outstanding work. The moog and mellotron playing make almost the rest of the album, specially on "Solution" and "Sundrops", which are much more calm and relaxing songs. Essential!
Report this review (#77748)
Posted Wednesday, May 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. This album is very influential to say the least. If you've heard ANGLAGARD's music then listen to this record and i'm sure you will agree that SFF had to be a big influence on their sound. You have two of the band members playing mellotron, moog and clavinet. Frohling plays a self-built double neck Les Paul guitar / Rickenbaker bass combination. Frank Zappa was so enthusiastic about this band's sound that he was willing to produce their first album, but had to drop out to record his own album that was to be recorded at the same time this was to be done. The band ended up with the very capable Dieter Dierks producing their debut album. If you like Symphonic music with lots of mellotron you'll love this album.

"Too" has over a minute intro of which all I can hear is the mighty mellotron. Just an amazing symphonic passage follows.The best part of the song though starts before 4 minutes. It reminds me of GENESIS and includes guitar and mellotron to incredible results. Great track ! "Solution" features mellotron, acoustic guitar and xylophone. A very pleasant song. "Dialog" opens with some intricate drumming as different sounds come and go including mellotron. A melody arrives before 2 1/2 minutes,guitar and loads of mellotron follow.This is amazingly good.The intricate and complex melodies with mellotron again remind me of ANGLAGARD.

"Sundrops" features more intricate sounds and check out the melody 2 minutes in. "Pictures" is a side long suite that is the most obvious reminder of what ANGLAGARD would eventually record. Haunting sounds a minute in as the song starts to build to a melody of drums and mellotron. Oh my ! Pulsating keys follow. Piano 11 minutes in as the song has settled right down. Waves of mellotron arrive with some piano then coming in. It's building to a full sound 14 minutes in. Amazing ! The mellotron here really brings to mind the great ANEKDOTEN.

"Symphonic Pictures" has to be one of the best releases of 1976, and it's really a must have for prog lovers everywhere. I am so impressed with this record.

Report this review (#137675)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Symphonic Picture is the debut album from german symphonic instrumental prog rock band Schicke Führs & Fröhling. With a name like that you´d expect them to play ELP like music but allthough there are a few influences from ELP this album doesn´t sound much like them ( Thankfully). I´ve never heard of this band before I started visiting Prog Archives so I don´t know if they were big in the seventies, but I doubt it as I´ve never heard of them. With music like this they should have been one of the biggest acts of the seventies IMO. This is an absolutely wonderful album, and had it been released 5 years before I´m sure they would have made it big.

The music is instrumental and generally very synth laden and very melodic. The music is coherent throughout the album even though there are influences from various genres. Symphonic prog rock is the main genre being played ( listen to the first couple of minutes of song number 3 called Dialog it could have been a Camel song). There is a dark zeuhlish mood in Pictures and the last part of Dialog is in melodic avant garde rock style. There are also lots of classical music influences in the music. The rythm section is really great and reeks of seventies charm. Very enjoyable.

The musicianship is outstanding throughout the whole album. These musicians display that they master a varity of different playing styles yet still maintaining a personal approach to the music.

The production is extremely well done. One of my new favorite sounds from the seventies. I especially enjoy the synth sounds and the drums which both have excellent quality sound.

Schicke Führs & Fröhling have really impressed me with Symphonic Picture and I really hope others will follow my example and try out this album. If you like instrumental symphonic prog rock you really shouldn´t pass this album by. I´ll dare say that it is an essential album in this particular genre. A big 4 star rating from me is very well deserved for this wonderful album.

Report this review (#180373)
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
2 stars I suppose a school of logic exists as follows as regards instrumentation and genres of music: if you add a banjo you have bluegrass music, and if you add a mellotron you have symphonic prog. However, don't tell that to Bela Fleck and SFF respectively. This is essentially jazz fusion that is drenched in mellotron. Sure there are parts that relate to both German electronic music and British progressive rock of the time, but SFF places far more emphasis on sounds and improvisation than most of their brethren.

In general, SFF doesn't seem to know what to do with their talent, and the whole effort comes off rather disjointed and almost totally unmemorable. The main exception is "Tao", which in a plodding way manages to arrange itself out of the morass, and is generally pleasing in its development while remaining challenging. "Dialog" is fitful like GENTLE GIANT, but without the vocals. The synthesizers sound almost 80s style in terms of kitsch and timbre, but without even a melodic aspect that would aid the cause.

The big chance for redemption is in the form of the 16 minute opus, "Pictures", which is more like a long introduction to something, or a suspense soundtrack waiting for a movie. About halfway through we have a mildly interesting mellotron theme that is ruined by incessant spacey synthesizer doodling. This excess at times plagued groups like PINK FLOYD and TANGERINE DREAM, but they showed a lot more discipline and fidelity. The angularity and mellotrons recall Red-era KING CRIMSON, but without their ability to take an aggressive theme to a satisfying denouement.

SFF was the type of prog group that drove 1970s music fans into the unwashed arms of punk by the equipment vanload. Their one dimensional insistence on vaunting their technical prowess to the exclusion of any other aspect epitomized bloated prog rock, but upped the ante even further. Their debut is a case of a picture being about 950 words too long.

Report this review (#194653)
Posted Monday, December 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars A high source of inspiration to many.

When it comes to name the main influences for today's prog we name the usual suspects: Yes, King Crimson, ELP yadiyadiyada...But who will name SFF? Me neither! Never! But what a pleasant surprise it's been to get my hands on this record. Finally, I get to know more SFF and on top, I removed the lid on many artists I though were original! Okay Anglagard and Carptree (the epic song is right Carptree's alley), you're busted! You were not the first to create the famous darkish atmosphere; SFF did it, but did not abuse it.

SFF is musically very competent, especially in the guitar and drums departement. Many of you'd say keyboards first, but it's the wah-wah and complex time signature of Dialog that strucked me first. In this only song, you can name lots of bands that actually were inspired and/or copied this song (and I'm not the first to say it). The epic song Pictures is harder to get around, simply because of it's unfortunate redundance.

Close to be a perfect score although it would be tempting to snatch off a star for the difficulty of listening to it without doing something. It's not the kind of music you play loud, so for me it's better to be occupied than passive, if not it could leave a weird aftertaste of emptiness. It's a trio okay, but they're not as entertaining as Emerson Lake and Palmer!

Great album to own, and orgy of Moog and Mellotron.

Report this review (#195611)
Posted Sunday, December 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When you have an album entitled "Symphonic Pictures", you are not on the verge of hearing some bland pap and these German instrumental stalwarts from way back when, offer up a dizzying experience from a three man crew that has all the talent one needs to achieve symphonic heights. Gerhard Führs handles the various keys with serene aplomb, mostly with the venerable mellotron while guitarist Heinz Fröhling decorates the arrangements with deft soloing, also handling a wobbly Rickenbacker bass. Drummer Eduard Schicke completes the trio and handles himself like a real pro behind the opulent drum kit. These artists really prefer the vivid stylizations that show team work, like the Mannschaft in soccer, never falling prey to overtly egoistic musical masturbation. The reflective elegance of opener "Tao" proves the point, an 8 minute prance full of zesty symphonic ingredients that show restrained glamour and verve. "Solution" is a short melodic interlude with those gently soothing electronics the Germans are renowned for. The subtle blaring of synths evokes grandiose majesty within a lush context, a vibraphone like riff keeping things appealing. The bizarre "Dialog" is way more oblique and upbeat, showcasing whistling synthesizer swaths, weaving guitar, jangled piano musings and jazzy drum patterns, a slightly more experimental exercise than expected, dissonant at times and even disjointed at others, keeping the mood unexpected. The paranoid guitar phrasings are awesome and quirky to say the least. "Sundrops" is more of the same complex electro-symph prog that these lads excel at, mellotron working overtime throughout, with some invigorating twists and slanted turns. Mind music for sure but the highlight piece is the colossal 16 minute + "Pictures", a massive slab of doom-laden prog that has surely influenced a few bands, with overt choir mellotron paving the way, a slow burn slice of dizzying synth effects with added manic soloing on top when the rhythmic groove becomes apparent. We are near prime era KC here, as this would fit in nicely on Red or Starless and Bible Black. The operatic aroma is stealthily defined by the blasts of metallic voices and the playful drum/synth interplay, as the notorious clavinet weasels its way into the fray with utter success. The repeated exultations are most innovative as few bands dared to progress so deeply into the deepest symphonic abysses, this is no easy listening neo-prog by any stretch, demanding a serious ear and an open-mind. Again, the surging mellotron plays havoc with the senses only to be amused by the clownish synth soloing, as if in some kind of keyboard duel. The elegant piano then takes over the battle with the wispy strings and there is another sonic universe upon us, boggling the mind once again. After a brief pause, the 'tron gets another kick in, unwilling to cede passage to anyone, despite some more intense ivory-tinkling. The heavy bass-led KC-like theme returns for a harder edged guitar attack, intoxicating as usual, complete with massive cymbals crashing as if swimming in some melodic brew. This is a tremendous exhibition of intricate symphonic prog that will challenge your senses, taking its sweet time to seduce. The next one "Sunburst" will be their crowning achievement in my opinion though not shared by my pals here. The debut gets 4 orchestral portraits .
Report this review (#216670)
Posted Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 4.5 stars!

The majestic trio of SCHICKE,FUHRS and FROHLING was found in mid-70's,when keyboardist Gerd Fuhrs approached drummer Eduard Schicke and guitarist Heinz Frohling,both members of ''Spektakel'' ,after a live concert of the later.Schicke and Frohling were amazed by Fuhrs' skillful keyboard playing,so they decided to disband ''Spektakel'' and form their own progressive rock trio.This would lead them to the excellent release ''Symphonic pictures'' in 1976.

An album filled with melody,grandiosity,emotions but also complexity and demanding musicianship.''Symphonic pictures'' is mostly a keyboard-driven instrumental album,supported by the smooth drumming of Schicke and the GENESIS-like guitar work of Frohling.The comositions are different sounding and both Fuhrs and Frohling use a variety of keyboards to create these alternating atmospheres.Some of the compositions are close to symphonic progressive rock with tons of fantastic mellotron work,melodic guitars and superb use of the moog synthesizer and the clavinet.There are also lots of passages with pure classical approach,based on Fuhrs' grand and electric piano work...but the biggest achievement of the band is those grandiose cinematic soundscapes close to soundtrack music,where deep bass lines and haunting drumming are blended with heavy electronics and dark mellotron parts.This is something else,I tell you!The final result is absolutely fantastic and unique and there's nothing more to write than recommending this album to everyone looking for grandiose progressive rock,filled with symphonicism,melody and deep atmospheres!

Report this review (#221706)
Posted Thursday, June 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great value Mellotron drenched instrumental 70's prog at it's best., 23 Jun 2010

This review is from: Symphonic Pictures (Audio CD Esoteric Reactive 2010 Reissue ) With more Mellotrons and Metallophones than you can shake a stick at, this album demonstrates perfectly the mid '70's ethic of music for music's sake. It is immaculately played and composed instrumental music, and delivers on every level.

Recorded at the legendary Dierks studio in Germany, this is a beautiful sounding record consisting of five pieces, four short and one `epic' called `Pictures'. (every progressive album worth it's salt has to have a side long epic, and for every tiresome hipster who insists that three minutes is all you need, there's someone like me who likes it when bands use 20 minutes instead).

The sleevenotes make mention of Emerson Lake and Palmer, but whilst the line-up is similar (minus the vocals) the music is less bombastic and technically dazzling, and more rounded and `warm' sounding. I would compare it more to the likes of Camel in terms of melodic appeal, although there are `darker' influences in there too. There are beautiful gentle sections with tuned percussion and mellotron, contrasted with full blown Keys, Bass and Drums. It holds the attention throughout many interesting twists and turns and is a great listen, especially if you can't get enough of the Mellotrons and Moogs ! Highly recommended to afficionados of adventurous instrumental rock and for whom punk never happened.

This wonderful sounding reissue comes with a bonus disc of the band recorded live at the time. The sound quality is slightly disappointing, but still highly listenable, and seeing as this album was once available seperately it can indeed be regarded as a welcome bonus.

Report this review (#288027)
Posted Thursday, June 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Due to the 42% (5 stars) added to the 38% (4 stars), I believe that it doesn't remain to smallest doubt than this first work of the German trio SCHICKE FUHRS & FROHLING "Symphonic Pictures" is an album that deserves figure in any progressive music collection . Particularly I consider one of the best works of symphonic prog originating from Bach's and Beethoven's land .. Their influences are several and they are not limited to the German prog scenery , because in spite of they be clear similarities with NOVALIS and TANGERINE DREAM, they are present also another of the English prog, as for instance PINK FLOYD, GREENSLADE and etc... The track 1 "Tao" begins with a superb climate created by the orchestration of the mellotron as "backgropund" for a of rare beauty musical piece that opens with a vigorous melody of electric guitar with sustained notes in a perfect harmony with the keyboards where stands out the acoustic piano, a theme that is just interrupted by other beautiful theme in the piano in that the guitar is absent and with the participation of the marimba in the percussion , then the theme returns the previous predominance and it finishes with a martial drums climate , that closes the track in an impeccable way! The track 2 is a meditative theme, almost new ager where the simplest to be outstanding is the delicate percussion for the glockenspíel. The track 3 "Solution" soon in the beginning e reminded me GRENNSLADE, however this is brief moment and soon after it is substituted by a "tense" theme that it evokes KING CRNMSOM and GENTLE GIANT!!! The track 4 "Sundrops" is a theme practically in TANGERINE DREAM 's style. And the track 5 "Pictures" with opening with mellotron simulating a choir, with the orchestral percussion "makes way" for a theme in the style E,L & PALMER meets GG an excepicional work of keyboards, that closes the disk with other superb climate, however, "more energetic" and less bucolic than the one of the first track My rate is 5 stars!!!
Report this review (#320825)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
2 stars It´s interesting of how many obscure symphonic prog bands there were in the 70´s. Sometimes you just can´t figure out why they remained little known (when they do release one or more very good albums). sometimes it´s easy to understand their actual position in the prog world (when what they produced is not that great). This german trio sits somewhere too near to the second option : their first album was out in 1976 and while it has some good moments, it is far from being essential or even excellent. Nothing wrong with their musicanship: it´s clear that they are skillful instrumentists. But unfortunatly they were not as good at the songwriting department.

SFF can´t seem to make up their minds on what they are aiming at: symphonic prog? Avant guard? Jazz rock? Eletronic? Space rock? You´ll find elements of all those in here, albeit in a ragged and incoherent way. They can´t come up with a sound of their own and the songs just go on pointlessly. The opener Tao is a good exemple of a good idea that was not well developed: fine guitar riff, good drumming, excellent keys on the first few bars, reminding me of early Camel. Then it never reachs a climax or a convincing progression. And that plagues the whole album. Even the 16 minute suite Pictures can´t be saved. it reminds me a bit of King Crimson, but unlike Crimson they never get anywhere and the epic ends as it started: a bunch of notes put together, some good, some bad, nothing holding any kind of concept or integrated ideas. Some years before I guess their sound would be considered a novelty of kinds or something like that, but by 1976 it was quite a late comer even in that field.

Considering the high ratings I saw here on PA, I was expecting a lot more. This is definitly for hardcore fans of the style. My advice is: listen carefully before buy it.

Report this review (#326177)
Posted Friday, November 19, 2010 | Review Permalink

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