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Crossover Prog • Germany

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Abacus biography
ABACUS is surely a big name for everyone interested in rock music. The band formed in 1971 made their breakthrough at the Germersheim rock festival, where ABACUS drew not less applause from the 300,000 visitors than PINK FLOYD, SANTANA or ELP which appeared on stage as well. Jürgen Wimpelberg takes on himself to play keyboards, guitars, drum programming as well as vocals.

After a lengthy absence from the recording scene, German band are back with a new album, "Fire Behind Bars". They develop Pop melodies into a wide instrumental manner, with gorgeous neo-classical and symphonic sequences. In a vein near GENESIS, GREENSLADE or PINK FLOYD. ABACUS offers a modern and attractive Progressive Rock music.

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archives 1 news from the 80iesarchives 1 news from the 80ies
Destiny by ABACUS (2010-09-13)Destiny by ABACUS (2010-09-13)
Audio CD$45.70
Abacus by AbacusAbacus by Abacus
Audio CD$117.63
Abacus - Analog Trks Vol One - Guidance Recordings - gdr_012Abacus - Analog Trks Vol One - Guidance Recordings - gdr_012
Guidance Recordings
Vinyl$56.95 (used)
Fire Behind Bars by ABACUSFire Behind Bars by ABACUS
Audio CD$35.26
Counterculture by Abacus (1999-06-06)Counterculture by Abacus (1999-06-06)
CD Baby
Audio CD$23.20
European StoriesEuropean Stories
Fire Behind Bars by Abacus (2004-03-15)Fire Behind Bars by Abacus (2004-03-15)
Musea (2004-03-15)
Audio CD$35.76
Hits of Abba By Abacus (2003-12-02)Hits of Abba By Abacus (2003-12-02)
Audio CD$106.17
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ABACUS discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

ABACUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.37 | 54 ratings
2.14 | 21 ratings
Everything You Need
2.97 | 15 ratings
Just A Day's Journey Away
2.45 | 24 ratings
2.13 | 11 ratings
Fire Behind Bars
2.95 | 18 ratings
3.57 | 14 ratings
European Stories

ABACUS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ABACUS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ABACUS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.69 | 4 ratings
Retrospection: 1971-1982
2.09 | 3 ratings
Everything You Need & Midway

ABACUS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

ABACUS Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Everything You Need & Midway by ABACUS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2004
2.09 | 3 ratings

Everything You Need & Midway
Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Everything You Need & Midway' - Abacus (30/100)

Two lame albums for the price of one? No thanks.

I'm not sure I understand the motivation behind compiling two incredibly mediocre albums and offering them as a pair. I certainly don't dislike Midway and "Everytning You Need" because they fell short of Abacus' prog potential and opted for pop. However, the problem with pop music is that songwriting becomes all the more important to its success; it's the quality of songwriting (or frustrating lack thereof) that limits Abacus so much. Everything You Need is surely the better of the two, but neither album sparks my interest or earns my recommendation individually. As it so happens, I'm equally as dismissive when the two are paired up awkwardly like this. Perhaps even moreso. Again; why does this compilation exist?

I am noticing a pattern with Everything You Need and Midway. Although most of the material on each is weak, Abacus make sure to leave a handful of interesting tracks. Both records offer a handful of decent tunes but far too much of the material included on these two albums is mediocre to warrant even a marginal recommendation. If you want to check out this band, you would be best off exploring the self-titled debut, not that I'm saying it's head and shoulders above these two, but it's certainly a step up from the bland art pop Abacus would later sink into.

 Midway by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
2.45 | 24 ratings

Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Midway' - Abacus (4/10)

Since the release of their self-titled debut, Abacus turned their backs towards the overt style of prog they had somewhat kindled, going instead for a psychedelic pop hybrid. From their beginnings onward, the relative quality of their material has been inconsistent at best, but they were always just enough ideas and developments to keep me interested to hear the next album. By Abacus' fourth album Midway, Abacus feel far more comfortable playing pop than they ever did with prog rock. There has been some welcome evolution over the course of their history, but there are still problems that have bogged down Abacus since the debut, not least of all their uninvolved performance and shallow songwriting.

Although I'm far from enthusiastic about Abacus' post-debut direction, it was clear from the start where their loyalties lay. Ever since their proggy side was reduced to a side-dish, Abacus sound more confident and comfortable in their sound. Midway continues to distance Abacus away from progressive rock, and save for a few notable moments (including the instrumental "Revalations" and a ten minute title track) you wouldn't be able to guess they had been flirting with symphonic prog only a couple of years back. The biggest surprise on Midway is the turn their pop approach has taken. The psychedelia has begun to finally filter out, leaving overt sounds of country rock, not unlike The Band from Canada. For what it's worth, it's cool to hear a ban explore such a wide range of sounds and style within the space of a few years, even if they haven't been altogether successful with it.

Chris Williams' nasally voice has always been problematic for me, but it's the band's songwriting itself that comes out most empty. "Let's Face the Voices and Dance" is an ample demonstration of Abacus' biggest weaknesses. The songwriting is flimsy and forgettable, and the performance feels rushed and disengaged. When Chris Williams isn't spoiling his performance with awkward inflections (he seems to love putting the suffix "ah" at the end of each vocal line IE: "know-ah"- it's as irritating a tic as any!) his voice is generally thin, although his lower register has some potential to it. The horrid baroque-pop warble "11 Farden" is the only truly bad song on the album; as for the rest, Abacus keep it to a listenable standard, but their songwriting is generally thin and restrained. Barring the ten minute title track (which I'll get to), Abacus' only occasion of demonstrating greater scope in their music is "Be Beholding", a weird track with sporadic pianos. This too, sadly, is held back by Williams' voice. "Herman the German" is another track that stands out, although less for the writing and performance (both of which are mediocre) than the live and seemingly-spontaneous style of production.

Between "Everything You Need" and this, I'm starting to get the impression that Abacus think they can get away with being called a progressive band, so long as they include a longer track at the end. At least with the former, Abacus had tried to shoot for a full-fledged prog suite; the result of course was nothing special and poorly arranged, but it was a well-intended effort with the occasional flash of brilliance. "Midway" is a far-better structured piece and arguably stronger than Abacus' previous epic, if only because the scope of it has been widdled down to a manageable level. The ten minutes are slow, and Chris Williams' vocal inflections are as annoying as ever and the instrumentation is generally uninvolved, at least until the song's finale, where a female choral section is layered upon it. By the end, "Midway" sounds the soundtrack to some pulpy space opera, and I mean that in a good way. It's better structured, but even for all of its rockiness, "Everything You Need" felt more engaging.

Midway, true to its name, is middling, if even that. To be honest, the coolest things they do here are drawn from country rock twang. The rest- progressive rock residue included- is poorly devised and executed. It's not a horrible album (and Abacus aren't a horrible band either), but there's honestly nothing here I would return for or recommend to another.

 Everything You Need by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.14 | 21 ratings

Everything You Need
Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Everything You Need' - Abacus (44/100)

Though I wasn't too impressed (and even a bit irritated) with Abacus' 1971 debut, it was arguably the best album they ever put out. Even more importantly, they had demonstrated themselves to be potentially very capable of making solid progressive rock. Unfortunately, much more of the album had been allotted to their pursuit of blithering psychedelic, which could have even worked, had it not been written so poorly. As my bad listener's luck would have it, Abacus' second album Everything You Need distanced the band even further from their potential pastoral progressive greatness, instead opting to sink deeper into their psychedelic rut. Thankfully there's nothing so annoying as "Radbod Blues" on this album and it does feel like they found a better sense of style popwise, but the improvements Abacus have made the second time around are generally outweighed by glaring issues, many of which plagued them on the debut as well.

I mean, though the debut left a somewhat sour taste in my mouth, they had expressed enough potential to stay my interest, and after all, there are plenty of bands out there who take an album or two to really take flight. While it's certainly not true in Abacus' case, Everything You Need honestly sounds like the work of a different band. Rather than trying to approximate a facsimile of British symphonic rock, they've found a sound that better suits their artistic approach. The songwriting is a little more consistent this time, but it's still generally crude. "Anyway We Can" is a weak psychedelic interpretation of classic rock n' roll, "Slide Away" is a better written (but still mediocre) slower power ballad-like tune. "Ivan Hood the White Knight" is the best written song of the four ("Thing We Do" isn't great either!) but it's held back by terrible Crusade-related lyrics. On a better note, Chris Williams' vocal performance sounds improved from the self-titled, not necessarily because his vocal chords have improved any but because he generally refrains from the annoying inflections that ruined his singing throughout the debut.

Already having a firm idea of the band's developments by the time the album's second side rolls around, it's understandable that a twenty minute, so-called 'prog epic' might be met with doubt or confusion. While it's true that it falls far short of proper suite standards and feels more like a sequence of self-contained songs, Abacus have saved their best ideas for last. There are hints of the bucolic symph-prog Abacus I heard on the debut, but there's also smatterings of jazz, uncharacteristically weird instrumental sections and ample variety. It's a pretty lame attempt at an ambitious 'epic' if I ever I saw one, but taken in parts rather than looking at the twenty minutes as a whole, there are moments where I'm left to question if I may have had Abacus mistaken for a worse band than they actually are. Of course, there's always a weak idea around the corner to prove my original thought right.

Perhaps I feel somewhat more warmly towards Everything You Need, if only because Abacus have cleared the worst issues related to inconsistency up for the most part. I can still safely call it an inferior album to the debut however; there are no moments of potential greatness like "Cappucino" here; every minute of the album testifies to their mediocrity this time around. Ah well; they tried to tackle a twenty minute side-long epic, so that deserves some sort of acknowledgement. Right?

 Abacus by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.37 | 54 ratings

Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by 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.

 Abacus by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.37 | 54 ratings

Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by 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.

 Destiny by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 2010
2.95 | 18 ratings

Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars German outfit ABACUS is among the pioneers of the progressive rock genre, issuing its debut album back in 1971 and with three more productions released prior to splitting up in the middle of the decade. After a brief reunion a few years later, they went into an elongated hiatus, reforming again towards the end of the 90's with a new album appearing back in 2001. "Destiny" is the second album by the reformed version of this act, and was released by Musea Records in 2010.

While "Destiny" isn't a production that makes me raise my eyebrows in any way whatsoever, I'd suspect that those who generally find music described as pomp rock to be of interest are ones who should give this disc a spin. Relatively easygoing songs blending hard rock and soft rock themes with art rock flurries on top in the shape of richly layered keyboards is the main course, with two epic-length creations that add a more distinct art rock expression as dessert.

 Abacus by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.37 | 54 ratings

Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by 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.


P.A. RATING: 4/5

 Midway by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 1973
2.45 | 24 ratings

Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by fusionfreak

1 stars Not so far ago,I was at an auction,spending my time looking for some good old seventies progrock to buy and I came across one of my friends who had nice stuff to sell:Asoka,Flower Travellin Band, Brainticket and so on.This friend was talking with another seller who wanted to trade this Abacus release.My friend was dubious so he played the record and there was light:below average playing all over the disc and the first track not unlike Joe Dassin or Michel Sardou.Don't waste your time and don't think you failed to find krautrock's best kept secret.
 Abacus by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.37 | 54 ratings

Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by 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.

 Fire Behind Bars by ABACUS album cover Studio Album, 2001
2.13 | 11 ratings

Fire Behind Bars
Abacus Crossover Prog

Review by Prog-jester
Prog Reviewer

2 stars I haven't heard other albums from that band - it's a pity because I guess their earlier material was better. Anyway, a huge comeback in Prog circles rarely becomes successful. This is a Pop-Prog album in 80s vein, but not that cute. ELP influence can be clearly heard in keys' work, but the whole stuff is closer to ALAN PARSONS or 80s FLOYDian style. A music for grown-ups - AOR, it seems. It would be at least good album, but it has two killers - "Helping-Hand-Song" and "Loser" - and they both are CHEESY AS HELL! I ain't sure anybody would enjoy them heartfully. Not recommended unless you're a collector/completionist
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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