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Eclectic Prog • Germany

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Joy Unlimited biography

Formed Mannheim, Germany, 1966 (as JOY & THE HIT KIDS). Disbanded 1976.

A blues rock outfit called JOY & THE HIT KIDS, which had been playing mostly cover songs since 1966, rebranded itself in 1969 by changing its name to JOY UNLIMITED to reflect their new progressive ideas, and began playing technical, folky prog rock - releasing a debut album in 1970 followed by three heavy concept albums before dissolving in 1976.

One of the band's founders was Roland HECK on acoustic and electric pianos and vibraphone. His counterpart was Gerd KÖETHE on flutes and saxophones. It was at Mannheim's music school where they met the other band members between 1966 and 1970. These were Albin METZ on bass, Dieter KINDL on guitar, Hans HERKENNE on drums, a couple of rotating others and an incredibly talented female blues and soul singer called Joy FLEMING.

In their early years the group were in demand all over the Continent, and after their appearance at the Dusseldorf Jazz And Pop Festival in 1968 they were voted as top group of the year for both 1968 and 1969 in a German music poll.

Their first album under the new name was confusingly released in 1970 as 'Overground' in Germany, 'Turbulence' in the UK and 'Joy Unlimited' in the United States. It's a superb blend of psych, funk and pop, boasting the powerhouse vocals of Joy FLEMING, an array of guitar and organ textures and breaks and samples galore, but it was only when they received a commission from the Stadttheater in Bonn to write and produce music for a ballet that the band really took off artistically.

Having been initially signed to the Polydor label, when that contract expired the band signed with the newly founded BASF label, and the resulting album, 'Schmetterlinge', was released in 1971 on the legendary Krautrock imprint Pilz - this being a sub-label of BASF. The music is a bold mix of ballet music, progressive sounds, blues & jazz, with the title being the corresponding German word for 'Butterfly'. The album is about the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly in three sections, which is considered to be a symbol of human development.

Joy FLEMING, who had been the singer of the band since its inception in 1966, departed after 'Schmetterlinge', and embarked on a solo career. She remained active for many years as a jazz, blues and soul singer, and sang Germany's entry at the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest.

Joy FLEMING was replaced by American singer Ken TRAYLO...
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JOY UNLIMITED Videos (YouTube and more)

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JOY UNLIMITED discography

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

3.55 | 11 ratings
3.96 | 26 ratings
3.13 | 21 ratings
0.00 | 0 ratings
Instrumental Impressions
3.86 | 21 ratings

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

JOY UNLIMITED Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

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


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Reflections by JOY UNLIMITED album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.13 | 21 ratings

Joy Unlimited Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

2 stars Wow, here's an album that could have been titled 'Spinal Tap: the Lost Years". These guys don't seem to be able to decide what kind of band they want to be when they grow up, so rather than take the time to decide they simply threw in a little bit of everything onto one record and hoped for the best. The result is mixed, pretty good when they clicked but bordering on rock caricatures when they didn't.

On the upside there's something for just about everyone here, including a bracing Krautrock number with heavy organ ("Ocean of Ruins"); a sort of pseudo-medieval folk-rock piece appropriately titled "King Richard's Court Jester"; the requisite rock-opera / pompously-introspective ballad ("Chrystal Palace"); and an all-out freeform jazz jam assault featuring some pretty wicked saxophone and even a little flute ("Motion Is Movement / Hate Nine and Ten"). And of course no 1973 progressive rock album would be complete without a 'back to the roots' folksy and heavily acoustic tune (also pretty pompous) which the band delivers here with "The Search for Father Time". I kept having eighties flashbacks to a 12 inch Stonehenge and life-sized alien space-egg bubbles the whole time this thing was playing. Too bad I got rid of those stereo volume stick-on labels that went to eleven!

By the time this album, the band's third came out their best gimmick (vocalist Joy Fleming) was gone, replaced by some unknown American named Ken Taylor. The band must have known something about their fans' preferences though as Taylor doesn't do much actual singing here, with several songs being completely instrumental and other having long stretches of solos and guitar/organ forays. When he does pipe up the lyrics don't seem to make much sense (on "Silently Sung" for example, which was sung but obviously not silently). The lyrics seem to have been written mostly in that mid-seventies style with pretentiously-poetic and vaguely allegorical words meant to appeal to red-eyed, lighter- waving teens with lithe blonde chicks on their shoulders at open-air summer concerts. Which I'm sure is a scene that played out many times for these guys.

The best may have been saved for last with the closing "Question" which features quite appealing organ passages, extensive flute and acoustic guitar, and once again burningly searching lyrics quite appropriate to the day (namely, the question "Why?" earnestly repeated over and over in varying tempos and volumes).

I've heard the band's first and last albums, both of which are borderline progressive folk offerings. This one isn't, although the flute, acoustic guitar and varied hand percussion instruments including marimba and vibes might lead one to conclude otherwise. In reality these guys were journeyman musicians, good enough artists to make a living at what they did but lacking the sort of vision and talent to ever break into the A league. If you're interested in the band I'd recommend their first and last albums, in that order. This one is okay, but pretty much of interest only to fans. Two stars.


 Schmetterlinge by JOY UNLIMITED album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.96 | 26 ratings

Joy Unlimited Eclectic Prog

Review by clarke2001
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Great little record!

For the start, I must say it's a bit incoherent. However, although it's distancing this record from a masterpiece status, it's also giving it quite a dose of charm.

First off, vocals. I was convinced that powerful female vocal was coming from the throat of African origin; it turned out singer is a small white girl. But what a power! Powerful, ranging from clean to raspy, sometimes pleasantly overdubbed. Lots of soul and rhythm 'n' blues influences.

But what is this? What are we talking about?

It's difficult to explain. It's definitely a German record, krautrock elements, although not omnipresent, are very evident. Also, the Germany-style catchy melodies, simple but perfectly working within a context - it's hard to explain. Like GROBSCHNITT at their best, but this band has nothing to do with them.

There's also a lot of blues and soul, as mentioned. In fact there are a couple of straightforward, non-prog tunes, and I'm glad the band wasn't petrified in one genre. There's also a cool blues number with German lyrics and good vibraphone. I don't understand anything of German language, except 'Kleine, komm hier'. Speaking of, lyrics are often sexually tinged (which is awesome with such a voice), or naive in it's hippie ideology.

Other aspects worth mentioning are psychedelic rock, saxophone, some heavy rock, powerful Hammond and very good, tight, funky grooves. Now try to fuse everything; it's bizarre as it gets.

This is pointless. I don't have the words to describe it. If you imagine Eclectic Prog as some wacky version of prog, to sinister for jazz rock, to angular for Symphonic, and now try to imagine all that mixed with SOUL MUSIC...and..I mentioned it's a good record, didn't I?

Thanks to clarke2001 for the artist addition. and to NotAPrRoghead for the last updates

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