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SIXTY-NINE

Symphonic Prog • Germany


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Sixty-Nine biography
SIXTY-NINE is a little known German progressive rock duo formed in 1969 by Armin Stwe (organ, piano, synthesizer, guitar, vocals) and Roland Schupp (drums, percussion, gongs). SIXTY-NINE gained significant popularity as a live act and consequently had the opportunity to play, often as an opening act, at a variety of rock festivals with the likes of popular bands such as GOLDEN EARRING, AMON DL II, UFO, BEGGAR'S OPERA, PETE YORK, WEST BRUCE & LAING, BIRTH CONTROL, JUD'S GALLERY, AGITATION FREE, FRUMPY, and GURU GURU.

The band produced their only studio album in 1973, Circle of the Crayfish, on PHILLIPS Records. On side 2 of the album there were 2 tracks including the lengthy 15 minute "Paradise Lost". A live album was released in 1974 titled simply "Live!", a double album with material recorded from performances in Hamburg and Mainz. All of the material on the live album was new and 3 sides featured only 2 tracks, with one of considerable length. A few months following this release SIXTY-NINE disbanded. After the break up Stwe founded, together with the collaboration of Reinhard Karwatky and Ingo Werner, the prog trio AIR. Stwe also worked in GENERAL ELECTRONIC PLASTIC STUDIO (which was created by Stwe and Werner), where he developed many innovative synthesizers and other electronic gadgets along with speaker systems.

In 2005 Armin Stwe committed suicide in an old army barrack near Berlin. This location housed a plethora of keyboard and synthesizer rarities such as PPG-based computers, Oberheim synthesizer, Moog Modular System and hundreds more items, where Stwe had spent the last years of his life. Roland Schupp's career after SIXTY-NINE disbanded is unknown.

The music of duo SIXTY-NINE is a mix of symphonic progressive rock & Krautrock. Stwe's organ playing is similar to the style of THE NICE or EMERSON LAKE & PALMER, so the KEITH EMERSON influences are evident in their music. Stwe's vocals are similar the style of LEE JACKSON. Stwe played a typical collection of keyboards featuring Hammond organ, Minimoog, Hohner Clavinet, and bass-pedal dominates the music. Overall SIXTY-NINE can be recommended to fans of other duo bands, such as HANSSON & KARLSSON, HARDIN & YORK, RUSTICHELLI & BORDINI, TWOGETHER, as well as popular bands including EMERSON LAKE & PALMER, THE NICE, ATILA and MAGMA.

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SIXTY-NINE discography


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

3.14 | 15 ratings
Circle Of The Crayfish
1973

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

4.00 | 6 ratings
Live!
1974

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SIXTY-NINE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Circle Of The Crayfish by SIXTY-NINE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.14 | 15 ratings

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Circle Of The Crayfish
Sixty-Nine Symphonic Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Sixty-Nine were a German duo formed in (you guessed it) 1969 by a young keyboardist and guitarist Armin Stowe and a drummer and percussionist Roland Schupp. Three years later, the group recorded their only studio album Circle Of The Crayfish followed by a live-cut Live! album one year later. These are the only known releases from the outfit.

Throughout the years, we have come across numerous organ-driven threesomes: Emerson Lake & Palmer, Egg, Triumvirat to name a few. However, duos are rather uncommon. Sixty-Nine is one of them. Their style may highly likely remind the listener of the previously mentioned organ-centric bands, especially Triumvirat. The duo fuses elements of heavy hard rock rhythm of Deep Purple, keyboard virtuosity of Keith Emerson, and their own Krautrock-esque factor. Jazz influence is reflected in rapid rhythms and lengthy improvisational passages.

Armin Stowe is undeniably an incredibly talented musician, regardless of what you think of the band. He often uses foot pedals of his Hammond organ to compensate for the lack of a bass guitar. Ironically, I often find there is too much low end in the mix, which blurs the rest of the sound, giving it a rather unpleasant feel. Stowe provides a wide plethora of sounds, including fuzz organ, synthesizers, pianos as well as dreamy electronics. The inspiration of Keith Emerson or his countryman Jurgen Fritz is evident. He rarely sings, but his voice has a dark, bass timbre, similar to that of Lee Jackson of The Nice. Roland Schupp's drumming is incredibly heavy. However, it goes far beyond just simple rhythmical structures. He often finds himself in more complicated scenarios, which include a blast-beat technique, commonly found in jazz and metal and odd time signatures. Despite that, I feel like his playing lacks finesse a lot of the time.

Circle Of The Crayfish consists of six tracks. These are not characterized by a great diversity whatsoever, too often do they sound all to similar. However, they are not bad by any means. Yes, they might me a bit dull and unremarkable, but they feature some really interesting moments. The longest track on the album, 'Paradise Lost' opens with a moody ambient texture, which than resolves into a washy-bashy theme, typical of the band. 'Ballast' is probably the most classical-oriented piece with allusions to 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' as well as a few other classical pieces.

All in all, Sixty Nine's only studio release, Circle Of The Crayfish, is a pretty solid effort. There is nothing original or innovative about it, but there is nothing particularly unpleasant about it either. Maybe with an exception of the low-budget production. This album is mainly centered on highlighting the band members' virtuosity rather than the compositional factor. Fans of Emerson Lake & Palmer, Atomic Rooster, The Nice, and Triumvirat should find this album a decent listening experience. Three stars!

 Circle Of The Crayfish by SIXTY-NINE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.14 | 15 ratings

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Circle Of The Crayfish
Sixty-Nine Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars A progressive rock duo,which started as a regular band in 1969 in Bad Kreuznach under the guidance of 19-years old keyboardist Armin Stwe.Soon the band was shortened to a duo with Stwe taking over the guitars as well,while next to him was drummer Ronald Schupp.By the fall of 1972 the duo recorded their sole studio release ''Circle of the Crayfish''.The album was released the next year on Phillips.

The sound on the album is keyboard-driven Hard Prog, dominated by Stwe's keyboards supported by Schupp's powerful and technical drumming.The opening ''Ballast'' is a fast- groove track,featuring some hard guitar playing along with driving organ and steady drumming.''Kolibri'' is more in an E.L.P. vein with alternating jazzy and classical-inspired themes.Good organ and piano throughout along with impressive drumming.''Becoming older'' is the first track with vocals.Actually the vocals are supported by melodic organ-driven rock,soon to be replaced by hard jammming parts,very close to FRUMPY.Journey is more of the same.Long jamming along with classical-inspired passages and some vocal parts.The 15-min. ''Paradise lost'' opening the flipside is quite a (bad) surprise and far from the previous style.It opens with an ultra-long intro,featuring synths and gongs,close to Electronic-Kraut to be followed by another very long fast organ/synth/drums jamming with repetitive rhythms till the end.The vocal part by the last minutes will not save it from failure.The closing ''Crayfish'' is dominated by the pounding organ and the nervous synths playing,but the whole idea is rather stretched out.

''Circle Of The Crayfish'' is not the better place to start your progressive rock journey.It follows an organ-driven style many bands had already left behind by 1973 and the long jamming parts tend to be rather boring and extended along the way.Of course the album is very far from being a disaster,there are plenty of talent and good ideas among the tracks,but they are enough to record two or three good numbers and not a full-length release.For those, who can't escape themselves from a rather dated organ-driven Proto-Prog sound,this album may be of significant interest.

 Live! by SIXTY-NINE album cover Live, 1974
4.00 | 6 ratings

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Live!
Sixty-Nine Symphonic Prog

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Two years after Sixty-Nine's debut album, their concert material - called simply "Live!" - was released. This effort however sounded a bit different compared to the first work. It's still organ-driven prog-rock but unlike the debut, we can witness much more vocal parts (don't worry, still everything is sang in English) and Moog synthesizer's solos/weird effects. What's more important, is that they didn't play any tracks from their eponymous disk so all songs on "Live!" are completely new (maybe some of them are other artists' covers, who knows...), so we can treat it as 2nd & in the same time last "studio" recording (especially that sound quality of this concert is usually very good).

Anyway, let's check the songs one by one:

1. "Just Right Here And Now" - first song sounds like mix of heavy prog a la Atomic Rooster, joyful rock'n'roll and ... soul/blues style in the vain of Joe Cocker or maybe even more Ray Charles. Sounds strange? Surely! Overall nice, ultra-fast track full of wild organ rides and some high-pitched Moog moments.

2. "Red Guitar" - another fine track very similar to the previous one. Hammond organ chops are even heavier here but especially Moog solos are stunning here. Unfortunately more and more annoying Armin Stowe's vocal (seems he tries to sing like Elton John & Robert Plant in the same time...) with this horrible "Honey, honey!!" repetitions spoil fun quite much. BTW name of the song is "Red Guitar" but just like in the whole album, there is no sign of guitar tones here.

3. "Little Country Girl" - very mainstream sounding piece of childish rock'n'roll led by danceable electric piano & organ beats. Stupid screams & bike ring tones don't help at all. Honky piano is also not a thing I expect in my prog-rock collection. Bleh.

4. "7 Steps To Hell" - this composition brings drastic change of mood. After sloppy-happy "Little Country Girl", "7 Steps To Hell" delivers completely different entertainment: dark, atmospheric & deeply psychedelic piece which started with thrilling spoken part about entering the hell. Later on we can listen to fantastic set of highly energetic and melodic Hammond organ solos in the vain of Keith Emerson during his high-days. Everything is based on magic synth effects background and ultra-busy Roland Schupp's drum work. In the end there is also normal singin' section which doesn't add too much to overall impression but also doesn't spoil anything. One of the best tracks on the album and first truly progressive here.

5. "Frenzy Feelings" - very Atomic Rooster inspired composition, full of organ riffing, some rhythmic piano and so-so vocals. Sometimes they descend too much into mainstream rock'n'roll territory but in general it's not so bad. However some strange sound effects (once calmer - once louder, etc.) can be irritating for non-Krautrock lovers.

6. "Get Uno" - and here comes the first song which can be titled "an epic". 12 and half minute long mastodon called "Get Uno". It's a "standard" prog/art rock trip full of organ solos, electric piano solos and of course Moog solos + few average vocal sections. Surely good listening experience.

7. "The Confiscated Car" - okayish hard-prog song with standard-good organ work and lots of crazy synthesizer solos. Armin's voice sounds quite annoying here, very forced style of singing. But near the ending band sounds like unstoppable killing-machine of grinding organs and incredible Moog flights!

8. "Bach's Broken Trumpet" - it's a really strange track! At first we are "attacked" by grandiose pipe-organ like melody (Hammond created) which was surely inspired or maybe even written by J.S.Bach himself. And it would be fantastic idea, but unfortunately all this time somebody (probably drummer) makes completely unbearable noises of crashing/demolishing/dropping objects. It's a complete disaster 'cos this noises are truly LOUD! And we have to listen to this almost whole 5 minutes! After that Armin came starts to sing and composition metamorphoses to more "typical" prog-rock one. Some melodic Hammond solos in the second half of the song are also noteworthy. Overall it's a mixed bag and rather wasted opportunity of creating something better (if only not those ear-destroying rumbling noises in the first 5 minutes!!).

9. "7 Trouthers Walter" - beginning of the suite was clearly stolen from ELP's "Tarkus", but I don't blame them 'cos I always appreciate good-taste in stealing. After 3 minutes long "intro" Stowe starts to sings...and what a surprise, he actually sounds really melodic and overall convincing here. Surely his best vocal performance on "Live!". He also plays lots of astonishing organ and synth solos in the middle and the end of this epic. 100% pure progressive rock from 70s. That's what I like the most.

10. "Linkies Blues" - this one starts with some weird psychedelic noises created on electric organ. Something like Keith Emerson during his (in)famous stage antics. But after that guys starts to play very bluesy rhythm and this track evolves into something like weird, psychy version of "Green Onions". I can hear clear "Egg" (Canterbury rock group from England) influences in here too.

In few words: if you enjoy organ-led Emerson, Lake & Palmer/The Nice symphonic staff mixed with heavy prog a la Atomic Rooster, Bram Stoker, Frumpy, Quatermass or 2066 & Then, you simply need this second Sixty-Nine's effort. However I still recommend you to start with their debut staff, especially if you have allergy on dorky vocals.

4 starts from organ-maniac ozzy_tom (for anybody else it would be probably only 3 stars worth album, but who cares, it's my review after all :-)

 Circle Of The Crayfish by SIXTY-NINE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.14 | 15 ratings

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Circle Of The Crayfish
Sixty-Nine Symphonic Prog

Review by ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The only album of German duo "Sixty-Nine" is very good example of organ-driven Krautrock madness. Music on this disk is a mix of "The Nice"/"ELP" symphonic rock school of prog, jazz-rock in the vain of Brian Auger and some experimental, avantgarde elements.

"Circle of the Crayfish" includes only 6 compositions but they are long enough to occupy more than 43 minutes space and...your attention.

1. "Ballast" - dynamic instrumental rocker with incredibly heavy organ chops very similar to Billy Joel's style in his own "Attila" duo from early 70s. It's a truly killer track! I also love middle section where Armin Stwe plays thundering notes of Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King". Stunning piece of music with clear "Attila" and "Atomic Rooster" influences.

2. "Kolibri" - another instrumental but this time with more jazz-rock flavor. As usual it's filled with swirling organ to maximum but we can also listen to few piano passages. Can be easily compared to Brian Auger's work but it's more rocky.

3. "Becoming Older" - first track with vocals (don't worry, everything is sang in English language). For sure Stwe's singin' isn't as good as his organ playin' but it's still passable. Tons of wild eruptions organ, flashy solos and groovy rhythm. Very enjoyable song which reminds me such British bands as "Beggar's Opera", "Still Life", "Atomic Rooster" and (especially!) "Bram Stoker".

4. "Journey" - along with "Ballast" this is my favorite track on this record. While it includes some vocal parts it's mainly instrumental Hammond organ show-off. There are so many mighty B-3 riffs, melodies and solos that every Hammond freak should be satisfied. Sounds like cross between "The Nice", "Deep Purple" and "Frumpy".

5. "Paradise Lost" - first composition where things starts to go wrong. When I saw that it's 15+ minutes long, I suspected it will be some real epic track. Unfortunately the whole first part of this "suite" is fulfilled with extremely annoying synthesizer noises, random percussion sounds and sheer boredom. And it could be just some dumb gimmick, but it's more than 6 minutes long!! Torture... Thanks God after this disastrous episode "Sixty-Nine" comes back what they can do best - wild, organ-led prog (seems that usually played via Marshall Amplifier to create guitar-like overwhelming power). Some vocals parts which sound like some kind of Eastern religion prayers aren't so good, but overall Hammond freak outs are great.

6. "Crayfish" - the last track is a return to pure instrumental composition and this one really rocks hard. Stwe's Hammond chops are really skull blasting and together with crazy, high-pitched analog synthesizers shrieks they violate your ears. But in a good way of course :-). No guitar needed!

Overall "Circle of the Crayfish" is a great album with interesting Hammond B-3-driven seventies prog rock. This release is a must have for organ fanatics along with other little-known German groups: "Tyburn Tall", "Trikolon"/"Tetragon", "Murphy Blend", "Amos Key", "Twenty Sixty Six and Then", "Odin", "Frame", "Pell Mell", "Virus" or "Frumpy". If you like keyboards-oriented duos, you should also check such "micro-bands" as: "Twogether", "Magma", "Attila", "Hardin & York", "Bondar & Wise", "Rustichelli & Bordini", "Hansson & Karlsson", "Atlantis Philharmonic", "Sound Express" and "Bootcut".

4,5 stars

Thanks to atomiccrimsonrush for the artist addition.

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