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Birth Control - Birth Control Live  CD (album) cover


Birth Control


Heavy Prog

3.14 | 44 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars 10/15P.: an unusually convincing and groovy live album from Germany with kind of a cult status. Blues rock, lots of classical and jazz inspirations and roaring vocals, but filled to the brim with lots of jams and drum solos - not enough composition to be a masterpiece.

Birth Control are one of those superb hard rock bands coming from Germany which nearly nobody knows who is coming from other countries than Germany. To me escpecially this album by Birth Control is a very pleasant affair since the band plays the good old Krautrock in its pure and great manner. One may argue if the music is really that what is defined as Krautrock ... maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but if I want to describe the music more detailled, I can says that you get to hear some very 'earthy' blues/jazz rock with roaring Hammond organs, blaring guitars, rough vocals and a very rhythm-based foundation of the drums and the bass which includes small rhythmical changesbut in general stays in 4/4- or 12/8-metres - just like the music of Ten Years After, Deep Purple, Manfred Mann's Earth Band or Uriah Heep which sound quite similar to Birth Control. The best comparison is any case Colosseum - they are surely one of the most prominent idols of Birth Control.

In fact Birth Control seem to be exactly what progressive rock is not. But unlike the loads of other German groups who sound like bad clones of the British contemporary bands, there are pretty intelligent arrangements are done very intelligently; there's quite a lot of jamming, and one lengthy drum solo would be better than three similar lengthy drum solos, but keyboarder Zeus Held fills The Work is Done with lots of different improvisations - a saxophone solo here, inbetween some classical playing and some atonal Hammond organ there. It's not a jam-fest on some standard chord progressions, but you may also listen to many parts inbetween that are composed and which give the whole album structure. But at first, since nobody knows this band, I will give you a wee bit of information regarding the history of the band and the record.

Birth Control are a German band coming from Berlin, founded in 1968. Their first drummer Hugo Egon Balder is rather popular for his (mostly embarassing) TV shows in Germany, in most of the cases 'chart shows' with occasional gigs of some halfdead one-hit-wonder performers of the 1960s who playback their old hit in the show. Balder soon left the band, being replaced by drummer/singer Bernd Noske, becoming the band's leader and lead singer. On this album, recorded live on Birth Control's 1974 tour, the band additionally consisted of bassist/singer Peter Föller, guitarist and songwriter Bruno Frenzel and organist/saxophonist Zeus Held. The live album was recorded during the "Rebirth" tour, the only album here from which you hear two songs. Hoodoo Man and Operation are each represented by one song each while every song (except for "Shes Got Nothing on You") is extended by very lengthy improvisation parts consisting of sometimes quite jazzy, organ-driven hard-rock - making the songs clock at 20 minutes at most.

The first one, The Work is Done is one of those longtracks (though 'only' 18 minutes long), originally coming from the Operation-LP and starting with swelling Hammond B3 sounds sounding quite like the organ sound of "July Morning". Later the whole band starts in to a great driving rhythm by Nossi, funky Hammond organ and percussive guitar sounds. When Nossi's fairly crude vocals enter the listener might be reminded of Afroamerican blues ("Give me shelter, I'm a lonely boy, I have just killed someone"), though the speaker in this case is an American Vietnam war soldier ("The work is done, I have just killed a child, you know, down in Vietnam"); Birth Control often dealt with this topic, here with the same type of lyrics as the Hiroshima song I Come And Stand at Every Door, performed by the Byrds in 1966. Writing about what a dead child does not need when it's dead (parents, food, sweets etc.) is one of the most striking ways to talk about this topic. The main song is over after five minutes, the following 12 minutes are mainly improvisations by the whole band. At first, Hammond organist Zeus Held jams on his saxophone on and gives the song a Colosseum- or Caravan-like course. Noske accompanies the solos with some nice percussion work, but switches to his drum kit again for some bars of guitar solo in which Zeus Held plays a funky electric piano. A very nice proggy, pastoral Hammond organ solo in the style of Eloy follows until some minutes later Birth Control reprise the refrain of the piece until bassist Peter Föller and Nossi throw vocal lines at each other, in the end covering Ten Years After's I'm Going Home with frantic drum accompaniment. A really great and diverse performance with a distinct German sound.

Back from Hell, taken from the Rebirth album, really sounds a bit like Manfred Mann's Earth Band's "Messin'" (though without the Moog jams) with kind of dialogue vocals, Peter Föller singing the first verse, Nossi responding to it in the second verse. The rhythm is rather intricate, making the song really sound a bit proggy, with an omnipresent Hammond organ reminding me a bit of Ken Hensley's organ. Really great are the little humorous hooks that can be heard everywhere in the piece, for example the small "Chopsticks" citation in the first part. After the vocal part Zeus Held jams on his organ to a start-stop- accompaniment of the band. A fast, dynamic rock sequence introduces Nossi's drum solo with his popular fast bass drum play, often playing the drums while standing on the back of the bass drum (unfortunately you cannot see him doing that here, so I don't know if he already played like that on this CD). In the end the band enters again, ending the song in an orgy of noise. Also a very outstanding piece, especially for this great drum solo.

The following song, the longest on this CD, is often celebrated as the classic piece of the band, Gamma Ray (from Hoodoo Man), and was even heard by a fan in a German disco last year (!). This song benefits from a perfectly composed vocal part: neatly integrated classical lines in the pre-chorus, a stormy rhythm and some sociocritical, idealist and sufficiently spacy lyrics. Starting with distorted wah-wah guitars and the signature blues riff of guitarist Bruno Frenzel the band enters with a shuffling hard rock rhythm while Noske recites a text about deficits of the modern society ('the world is pervaded with irony, hunger and corruption' etc.). After the hard rocking main piece you hear a psychedelic guitar solo with Frenzel fiddling about on the tuning mechanism of his guitar and later sounding like a much heavier Mick Box. The following drum solo features the whole band clapping or knocking around on the stage, on their instruments or on Nossi's big percussion collection, creating kind of a Latin atmosphere before Held (e-piano), Nossi (vocals) and Frenzel (guitar) trade licks. After a short passage which features the whole band making strange noises Held has another solo on the organ, the first real solo without any accompanying instruments with heavy classical influences before he ends this improvisation monster track with a rock'n'roll tune on his electric piano and the sounds of his organ engine. A giant longtrack, quite entertaining and without throwing instruments all over the stage.

The first encore now is the more conventional, fast rock'n'roll tune She's Got Nothing on You, sung greatly by bassist Peter Föller, backed by the quavering voice of Nossi. The band keeps it short which is rather nice after those three long pieces. The organ sound and the mildly crunchy guitar parts remind of Deep Purple of the Burn era.

The last song is the fun track of the CD, a 10-minute-edition of Little Richard's hit Long Tall Sally (maybe a pendant to Deep Purple's rendition of 'Lucille') with a great wailing blues harp from Zeus Held playing unisono with the guitar, emptying in a Manfred-Mann's-Earth-Band like improvisation which has nothing to do with the original song. After a funny audience-band interaction they play the refrain again and finish the gig after loud applause of the audience. A nice way to end a concert, but such pieces are always better in concert than they are on LP.

Live is the "Made in Japan" of Germany - a loud and charismatic Birth Control gig with lots of good improvisations which represent the German hard rock scene quite well; if you like 1970s jam rock with a sophisticated prog twist, you'll enjoy this since this band is really confident and convincing in what they play. The long improvisations and the fact that one of four LP sides completely consists of plain rock'n'roll abate the rating to a really good 3 star rating overall. If you aren't sure whether to buy it or not - just watch the mighty "Gamma Ray" video which is linked in the Progarchives and decide whether you like it or not - though the live recording of the song on this CD is a bit slower.

Einsetumadur | 3/5 |


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