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The Cosmic Jokers - The Cosmic Jokers CD (album) cover


The Cosmic Jokers



3.95 | 137 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The sordid tale of The Cosmic Jokers is well known by now: how producer/svengali Rolf- Ulrich Kaiser organized several LSD jam sessions with members of ASH RA TEMPEL and WALLENSTEIN, and then began releasing LPs without permission from (or the knowledge of) the musicians themselves.

Not lost in the resulting scandal was the awkward fact that at least on this first album the Jokers played some of the most urgent and exploratory Space Rock ever heard, in Germany or anywhere else. If the whole thing had been legitimate from the start The Cosmic Jokers would now be recognized as Krautrock's ultimate supergroup, instead of a strictly makeshift party of psychedelic moonlighters exploited by a misguided visionary with a weakness for hallucinogenic drugs.

Fans of early Ash Ra Temple will feel right at home, especially since the album follows the same blueprint as that band's better efforts: one LP-side of energetic jamming; the other a long, ambient chill-out. Both halves include some of guitarist Manuel Göttsching's most inspired soloing, subtle and intense at the same time, with the meaty subterranean bass of producer/engineer Dieter Dierks giving the music its ominous momentum, embellished by what sounds like every flanger and phase effect filter in West Germany at the time.

Klaus Schulze's contributions are less obvious, or at any rate less distinctive for an artist of his ambition and influence, limited more or less to vague atmospherics and the occasional eruption of synthesized noise, perhaps one reason why he always regarded these sessions with such outspoken disdain. But he would soon afterward re-team with drummer Harald Großkopf for his own solo variation of the same kosmische voyage, on albums like "Moondawn" and the "Body Love" soundtracks.

The Cosmic Jokers quickly attained an almost mythic status as the classic Krautrock band that never was. Even today there's something very compelling, very unsettling about this music, and it isn't just the underhanded way it was recorded and sold. If R.U. Kaiser was truly hoping to capture some sort of blissfully altered cosmic consciousness he missed by a light year, tapping instead into an altogether darker corner of the counterculture experience. And the joke was ultimately on Kaiser himself, who quickly found himself facing legal action, ignominy, and exile.

But this one album, by itself, may have been worth a lot of his subsequent grief. And while I would never argue that the ends in any way justified such unethical means, the evidence here suggests there may have been at least some method to his madness.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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