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Grobschnitt - Solar Music - Live CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.59 | 203 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars First a personal note: I'm not sure why I waited so long to review Grobschnitt's celebrated 1978 live album, a fixture in my own music library for over three decades (and counting). It might have simply been an act of courtesy, extended to an unmistakable classic obviously not in need of yet another cheerleader. Pardon the clumsy metaphor, but why bother even trying to gild an already five-star, 14-karat lily?

On the other hand, it's a hard album to over-praise. The live Solar Music marked a creative zenith not only for this hardworking German group, but arguably also for Progressive Rock itself in the waning days of its influence and popularity. At a time when most Prog Rockers were already showing symptoms of terminal decadence and redundancy, this unlikely band of Teutonic extroverts managed to organize all their conflicting musical impulses - psychedelia, symphonic rock, vaudeville humor - into an epic 55-minutes of near- miraculous showmanship, actually the second half of a single evening's performance (and what a gig that must have been!)

By this stage in their shifting musical evolution the obvious point of reference was post- "Dark Side of the Moon" Pink Floyd (that barking dog in the distant background of "Solar Music II" recalls an almost identical sound effect from the "Animals" album, released one year earlier). But the comparison needs to be flipped: this is what Pink Floyd should have sounded like in 1978, reaching for the same local star they once set their controls toward, instead of building that clunky, godawful wall.

And unlike the Floyd there's a welcome element of humor in the space rock of Grobschnitt. Note the (deliberate?) false start at about the three-minute mark here, just before the band settles into the first of many killer one-chord jams. And the irrepressible percussionist / clown Joachim Ehrig (alias Eroc) has his finest moment on record when, during an ominous pause in the music, he poses the immortal question, "...would you like to sit on your bum, on the surface...of the sun??" (cue the maniacal shriek and frantic drum roll, please)

Even without the missing visual cues (costumes, props, alarming pyrotechnics during an indoor performance) it's a remarkably sustained piece of music, revised and reworked through constant practice on stage and in the studio until it became a part of the band's collective DNA (see the 1974 album "Ballerman" for a more earthbound version of the same cosmic voyage). The whole thing builds to a fever pitch before resolving itself in a coda of unexpected grace and beauty; later releases (not my Metronome CD, sadly) even include a thirteen-minute encore.

It's difficult to believe a small percentage of Progarchive reviewers rate the album as non- essential, or worse: for collectors only. "Solar Music Live" is one of the pinnacles of the European Prog Rock experience, and in my own collection remains in steady rotation after more than thirty years of ownership, first on vinyl, then on audio cassette (after foolishly selling the LP in my post-punk immaturity), and finally on compact disc, where the complete performance can finally be enjoyed without that abrupt interruption between Sides One and Two. And isn't longevity always the first mark of a true masterpiece?

Neu!mann | 5/5 |


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