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STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN)

Symphonic Prog • Germany


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Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) picture
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) biography
Much like the Moody Blues (and others), Stern-Combo Meissen (stern means star, and Meissen is their home town) started out as a rock band in the early '60s. The usual lineup and style changes occurred, until they settled into symphonic prog. This didn't happen until 1977, when they released their self-titled debut. SCM became one of the bigger East German bands of the seventies. They relied heavily on keyboards (ala Emerson and Wakeman), and classical influences.

By the release of 1980's "Reise Zum Mittelpunkt Des Menschen." They had dropped the 'Combo' from the band's name. The next two albums saw them following a familiar pattern, and pursuing more pop oriented music. In fact, 1985's "Taufrisch" was completely out of the realm of prog. After this album the band broke up.

In 1995 they reformed with most of the original members, and put the 'Combo' back in. The band still tours, and has released some live recordings. No new studio work has been done as of yet.

H.T. Riekels (bhikkhu)

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STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) discography


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STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.43 | 36 ratings
Weisses Gold
1978
2.42 | 21 ratings
Der weite Weg
1979
3.83 | 28 ratings
Stern Meissen - Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen
1980
2.22 | 13 ratings
Stern Meissen - Stundenschlag
1982
1.32 | 12 ratings
Stern Meissen - Taufrisch
1985
1.89 | 9 ratings
Stern Meissen - Nächte
1987
2.04 | 4 ratings
40 Jahre
2004
3.13 | 6 ratings
Lebensuhr
2011

STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.67 | 22 ratings
Stern-Combo Meissen
1977
3.33 | 8 ratings
Live
1996
2.80 | 5 ratings
Sachsendreier Live
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
Sachsendreier Live. Die Zweite
2007
5.00 | 2 ratings
Bilder einer Ausstellung (Pictures at an Exhibition) - The Rock Version Live
2015

STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

5.00 | 2 ratings
Sachsendreier Live
2005
5.00 | 2 ratings
Stern Combo Meissen im Theater am Potsdamer Platz
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
Stern Meißen im Konzert
2018

STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Hits
1996
3.00 | 1 ratings
Leben möcht' ich
1999
2.33 | 3 ratings
Stern Meissen - Taufrisch / Nächte
2000
3.00 | 1 ratings
Hits und Raritäten
2009
4.08 | 4 ratings
Die Original Amiga Alben (1977 - 1987, 7 CD Set)
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Sternstunden
2011

STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

1.00 | 1 ratings
Söhnchen
1975
3.00 | 2 ratings
Der Alte / Jenny
1977
0.00 | 0 ratings
Der weite Weg / Du, komm her
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Wir sind die Sonne / Deine Augen
1984
0.00 | 0 ratings
Senftenberg 2013
2014

STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Die Original Amiga Alben (1977 - 1987, 7 CD Set) by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2011
4.08 | 4 ratings

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Die Original Amiga Alben (1977 - 1987, 7 CD Set)
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

4 stars Stern Combo Meissen, "Die Original Amiga Alben". This is a box-set of the first 7 CDs released by Stern Combo Meissen on Amiga, an East German sanctioned label. If you're new to Stern Combo Meissen, and you want a quick, easy, and cheap way of getting up to speed, you might consider this box set. Here's a run-down of all 7 albums and my ratings for each. More in-depth reviews for the first 5 albums can be found under each individual album's page.

1. Stern Combo Meissen (aka "No. 1") Their first full-length release, is a mixed bag of live tracks, some excellent, and all pleasant. 3 stars.

2. Weisses Gold. Their first studio concept album. Fans of The Psychedelic Ensemble, or any keyboard driven prog will revel in this album. 4 stars.

3. Der Weite Weg. Unfortunately, this is a disappointing departure from the trajectory established by their first two albums. 2 stars.

4. Reise Zum Mittelpunkt Des Menschen. Perhaps their best effort, and certainly the one exhibiting the most ELP influence. 4 stars.

5. Stundenschlag. A transition album bridging prog and commercial pop. Still enough proggy elements to keep you entertained. 3 stars.

6. Taufrisch. Fully entrenched in the 1980's synth pop, new wave, MTV, radio music. Nicely done, but not prog. 1 star.

7. Nachte. More 1980's pop. Think Thompson Twins, Thomas Dolby, INXS. Again it's well done, but not prog. 1 star.

Four good albums, one somewhat forgettable, and two that aren't prog but are acceptably good '80's pop. Overall, a good buy. Four stars.

 Stern Meissen - Stundenschlag by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Studio Album, 1982
2.22 | 13 ratings

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Stern Meissen - Stundenschlag
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

3 stars "Stundenschlag" (translation: Hour Strike) represents the turning point that many prog bands faced in the 1980's -- a move away from the artistic (and sometimes bombastic) prog toward more commercial, radio-friendly rock. Think of Genesis "Abacab" or Yes "90215" or any of Asia's early albums.

Track 1 "So What Will Become of Me" has a striking bass motif throughout and a catchy vocal melody to boot. This track often appears in recent live performances by Stern Meissen and has become one of their signature tracks. Track 2 "The One and the Other" has a 1980's Moody Blues vocal vibe and some nice proggy interludes. Track 3 "The Couple" has clear classical influences, and for the first time in a Stern Meissen band, violin and guitar! Listen carefully to this track for its resemblance to UK's "Rendezvous" or "Nevermore" -- especially the Holdsworth-inspired guitar. Track 4 "Hour Strike" has some outstanding work on the bass guitar, and Eddie Jobson influenced violin, especially around the 3:50 mark. Track 5 "In the Same Lane" is somewhat sing-songy and forgettable. Track 6 "El Salvador" introduces a Caribbean vibe, including steel drums and conga beat, despite the fact that the country of El Salvador is on the Pacific, not the Caribbean Sea. Track 7 "I Want to Live" has some nice, engaging musical interludes, despite being a little sing-songy. Overall, it is nicely composed, balanced, arranged, and voiced.

For a transitional album, bridging the prog of old and the emerging pop sensibilities, I find this album as enjoyable as any of the aforementioned transitional albums by the great prog masters. Tracks 1, 3, and 4 are the best. If you've missed the resemblance to UK in tracks 3 and 4, give it another listen. Enjoy it for what it is, a transitional album, and not what you hoped it was. Three stars.

 Stern Meissen - Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.83 | 28 ratings

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Stern Meissen - Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

4 stars The band Stern Combo Meissen has, with this release, shortened their name to Stern Meissen. A good thing, too, as combos were a moniker of dance bands in the 1960's. "Reise Zum Mittelpunkt Des Menschen" (translation: "Journey to the Center of Man") is a concept album that tells the story of exploring ones fellow man by literally "driving into him as if into a mountain". Apparently, the lyrics on this album were much maligned in the German press, but fortunately for me, I don't speak German, and the vocal passages are minimal! On a positive note, the vocal performance in wonderfully melodic. Fans of keyboard-oriented prog will love the lush Moog, Mellotron, Hammond organ, Clavinet, and assorted polysynths (perhaps a Yamaha CS-80) on this album. The ELP influences really shine, here. Bass and percussion provide forward-leaning rhythms throughout and are brilliantly "in the pocket" with one another. One track segues directly to the next, without gaps. There were some personnel changes on this album. Martin Shreier, former drummer and bandleader, moved solely to the mixing board. Norbert Jäger who did vocals, percussion and lyrics was gone, as was drummer Werther Lohse. Michael Behm filled the drummers position, and Peger Rasym picked up the bass. This is a wonderful album which is the rightful successor to "Weisses Gold", ignoring the ignore-able "Der Weite Weg". If you're new to Stern Meissen, this (or "Weisses Gold") is a good place to start. Tracks 4 and 5 are the best. If you're a fan of ELP, this album should tickle your ossicles and fully engage your frontal lobe. Four stars.
 Der weite Weg by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Studio Album, 1979
2.42 | 21 ratings

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Der weite Weg
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

2 stars After their wonderful eponymous debut album and the tremendous second album, "Weisses Gold", I had high hopes that their third album, "Der Weite Weg" would be another step forward in the bands development as a notable prog band. It wasn't. It was a step backwards, and a large one at that. "Der Weite Weg" translates to "The Long Way", and in any long journey, there will be an inevitable pothole in the road. This album represents the pothole in their prog journey.

The first track has some decent synth work, but the vocals are mixed way to far forward, and are a vast stylistic departure from the melodic vocals on their previous albums. Track 2 has elements of light jazz/rock reminiscent of Passport (sans saxophone). Track 3 reminds me of Gentle Giant's "Think of Me With Kindness", but a little too sappy for my tastes. Track 4 is synth pop -- almost Kraftwerk-like. One German reviewer (Holger Grützner) said it best... "Awk! The first strike under the gustatory waistline. No real composition, just a few sing-along chords in an endless loop." Tracks 5-7 are an adaptation of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" -- a classical melody ruined by cheesy, amateurish synth play that reminds me of Jean Michel Jarre's "Rarities". Track 8 has an interesting jungle beat on bass and percussion, with some Depeche Mode influences on synth and vocals. Pleasant enough rhythms and melodies, but not particularly prog. Overall, the album has a few interesting passages, but they are few and far between. I'm left to wonder how this mish-mash of an album filled with cheesy synth patches could have followed the beautiful "Weisses Gold". What happened? A pothole happened. Collect your despoiled senses and move on. Two stars.

 Weisses Gold by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.43 | 36 ratings

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Weisses Gold
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

4 stars "Weisses Gold" is a studio concept album that tells the story of the development of world-famous porcelain in Meissen by the alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) who, in his attempt to produce gold in 1709, invented the first white porcelain in Europe, the so-called white gold. Listeners who really dig keyboard-centric productions, will undoubtedly love this album. Passages are rife with nods to Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and even a little Jean Michel Jarre, but most of all it reminds me of the work by The Psychedelic Ensemble on "Tale of the Golden King" -- layers of lush keyboards and synths to manifest complex compositions telling a unified story from the first note to the last. There are theatrical bits, dreamy parts, triumphant vocal lines, thunderous explosions, metal hammering, and a lot of musical imagery and drama. Track 5 "The Flight" and track 6 "Doubt" are the strongest. It would really be nice to have the lyrics for this album, as what is available on the internet does not correlate with what is recorded. Highly recommended, especially for fans of The Psychedelic Ensemble! Four stars.
 Stern-Combo Meissen by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Live, 1977
3.67 | 22 ratings

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Stern-Combo Meissen
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by wiz_d_kidd

3 stars This is the first full album released by the East German band, Stern Combo Meissen. The bands name translates to "Star Combo Meissen" - Meissen being their home city, now famous for their porcelain production. The eponymous album title is sometimes listed as "No. 1" in compilation releases.

The first track, translated to "The Fight for the South Pole" tells the story about Amundsen and Scott in their fight to be the first to reach the south pole and how the winner's name would be remembered after death. The race, incidentally, was won by Amundsen. All of the lyrics are sung in their native German language which I don't understand, but that doesn't bother me because the vocals are pleasantly melodic and present themselves as just another instrument in the band. The track starts with some cool, windy synth effects that could have been lifted from Jean Michel Jarre's Equinox. The most prominent feature throughout the piece, however, is the bass play, which provides a head-nodding rhythm to keep the track moving forward. This track has become a signature piece that the band often plays in their live sets, even to this day.

The second track, "The Old Man on the Dump" presents a 1980's pop feel, which would become their dominant style on later albums. The song tells the story of a 70 year old man and his dog who sort through and guard the rubble in the dump as a way of making themselves feel useful. Parts of the track remind me of Thomas Dolby, and there's even a brief harmonic vocal (da-ba-dum) passage that conjures up early Yes. Again the bass play is front and center.

Track three, "Mothers Go Away Without a Sound" tells the story of ones mother fading from our life -- a victim of our haste. It's a soft piece, with nicely melodic vocals and simple keyboard lines.

Track four, "One Night on the Bald Mountains" is a Modest Mussorgsky composition with a "musical recast" by Stern Combo Meissen. The track starts with ominous, foreboding synth sound effects that gives way to multiple, layered keyboards and the ever-present forward bass play. This track gives the first hint at something like Keith Emerson -- i.e. classical training applied to modern (at the time) synths, with nimble-fingered keyboard work. The chosen synth patches and style of play all bring Keith Emerson to mind. The vocal track at the end, about lovelessness and loneliness, obviously veers away from Mussorgsky's tone poem about witches and devilry. Well performed, perhaps the best track on the album.

The fifth track, "Light in the Dark" is a vocal-centric track, somewhat theatrical at times, about man's discovery of fire to provide both light and warmth. There is some nice keyboard work in the second half of the track, with a great bass guitar foil behind it. Overall, the track is a little scattered, style-wise and mood-wise. It presents many nice moments, but not well integrated compositionally. Perhaps a better comprehension of the German lyrics would have helped me mentally tie it all together.

Overall, this album is a nice listen. While there are some weaker tracks (2,3,5) among the stronger tracks (1,4), they are not unpleasant or distracting from the overall enjoyment of the album. A fine debut album. I give it 3 stars.

 Lebensuhr by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.13 | 6 ratings

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Lebensuhr
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by Lewian
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is the first proper studio album (actually a double album) with new songs of the Stern-Combo after 24 years, although the band was touring pretty much all the time in between. The album is of very limited appeal to the prog purist; although some material is more advanced listening than on their pure pop albums "Taufrisch" and "Nächte", it is in the first place a further collection of mostly radio-friendly pop songs, although with some sophistication.

Nevertheless it is an interesting album, and assessed against what it aims to be, it is quite good. The band always had a weak spot for mildly philosophical lyrics on the general path of life, and this is the strongest theme again on "Lebensuhr" ("clock of life"). Except that this time indeed the path of life of some band members is near its end. Founding member Norbert Jaeger left the band shortly before the release of "Lebensuhr" and passed away in 2016. Keyboarder Thomas Kurzhals, for Lebensuhr returned to the band, left this planet in 2014, and long term Stern-Combo singer Reinhard Fissler was diagnosed in 2000 with ALS (the disease from which Stephen Hawking suffers), was in a wheelchair and had difficulties to communicate by the time Lebensuhr was recorded. His Lebensuhr ceased to tick in 2016.

Fissler wrote the most impressive track on Lebensuhr, "Mal seh'n wohin die Reise geht" (Let's see where the journey goes); actually the only track on which he is present. This track hints at some of Stern Meissen's and some more general musical history, and can surely be interpreted as some kind of swansong. Fissler obviously worked very hard to put the vocals together for this song, very clearly marked by his illness. It seems that at times he could only sing one or two words and the melody was pieced together of lots of attempts. He doesn't sound "good" or healthy but this is a truly unique and unforgettable performance. The composition is quite complex with unusual chord progressions and quite quirky jazzy keyboards, but at the same time surprisingly relaxed and uplifting. For me, this track alone already justifies the acquisition of Lebensuhr.

Apart from this highlight, the quality of the songs is mixed. Some songs ("Der zweite Blick", "Prima Klima", "Ein Tag, ein Jahr und ein Leben") are cringeworthy, some are fairly pleasant but nothing special ("Das kurze Leben des Raimund S.", "Verlieren ist sinnlos", "So geseh'n"), and some are pretty good ("Es geht die Zeit", "Die Zeder von Jerusalem", "Zeugen dieser Zeit", the dynamic instrumental "TNTK", the tasteful ballads Waldesstille and the excellent "Ewigkeit"). Apart from "Mal seh'n...", all can be classified as easy listening, but with high musicality and taste over most of the distance, and very well executed (like on earlier Stern-Combo albums, a nod goes to the bassist, this time Robert Brenner).

I'll be generous and give it 3 stars because I'm overall delighted that this band came up with something like this as recent as 2011. "Mal seh'n..." and "Ewigkeit" are really strong and much of the rest is pleasant enough but honestly most prog fans will want to steer away from this.

 Stern Meissen - Stundenschlag by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Studio Album, 1982
2.22 | 13 ratings

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Stern Meissen - Stundenschlag
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by Lewian
Prog Reviewer

3 stars It is very clear why "Stundenschlag" is not that popular in these quarters, as it marks a turning point of Stern Meissen to more radio friendly and straightforward songs and away from what we'd call the "progressive" style. Apparently, on the other side of the iron curtain, bands were not immune to this virus either, that befell many of our heroes around this time.

That said, I don't think that Stundenschlag deserves to be treated more harshly than the style change of many western bands around the same time or a few years earlier. Actually, as a transition album, Stundenschlag still has traces of the good old values. The instrumentalists are the same as on the marvellous "Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen" and they haven't suddenly lost their quality. Guitarist Uwe Hassbecker is actually a welcome addition, he certainly knows what to do with his instrument, and bassist Peter Rasym is as creative and dynamic here as he was on the "Reise". Fissler does some more vocals here than on the predecessor, which is also good, because he is a quality singer. I have no complaints about the occasionally added percussion either. There are two pretty strong tracks for the prog listener. "Das Paar" is just wonderful, a very nice dreamy atmosphere with classically inspired keyboards, and its length allows for some twists and turns. "Also Was Soll Aus Mir Werden" is a tasteful understated opener with good vocals and a surprising instrumental interlude.

The remaining songs are not prog by any means, but the majority of them is still of solid quality, very well executed and with some good ideas, and you may find some of them quite catchy. The styles are quite eclectic, you find funk, disco, ballad, melodic keyboard-oriented rock. The rhythm section adds some jazzy feel at times, and Thomas Kurzhals doesn't sound in the least like Keith Emerson anymore. Admittely you also find the odd annoying sound, arrangement or lyrics. I'm very keen on the Stern right now and think that this is easily worth three stars although there are days on which my impression of this is more dominated by its flaws than by its qualities, so it shouldn't have more than three either.

 Stern Meissen - Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.83 | 28 ratings

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Stern Meissen - Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by Lewian
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Apparently Stern (Combo) Meissen were on stage in the mid- to end-seventies an absolute legend in the GDR but had to struggle with censorship, so their published regular albums mostly didn't do them much justice, and after the "Reise" they turned their backs on prog and morphed into an at times hardly endurable pop group.

"Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen" is quite an exception to this. It's a very fine album, although it came in 1980 too late - too late for what is considered to be the best time of the band, but also even in their own country the tides of music changed and the audience wanted more direct and less complex music - unfortunately it got far more of the latter than the former.

The music on "Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen" is very keyboard-oriented. There's only keyboards (two keyboarders), bass, drums and vocals. The vocals are only there for a few minutes, but these few minutes demonstrate very well the quality of the vocalist, Reinhard Fissler, and his very characteristic expressive voice. Fissler adds some warmth to the overall rather cool musical landscape on this album. The instrumental performances are very strong. Of course the keyboard work plays the key role. The Stern are obviously fans of ELP, their sound is unsurprisingly somewhat behind the "western time", and one can criticise the GDR-icon Thomas Kurzhals and Wolfgang Kramer for using a bit too much of that influence. Another reference is the West German symphonic band SFF. That said, not only are the keyboards virtuous and technically flawless, they are also somewhat less showy than Emerson's (if somewhat less wild and unpredictable). One way in which the "Reise" has an edge over all ELP work (except perhaps "Pictures at an Exhibition") is that it is very organic; it's a concept album in which all the compositions serve the overall musical message. The composition work is clearly classically influenced. There's some dynamic in terms of speed and intensity on this album, some parts are very calm and melodic, others more powerful, but overall the sound is quite homogeneous. This is in contrast to all other works of the Stern, in which there are always some attempts at different styles, at times welcome but more often than not rather on the annoying side for a prog fan. The "Reise" though is pure prog. Overall, the compositions are a good tasteful mix of complexity and musicality and very well done, if a bit on the cool intellectual side (as easily happens with lots of keyboard and no guitar).

The drummer Michael Behm and the bass player Peter Rasym also deserve to be mentioned. Behm is virtuous and precise, but the secret star of the show is Rasym; the bass on this album is not only flawless but very creative and colourful, and at the same time fits seamlessly into the overall teamwork. Surely a five star performance by this internationally probably totally unknown bassist.

Despite the ELP references, this album stands easily on its own as a highlight of GDR art rock which has its very own atmosphere and characteristic; actually it is the strongest GDR prog album that I know by some distance; unfortunately the Stern themselves never came close before or after (I don't know their 1996 released 1976 live album, which may be a contender).

 Der weite Weg by STERN-COMBO MEISSEN (STERN MEISSEN) album cover Studio Album, 1979
2.42 | 21 ratings

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Der weite Weg
Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) Symphonic Prog

Review by Reuter

1 stars Prog? Surely not. Symphonic? Only if you call a cheap synthesizer an orchestra. Pop music? Only in the best moments. Most of the time it reminds me of what we call "Schlager" in Germany. The lyrics actually hurt, German Democratic Republic's pseudo-poetry forced on writers by their gouvernment and willingly committed by Kurt Demmler on this album (as in many songs published on the GDR-label "Amiga"). The vocals are poor, the arrangements sound like they were written for childrens' lullabies. And still some critics - mostly from the eastern part of Germany - call the music of Stern-Combo Meißen milestones in progressive rock. But maybe they also consider Cilff Richard the godfather of Heavy Metal. I just can't stand it !
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