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Amon Duul II

+ {Utopia}

Not the original AMON DUUL communal combo that emerged from the underground “kraut-rock” scene in Munich (prior to ADII’s formation in autumn 1968), but a breakaway unit that enthralled the more discerning German public for a decade or so. While the aforesaid ensemble cut itself off from the maddening crowds and remained as a separate musical entity around the turn of the decade (1969’s “Psychedelic Underground” and “Collapsing” were delivered on Metrognome Records), AMON DUUL II took advantage of their counterparts foibles and tore up the musical textbook by way of several searching sets of the 70s.
Stripped from the confines of their improv/jam days with AD1, and on the suggestion from drummer Peter Leopold, band mates Chris Karrer (vocals/guitar), former bassist John/Johannes Weinzierl (now lead guitar), Renate Knaup (vocals/tambourine) and Falk U. Rogner (organ), plus newbies Dave Anderson (from England: bass), Christian “Shrat” Thiele (bongos/vocals/violin), Dieter Serfas (drums) and guests Holger Trulzsch (Turkish drums) and Christian Borchard (vibraphone), made up the line-up that recorded 1969’s debut for Liberty Records: PHALLUS DEI {*8}.
Avant-garde space-rock in the mould of PINK FLOYD, GRATEFUL DEAD and countrymen CAN, the radical album unleashed home-produced, psychedelic improv to a wider audience. Highlighting a sprawling side-long, 20-minute title track, the Oriental jazz-rock of `Kanaan’, the hypnotically-haunting `Dem Guten, Schonen, Wahren’, and the cheeky-pre-“Hocus Pocus”-esque `Luzifers Ghilom’, the “God’s Penis” was a devil of an album.
1970’s follow-up, YETI {*9}, was a more structured and free-flowing double-set featuring some excellent acid-rock suites (`Soap Shop Rock’ interpolating `Burning Sister’ to the deranged `Flesh-Colored Anti-Aircraft Alarm’), plus the weird but wonderful single, `Archangel Thunderbird’; Renate’s witchy screech paving the way for DIAMANDA GALAS, Licorice McKecknie and er… Johnny Rotten. On a lighter note, the dulcet, folky, VU overtones of `She Came Through The Chimney’, was oft overlooked, while a Zeppelin-esque `Cerberus’, showcased the twin-guitar talents of Karrer and Weinzierl. The second disc was down to a triumvirate of imrovs in the style of TANGERINE DREAM and PINK FLOYD, bookended nicely by the delicate and mantra-like `Sandoz In The Rain’, featuring, incidentally, AMON DUUL chums, Ulrich Leopold and Rainer Bauer.
When Anderson took flight to join HAWKWIND, in came bassist Lothar Meid (ex-EMBRYO), while Shrat was also posted missing on album three. “Tanz Der Lemminge” or DANCE OF THE LEMMINGS (1971) {*10}, concentrated more on lengthy, segued collages, including the outrageously brilliant, `Syntelman’s March Of The Roaring Seventies’.
The 4-part `Restless Skylight-Transistor-Child’ was a thing of beauty, from its spacey hoedown `Landing In A Ditch’ to the appropriately-titled `Race From Here To Your Ears’. If these side-long tapestries of delight didn’t whet one’s prog-rock appetite, the equally lengthy improv `The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church’, was of soundtrack-esque savior-faire. On the song front – and note there were all-round guest spots from Jimmy Jackson (mellotron), Al Gromer (sitar), Rolf Zacher (vocals) and Henriette Krotenschwanz (vocals) – one would’ve been advised to keep the lights on for `Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight’ and the wigged-out closing piece, `Toxicological Whispering’.
With personnel coming and going at their leisure (Rogner was deftly deputised by Karl-Heinz Hausmann on keyboards, and Daniel Secundus Fichelscher on drums/congas), it was difficult for the band to maintain any degree of consistency. Subsequent albums, CARNIVAL IN BABYLON (1972) {*6} and WOLF CITY (1972) {*6}, had their moments, albeit lying somewhere between The INCREDIBLE STRING BAND and JEFFERSON AIRPLANE; examples `All The Years ‘Round’, `Shimmering Sand’ and `Tables Are Turned’ from the first of these; `Green-Bubble-Raincoated-Man’ and `Jail-House-Frog’ from the latter set.
On the back of a LIVE IN LONDON (1973) {*6} single-set, a pseudonymous UTOPIA (1973) {*5} LP – with virtually all alumni present and correct, and VIVE LA TRANCE (1974) {*6} – with Meid’s replacement Robby Heibl in tow (Fichelscher joined POPOL VUH), AMON DUUL II inked a deal with Atlantic Records. However, a return to form was not on the cards for HIJACK (1974) {*4} – highlighting a cover of Ornette Coleman’s `Lonely Woman’ – although the much-improved, oft-dismissed MADE IN GERMANY (1975) {*7}, brought Euro-pop and kraut-rock together.
Karrer, Weinzierl and Leopold were joined by bassist Klaus Ebert and keyboard player Stefan Zauner for other pop-rock stabs in the dark, PYRAGONY X (1976) {*4} and the uninspiring ALMOST ALIVE… (1977) {*4}, but without Weinzierl on 1978’s ONLY HUMAN {*4}, ADII were going through the motions as prehistoric prog had been rolled over for punk; 1981’s VORTEX {*3} was the last straw as Duul II took their final bow – or so it seemed.
Bringing together elements of HAWKWIND and ADII, former member Dave Anderson (aka “Hawk”) and John Weinzierl (aka “Penguin”, one assumes), kept the momentum of AMON DUUL II running by re-forming their own UK-based version of the band, deep from within the Welsh valleys. What Messrs Karrer, Knaup, et al, thought of the act was neither here nor there, as the pair, plus drummer Guy Evans (ex-VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR), and singer Julie Waring, strung out a couple of pseudo-ADII sets, HAWK MEETS PENGUIN (1982) {*4} and MEETINGS WITH MENMACHINES – INGLORIOUS HEROES OF THE PAST… (1983) {*5}.
To confuse matters even further, two indie albums were to surface in 1989: the 1984-recorded FOOL MOON {*5} – as Amon Duul – and their ROBERT CALVERT (ex-HAWKWIND) collaboration, DIE LOSUNG {*5}. At times billed on tour as Amon Duul UK, the latter record also featured members of OZRIC TENTACLES (Joie Hinton and Ed Wynne), while it was to be South African-born CALVERT’s last-known recording before his untimely death on 14th August 1988.
AMON DUUL II, proper, re-formed in 1992; Karrer, Knapp, Leopold and Meid, plus incoming Felice Occhionero (guitars) and Hans-Peter (drums), performing for a select audience at Christmas concerts in 1992. A full-blown reunion set, NADA MOONSHINE # (1995) {*4}, kick-started a new chapter in the life of the group, although re-recordings set, FLAWLESS (1997) {*3}, didn’t quite fully appreciate or match its title.
Duly working on movie scores, AMON DUUL II were still in circulation in one way or another, although the tragic death of Peter Leopold on November 8, 2006, looked to have put paid to the unit. Then, in 2009, with former member Daniel Fichelscher filling his shoes, the re-formed outfit delivered, what looked to be their final saga, the website-only BEE AS SUCH {*6}.
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD // rev-up MCS Oct2013

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