Recommended Listening

Action "Same"

It wasn't the eagle that had landed at Zweibrücken Festhalle this 22nd of November 2008, but local rockband Action, who had a reunion of sorts a scant 35 years after the fact. I'm a major fan of Krautrock regarding anything between the years 1969 up to 1975, after which the whole genre took a dive and was non-existent henceforth (say Kraftwerk's "Autobahn"). But the seven years in question were high times for teutonic rockers. And excellent they were, with their very own brand of music. It was only later that copycats popped up in the U.K. and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the prophet wasn't worth anything in his own country. Krautrock as such met strong headwinds in their native country.

It's not like I know Action from day one, more like I got handed a copy of their 1972 recordings (released on LP only in 1997 on the label Very Good Records, and then in a limited edition of 600 copies) in 2008 and was blown away by their songs. This was my kind of Krautrock, certainly up there with some of the best in the genre. The original LP consisted of four tracks, three of which were studio recorded and one is from an unknown live source. The tracks:

1. Miscarriage Of Human Thinking (Part I) 3:35
2. Miscarriage Of Human Thinking (Part II) 13.32
3. Hell Track 12:12
4. You Are The Lady 8:01

When Ernest (Erny) Cadet, drummer with Action, mentioned, that there was an upcoming gig on the above mentioned date, there was no question that I would be in the audience that very night. That evening was a sell-out crowd, so that Action decided to have a follow-up gig a couple of weeks later (which I didn't go to). The happenings on November 22, 2008 were recorded with a view of releasing the songs together with the original 1972 tracks on CD fo the first time. They were:

5. Hell Track 11:49
6. Miscarriage Of Human Thinking 15:56
7. You Are The Lady 8:43

The gig was a major success with folks from all walks of life being in the crowd. The twenty somethings, that wanted to see what their parents had been salivating about all those years, as well as people beyond their 60's reliving the times, when they saw Action the first time round. Yours truly did enjoy the gig very much. My kind of music (well, apart from Dr. Feelgood, that is. And Wilko Johnson. And Doctor's Order. And Mighty Four. And .... ah, forget it!). In short, a great evening with a great band and an enthusiastic crowd in Zweibrücken/Germany. The studio recordings and the live tracks from November 22, 2009 have now been released on CD by German label Garden Of Delights (catalogue number CD 149) and every decent enough record shop can order this for you through their regular channels.

What you get is fine Krautrock that can't lie about it's vintage. They call it psychedelic and progressive music (very detailed booklet included with the Action story and lots of pictures), but to me, this is simply Krautrock. A genre on it's own. One of my favourite bands is Eulenspygel, and I could never do with the description of this music being Folk, Heavy, Classical, Jazz and more. It's none of these, it's Krautrock. Period. In a way, Eulenspygel (although their singer used the German language) is the way this points to. Organ driven rock with lots of changes to speed and dynamics. There's a well rehearsed and versed band (studio and live). No complaining about it. In fact, I think that Action is pulling up to eye level with Eulenspygel (and I think, that says more than waxing on endlessly about their capabilities on their instruments). The line-up at the time of their 1972 recordings was:

Wolfgang Benki - Vocals
Otto Nunold - Organ
Charly Fottner - Guitar
Harald Schindler - Bass
Ernest Cadet - Drums

Except the singer, which was replaced by Dirk Brill, the artists mentioned above were on stage that night in 2008. Wolfgang Benki on the studio recordings is a very good singer, who reminds me sometimes of someone who I can't recall at the moment. Singers in the Krautrock genre as well as in the international field (drifting towards Hardrock). He has a very good range of emotional expressions in his voice and a fine sounding one at that. Sometimes, however, he seems a bit out of the loop. There's one or two "shaky" bits in there. But don't let this put you off. In all, this is a superb performance.

Dirk Brill did a very good job at their live gig as well. Unfortunately, the live recordings from the year 2008 do not really hold up to the earlier recordings from 1972. While this is an excellent opportunity for me, to relive a gig I've been to, other listeners might not like it so much. What I hear is an enormous jump in output level. I wonder why this hasn't been corrected in a remastering process. You listen to the CD, 1972 recordings are over and 2008 tracks set in, suddenly you think, your walls are going to be blown out. This is much louder and, I'm afraid I have to say it, not up to scratch to what's expected from a live recording these days. It does sound a bit metallic at times and one gets the feeling, the recording devices have been in the red all the way through. It's not like this is bootleg quality, but it does hit you like a brick after the fine 1972 sound quality. I can't recall having heard this live with such an involvement of the venue itself. It's not echo or something, more like the venue as a building is to clear to be heard. When you listen to the recordings, you have the feeling, you're in a hall that takes about 10'000 people and is nothing but concrete walls. Of course, the band does a very good job and the music comes across very well.

I've been one of the lucky 1700 (or so) punters having seen and heard this event. If you're even remotely interested in Krautrock, this is one CD you're going to buy. I've already heard it from others, that this CD might be their choice for album of the year 2009. I can't do this, as Doctor's Order are also in the race. Maybe there's a status quo at the end of the year and we have a double winner.