A CULTURAL ANECDOTE: It’s early 1967 and The Soft Machine are having a little trouble getting it together — particularly Mike Ratledge. Finally, Daevid Allen hits on a way of getting his concept across. “Imagine,” he announces, “silver clouds over purple mountains!” “Yes!” roars the exasperated Ratledge. “But what KEY is it in???”
A charming encapsulation of the Head-Meets-Intellectual impasse unique to rock, I’m sure you’ll agree. Amon Düül II being basically a group of very nice German heads, it seemed apposite that their opener, ‘Soap Shop Rock’, should come over, not so much in an indefinite key, as in several different ones at the same time.
Unfortunately this was less a surreal marriage of Hawkwind with Charles Ives, than a case of the band not being in tune.
The shaky tonality caused some agonisingly off-pitch vocals, but could hardly be blamed for the ragged ensemble — this was, a matter of bad balance and under-rehearsal.
Although the Düül commune is no more, the communal spirit lives on in an informality which sometimes delights (as in Chris Karrer’s amazing dance), but which ever threatens to bring the whole psychedelic facade tumbling down on them. The slap-happy decision to feature both Fischelscher and Leopold on drums cluttered an already stilted rhythm-section and frequently, Falk Rofner’s keyboard was inaudible under the Floydian tape-effects.
Amon Düül II must pull themselves together and start thinking more about their music, less of hitting up on the vibes, man. They do their inherent worth a gross disservice by playing gigs this bad.
Finland’s Tasavallan Presidentti completed the all-Continental bill with some extraordinarily accomplished (if overlong) extensions of 1968-vintage Zappa, Jazz-Rock Department. Jukka Tolonen’s remarkable guitar, when he wasn’t stretching his invention, demonstrated a mixture of taste, humour, and real facility rare almost to the point of non-existence in rock soloists.
In general, however, a disappointing evening.
© Ian MacDonald, New Musical Express, 9 December 1972