Saturday, January 21, 2023

Ikarus - Ikarus (1971 germany, fusion prog krautrock, 2015 bonus track remaster)

Germany is even a bigger hotbed of prog rock than one might imagine. Sure everyone knows bands like Can, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, Amon Düül II, Faust, Neu, Kraftwerk, and similar bands (bands that might not always be considered prog, but are of interest to prog fans). But the countries was also full of more traditional symphonic prog acts like Eloy, Novalis, Grobschnitt, and the likes (all three were quite successful in their native country, by the way). Then there are tons of rare and obscure albums that simply disappeared through the cracks, and Ikarus is one of them. 

Ikarus is often described as one of the first progressive jazz-rock groups to come out of Germany, giving one the impression they might be that country’s answer to bands like Colosseum. But actually they’re much more in the Van der Graaf Generator vein, with vocals that bring to mind Peter Hammill (but without his dynamics), lots of sax, and Hammond organ. But the biggest problem lies in the lyrics. For example, the opening cut, “Eclipse” shows the band expressing environmental concerns, which I am very happy about, but with lyrics that go, “Save the nature/it’s a treasure”, it’s really obvious that these guys are in dire need of brushing up on their English before using their pen. But regardless, they still put out some great prog rock. “Eclipse”, despite the badly written lyrics, is a rather complex song, with some great sax work from Jochen Petersen and a great organ jam from Wulf Dieter Struntz. Real strings are also included as well (which are very well done and does not distract). 

I love the mood of this song, it’s totally early ’70s. “Mesentery” is the next song, the lyrics are a little better. Again, the more great organ work, with almost a psych feel to it. The strings pop up again near the end. “The Raven” features lyrics based on the poem by the same name from Edgar Allen Poe. The music here seems more unstructured than the first two songs, so it’s more inaccessible, but after several listens, you’ll find out it’s another great piece. Some space rock tendencies pop up as well with the use of glissando guitar. The second half of the song is in a more mellow, atmospheric manner. 

The last one is “Early Bells Voice”, again, with some more space rock tendencies, especially the Hammond organ at the end. While finding this album on LP is a bit difficult to come by, a small German label called Second Battle had reissued this on CD. I just love finding obscure gems that are simply amazing, and this self-entitled 1971 album from Ikarus is that example. So, aside from the lyrics, I can very highly recommended this to all prog rock fans, especially VdGG fans.
by Ben Miler
1. Eclipse (Divided In Scyscrapers And Sooner Or Later) (Manfred Schulz, Jochen Petersen, Lorenz Köhler) - 15:24
2. Mesentery (Jochen Petersen) - 6:11
3. The Raven (including "Theme For James Marshall") (Jochen Petersen, Manfred Schulz, Lorenz Köhler, Wulf Dieter Struntz, Wolfgang Kracht) - 11:42
4. Early Bell's Voice (Wolfgang Kracht, Wulf Dieter Struntz, Manfred Schulz) - 7:51
5. Sunwave (Traditional) - 15:16
Bonus Track 5, as Beatique In Corporation recorded in Ernst-Merck Halle Hamburg, March 1970

*Wulf Dieter Struntz - Organ, Piano
*Jochen Petersen - 12 String Guitar, Alto And Tenor Saxophones, Flute, Clarinet, Vocals
*Manfred Schulz - Guitar, Vocals 
*Wolfgang Kracht - Bass, Vocals
*Lorenz Köhler - Lead Vocals
*Bernd Schröder - Drums, Percussion

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