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Monster Movie, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, Soundtracks (remasters)
The Grey Area / Mute Records

The late 1960's were a magical time in popular music. While there were explosions in rock and jazz, a couple of nutty European students got together and formed a band to make modern classical music. They called their band Can. Many people have never heard of them, and that may be for the best. Can's music is a smorgasbord of sound, blending early sampling with reactionary pop and classical structures. It wasn't music for the simple minded. It was music that made the listener react; a thing that seems lost in much of today's rock music.

Mute Records has just re-issued remastered editions of the first four Can records, and each one sounds better than it ever did before. Rather than expanding track lists and adding bonus songs, these reissues are more about sound quality. Each of the CDs has been digitally remastered by the musicians from Can themselves, and each one is compatible in normal stereo CD players, as well as the new generation of higher quality SACD players. In essence, this process has produced records that sound more like they were originally meant to sound than if remastered by someone not related to the original project.

The music is as timeless and captivating as it ever was, but cleaner and crisper in sound. Monster Movie, the debut Can release, is an exercise in musical flexibility. Progressive in its sound, filled with keyboards and oddly undulating bass lines, the songs are hard to listen to at times. Very reminiscent of the early Velvet Underground work, these songs tell stories that amble along magically and then coalesce into a final thrust of sound. Foregoing the rock norms of the time, this is a stand out record for anyone who wants to know where the prog-rock movement had its roots. Without Can, there may never have been many of the bands of the 70's keyboard scene. Four songs in just over 40 minutes set a record for length, railing against popular music convention.

Soundtracks is a classic album cover, one that will be recognized by anyone who has ever spent hours pouring through stacks of records (or CDs) at their local independent shop. This record is classic and epic for those who lived through the time when it was released. Each song pulled from the soundtrack of a movie that Can had previously contributed music to, the songs are varied in their presentation, each one invoking moods that surely reinforced the screen's images. The oddly rolling "Tango Whiskyman" and the classic "Don't Turn The Light On, Leave Me Alone" (the first appearance of Damo Suzuki with Can) are prime examples of the culmination of the early years of Can's work as a force in the modern musical world of the late 60's; incorporating varied instrumentation, pushing boundaries, and creating music that would obviously stand the test of time.

Tago Mago is enthralling, filled with the new voice of Damo Suzuki and a renewed freshness. The music strays closer to the likes of British Invasion sounds, incorporating more modern pop elements and straying from some of the more abrasive elements found on Monster Movie. The guitar work is clean, and the drums are enormous. Much easier to listen to for extended amounts of time, these songs are built a bit more traditionally in a pop-rock sense. However, the songs continue to stretch into eighteen minute anthems of exploration, giving us seven tracks in about 70 minutes.

Ege Bamyasi, with it's okra tin can artwork, is forever a classic album cover. The music behind the art is enthralling, as new arenas of pop music are once again explored. Incorporating a bit more jazz into the sound, these songs trim down a bit in length, clocking seven songs in just under 40 minutes. The songs are more listenable at times, but also stray into Frank Zappa-esque experimentation. The classic "Pinch" could possibly have set Frank upon his odd journeys with the Mothers Of Invention. The voice of Damo Suzuki is matured and has a depth that was missing on Tago Mago, showing his growth as a singer and contributor to the band's sound. This record moves from sound to sound, possibly fulfilling the band's goal as modern classical music best of any of their records. One listen to "Sing Swan Song" will prove it.

Each of the CDs includes not only the original album artwork, but liner notes and additional photographs culled from the archives. This historic re-release of such monumental albums is sure to inspire a new generation of rock makers, hopefully providing the impetus for a return to a truly active and creative musical world.

-Embo Blake

Track Lists:

Monster Movie
1. Father Cannot Yell
2. Mary, Mary So Contrary
3. Outside My Door
4. Yoo Doo Right

1. Deadlock
2. Tango Whiskeyman
3. Deadlock (instrumental)
4. Don't Turn The Light On, Leacve Me Alone
5. Soul Desert
6. Mother Sky
7. She Brings The Rain

Tago Mago
1. Paperhouse
2. Mushroom
3. Oh Yeah
4. Halleluhwah
5. Aumgn
6. Peking O
7. Bring Me Coffee Or Tea

Ege Bamyasi
1. Pinch
2. Sing Swan Song
3. One More Night
4. Vitamin C
5. Soup
6. I'm SO Green
7. Spoon

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