Ballermann (1974, 73.56) ****/TSahara
Solar-Music, Part 1
Solar-Music, Part 2
Jumbo (1975/76, 34.13) ****½/T½Jupp
The Excursions of Father Smith (Vater Schmidt's Wandertag)
The Clown (Der Clown)
Dream and Reality (Traum und Wirlichkeit)
Sunny Sundays Sunset (Sontags Sonnabend)
Rockpommel's Land (1977, 45.03/51.18) *****/TTTErnie's Reise
[CD reissue adds:
Solar Music Live (1978, 54.15) ****½/TTSolar Music I
Solar Music II
Solar Music III
Merry-Go-Round (1979, 40.57) ***½/T½Come on People
Du Schaffst das Nicht
Volle Molle (1980, 45.20) ***½/TTSnowflakes
Illegal (1980, 44.13) ***/½The Sniffer
Die Grobschnitt Story 1 (1994, recorded 1972-81, 153.49) ***½/½
Die Panne von Osnabrück
Vater Schmidt in Wuppertal
Lupo Whips it Out
Solar Music (Power Play)
Die Grobschnitt Story 2 (1998, recorded 1971-80, 155.44) ***½/½
Die Story von 1968 pt. 1
Born to be Wild
Die Story von 1968 pt. 2
My Little Girl
15 Jahre Später
Reicht das, Otto?
Tom Apple (live)
The Real Rider
Private Solar Excursion
Silent Movie (alt.mix)
Mary Green (live)
Simple Dimple (alt.mix)
Severity Town (alt.mix)
The History of Solar Music 1 (2001, recorded 1974-79, 137.30) ****/T½Banana Boat Song
I Walk The Line
Solar Music Warburg '78
Solar Music Münster '79
Merry Go Round
Solar Music Studio '74
The History of Solar Music 2 (2002, recorded 1973-82, 148.53) ****/TSolar Music Mysteria (?)
The J.R. Connection '82
Solar Music Köln '79
Solar Music Osterholz '73
The History of Solar Music 3 (2002, recorded 1969-81, 154.35) ***½/½
|Im Schönen Sauerland
The Hostalit Chopper
Space Rider Meschede '81
Lützows Wilde Verwegene Jagd
Erkes Endlose Einleitung
Solar Music Meschede '81
|The Band in the Band
Suntrip Hagen '69
Solar Music Hagen '75
Zugabe AF-Song 1
|Zugabe AF-Song 2
The History of Solar Music 4 (2003, recorded 1977-79, 153.25) ***½/T
|Solar Music Berlin '78
Zugabe Wesel '78
Zugabe Koblenz '79
Jerks & Jokes
Solar Music Lünen '77
Die Grobschnitt Story 4: Illegal Live (2003, recorded 1981, 236.17) ***½/½
Start Konzert Teil 1
Vater Schmidt in Essen
Die Balli Show 1
Die Balli Show 2
Die Salzmann Show
Zur Pause an der Donau
Start Konzert Teil 2
|Du Schaffst das Nicht
Ein Bisschen Später (Milla)
Solar Music Essen 1981
Die Grobschnitt Story 5 (2004, recorded 1973?-79, 160.15) ***/T
Solar Music Winterhude
Interview 1975, Teil 1
Vater Schmidt PB
Interview 1975, Teil 2
Dream and Reality PB
Interview 1975, Teil 3
Eroc Beendet das Programm
Interview 1976, Teil 1
Der Clown PB
Interview 1976, Teil 2
Vater Schmidt (Ausschnitt)
Interview 1976, Teil 3
Interview 1976, Teil 4
Der A.F. Song
Eroc Sprengt den WDR
Come on People
Die Grobschnitt Story 6: Rockpommel's Land & Elsewhere... (2006, recorded 1971-82, 158.10) ***½/T½
|Wonderful Music (demo)
About My Town
The Days of Us
Wonderful Music (alt.mix)
Das Unbekannte Superstück
|Wade in the Water
Ernie's Reise (remix)
Severity Town (remix)
First Day of May
Space Rider (demo)
Wir Wollen Sterben (urversion)
Lass' Doch Endlich die Sau Raus
Live Donaueschingen 1981-2 (2007, 74.25) ***½/½Space-Rider
Solar Music Powerplay
Live Wesel 1979-1 (2008, 79.07) ****/TTStart
Du Schaffst Das Nicht
Come on People
Live Wesel 1979-2 (2008, 79.06) ****/T½Start
Solar Music Powerplay
Live Emden 1979 (2008, 79.34) ****/TTDie Ernie Show
Solar Music Powerplay
Live Osnabrück 1981-2 (2008, 79.10) ***½/½Du Schaffst das Nicht
Solar Music Powerplay
Live Wuppertal 1979-1 (2009, 74.31) ***½/T½Start
Du Schaffst das Nicht
Come on People/Merry-Go-Round
Live Wuppertal 1979-2 (2009, 71.34) ***½/TAnywhere
Coke-Train (1st Part)
Solar Music Wuppertal '79
Solar Music (1st Part)
Live Göppingen 1979 (2010, 77.43) ***½/T½Ansage
Solar Music Göppingen
There's probably one phrase that describes Grobschnitt (loosely translates as 'rough cut') better than any other: Barking mad. Anyone who thinks the Germans don't have a sense of humour should have a quick gander at this lot; trouble is, sometimes the lunacy takes precedence over the music, although they usually manage to just about keep it in check. Headcase drummer Joachim H. Ehrig, better known as Eroc, was the ringleader and it's a tragedy that there isn't more footage of their legendary '70s live shows about (see the cover of Solar Music Live to see what I mean).
Their first outing, 1972's Grobschnitt (****), is fairly formative, and a great deal more 'space rock' than they became later, but is still worth hearing. After various changes, they reached a settled lineup in '74 and recorded the double Ballermann; presumably their label, excellent prog imprint Brain, must have trusted their ability to sell enough copies to repay their investment in the band. The first disc starts in suitably silly style before moving into typical Grobschnitt of this period, with driving organ and guitar work, concentrating more on an ensemble feel than on individual pyrotechnics. Ballermann is the album that introduced their audience to the considerable talents of their new keyboard player, Volker "Mist" Kahrs; in fact, the whole band had nicknames, which were usually used in place of their actual monikers. The only Mellotron on the album is on the lengthy Magic Train, with several string parts throughout the piece. The second LP of the set was the band's first outing for their legendary 'Solar Music' suite, trimmed down (!) to 33 minutes for the studio version. More of which later...
Their next release, '75's Jumbo, moved further into symphonic progressive territory, showcasing some truly excellent material, particularly The Excursions Of Father Smith, starting with harmony vocals and solo string synth before the Mellotron strings cut in with the rest of the band. Dream And Reality is another killer track, with a few 'Tron string swells, but there's very little to be heard on Sunny Sundays Sunset, with more string synth than anything else. So, great music, but very little actual 'Tron use. Grobschnitt had only sung in English up to this point, so presumably to appease their entire fanbase (they never really broke out of their own country), not to mention filling an otherwise albumless year, they recorded German vocals for Jumbo, reissuing it with a German flag background instead of the original sky with the legend 'Mit Deutschen Texten' added. To be honest, their accents were still so heavy by this point that you have to listen carefully to hear which is which... The album was (obviously) remixed, but neither version seems to be especially superior. Both are available on one CD, which should save the completist a lot of messing about; the English version is still considerably easier to find on vinyl.
In 1977, the year their style was suddenly about to go horribly out of fashion, Grobschnitt released their absolute meisterwerk, Rockpommel's Land. A total classic of the symphonic style, on first listen the album might sound a little lightweight, but on repeated spins its depths become apparent. The storyline is rather silly, concerning a little boy called Ernie who flies off on the back of a giant bird... I expect you get the idea. However, the music is absolutely fucking fantastic and in no way should be dismissed without making the appropriate effort. The four pieces tie in thematically and the crescendo at the end of the title track is one of those 'makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end' moments. There's Mellotron to be heard throughout the album, but rarely more than a little burst here and there, which is why it doesn't get a higher 'Tron rating, the exception being the choirs on the chorus of 'big ballad' Anywhere.
The following year, the band finally did the decent thing and released a full-length album of Solar Music Live, confusing the casual listener by seemingly drastically changing style in the space of a few months. It expands excellently on the original studio piece, by now being split into several distinct tracks; in fact, they would insert the whole piece into a set of their shorter material (see below), so rumours of a 'style change' were obviously greatly exaggerated. The infamous Grobschnitt sense of humour rears its ugly head here; the album is primarily instrumental, but at one point Eroc (I presume) suddenly intones:
|'Would you like to sit on your bum,
on the surface of the sun?'
Thank you for that, chaps... What's more, it's not half as 'spacey' as is often made out; it's basically prog, just with a freeform element thrown in and even then, it's hard to say just how much of it was written in advance. Anyway, very little Mellotron to be heard; snippets of strings on Mühlheim Special and Golden Mist, but nothing major, although the latter track has a nice 'Tron crescendo near the end.
As with pretty much every other progressive band worldwide (with a few honourable exceptions, of course), Grobschnitt simplified their approach as the decade drew to a close. Mind you, they get in a good dig on Merry-Go-Round with A.C.Y.M., their rather droll take on the ubiquitous disco sound (rearrange the title), and I think they actually had a sneaking respect for the whole punk thing, even though it didn't hit Germany big-time until the '80s. Saying that, there's still only six tracks on the album, with all but one being over the six-minute mark. Come On People has an almost disco beat to it, and isn't really up to their recent standard, but is layered in 'Tron strings, along with them new-fangled polysynth thingys. It's a reasonable compromise between their favoured style and (presumably) record company demands, although I'd like to think that Brain weren't as bad as the majors.
Volle Molle was, surprisingly, their first 'proper' live album, and is a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. Much of the material is previously unreleased and some of it is just plain messing about, but the live version of A.C.Y.M. has the studio's 'Tron parts recreated accurately. Rockpommel's Land isn't the album of the same name's title track, precisely; more an edited version of the whole album squashed into 16 minutes. It also has the 'Tron parts in the right places, and doesn't suffer overly from its drastic editing. Not a great album, but (unlike their later horrors), still worth hearing. Illegal is the last Grobschnitt studio album worth a toss, in my humble opinion; they updated their style without descending into pop pap, at least, not at this stage. Still, it's got a much harder sound than their earlier albums, and is difficult to recommend on the same level, although a couple of tracks are worth a listen. Mary Green is the closest they get to their old style and Simple Dimple just, er, rocks better than anything else here. The only even remotely obvious Mellotron (in fact, a Novatron) is on the title track, but the quick burst of choir really isn't worth the effort.
After this, it was downhill all the way. Long-standing members left, and Grobschnitt quickly slid down the proverbial slippery slope. Their next effort, Razzia (**½), has barely any listenable moments, and the only subsequent album that's worth hearing in any shape or form is the live Sonnentanz (***½), with yet another version of Solar Music on it, although it's all 'modern' keyboards by this stage.
However... Over a decade after Eroc left the band (and five years after their eventual dissolution), he compiled a two-CD archive set, Die Grobschnitt Story 1, a rather mixed bag of material recorded between 1972 and 1981, including German-language humour (several examples), studio remixes and plenty of unreleased live stuff. I can't quite decided whether or not it's a good primer to the band, or for obsessives only, but there are some excellent performances contained herein, not least Vater Schmidt In Wuppertal, a.k.a. Vater Schmidt's Wandertag, er, in Wuppertal and a killer version of Space-Rider. Mellotron? Practically non-existent, with nowt but a few distant choir chords on a late-period version of Solar Music, by the sounds of it, Solar Music (Power Play). A good mix of stuff, then, but don't even think about it for the 'Tron.
Die Grobschnitt Story 2 is a similar mix, from 1971-80 this time, with no fewer than two very lengthy spoken-word tracks and some history lessons, all utterly lost on the non-German speaker. An early recording of the band tackling Born To Be Wild is a 'hear once only' effort, although several tracks are must-hears for the committed fan, not least a live Mary Green. Once again, just the one track featuring any 'Tron at all, with pretty much the same choir parts on the alternate mix of Rockpommel's Land's Severity Town as on the original. You won't actually find Die Grobschnitt Story 3 as such, as it's been split into five subsidiary volumes, all titled The History of Solar Music, dedicated to documenting the many, many versions of the lengthy piece performed over the years. Of course, the problem with this is that even for the dedicated fan, a dozen versions of a track that could top an hour on a good night, not to mention the three versions available on their regular releases plus several more on other archive sets, can begin to try the patience of even the most hardened Grobschnitter. However, they're out there, and they're going to be reviewed, come what may.
2001's ...Solar Music 1 (1974-79)'s two discs contain no fewer than three versions of the epic, with Warburg '78 possibly beating the other two, though not by much. The set's been filled up with four unassociated tracks, none of which are that important in the grand scheme of things, leaving the various Solar Musics as the meat'n'three veg of the set. Mellotronically speaking, Mist sticks some strings under the string synth in parts of Solar Music Warburg '78, with a major part towards the end of the piece, while Solar Music Münster '79 has several minutes of repeating choir chords fairly near the beginning, with a string part later on, although nothing on the Studio '74 version, in keeping with the version on the second LP of the original double vinyl Ballermann. 2002's The History of Solar Music 2 was recorded between 1973 and '82, although I'm not sure when the first (of three) versions of the epic, Solar Music Mysteria, dates from; probably late '70s, by the sound of the instrumentation. It's Mellotron-free, anyway, although the relatively short Köln '79 version ('only' 35 minutes!) features repeating choir chords in the first half of the piece, with a couple of string parts later on. The final version on the set is Solar Music Osterholz '73, which sounds like an early studio run-through, but isn't; the earliest version they seem to have recorded, in fact. No Mellotron, like the Ballermann take, possibly due to it predating their purchase.
The first disc of the same year's The History of Solar Music 3's concentrates on a 1981 show, by the looks of it, with a couple of non-Solar pieces before the main event, Solar Music Meschede '81, with the same background 'Tron choir part as on Köln '79 from the previous set. The second disc opens with a track that, frankly, is only of historical interest, Suntrip Hagen '69, laying the band's psych roots bare, with the disc's other main piece being the Mellotron-free Solar Music Hagen '75, possibly even from the same venue, six years on. Overall, a decent enough set, but the lowest T rating yet for any title in the sub-series. 2003's Solar Music 4 seems to date from a pretty brief timespan, 1977-79, both of its main performances dating from that period. Solar Music Berlin '78 has a short 'Tron strings part early in the piece, with a more intense one later on, duelling with Mist's MiniMoog, although Solar Music Lünen '77 is 'Tronless, making me wonder whether they didn't start using one live until '78, around the time many British and American bands were retiring them. As for the rest of the set's contents, were two 'band introduction numbers' (Zugabe) from consecutive years sequenced back to back really necessary? Not a bad set, then, but less essential than some of the others.
To return to the original series for a while, Die Grobschnitt Story 4: Illegal Live (from Essen, later the same year) does exactly what it says on the tin: a full, four-hour set from 1981's Illegal tour, when the band were apparently regarded as being at the top of their game. The track-listing on the sleeve is rather longer than the one shown above, Vorprogramm ('Interlude') actually consisting of 25 minutes'-worth of thirteen separate humorous items, presumably played over the PA before the band took the stage. They include various German-only jokes, entirely inessential to the non-German speaking audience, plus a couple of tracks from the notorious Portsmouth Sinfonia's 20 Classic Rock Classics, released a mere two years earlier, which are both very Grobschnitt and completely essential. Once the band actually starts playing, it becomes obvious that they're in the process of moving on from their '70s prog heyday, with the likes of the more straightforward Razzia (title track of their then-forthcoming album) and Illegal itself getting things off to a rocking start. They still find time (and lots of it), however, to play a version of Vater Schmidt from Jumbo, the same edit of the whole of Rockpommel's Land as on Volle Molle and a forty-minute Solar Music featuring the same background choir chords as on ...Solar Music 3's version from Meschede the same year. Despite the concert's length, that's the only Mellotron to be heard, making you wonder why they hauled it around for about a minute's use, especially given its weight and bulk. Odd.
On to 2004... The History of Solar Music 5 is not only the last of that particular series, but the only one where the sound is of anything other than pristine quality, clearly sourced from bootlegs. It features two versions of the piece, from Gevelsberg '75 and Dortmund '83, so utterly different from each other that you wonder how they can give them the same title; that's evolution, I suppose... Unsurprisingly, no Mellotron on either, as they fall before and after the band's live usage period, making this the only one of these archive titles to fall outside this site's scope. Die Grobschnitt Story 5 contains a good chunk of early '70s material, giving some decent insight into how a set from that era might have sounded. Unfortunately, it also 'features' a slew of interview material on the second disc, none of it even remotely interesting to non-German speakers (although all concerned seem to be having a good time), thus the relatively low rating. Just when you think the set's going to be Mellotron-free, the very last track, a live version of Come On People (from '79's Merry-Go-Round) duplicate's the studio version's 'Tron strings, although I'd hardly say it was something you couldn't live without. Probably the most amusing feature of the set is the cover image, almost certainly the infamous photo of roadie (and future singer) Tony Moff Mollo's grandfather's post-WWI band, from whence Grobschnitt apparently took their name.
The schedule took a year's break before the last 'regular' title in the linked series, 2006's Die Grobschnitt Story 6. Just for once, Eroc's translated the booklet on his site, giving some valuable insight into the compilation of the set. Disc one features five tracks from '71 and two from the following year, before the set's highpoint, Das Unbekannte Superstück, a lengthy piece rescued from the space in between erased tracks on a discarded tape from thirty years earlier (!), heavily EQ'd, dehissed and generally tarted-up in the studio. And do you know, it's excellent? I don't think Eroc knows any better than the rest of us why the band didn't persist with this one. Anyway, the only Mellotron to be heard is on the remixes of the Rockpommel's Land tracks; Eroc only had access to the multitracks for the first three tracks, the title track possibly being lost, but he's done a beautiful job on these, raising them several levels of clarity over the original mixes. Mist's Mellotron parts on Ernie's Reise and Anywhere sound pretty much the same as before, but the choirs on Severity Town leap out at the listener, making a pleasing change.
To wrap up these intertwined series, Eroc prepared what appears to be a compilation taken from the various sets for the international market in 2006, The International Story, complete with (for the first time) an English-language booklet. As an introduction to the band, it works pretty well, but if you're already au fait with their catalogue, you're probably going to be more interested in getting hold of the complete Story and History sets. So; what have we learned from trawling through well over twenty hours of (mostly) live Grobschnitt? Well, it is actually possible to listen to loads of versions of Solar Music without going stark staring mad (or at least, no madder then the band. Er...), they only seemed to use a Mellotron (OK, a Novatron) live between around 1978 and 1981, and they didn't actually use it that much at all. As a result, while these sets are essential for the fan, they are really pretty inessential for anyone looking to hear much previously-unheard Mellotron work from the band.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... In 2007, Eroc began another round of archive releases, this time concentrating on single CDs mostly containing halves of gigs, with the two parts of an entire performance sometimes released in different years, sometimes in reverse order. Confusing? Yes, but very Grobschnitt. At the time of writing, I'm not entirely sure which contain Mellotron and which don't (although I have a good idea after reviewing the above sets), nor do I have access to copies of all the releases, but there are bound to be a handful of extra reviews added here before too long.
The first two volumes in the series, both parts of a 1977 Bielefeld gig, are 'Tron-free, backing up my assertion that they didn't use one live before the surprisingly late date of 1978, but Live Donaueschingen 1981-2, that is, the second half of the gig, features it briefly in Solar Music Powerplay, in a version almost indistinguishable from a couple in the Story... series, if truth be told. The rest of the volume sounds like a pretty typical 1981 gig, going by the considerable evidence already available. Both volumes of Live Wesel 1979 fall smack in the middle of the band's brief live 'Tron period, using it rather more than I'd expected. The two discs make an excellent record of a full set from that tour, highlights including Come On People, A.C.Y.M. and an acoustic set on disc 2. Mellotronically speaking, there are unexpected strings on Come On People, from their current release, Merry-Go-Round, with more of the same on their 16-minute 'consolidation' of Rockpommel's Land (did they ever actually play the whole thing live?) and A.C.Y.M. Disc two features the usual brief choir part in Solar Music Powerplay, also heard on versions of the piece played up until 1981, with two string parts later on, the second one quite major.
As for the other volumes released around the same time, Düsseldorf 1983 and Hagen 1971 are both off the Mellotronic scale, at opposite ends of the spectrum, as is Plochingen 1976. 2008's Live Emden 1979 is one of the rare single-discs (what, they only played eighty minutes that night?), containing blistering version of both Rockpommel's and Solar Music, while even A.C.Y.M. is better than usual (why does someone insist on singing Y.M.C.A. afterwards? Is the joke not obvious?). Mist plays the studio Mellotron string parts on Rockpommel's Land and A.C.Y.M., with bursts of choir and strings-doubling-Hammond on Solar Music Powerplay, with a huge part over bass synth towards the end of the piece, although the expected choirs on Anywhere are absent, due to them tackling it as a twin-acoustic number that night.
No Mellotron on Live Osnabrück 1981-1, but 1981-2 is very similar to Donaueschingen 1981 above, with naught but a few choir chords some way into Solar Music Powerplay, making it pretty obvious that they were phasing the Mellotron/Novatron out by this point. The two volumes of 2009's Live Wuppertal 1979 cover what appears to be the complete gig, presumably the source for some of Volle Molle, although given that it contains two different versions of Solar Music (one full, one a brief edit), who knows? A decent '79 set, anyway, although there's far too much German humour for the non-speaker. Part 1's Mellotron use consists of a major string part opening Come On People, while Rockpommel's Land features two brief-yet-intense string bursts with a little more of the same on A.C.Y.M. Part 2's even thinner on the ground: Solar Music Wuppertal '79 features the usual minor choir and major string parts, but that's yer lot. Göppingen 1979 gives us a couple of brief string parts on Rockpommel's Land, notably at the end of the piece, the usual parts on A.C.Y.M. and choirs on Solar Music Göppingen, with the standard massive string part at the end (just after the distorted crescendo). Oddly, there are no 1978 concerts yet available in the series (now up to 21 discs), but I'm sure Herr Ehrig will rectify this situation in the near future, unless, of course, they didn't actually tour that year.
So; Grobschnitt were an excellent band, particularly from Ballermann through Solar Music, though they were never major 'Tron users, preferring the subtle approach. It's difficult to recommend any of these on the 'Tron front, though maybe Rockpommel's Land would be worth it on those grounds. Whatever. Buy their best albums because they're their best albums.
Here's an excerpt of the band on German TV show Rockpalast in '78.
Surely you jest? With so many official boots available, attempting to track down any unreleased recordings, let alone ones containing otherwise undocumented live Mellotron tracks is a total non-starter. As stated above, it seems that the band only used a Novatron live for three or so years, so given their fairly consistent setlists within tours, I think we can safely put their live legacy to rest.
Official German-language site
German-language fan site
See: Eroc | Taras Bulba