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(79 min, InsideOut & SPV)
TRACK LIST: 1. Rush Hour 3:50 2. Dinner for Two 1:34 3. Vollgas Ahol 5:40 4. You're Right 6:37 5. Wintruper Echo 5:28 6. Nam-Nam 12:27 7. Holiday am Marterhorn 7:42 8. Air Bass 6:38 9. Nachtfahrt 5:01 10. Favorite Land 4:45 11. Jerk of Love 5:20 12. Kunststuck 2:18 13. Arabia '88 5:08 Bonus track: 14. Ausflug 6:39 LINEUP: Peter Wolbrandt - guitars; vocals Hellmut Hattler - bass Jan Fride - drums Joo Kraus - trumpet; keyboards
Prolusion. This is the third live album by Germany's leading Jazz-Fusion outfit KRAAN and is the first they've made after four years of silence. The lineup on this material features three founding members: Wolbrandt, Hattler, Fride and one newcomer, a young musician, Joo Kraus, who was also on board to record the next two studio albums with Kraan, "Dancing in the Shade" (1989) and "Soul of Stone" (1992). More info on the band, their history and creation can be found in the reviews of "Wiederhoren" and "Nahtfahrt".
Analysis. Although made at the time when serious Prog Rock was seemingly under a ban, "Live '88" features very strong material and is a highly successful documentation of a superb live band. Kraan's originally diverse and challenging sound has been fully recreated in most cases. In fact, only the opening number, Rush Hour, was in some ways sacrificed to "demands of the time". It's a rich-sounding and rather tasteful affirmative music with a funky urban stylishness and plenty of excellent solos from each of the Four, which, however, is somewhat flashy and lacks tempo changes. The novice, Joo, is a versatile (he also plays piano and synthesizer on a few tracks), masterful and innovative trumpet player, who brought a lot of new color and fire to Kraan's classic works, some of them sounding nearly unrecognizable. Even those well acquainted with the band's legacy will not avoid the feeling that they are hearing something completely new. Only three tracks come with lyrical content and, thus, vocals: You're Right, Favorite Land and Jerk of Love, all being very good, in all senses. Together with the instrumental rockers, Wintruper Echo and Nachtfahrt (take a note: both are from the album "Nachtfahrt"!), they are notable for a similar approach in composition, well fitting the concept of a completely structured Jazz Rock with a strong blues component. No one would ever accuse Kraan of lacking originality, but in the overall construction (and despite the presence of trumpet), there is something in common between these five and classic Manfred Mann's Earth Band. The music always has a contagious groove, but it also isn't devoid of a sense of a true progressiveness. So if you love Manfred's Messing, Time is Right, Pluto the Dog and the like, you will be satisfied with these, too. I am sure, you'll agree. Air Bass, Dinner for Two and Kunststuck are excellent thematic improvisations for bass, bass and guitar and bass and trumpet respectively, clearly indicating who was "master of the house" at that time. The remaining four tracks (surely instrumentals) would probably be highlights, at least from a traditional progressive viewpoint. Vollgas Ahol and Holiday am Marterhorn are just classic Kraan at their best, the breathtaking rapid steeplechase all along the bumpiest realms of Jazz-Fusion. Nam-Nam exceeds 12 minutes and comes with the most diverse, large-scaled and colorful palette, the intricate, at times positively wild saxophone improvisations occasionally bringing to mind the best moments of Weather Report. Just as the title suggests, Arabia '88 is filled with Middle-Eastern flavors. No one Prog head will remain indifferent to its magical beauty.
Conclusion. Revealing the quintessence of varied stages of Kraan's activity, this disc would probably be the best place to start to those still unfamiliar with the ensemble. It's a pleasure from start to finish, save the first track, of course. Recommended with no reservations.
VM: November 12, 2005
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