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Can - The Lost Tapes CD (album) cover

THE LOST TAPES

Can

 

Krautrock

4.12 | 50 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I know it may be a shock to hear that a 3-hour collection of Can rarities, early versions and live tracks would be messy as hell, but this 3-hour collection of Can rarities, early versions and live tracks is messy as hell. Yes, there's some nice previously unheard material from the Suzuki era of the band, but this collection also spends an extensive amount of time in the Mooney era, and there's also a good chunk of post-Suzuki material as well. A good chunk of this collection is essential or close to it, but there's also a good chunk that I would be perfectly fine never hearing again.

The Mooney-era material, taken from both the 1968 Delay 1968 era and the 1969 Monster Movie era, has especially tremendous variance in quality. On the plus side, this era contributes what may be the best track on the set: the 17-minute "Grablau," a monstrous jam sorta in the vein of "Mother Sky," with a brief vocal section in the middle so distorted and screwed up that it's impossible to tell it comes from Mooney, and which undergoes tremendous variation from start to finish. The set begins on a strong note in this era as well, thanks to a great mostly instrumental jam in the Monster Movie style (starting quiet and atmospheric before picking up speed and centering around a bassline that sounds like something out of a spy movie) called "Millionspiel." There are some other nice tracks from this era as well, such as the weirdly up-beat "Deadly Doris," the gentle guitar-centric "Oscura Primavera," and the hilarious "Midnight Sky," which sounds like Captain Beefheart doing blues rock in a slightly less screwed up way than usual for him. On the negative side, well, there's pretty much everything else from this chunk. "Waiting for the Streetcar" is quintessential bad Mooney-era Can, featuring instrumental backing that might be pretty decent but is completely obscured by the way that Mooney basically sings "Are you waiting for the streetcar?" (or close variations, with occasional other lyrics) repeatedly for ten minutes. Other Mooney-era material here is a little less stereotypical, but not much more listenable. "When Darkness Comes" and "Blind Mirror Surf" each feature a lot of ugly squealing noises without much payoff, and putting them back-to-back makes for a really difficult 12 minutes to endure. "Your Friendly Neigborhood Whore" is at least cheery and upbeat, but Mooney's ugly singing makes it no better than an average Delay 1968 number, and that means it's not very good. "True Story" is Mooney telling a story over an ugly keyboard sound for four minutes, and finally "Desert" is an early version of "Soul Desert," which was the worst song on Soundtracks by a good distance. Material like this only serves to remind me just how glad I am that Mooney left the band.

The Suzuki-era material doesn't exactly contribute a lot to the band's legacy, but it's definitely the most enjoyable era of the collection. There are fine live versions of "Spoon" (extended to 17 minutes!!), "Mushroom," and "One More Night" (here called "One More Saturday Night"), and they all show that the band's amazing jamming power during this era translated just fine out of the studio and into live performance. On the first CD, one rarity ("Evening All Day") is a bunch of go-nowhere noise-making, but another rarity, "Bubble Rap," is a great Ege Bamyasi-era track, with Damo preaching whatever over guitar growlings with an awesome strong tone and the rhythm section in peak form. Otherwise, the Suzuki material here consists of early versions of later classics (aside from the :37 of "The Agreement," which seems to be somebody talking while peeing): "Dead Pigeon Suite" is alternately beautiful, exotic and intense jamming that eventually turns into "Vitamin C"; "Abra Cada Braxas" sounds like an early version of "Bring Me Coffee or Tea"; "A Swan is Born" is an early version of "Sing Swan Song"; "On the Way to Mother Sky" is just what it says; "Messer, Scissors, Fork and Light" would eventually condense down into "Spoon." It's very interesting to hear these tracks in work-in-progress mode, and for the most part they would have been just fine even if the band hadn't refined them further, but these are hardly superior to the versions that actually made it onto the albums themselves.

The post-Suzuki material reflects the corresponding releases pretty well, in that it tends to still show a nice amount of creative spark but a little lack of focus. There's an early version of "Vernal Equinox" called "Midnight Men," and it has the basic skeleton in place but isn't quite the destroyer of worlds that "Vernal Equinox" would be. The one really long track from this era is a live performance of a track called "Networks of Foam," and what it lacks in structure it makes up in terrifying aggression and energy (Jaki and Michael, good grief), and it's definitely a keeper. The rest consists of short ideas not explored to full potential ("The Loop," "Godzilla Fragment," and "Alice," which is gorgeous and really needed a full song built around it), a short idea explored to full potential and still found wanting ("E.F.S. 108"), a gorgeous atmospheric meandering (with some singing but done so quietly that it may as well not be there) in "Private Nocturnal," and a silly funk/disco number from the Saw Delight era ("Barnacles," which probably would have been the best number on that album). Still, while this section of the set can't live up to the Suzuki section, it says something that there's clear keeper material in here.

In a way, it's fitting that this collection didn't come out until a very late date, because this is a set made for the iPod/digital library era. As irritating as a good chunk of this set may be, there's still a very nice collection as long as 2 CDs buried within here, and that material is worth keeping around. Any Can fan should acquire and hear the best material from this set, and if that means getting the full set and having a CD's worth of dead weight, then so be it, but it would be better just to hear the good stuff. And besides, indications were from Schmidt that this might be the end of viable releasable material from the band, and thus it's worth savoring these remnants of the band's career.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |

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