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Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen) - Lebensuhr CD (album) cover

LEBENSUHR

Stern-Combo Meissen (Stern Meissen)

 

Symphonic Prog

3.23 | 4 ratings

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Lewian
3 stars This is the first proper studio album (actually a double album) with new songs of the Stern-Combo after 24 years, although the band was touring pretty much all the time in between. The album is of very limited appeal to the prog purist; although some material is more advanced listening than on their pure pop albums "Taufrisch" and "Nächte", it is in the first place a further collection of mostly radio-friendly pop songs, although with some sophistication.

Nevertheless it is an interesting album, and assessed against what it aims to be, it is quite good. The band always had a weak spot for mildly philosophical lyrics on the general path of life, and this is the strongest theme again on "Lebensuhr" ("clock of life"). Except that this time indeed the path of life of some band members is near its end. Founding member Norbert Jaeger left the band shortly before the release of "Lebensuhr" and passed away in 2016. Keyboarder Thomas Kurzhals, for Lebensuhr returned to the band, left this planet in 2014, and long term Stern-Combo singer Reinhard Fissler was diagnosed in 2000 with ALS (the disease from which Stephen Hawking suffers), was in a wheelchair and had difficulties to communicate by the time Lebensuhr was recorded. His Lebensuhr ceased to tick in 2016.

Fissler wrote the most impressive track on Lebensuhr, "Mal seh'n wohin die Reise geht" (Let's see where the journey goes); actually the only track on which he is present. This track hints at some of Stern Meissen's and some more general musical history, and can surely be interpreted as some kind of swansong. Fissler obviously worked very hard to put the vocals together for this song, very clearly marked by his illness. It seems that at times he could only sing one or two words and the melody was pieced together of lots of attempts. He doesn't sound "good" or healthy but this is a truly unique and unforgettable performance. The composition is quite complex with unusual chord progressions and quite quirky jazzy keyboards, but at the same time surprisingly relaxed and uplifting. For me, this track alone already justifies the acquisition of Lebensuhr.

Apart from this highlight, the quality of the songs is mixed. Some songs ("Der zweite Blick", "Prima Klima", "Ein Tag, ein Jahr und ein Leben") are cringeworthy, some are fairly pleasant but nothing special ("Das kurze Leben des Raimund S.", "Verlieren ist sinnlos", "So geseh'n"), and some are pretty good ("Es geht die Zeit", "Die Zeder von Jerusalem", "Zeugen dieser Zeit", the dynamic instrumental "TNTK", the tasteful ballads Waldesstille and the excellent "Ewigkeit"). Apart from "Mal seh'n...", all can be classified as easy listening, but with high musicality and taste over most of the distance, and very well executed (like on earlier Stern-Combo albums, a nod goes to the bassist, this time Robert Brenner).

I'll be generous and give it 3 stars because I'm overall delighted that this band came up with something like this as recent as 2011. "Mal seh'n..." and "Ewigkeit" are really strong and much of the rest is pleasant enough but honestly most prog fans will want to steer away from this.

Lewian | 3/5 |

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