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Embryo - Opal CD (album) cover

OPAL

Embryo

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.79 | 64 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Out of all the bands that emerged out of Germany from the big bang of progressive rock developing during the late 1960s, EMBRYO has sustained itself throughout the decades into the modern day mostly due to its being a musical collective that has seen over 400 members come and go throughout the years with Christian Burchard serving as the founder and driving force, however much of this longevity also comes from it having emerged as one of the most creative and versatile bands that has been filed under the umbrella term Krautrock. While that label more often than not connotes some sort of psychedelic mind bending qualities (Amon Duul II, Exmagma, Guru Guru) prevalent in the music, it also covers the heavier blues oriented rock bands with progressive touches (Birth Control, Electric Sandwich), the more electronic oriented artists with rock elements (Kraftwerk, Neu!) as well as the jazz-fusion crowds such as Eiliff, Brainstorm and Out Of Focus.

EMBRYO stood out in that it pretty much tackled all of the above with not only a heavy emphasis on jazz-rock but also managed to slip in healthy doses of 60s infused psychedelia, traces of blues oriented rock, electronic atmospheric ambience and went even further by tackling a wide variety of the world music stock by incorporating many styles of ethnic music. The tale of Munich based EMBRYO actually had its origins as far back as the mid-1950s when multi-instrumentalist Christian Burchard began his eclectic musical origins at the tender age of 10 after meeting his childhood friend percussionist Dieter Serfas. Eventually they formed their first band Contemporary Trio in 1964 and when the two parted ways, Burchard would finally create his dream band EMBRYO in 1969 as he was riding the wave of the progressive rock trends that were emerging at breakneck speed. The initial lineup consisted of Burchard (drums, vocals), Ralph Fischer (bass, vocals), Edgar Hofmann (saxophone, flute, percussion) and John Kelly (guitar, vocals). In addition to these core musicians there are also four guest musicians playing cello as well as backing vocals.

The original band arrangement wouldn't last long and would only play together on this debut album OPAL, which gives album #1 a very unique overall sound in the vast canon of EMBRYO's eclectic output. Even right from the start EMBRYO stood out in the pack of the Krautrock scene with a keen musical vision already polished to near perfection as they delivered tight jazz-rock compositions with African percussive drive and plenty of throwbacks to the most kosmsiche representations of the German psychedelic scene. OPAL deftly straddles the line between the psychedelic aspects of Amon Duul II type of Krautrock with that same heavy bass driven groove as heard on their first two albums "Phallus Dei" and "Yeti," yet incorporates a seriously fierce delivery of not only post-bop driven jazz but also the more avant-garde sax frenzied touches ("Glockenspiel") of what Ornette Coleman created all throughout the 60s. The tracks keep a fairly busy high-powered tempo with nice chord changes and instrumental tightness that was above average for many bands of the era in the Krautrock world.

While most tracks are instrumental there are brief moments of vocals (in English) such as on the opening title track but are usually semi-spoken in dramatic poetic prose rather than bursting into fully-fledged singing but soulful outbursts of singing do occur ("You Don't Know What's Happening" for example.) Needless to say, the vocals are not the strong point and hint to a clear Can connection however the music itself is much more dynamically performed with a strong emphasis on a heavy busy groove with lots of jazzy touches alongside various ethnic influences ranging from the African percussive drive to the rather Middle Eastern touches on the closer "People From Out The Space." While EMBRYO would go on to develop even more sophisticated albums and become one of the most revered and well known of the German bands that outlasted the majority of its contemporaries, this first offering that finds itself more rooted in the 60s heavy psych scene is quite the treat itself as there are no weak tracks but rather one grooviliscious ethnic jazz jam after another. While this seems to be the more neglected origins of EMBRYO's nascency, i find this one to be quite exciting.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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