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Agitation Free - At The Cliffs Of River Rhine CD (album) cover

AT THE CLIFFS OF RIVER RHINE

Agitation Free

Krautrock


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Although AF inherited a major status in Krautrock history, their historical output was only of three albums, which is quite few compared to ADII, ART, Can, Kraftwerk, Embryo etc. But 00's, AF's total official output includes at least that many posthumous releases, of which At The Cliff Of River Rhine stand as the only one as essential and the only live album, which allows to think more could be heading our way, for there were lots of their gigs recorded. The Cliff part title does provide some confusion though, as it might hint that this record might have been recorded on the romantic Rhine (Koblenz to Mainz), at say Lorelei or something. .. But no, if indeed the live setting did happen in the Rhine valley, it was in Cologne, where the river lies calm and flat in what we can barely still call a very wide valley and there is not a cliff in sight for 100 km. This leaves the title taking inspiration on a cool-looking artwork that seems to inspire itself on the fantasmagoric world of Roger Dean. However these tracks had seen a previous release on Cd in a bootleg form under the title "At Last AF Is Free", because the concert had been a WDR radio broadcast.

This recording however is absolutely pristine and probably one of the best I've heard (apparently no overdubbing either) and it came a few months after the release of their second album (which explains the predominance of tracks of that album in the concert). Sonically very similar to their Second album, and still retaining the ABB edge of that album (there is a tracks that very reminiscent of "in memory of E Reed"), due to their double drummer attack of the previous year (yet un-documented), their usual twin guitar turbo drive (Ullbrich & Lutjens) and Hoenig's particularly superb electronic burbles (amazingly clear & audible for this live setting), etc.. No one single glitch on the whole 47 minutes of the broadcast. Not all that essential a posthumous release if you own their Second album, but if you're an AF fan, you'll know you'll need this.

Report this review (#21645)
Posted Tuesday, June 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a live recording of one of the great, and often overlooked krautrock bands. Entirely instrumental, their work is charachterized by long, freaky improvisations with some absolutely amazing guitar work (similar to Ash Ra Tempel's first), some disorienting sound effects (and understated keyboards), and some great band chemistry and jamming lending to the overall tripping effect. This is just a superb jam band with uniformly inventive and evolving guitar driven psychedelia. This album has to be one of the most perfect and excellent psychedelic guitar rock albums I have heard.
Report this review (#57227)
Posted Monday, November 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
oliverstoned
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 4,5 stars

Another 1974 stunning live album from the band. Four pieces from the "2nd" album, plus one unreleased. Two guitarists here: GustI Lütjens and Lutz Ulbrich.

The first piece "Through the moods" -the unreleased one-, begins with space sounding synthe and then progressively evolves into a beautiful spacerock tune, dominated by cosmic (SF inspired) keyboards and excellent guitar.

The album's summit is "First communication" which is transfigured on this live cover. It begins very slowly, as in the studio version. Guitar is amazing; organ is majestic while rhythmic section offers a delicate but powerful base. The climax is reached around 2'00 with a fantastic moment lead by guitar, which reminds of the best Grateful dead, with a more fluent cosmic space quality. Fantastic.

"Dialogue & random" is the minor short experimental piece from 2nd, which serves as a transition between "Through the moods" and "Laďla".

"Laďla" cover is great too, with its highly emotional guitar solo, followed by its repetitive rhythmic pattern, on which guitar flies very high.

The quiet "In the silence of the morning sunrise" ends the album. It evokes a trip comedown with its bluesy and peaceful overtones.

Although the "Garden of delights" 1998 CD release may sound hazy at first, it's overall good, featuring an ample sound with satisfying dynamic and presence, and soft highs. It has been premastering in Los Angeles by Michael Hoenig.

A blazing testimony from this major german band.

Report this review (#74542)
Posted Monday, April 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars While you could find this show as a low quality Bootleg, this 1974 concert was finally officially released in 1998 by the "Garden Of Delight" label with an overall excellent sound, This is one of the best Psychedelic live recording i've ever heard!

Agitation Free used to be one of those krautrock pioneers band who knew that magical recipe that could take you far out beyond the infinite with its majesty and radical psychedelic approach. While none of their Middle Eastern original influence (Those sounds you can hear on the Malesch record) are recognizable here, the "Second" album sound is fully featured and all the track are taken from it except the first improvisationnal track "Through The Moods" where you can hear an incredible music evolution progressing to an excellent psychedelic climax as if the band members were one mind as a whole playing and commanding multiple bodies interconnected between each other..

While there is some electronics manipulation here such as in "Dialogue and random" an electronic short experimentation, the electronics don't get the importance they got on their "Last" live release. In fact the band emphases here on the rocking instrumental psychedelic atmospheric side, the Guitar playing, as usual is awesome and reminiscent of ASH RA TEMPEL's Manuel Gottshing highly reverbered sound, never falling into bluesy or speedy clichés.

Laila is here my favourite piece, a magnificent song bothly structured and "free", the final track "In the Silence Of The Morning Sunrise" is a very nice calm, mellow and spacy short song that end nicely the whole record. This will remain one of the key cosmic rock albums never recorded in history and deserves their places between the krautrock legends.

Report this review (#112980)
Posted Wednesday, February 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars At the cliffs of Krautrock ...

The best live recording in my opinion from AGITATION FREE and one of the last gigs with this line-up which was recorded 2/2/1974 in Cologne (at the cliffs of the river Rhine). Excellent instrumental Space/Psychedelic Rock jams from this band but unfortunately very short for a live recording. Keyboards are used diversified, mostly sparingly, sometimes sacral or for serving spacy synth effects. But first of all the songs are dominated by Lüül Ulbrich and GustI Lütjens with their excellent guitar work.

We have a very relaxed start with Through the moods, a song which never was released on a studio album. The music raises slowly as for the fine-tuning of the soundcheck and the warmup of the musicians. After some minutes it slips into the main theme and the song is beautifully meandering with great interaction between the musicians. My favourite of this release.

The following songs are from the former studio effort 'Second'. First communication is somewhat bluesy, more dramatic and undulates. Laila indeed consists of some Allman Brothers themes. So this song surprises with southern rock feeling and might be played in memory of Duane Allman who sadly died in 1971. The album ends (too early) with In the silence of the morning sunrise, shorter than the studio one and with some birds singing. A nice song which sounds like a hommage to SOFT MACHINE.

'At the cliffs of the river rhine' is a great live document from this german band which should be a part of every Prog Rock collection.

Report this review (#128072)
Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I adore this album and the album cover is almost as beautiful as the music found inside.This was recorded live on February 2,1974 and consists of music mainly from their second album surprisingly called "Second". So 4 of the 5 tracks are from that album with the first song being a previously unreleased track.

"Through The Moods" features spacey synths, low end sounds and cymbals for the first 4 minutes before we start to get a melody of guitars, bass, synths and drums. It's cool hearing one guitar take the lead with the other guitar playing more of a rhythm role.The bass is quite prominant 6 1/2 minutes in as the guitar leads the way. Synths then take the guitars role after 9 minutes. Guitar takes it back 1 1/2 minutes later. I love the guitar during this passage as drums pound and bass throbs. A blistering guitar solo 12 1/2 minutes in to end it.

"First Communication" opens with spacey winds as guitar, drums and bass come in and start to build. The lead guitar sounds so heavenly as the sound continues to build. It calms down 3 1/2 minutes in as it becomes trippy and relaxing. It kicks back into gear 6 1/2 minutes in with some aggressive drumming as experimental sounds come and go. This blends into "Dialogue & Random" as we get more experimental sounds for almost a minute. "Laila" features a gorgeous guitar melody played fairly quickly as the other guitar comes in over top with some raw soloing as drums pound and bass throbs. This all stops 2 minutes in as a new melody eventually comes in. This one is more reserved and more pleasant. We're tripping again at this point. The song builds as it comes to a close. Nice. "In The Silence Of The Morning Sunrise" features birds singing as a memorable melody plays that is so healing, soothing and mellow. That melody reminds of that ALCATRAZ tune "Simple Headphone Mind".

This is Krautrock at it's most melodic. It's hard to put into words how peaceful and relaxing this music is on the soul. Perfect for a drive in the country on a sunny day.

Report this review (#160271)
Posted Wednesday, January 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I know nothing about this band and I hardly knows anything about Krautrock. But this album accidently landed in my mailbag and the artwork seemed promising. So I gave it one round in the CD player..... and then some more mileage.

The music is both Space/Psychedelic Rock and Jazzy. The music is groovy like mad and pretty infectious. The melodies are pleasing too. Long guitar solos, thumping bass and excellent drums are the driving force here. The time changes and some symphonic prog influences also makes this a pleasing experience. The music is instrumental throughout.

The first track Through The Moods is very captivating with driving guitars and groove. Laila is another track with superb melody and time changes. Agitation Free is obviously a band worth getting into because this is a good album. I know next to nothing about Krautrock, but I like this album.

3 stars from a Krautrock novice.

Report this review (#201107)
Posted Friday, January 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Here is a simply mind numbing awesome live album capturing classic Agitation Free in concert. This one had been on my essential swing list for a long time and I finally snagged copy and yes the waiting was worth it. This live set has been remastered and no longer carries the bootleg sound quality! (for those who had the boot version). For me the entire show is totally thrilling and I always wanted to hear them live. "Through The Moods" is a 14 minute epic track which opens the set and simply steals the show...wow what a track.....Space and German krautrock progressive rock in full....what else could you ask for?
Report this review (#223810)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars This album wasn't released till 1998 but contains excellent recordings from 1974, shortly before the band split. It mainly consists of tracks from the second album, the 13 minute Through The Moods and 9 minute Big Fuzz add more then 20 minutes of unique material.

Just as on the 1974 release Last, it seems you can't go wrong with live work from the band. Their studio albums didn't really reveal their inner beauty yet for me, but the live work sure compensates for that. The playing is dedicated, subtle, inspired and energetic, in other words, exactly how you would want it from the band. The recording quality is superb, except for the 2008 bonus track Big Fuzz that has a more bootleg type of sound but it's still enjoyable. The 2008 re-release also has different artwork, with a picture of the band and public in live action, which is far more fitting then awkward 90's Yes-pastiche of the original 98 release.

I'm not the biggest live album enthusiast as so few bands can add anything to their studio albums. But the list of exceptions to that rule is growing bigger and Agitation Free can sure be added onto it. Recommended Kraut-rock live!

Report this review (#312959)
Posted Thursday, November 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Krautrockers Agitation Free play a care-free, laid-back style of instrumental Prog, where comparisons to THE GRATEFUL DEAD may be valid (in terms of certain sonic elements anyway) ; the superb playing of bassist Michael Gunther can be easily mistaken for the Dead's bassist, Phil Lesh, both in tonal colour and execution, and lead-guitarist Lutz Ulbrich can sound similar to dear ol' Jerry Garcia. One can also detect vibes of early 70's PINK FLOYD. Mellow jams are the order of the day on this fantastic sounding Live recording, mainly tunes which were featured on their '2nd' album, and a lengthy, hitherto unreleased piece entitled 'Through the Moods'. To be honest, the songs which appeared on '2nd' sound a lot tighter and crisper here. Keyboardist Michael Hoenig provides plenty of spacey textures with his organ and experimental sounds from his synthi, drummer Burghard Rausch compliments the melodic excursions of Gunther perfectly as well as driving the tunes along in smooth fashion, and Gustl Lutjens offers up tasteful rhythm guitaring. They didn't call themselves Agitation Free for nothing !! The short-lived vinyl specialists Amber Soundroom released this with a very fitting 70's Psychedelic artwork by Helmut Wenske (who provided Nektar with their trippy album covers) but it's not as attractive as the cover depicted here.... 4 solid stars.
Report this review (#403705)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Guldbamsen
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Retired Admin
4 stars Top down and the open road

This live record features Agitation Free in a thrilling concert at the river Rhine in 1974. A long ways from their Arabian flavoured debut, this record takes their laid back psychedelic guitar driven Krautrock to another level all together.

Apart from the first previously unreleased track, this release concerns itself with their second pinkish album. Enveloped in a delicious Grateful Dead vibe, the music on here takes it's cue from the players and not necessarily the given piece. Sure you're able to spot the different tunes, although they seem to appear in a slightly different dressing.

Boasting a twin guitar attack, meaty drumming, walking bluesy bass lines, and the nervous twitches of electronic gear head Michael Hoenig - this venture drives along like a beautiful black tarmac road. Ever since I first heard it, I pictured myself on an infinitely long and windswept highway doing a 100 miles an hour with chicks, beer and weed in the car. My guess is that it's down to the fluid feel of this baby. The band members seem like they're out of their bodies while performing and some strange alien takeover is in play. Ever get the feeling that your fingers are doing things your mind isn't aware of? Well such is the case here - it certainly feels that way...

With lead guitarist Lutz Ulbrich taking on the role of sonic pathfinder, you effectively get lured into these soaring melodic sections that reek of 1969, San Francisco and acts like the aforementioned Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the more free natured Airplane excursions. If you're an old fart who loves these bands like the very sweater you knitted while experiencing them first-hand, then you could do much worse than picking up this thing.

Backing Lutz up in the guitar department you get the swaying soothing eccentricities of GustI Lütjens. I swear, had this guy been born a couple of decades later, he would surely have been part of the initial crescendo chasing post rock wave. He has a unique way with riffs, and in a live setting he goes from 7 to 32 in a heartbeat(no, I'm not entirely sure what that means either...). Paired up with the remarkable rhythm section of bass man Michael 'Fame' Günther and beats provider Burghard Rausch, the collective forces of this band feel inseparable. If you'd pulled the plug to one of these lads during the concert, my guess is that they'd all fall down in an instant - death by lack of electricity and jam. That's how much they're into one another on a musical level.

I've always pondered how on earth Michael Hoenig went from the quirky style on offer here to his later full on electronic album Departure From The Northern Wasteland. Something drastic must've happened, and while he did make a short cameo in Tangerine Dream in the midst of their velvety Stratosfear era, it still puzzles me a great deal how he managed to go from the avantguarde robotics of Agitation Free to the docile dolphin lotion of his solo album. On this record he wields an entirely original form of synths that more than often has me dreaming up mad images of an electrified coot being stomped on in somewhat rhythmic patterns. Whatever he does, it sure does complement the otherwise suave texture of his surroundings.

This is music for a never-ending road trip in the best Hunter S. Thompson style. Lease the biggest cabriolet you can find, get floral shirts, sunglasses to protect yourself from investigating eyes, and you'll be right as rain and stoked for infinity and beyond. With this release, Agitation Free managed to cook up the musical equivalent to a warm cosy motorway bj. 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#1024946)
Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The second posthumous live album from the Berlin-based Krautrock jam band is another winner, despite having a more conventional playlist compared to the far-flung explorations of "Last", which appeared shortly after the group first split in 1974.

This one arrived over twenty years later, but the belated release date wasn't accidental. Guitarist Lutz Ulbrich was in the process of getting the band back together in 1998, and dusting off an old concert recording was an expedient way to rekindle interest in a cult act out of the public eye for almost a quarter century.

The live tapes were restored from a much-bootlegged radio broadcast, recorded in Cologne on February 2, 1974 (nine months before the breakup), and sound excellent for their age. The setlist, for better or worse, was drawn almost entirely from the band's 1973 sophomore LP "2nd", faithfully reproducing over half the album (and in sequence). The single digression is the album's long, opening improv "Through the Moods": classic Agitation Free, showing the group at its telepathic peak.

It's true that the concert renditions stick pretty close to their studio role models, unlike the extended jams on "Last". But the performances all have that vital spark only attainable on stage, revealed here through the intertwined guitars of Ulbrich and Gustl Lütjens, and held in place by the textured aura of Michael Hoenig's keyboards: otherworldly icing atop an already cosmic torte.

At least one re-issue (the '08 Revisited Records CD, without the original Maxfield Parrish-meets-Roger Dean artwork) includes a nine-minute bonus, "Big Fuzz": an embryonic and at times almost funky jam from a show two years before the Rhine River gig. The sound quality takes a nosedive, but the extra track is a welcome slice of high-water Krautrock, like the full album an unexpected gift to fans, freshly exhumed from the vaults.

Report this review (#1781552)
Posted Wednesday, September 13, 2017 | Review Permalink

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