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CITY

Prog Related • Germany


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The East German rock band City was raised to cult status in their native GDR in 1977 when they released a song called "Am Fenster," which hit the charts for weeks in both German states (in fact, in 2000 it was declared "the best German rock song of the 20th century" by a survey of German radio stations). This was an exceptional occurrence as during the times of German separation bands from the eastern part of Germany were usually ignored in the West. Founded in 1971 in East Berlin with Fritz Puppel (guitar, born November 2, 1944), Klaus Selmke (drums, born 1950), Ingo Döring (bass guitar), Frank Pfeiffer (vocals), Klaus Witte (keyboards), and Andreas Pieper (flute), City initially did what most bands do at the beginning of their career: they played rock standards, among others songs of the Rolling Stones, Santana, and Jimi Hendrix, and nothing distinguished them from a dozen other bands active at that time.

After the departure of keyboarder Klaus Witte in 1973 the real turning point came in 1974 when two Bulgarian musicians joined the band and infused them with fresh musical input: Emil Bogdanow (guitar, vocals) was added to the lineup and Georgi Gogow (bass, violin, born July 12, 1948) replaced Ingo Döring. Andreas Pieper left the band, and after a short episode with a female vocalist (Gudrun Bartels) the core lineup was perfect. It was in these days that Bogdanow conceived the idea for "Am Fenster," originally a poem by Hildegard Maria Rauchfuß (born 1918) and a song which has preserved its haunting musical qualities through the decades. In 1975, Emil Bogdanow left the band and was replaced by vocalist Toni Krahl (born October 3, 1949), who - together with Fritz Puppel - was to become the main player of the City lineups in the next years. Due to the restrictions in record production in the GDR, it took the band a while to release "Am Fenster." The single, released in 1977, immediately became a hit in both German states, so did the accompanying debut album City (1978) which contained an extended 16 minute version of the song. Having such a smash hit at the beginning of a band's recording career is not always a blessing, and in the case of City, it surely was not. Emil Bogdanow, the brainchild of "Am Fenster," had left the band, and it was suspected the band could not deliver equally strong material. Their second release, Der Tätowierte (1979), however was a good record although there was nothing on it which possibly could match the impact of their ...
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CITY discography


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CITY top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.04 | 11 ratings
City
1978
3.60 | 5 ratings
Der Tätowierte
1979
3.00 | 2 ratings
Dreamer
1980
3.00 | 3 ratings
Unter der Haut
1983
3.00 | 1 ratings
Feuer im Eis
1984
2.05 | 2 ratings
Casablanca
1987
2.00 | 2 ratings
Keine Angst
1990

CITY Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CITY Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CITY Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.33 | 3 ratings
The Best Of City
1992
2.13 | 4 ratings
Am Fenster (Platin Edition)
1997

CITY Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

CITY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 City by CITY album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.04 | 11 ratings

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City
City Prog Related

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars CITY's debut LP record is an important work largely due to the inclusion of their best known song "Am Fenster", which is here present in its lengthy side-long version. The song, also issued in a single format, was a huge hit in both parts of then divided Germany, as well as - believe it or not - a minor hit among musical "hipster" and art-rock oriented circles in Sarajevo, Bosnia, then SFR Yugoslavia, in early 1980s!

Here it is stretched to over 17 minutes, including several sections or parts, a format typical for progressive rock of the 1970s. No doubt, electric violin solo sections played by Georgi Gogow are what distinguishes this composition from many other similar improvisational attempts. The main theme starting around 6:30' is quite remarkable, although it simply continues in almost unaltered form until the very end, which may sound a little too long. A "mid-version" truncated to about 7 minutes can be found on the compilation "Best of City", preserving the core of the song but deleting less interesting, introductory acoustic parts.

Another good track is a bluesy rock ballad "Meister aller Klassen", which ends the side one of the vinyl. Unfortunately the first four tracks are nowhere near the quality of Side B. Unremarkable, lame and mediocre hard rock, although decently performed, cannot justify its inclusion beside the prog epic of the flip side. In this way the whole album suffers from the lack of concept or ideas about what the band had actually meant by releasing this record. Side A ** / Side B ****

PERSONAL RATING: 3,5/5

P.A. RATING: 3/5

 Am Fenster (Platin Edition) by CITY album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1997
2.13 | 4 ratings

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Am Fenster (Platin Edition)
City Prog Related

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

2 stars 1997 was the band's 25th anniversary and when they reached the mark of 500.000 sold copies this Platin Edition was released as a compilation. Including their one-hit-wonder 'Am Fenster (Window)' of course - the guarantee for a commercial success in Germany and Greece first and foremost. CITY always remembers me at those turbulent times around 1989/90 with the german reunification as the final result. I'm quite sure I was aware of the band before that. But becoming aquainted with much more people changing over from East Germany my attention grew from now on.

There was no party missing 'Am Fenster' furthermore - and it was conspicious that this CITY song is something special and magical for many of the former GDR citizens. It can be treated as cult even though music from GDR bands generally was misliked by the people - because often dictated from the authorities. Discoteques for example were committed to play GDR music with a pre-defined percentage. Two sides of the story are playing a role - the common experiences with pressure and belief in solidarity on one side and the musical brilliance of this song apart from that. This reflects a special melancholy or disire coupled with joy of life and therefore could become one of the rare highlights.

So CITY is mostly associated with 'Am Fenster' and this Platin Edition confirms that. A complilation which contains three different versions of the song. The Dostoyevskys Single Edit is remoddeled to a mainstream/pop mix with english vocals and the Eyeless Dreams Remix with a house/techno beat should be considered as ... uaaaahhh! Just something to ignore - in the same way as most of the other tracks which are only mediocre folk and pop ballads - not really appealing to prog fans. Der King vom Prenzlauer Berg in opposite - another one from the debut album - appears as a nice heavy rock song with some substance reflecting the situation of young people living in an East Berlin district.

The album highlight is saved for the finale. Am Fenster arose from a jam session in the studio when Georgi Gogow, who had a Bulgarian origin, just began to play on his violin. Nearly 18 impressing minutes indeed - devided in three parts. First we have an acoustic guitar lift-off and later Gogow's violin is interfering - very very melancholic. An immediate break with some clock sounds in the background follows and then the band is indicating the main melody for the first time.

And now it's time to get on your feet. Based on traditional folk this song is fairly dancable when you're on a party. The song is rising and decreasing in waves - provided with psychedelic, folksy guitars and violin echoes, coupled with a catchy melody/refrain. They use mystic, cryptic lyrics - nothing more could be awaited in the light of the political situation. And this was the only chance for them to reach for gigs behind the wall as for example in 1978 for a tour in West Germany where they gave a performance for the famous 'Rockpalast' series in Dortmund.

2.5 stars only because of one real gem which confirms the band's relation to prog music. But this special piece however is recommended to be checked out by everyone who is coming in here.

 Keine Angst  by CITY album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.00 | 2 ratings

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Keine Angst
City Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

2 stars And then there were three. and then there were two

Three years after the release of their "Casablanca" album, City returned in 1990 with "Keine Angst" (No fear). Just prior to the start of recording, drummer Klaus Selmke left the band, although he would return some years later. This would also be keyboard player Manfred Hennig's last album with City. Hennig had been instrumental in the change of direction the band had made around 1983, his dominant keyboard work giving the band an at the time contemporary, but overtly pop, feel.

"Keine Angst" continues in the accessible pop field of its immediate predecessors, although the guitar work of Fritz Puppel is starting to push back against the dominance of Hennig. The opening "Morgenmond" (Morning moon) sets the mood for the album with a mid-paced piece of melodic pop. Toni Krahl is in fine vocal form from the outset, his powerful style adding substance to the otherwise rather ordinary compositions.

Unusually (for City) a couple of cover versions are included. The first of these is a German language version of Randy Newman's "Baltimore", here called "Rüdersdorf". The best known cover of this song is probably by Nina Simone, this version being somewhat more rock orientated. The second is a version of Hendrix's "Hey Joe", the title here being the more wordy "Der alte Klempner". This rendition of the standard offers an enjoyable heavy acoustic interpretation.

Elsewhere, songs such as "Steinzeit" revert to the 80's euro-pop of bands such as ABC, M and perhaps even Falco. While "Marie Marie" remains devoid of anything prog as such, it does have a superior arrangement, the synth brass punches being particularly effective.

In all, an album which will probably be of little interest to those who participate in this site. The euro pop style of the music is delivered professionally and competently, but it offers little in the way of originality.

 Casablanca by CITY album cover Studio Album, 1987
2.05 | 2 ratings

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Casablanca
City Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

2 stars Play something else Sam

City's 1980's output is somewhat less interesting and innovative than their 1970's releases, which are the prime reason for their inclusion on this site. The 1983 album "Unter der Haut" marked a fundamental change in their direction with keyboards becoming the basis for their sound in place of violin and lead guitar.

This 1987 release continues the move towards shorter accessible pop rock numbers, the longest track here running to a mere 5 minutes. Thankfully though, the electro-pop of ""Unter der Haut" is less in evidence now, the overall feel of the album being decidedly more rock orientated. The opening "Cinema hall" paints an enjoyable picture (in German) against an upbeat guitar driven rhythm. There is little to distinguish the track, and indeed the album, from the many other bands who offer a similar style of melodic rock. Magnum, Styx, Kansas and host of other top names all record music in a similar vein, City offering little if anything which sets their music apart from the rest.

The title track is a reflective rock anthem which mixes German and English lyrics, the instrumental passage being a typical melodic rock lead guitar affair. " Nachts in meinen Träumen" (Nights in my dreams) sees synth taking a more dominant role in the backing, the song being an atmospheric slice of Ultravox like 80's pop. "Pfefferminzhimmel" includes some wandering spoken word passages, here the mood is initially a bit like Dire Strait's "Private investigation". The chorus section though has a rather gooey soft pop flavour.

The upbeat "Noch´n Bier" is a blatant attempt to secure chart success, but the song is as instantly forgettable as it is prosaic. "z.B. Susann" appears to take part of its melody from the Boomtown Rats "I don't like Mondays" although the choruses differ. This is the nearest the entire album comes to anything prog, the song having a slightly more intricate arrangement to support a decent vocal performance. The album closes with a trio of shorter songs, each of which is a fairly enjoyable but quickly forgettable piece of light pop rock.

In all, while the performances here are highly competent, "Casablanca" has the feel of a band playing too far within themselves. The music is generally unambitious pop rock with nothing to distinguish it from the mob.

 Unter der Haut by CITY album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Unter der Haut
City Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Where have all the flowers gone?

Having found fame and fortune virtually overnight in their native East Germany in the late 1970's, City have gone on released a string of albums over the subsequent years. It is generally agreed though that despite sterling efforts, they have never managed to rediscover the magic which resulted in their best known song "Am fenster". This 1983 release (in English "Under the skin") marks a fundamental shift in style for the band, brought about by a significant line up change. Bassist/violinist Georgi Gogow, whose violin playing was central to the phenomenal success of "Am fenster", left the band. He was replaced by keyboard player Manfred Hennig who immediately became the focus of City's sound.

As a result of these changes, City suddenly took on a Krautrock-lite identity, the opening title track sounding more than a little like a Kraftwerk outtake. The repetitive keyboard motifs and emotionless vocals also have all the hallmarks of 80's electronic music. While lead guitar is still very much in evidence, its impact is far more muted as the familiar synth sounds dominate track after track. The harsh Germanic vocals on "Zuckersüß" are reminiscent of bands such as Devo, the coldness of the singing being emphasised by the strong electronic bass lines and floating synths.

"Unser Schuldirektor" ("Our headmaster") opens with some welcome acoustic guitar which in turn introduces a softer synth style. The song has a noticeable warmth compared to its peers, the vocals being much more intimate. The pop rock sound returns though for "Sisyphus" and "Nur Rock´n Roll", a couple of fairly nondescript affairs. In a surprise turn, we suddenly come across a German language cover of the American folk standard "Where have all the flowers gone" written by Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson. This superb guitar driven version transforms the track into a rock ballad, and justifies the price of admission for this album single handed. The adaptation is reminiscent of Frigid Pink's take on "House of the rising sun".

"Kontra" takes us back to the ubiquitous electro-pop and 80's synths, while "Was mich trägt" assumes a slightly heavier style with the first real guitar solo and some fine lead synth. The closing "Glastraum" appears to be the longest track on the album at just over 6 minutes, although the final minute or so is silent. The song is similar to "Unser Schuldirektor", featuring a more pleasing, almost passionate style with atmospheric keyboards and an emotional vocal performance by Toni Krahl.

In all, a much different album to the band's early works. Here they are attempting to achieve commercial success by adopting the sounds of the period without actually distinguishing themselves from the many other bands ploughing the same furrow. There are some good moments here, but overall the album is too pop focused and too anonymous to stand out from its peers.

The version I have includes 2 additional tracks. The first of these, "Sonnabendmittag" ("Midday, Saturday") sounds at first like it might be an interesting improvisation, but a prosaic piece of synth pop once again burst forward snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The distorted Rundgren like guitar solo is worth catching though. "Schalt die Glotze aus" is no less ordinary.

 City by CITY album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.04 | 11 ratings

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City
City Prog Related

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars A window in the wall

Originating from what was at the time East Germany, City are virtually unknown to this day outside their native country. The band are rightly listed on this site as Prog related, that relationship being largely down to their one prog epic and best known song "Am Fenster". That song appears on this the band's first album released in 1978, supported by a further 5 songs. "Am fenster" (at the window) was originally released as a highly successful single, the album version being an expended version in 3 parts.

The five songs which make up the first side of the original LP are well crafted but rather undistinguished blues/guitar rock. The lyrics are all in German although the sound is rather British; those looking for Krautrock need to look elsewhere. There are hints of bands such as Wishbone Ash (especially in "Nachts um halb eins") and Golden Earring ("Traudl" is more than a little like "Radar Love").

"Meister aller Klassen" (Master of all classes) is a slower guitar driven power ballad which tells the tale of an over ambitious motorcyclist. The appearance of flock like violin played by Georgi Gogow on "Der King vom Prenzlauer Berg" offers a pleasing additional dimension to the song.

It is though to "Am Fenster" that we look for the band's piece de resistance. This 17+ minute suite is made up in three contiguous parts, opening with the acoustic "Traum". Here, violin and acoustic guitar combine in a slightly folk influenced melody, the violin gradually swelling the sound in a manner similar to the middle section of Curved Air's "Vivaldi". The section ends abruptly as ticking clocks and chimes introduce the brief "Tagtraum". This simply acts as link to the main part of the suite, which is also titled "Am fenster". Here we find the first vocals of the track, but violin continues to dominate instrumentally. The track now finds a rhythm and a hook, the relentless violin acting as the catalyst for the development of the song into a hypnotic daydream (Tagtraum). While the song did find significant success in East and West Germany, and indeed in some other parts of Europe, it failed to find an audience in the lucrative markets of the English speaking countries. Such an injustice has befallen many bands who record in their native language, examples such as this merely emphasising how fine music is ignored simply because of the language used.

In all, this is something of a "Tarkus" with one superb side long number, and a collection of good but unremarkable supporting songs. Highly recommended simply for "Am fenster" though.

Thanks to seyo for the artist addition.

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