Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Music Library: Can Comes Alive!

Having Fun With Can On Stage!

As I wrote the other day, Can was willing to indulge whatever it took to make their album work. Generally the band recorded hours upon hours of music and would then edit the mixes down to an appropriate size. Often the band would have to learn the songs again after editing them. There's something to be said for how in-tune the core members of the band were with each other. They could shift on a dime, somehow all of them knowing that this moment was the right moment - 12 minutes into their improvisation - to go to a completely different sound. That sort of psychic connection is a rare thing, and it's even more impressive to hear live. Much of Can's live sound was about improvisation without ever dropping to the endlessly dull jam-band approach of guitar leads over two chords forever. That shit is toxic. Instead, Can would be constantly reinventing the song, constantly searching for transcendence through collective music. No one held down the background: Jaki Liebezeit's drumming was as important a component to the sound as Holger Czukay's superfast pulsating bass, Michael Karoli's wailing guitar, and Irmin Schmidt's increasingly abstract and noisy keyboards. The vocals were the least important part of the bad, although ultimately necessary because the human voice gives listeners an in with the music, even when it's mostly gibberish or sung-snapped in Japanese, and Can's music has a steep learning curve.

So this post is about my Can bootlegs, although it starts with the official release from the Can Box. Some of these bootlegs include unreleased studio work. Fortunately, a kind soul out there has catalogued a bunch of Can concerts and studio releases to help us keep this all straight.

Can concerts, for your cross-referencing thrills.

Can studio work, for those who cannot get enough.

  • Can Box Music. Towards the end of "Jynx," the first track on the Can Box Music disc, Holger Czukay's bassline turns into Sly & The Family Stone's ultra-funky "Thank You Falletime Be Mice Elf Again." "Jynx" is a 16-minute improvisation from October 1975, post-Damo Suzuki, pre-Rosko Gee (the bassist who replaced Czukay, allowing him to start adding random noise from backstage, which somehow managed to be less interesting than it sounds). The second track is a version of "Dizzy Dizzy" from a month later that incorporates elements of the song without ever being recognizeable from the album version. This is followed by a version of "Vernal Equinox" from the same show, propelled by the drumming and bassline. "Fizz" is from the 1977 version of Can, with Czukay on noise and Gee on bass. The noise is interesting, but Gee was not up to Czukay's level of bass. There's a version of "Yoo Doo Right" from 1975 that's pretty great. The shortest track on the album is the less-than-5-minute "Cascade Waltz" from the 1977 Rosko Gee version of Can. The second disc opens with the "Colchester Finale," a 37-minute improvisation from 1972 that includes parts of "Halleluwah" with Damo Suzuki doing his jabbering Damo Suzuki thing. Then there's an 8-minute improvisation called "Kata Kong," followed by a 14-minute version of "Spoon" from 1972, held together only by the insistent 1-2-and-4 rhythm of the keyboard sound. All in all, it's a great introduction to Can's live approach.

  • Rare & Unreleased Vol. I. and Canaxis 5: Studio Demo Tapes. Both of these include a bunch of studio stuff from roughly the same time as Delay 1968 and a couple from the Ege Bamyasi sessions. They are both virtually the same, although the tracks are in reverse order on each. The versions are slightly different, though, and while I'm not sure I need both, I also don't know that I can decide which to get rid of. The former has several b-sides unavailable on the latter, but the former is also mastered faster, so that all of the tracks are about a whole step higher than they are on the latter, usually leading to about a 30-second difference in running time.

  • Mother Sky (06-1971 Berlin). If the Can live page is right, this is actually from May 22, 1972, so I'll adjust the date accordingly. The first track is a 19-minute improvisation called "Standing So High." The second track is 21 minutes and incorporates parts of "Vitamin C" and "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea." The third track is called "I Don't Care" (9+ minutes) and appears to be "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea" again. The fourth track is listed as "Mother Sky" (12 minutes), which does have parts of that song amongst the sonic craziness. The last track (10+ minutes) is listed as "Spoon," and it starts with "Peking O" before turning into the familiar sound of "Spoon."

  • 22 Oct 1971 Volkshalle Walzerborn, Steinberg DE. My version differs from the Can live page version, so it may be a completely different show. Sound quality is bad. It starts with a 5-minute untitled improvisation that seems to pull from parts of "Aumgn" before cutting out abruptly. My second track is an 8.5 minute "Peking O" that has nothing from "Peking O" and parts of "Halleluwah" and "Paperhouse." Another abrupt stop. Third track is listed as "Paperhouse," but it's "Full Moon On The Highway." Fourth track is a 4-minute improvisation incorrectly listed as "Full Moon." Fifth track is an untitled 3.5 minute ambient piece. Sixth is a 6-minute untitled piece that is unidentifiable. Seventh is 4.5 minutes of "Halleluwah." Last is 6 minutes of "Turtles Have Short Legs."

  • 1972 05-08 Colchester/University of Essex. This is a kick-ass bootleg, the source of the monster "Colchester Finale" from the Can Box Music album. Starts off with a 16+ minute improv, following by 19+ minutes of "Halleluwah." Then a 12-minute "Paperhouse," split into two tracks for some reason. Then nearly 20 minutes of "Spoon" with an audible tape splice about 15 minutes in. There's 6 minutes of an untitled improv, then 13 minutes of "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea." Then the 37 minute "Colchester Finale," which touches on a number of tracks form Tago Mago before finishing up with a reprise of "Halleluwah." HEAVY.

  • Horrortrip in the Paperhouse and Free Concert: Live 1973-03-02 Koln. This is the famous free concert from June 24, 1972 included in its entirety on the Can Box movie. I have two versions, both listed with the wrong date. And they both sound pretty good, so I'm not sure whether to keep them both or delete one. For some reason, both add a 27-minute improvisation at the end from a show on Feb 19, 1973 which is wrongly attributed as "Pinch" on both.
  • Paris Olympia 1973. The Can live page lists this as May 12, 1973. Four tracks: "Improvisation" (35 minutes), "One More Night" (9 minutes), "Spoon" (32 minutes), and "Vitamin C" (14 minutes). The Can live page names the opening improv "Whole People Queueing Down," which I'll do, too. "Spoon" should include an improv they call "Stars and Lines."
  • The Emdias Theatre, Edinburgh. The Can live page lists this as August 25, 1973. Two tracks, the first 14 minutes and the second over 30, both listed as improvs. The first one should be titled "Soup" and the second one "Bel Air." Surprisingly good sound quality.
  • 1973 August 25 Edinburgh. Same show! Same tracks! Worse sound quality, so it's gone.
  • The Peel Sessions. The first track, "Up The Bakerloo Line With Anne," is from February 1973. The next three tracks are from 1974 and the final two were from 1975. None are studio releases. They're all pretty experimental, too. I like to think John Peel liked it that way. Top notch stuff.

  • Radio Waves. This is a grab-bag of live Can from TV and concerts plus two b-sides that have appeared elsewhere. First is the complete 35-minute "Up The Bakerloo" from the Peel Sessions. There's a version of "Paperhouse" from 1971 for the German Beat Club TV show. There's a 15-minute improv called "Entropy" from the actual show in June 1971 (rather than the wrongly attributed one on the Mother Sky bootleg). There's another Malcolm Mooney studio outtake from 1969. And there's "Turtles Have Short Legs" and "Shikaku Maru Ten" again.

  • Spoon Over Babaluna. Bad sound quality! All three are live tracks recorded for the BBC. Starts with a 24-minute improv from Feb 19, 1974 called "Tadjidid Janid." Then there's two tracks from Nov 18, 1975. The first is an improv called "Senoussi" and the second is a stunning version of "Vernal Equinox." There's a clip of the band playing this version on the documentary in the Can Box.

  • Stuttgart Halloween 1975. Opens with an improvisation that the Can live page says should be called "Morning Glory." Then it goes into "Bel Air" followed by "Dizzy Dizzy" and winds up with a final track of "Pinch" into a jam called (unfortunately) "The Gypsy." The track fades out after roughly 28 minutes of this, but the Can live page suggests that there was at least another 6 minutes to the track.

  • 1975 May 17 Colchester: Future Days & Past Nights. Apparently the real Future Days etc. bootleg opens with 45 minutes of "Chain Reaction" into "Bel Air." Neither are on this bootleg, which picks up with "Dizzy Dizzy" from the same show and runs through the end. This includes "Pinch" into "Mother Sky." "One More Night," then "Half Past One," then "Vitamin C." Then there's the long, frequently-played, never-recorded-in-the-studio, and not-so-great jam "Meadowsweet," then "The Gypsy" into a raucous "Full Moon On The Highway." It all winds out with the short mess-around piece "Up The Floyd."

  • London + Grenoble. Weird bootleg. Starts with a show recorded in Grenoble on January 16, 1976 with the core members of the band. Track listing: "Pinch," "Dizzy Dizzy," "Chain Reaction/Half Past One," "Vernal Equinox" (with long improvisations at the end, split into three tracks on my boot), then a track I don't know called "Ibis." The second disc is a show recorded in London on December 4, 1976 with Holger Czukay on noise and Rosko Gee on bass. Track listing: "Moonshake/Don't Say No," "Vitamin C," "Pinch." The Grenoble show: great. The London show: so-so.

  • Paris to Langelsheim. Another weird one. These were taken from a tour with guest vocalist Michael Cousins. The first track appears to be a recording of "Vertigo" from March 19, 1976 in Paris. The next three recordings are from April 10, 1976 in Langelsheim: "Goosie Goosie," "Spoon," and "Made In Japan." Only "Spoon" is a song that appeared on a Can album.
  • Germany 1976 Vol. 1. This is the first set of a show recorded April 11, 1976 in Hannover. The tracks are "Vitamin C," "One More Night," "Bel Air," and "Dizzy Dizzy." Proof that the core members of Can could produce some scalding experimental soup even while making tepid disco albums.


Mona 8:48 AM, April 27, 2009  

Good posts this and the previous studio one. Don't know the Paris to Langelsheim boot at all. If you still haven't got the Colchester 75 full version I can upload it for you.

Hayden Childs 9:20 PM, April 27, 2009  

Thanks, Mona! You're not missing much on the Paris to Langelsheim boot. I don't know much about uploading or I'd offer a trade! Like your blog, too. I've had Nels Cline on the brain for the last couple of days after listening to Carla Bozulich's solo albums. I just went to his site to check out his pedalboard before I visited your site.

Mona 10:18 PM, April 27, 2009  

Don't worry about the trade, I will upload it for you sometime in the next couple of days OK & I thought you might have the RT stuff!!!
Hope you keep visiting the blog I will put yours in my list as there is a lot more i want to check out.

Hayden Childs 11:45 AM, April 28, 2009  

Thanks again, Mona! I'll add your blog to my list, too.

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