The long-running Deutschrock originals celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2018, and on the last day of this merry year, band leader and drummer extraordinaire Mani Neumeier will be a mere 80 years young. In between those two anniversaries, on 19th May 2019, the band made a first foray into China, to play at the Tomorrow Festival in Shenzen, and this album and DVD is the record of that event.
When they started out, Guru Guru were a fiercely innovative collision of free jazz and lysergically assisted free rock, and they were led then, as they are now, by their wild-eyed drummer, but their edge-of-seat lunacy was not just down to him, as they also had the fabulously monikered Ax Genrich on guitar, a man so far removed from the orthodox blues scales of USA/UK rock, he would probably have thought that if you asked him to play a twelve-bar that you were asking him on a pub crawl. Held together by the human anchor that was Uli Trepte on bass, how could they fail? Over the course of several albums in the first half of the ’70s they added influences from non-European rhythms and musics to the blend, and produced a heady gumbo stew of the aforementioned freewheeling Ur-rock, and what would become known as “World Music”, always an oxymoronic label, for is not all music of one world or another?
Like all originally innovative bands, they eventually settled into a more predictable form, and continued releasing new music, right up to 2018’s Rotate. The setlist here goes right back to 1972’s Känguru, and although you won’t find quite the wild experimentation of that vintage LP here, the set is nonetheless energetic, and entertaining, with the current settled line-up going through their paces. Instrumentally, Roland Schaeffer’s guitar is usually at the front, but Mani’s rhythmic heft is ever-present as is his court jester lunacy, particularly on Izmiz, which features scat singing and what I can only assume is a lengthy kazoo/duck-call solo! At least I assume it’s Mani, as I don’t have the DVD to check, but the loon does have form!
Mani also turns in a sprightly drum solo on Auf Alle Felle, working the crowd into a frenzy with some great call-and-response kit work, as well as some percussive jesting, as is his wont. Much like the similarly aged John Marshall in Soft Machine, Mani proves that age is no barrier to nailing it down.
All in all an entertaining 75 minutes, and the Chinese crowd lap it all up, sounding much less restrained than their Japanese cousins are known to be. Sometimes when you investigate later (in this case much, much later!) albums by heroes of your musical youth, the results can be somewhat disappointing to say the least, but I will admit that Guru Guru’s Live In China was much better than I was expecting. Probably one for the fans, for all that.
01. Dark Blue Star (7:03)
02. Iddli Killer (4:01)
03. Wonderland (5:22)
04. Read Air (3:41)
05. Living In The Woods (7:22)
06. Space Baby (7:41)
07. Izmiz (10:46)
08. Magic Tree (5:38)
09. Rock’N’Roll Machine (4:27)
10. Ooga Booga Special (4:03)
11. Auf Alle Felle (8:44)
12. Digital-Analog (4:59)
Total Time – 74:57
Mani Neumeier – Drums, Percussion, Kaossilator, Vocals
Roland Schaeffer – Guitar, Saxophone, Nadaswaran, Vocals …
Peter Kühmstedt – Bass, Vocals
Jan Lindqvist – Guitar, Lapsteel Guitar, Vocals
Record Label: Trance Music (possibly, it’s hard to tell… )
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 10th April 2020
Being an inveterate hippy, and in a self-defeating “stick it to the Man” show of defiance, Mani does not make tracking down a link to buy his band’s album an easy task. The best I can find is to contact him through the band website link above. Bloody hippies! … or you could try HERE.