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Various Artists

Heavy Christmas

Review by Gary Hill

This is a Krautrock compilation album from 1971. It was reissued on CD in 1997. As you might guess, the music here is more on the proto-prog end of the spectrum, just because of the era in which it was created. There is some weird music on this set, along with some particularly cool. stuff. This isn't the most "holiday music" like thing you'll find, but it is a cool artifact of a by-gone era. It's also an interesting listening experience.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Libido - Evolution (Oh Du Fröhliche)
The opening section of this brings some serious psychedelic weirdness. As it shifts into the song proper it coalesces into something a bit proggier. This still has a real 60s vibe to it. I dig the cool little guitar break movement with it's noisy, garage kind of sound. They take it out into some killer space rock at the end.
Marcel - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Now, this is more of a traditional song. It has plenty of folk rock built into it, along with some space rock. Still, the crunchy guitar brings a definite psychedelic rock edge. This is so cool. It's one of the highlights of the set, really. This has some smoking hot guitar work. It really gets into some smoking hot rock zones.

Joy Unlimited - All Heaven And Earth Are Silent
Intricate acoustic guitar brings this into being. The cut works out gradually from there with other instrumentation filling out the arrangement. As it shifts a bit there is a real 1960s or early 1970s pop rock sound. The cut drives out from there with a lot of style as a psychedelic rocker. Then it suddenly changes gear to some freaky jazz based sounds. That creates a crescendo that seems to end the piece. Soulful female vocals rise up acapella to herald the next movement. Those vocals carry the track by themselves for a while until acoustic guitar and a male voice join. There are more acapella parts later, though, but this time with two voices. Acoustic guitar again rises up as the only accompaniment. Then the tune shifts out to some cool jam that has a real 60s sound with plenty of proto prog in the mix. The flute adds a lot of cool to the piece, but really the vocals are the biggest selling point in this section. It shifts to a powerhouse instrumental prog jam that makes me think of The Nice from there. Organ really dominates that section. As it ends more of a folk rock groove rises up as backing for non-lyrical vocals. After a time it explodes out into a powerhouse proto prog instrumental jam with some funk and psychedelia in the mix. The flute solos like crazy over the top of that as it continues driving onward. Vocals rise up as the flute drops away. There is great use of horns along with some smoking guitar fills. This piece is over eight minutes long, and they make good use of that time with a lot of variety and changes. This is one of the standouts of the set. They take that powered up section through a number of changes before bringing in a mellower kind of psychedelic groove for the fadeout.
Virus - Mary Meets Tarzan (Maria Durch Ein' Dornwald Ging)
By contrast, length-wise, this is just over a minute of music. Based on classical music textures, this is pretty and tastefully psychedelic. It has a few vocals, but is mostly instrumental.
Dies Irae - Silent Night (Stille Nacht)
Smoking hot guitar work brings this into being with a heavy, garage rock kind of vibe. They launch out into a jam that's not far removed from early Black Sabbath. This is smoking hot tune, but you'd not peg it for the song that it is. That said, there is  a passing melodic reference to it before the song drops back to a jazzy kind of groove. As a harmonica comes in over the top it becomes a bluesy psychedelic sort of jam. I love the bass work in the backdrop on this thing. They eventually bring it out into a smoking hot blues rock jam from there. This is purely on fire and features some killer guitar work. As this winds through we get the sounds of war at the end.
Libido - Come On Everybody
There is a real garage rock sound to this thing, at least at the start. It wanders out into some seriously trippy space rock meets psychedelia as it continues. It eventually works out to a cool psychedelic rock jam for the vocal movement. There is still a definite space rock edge to it, too.
Ardo Dombec - Heavenly Rose (Es Ist Ein Ros' Entsprungen)
This starts with some seriously jazzy jamming. They work things out into some more powerhouse rock sounds, but still with plenty of exploratory jamming at the heart of it. The cut is a killer, proggy, jazzy instrumental number.
Dies Irae - Shepherd's Song (Kommet Ihr Hirten)
This is less than a  half-minute long. It's just a weird acapella piece that feels tongue-in-cheek.
Ardo Dombec - Open The Door, Open Your Mind (Macht Hoch Die Tür)
Fast paced prog jamming with a definite jazz edge opens this thing. It makes me think of King Crimson a bit in this early part. It drives outward with hints of Dixieland jazz. That movement works forward and gives way to a short mellower interlude. The fast jamming returns after a time, and the instrumental cut continues to evolve as it drives onward.
Virus - X-Mas Submarine
A killer prog rock meets space jam brings this into being with style. It has some tasty musical textures and really grooves nicely. This instrumental is another highlight of the set.
Flute & Voice - Ecce Navicula (Es Kommt Ein Schiff Geladen)
It might say "Flute and Voice," but this actually features acoustic guitar, too. The cut is a very traditionally styled holiday piece in the opening segment. It has a very gentle classical kind of vibe. After a time, though, it works out to trippy sort of psychedelic world music to continue. It goes back into the song proper for the closing section, though, grounding it again.
Libido - Come On Everybody (Special Radio Version)
Here we get a shortened version of the earlier track. This feels a bit rawer and more immediate than the previous rendition. The guitar fills really stand out, and the cut grooves nicely. Some cool space rock stuff serves as the closing. 
 
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