Stern Combo Meissen - Reise Zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen. 1980 Germany
CD Reissues: 1993 DSB (Deutsche Schallplatten Berlin); 2011 Sechzehnzehn Musikproduktion (7 CD OAS)
The Stars of Meissen, who hail from the namesake town near Dresden, were arguably East Germany's most accomplished progressive rock group. Reise zum Mittelpunkt des Menschen is the second of their two recognized progressive rock classics and is a keyboard extravaganza. There are three distinct types of compositions present here, each defined by the predominant keyboard of choice.
On the "modern" front, one will hear the latest polysynths of the day, which many now call "cheesy", though I suspect as time moves forward, this particular sound will take on a life of its own. The music here has a certain Iron Curtain patriotic vibe, as the working man stands proud with his rigid face looking upwards. It's a type of progressive one might hear in the Soviet Union, somewhat like Edward Artemiev, or even Horizont. There's a bit of Eloy here too, in regards to the spaciness.
The second type of composition is driven by the trusty Hammond organ, and represents some of the best material here. In fact, the choppy manner of playing and irregular rhythms recalls the much unheralded (west) German band Trilogy. Though the shadow of Keith Emerson looms large as expected.
And then finally, and perhaps most surprising, is the heavy dosage of mellotron. It's a surprising sound coming from the East, and its usage is dominant in places - to the point of Jose Cid / Quarteto 1111 territory. You have to feel sorry for the poor sap who had to go in front of Procurement to justify how the mellotron is an essential purchase for the State. If only to have been there as they roll the mellotron through Checkpoint Charlie...
So overall a superb example of 70s Eastern European progressive rock. All the lyrics are in German, as was every album on the other side of the Wall.
The album's original copyright date is 1980 (on the State run Amiga label). Like Trabant's, one will often find the LP beaten, and left by the side of the road. As such, it's highly recommended to secure a CD, though there's only one legit pressing and it's tough to find (of course it is...). I'm not 100% certain here, but I believe DSB is the renamed Amiga label. I bought mine not long after it was released. In doing research for this entry, I see the album has been reissued with most of their discography in an Original Album Series type format. But since most of their other albums are not of interest to progressive rock fans, it's still a costly endeavor.
Originally published January 30, 2010 and pushed forward to current date with completely rewritten notes.