Agitation Free - 2nd. 1973 Germany

After discovering Malesch, naturally 2nd immediately became my top want back in 1985. When I eventually did land a copy a couple of years later, which was the French IRI reissue, I was mightily disappointed. Mainly because 2nd wasn't Malesch. There are no Middle Eastern themes or even an overt psychedelic feeling to relate to. Over time, I've come to terms with 2nd, and now view the album as a total classic. It's closer to the "US west coast" 1960's sound, and is somewhat of an oddity in Krautrock circles.

'First Communication' defines the new ethos of Agitation Free. One that is considerably looser, more laid back and well, free. Generally this is where the West Coast term is applied. The late 1960's psychedelic scene of the San Francisco Bay Area as defined by The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. A pleasant guitar lead jam, if not exactly a great way to state "we're back!". 'Dialogue and Random' recalls the experimental aspects of 'Pulse' from Malesch and is somewhat of a waste of time. It's the two part 'Laila' where things become interesting, with a fine loud guitar solo among the somewhat peaceful surroundings. 'Laila, Part II' has a killer drum and bass line, followed by a stunning acid guitar melody, certainly Agitation Free's most recognized after 'Rücksturz' from their debut. The return of the swirling organ from the Malesch era is also much welcome. A stone classic of a song. 'In the Silence of the Morning Sunrise' brings us another strong Agitation Free styled melody, in a more laid back setting that typifies 2nd. A sweet, serene song. 'A Quiet Walk' is the odd bird in Agitation Free's catalog, sounding like a lost outtake from an Ohr label recording session. Part one's 'Listening' is an exercise in soundscape and atmosphere. With echoed found sounds, and layers of background organ, the feel is one of meditation and reflection. I think if there wasn't a payoff at the end, this could be seen as somewhat boring in the same way as 'Dialogue and Random'. But at roughly the 5 minute mark I suspect we hit the 'Not of the Same Kind' portion of the track, which provides the climax to the plot set out in part one. Acoustic guitar strumming lay the bed of rice for the main course - some mighty fine electric guitar runs (with studio effects) and percussion. Not an immediately likable song, but one whose hidden qualities come after multiple listens. If 'A Quiet Walk' pulls us out of the creative station, then 'Haunted Island' is off the rails. And it's a stunner. Here we get Agitation Free in hard blues rock territory complete with narrative vocals, some treated with a Leslie ala Brainticket's Cottonwood Hill and some really mean fuzz guitar solos. A closer that is at complete odds with anything else on this album, or even Malesch. A whole album of this style would have been amazing to behold. Bonus track 'Laila 74' takes us back to 2nd's finest melody - here in a live setting (decent quality) where the structure is looser and the jam more intense. An awesome addition to an already great album.

Personal Collection
LP: 1973 Vertigo
CD: 2010 Belle Antique (Japan)

Original LPs come in a gatefold cover and have the iconic swirl label. Worth noting there is a 1975 repress that has the spaceship label, and is considerably cheaper in the marketplace than the original. My history of this album goes way back to 1988. As noted above, the first copy I owned was the French IRI LP that comes in a simple single sleeve, with an altered cover (2nd scan). Next, I picked up the Spalax CD and with that moved out the French LP. As is usual with the label, the Spalax CD is bare bones and nothing special. I held onto this version for some 15 years, being the sole representative. That's not going to work. So I set about changing that situation in 2010 by replacing the CD with the Japanese mini-LP on Belle Antique. It is the same mastering as found on the SPV/Revisited CD (3rd scan represents its cover, as well as the Made in Germany LP repress), and to my ears was much better than the Spalax edition. It was also the first version to contain a bonus track. And of course it features the brilliant packaging of the original to the finest detail. Then it was time to find the original LP. I rarely pay top dollar for originals, but this is one where an exception was deemed necessary (and it had to be the swirl variety). So finally in 2015, I paid dearly for one. And it will remain with me until the end of days. Oh, and one side note, I also did recently pick up the Garden of Delights CD for curiosity sake. It's wonderful with a full history of the band. I did decide to sell it though, as it offers little else different.

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