CD reissues: 1992 Spalax (France); 2002 Garden of Delights; 2008 SPV / Revisited; 2010 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)
LP reissues: 1979 IRI (France); 2004 Amber Soundroom; 2012 Made in Germany
Packaging details: Originals have skyrocketed in price over the years, and can easily run well over $600 (though I saw one go nearly for $5K - though that seems it might be an auction mistake). To this day, the original LP that I found back in the mid 1980s is one of my collection's treasures. The IRI press out of France was a cheaply made single cover (though maintained the original art design). But for most folks, it was the only affordable option in the 1970s & 80s. The high quality, but now defunct Amber Soundroom label, also released this on vinyl - and would be the recommended and cheaper alternative to the original. Made in Germany has followed with a new single sleeve edition, and uses the SPV redesigned cover (2nd scan). As for CD's, I bought the Spalax version immediately upon release for playing purposes (1992). As is usual with the label, the packaging is bare bones, especially their earlier issues. No doubt the GoD version is far superior, especially in the packaging department, but I never upgraded and haven't seen one myself. The SPV/Revisited version is considered by many to be the best sounding and was the first to feature a bonus track (and a new cover). Because of this, I was pleased to learn that the Japanese mini-LP version on Belle Antique was taken from the same mastering including the bonus. So with that, I finally put the Spalax CD in the sell bin and upgraded. One of those albums that is essential to have in this format - if you love packaging as much as I do. The only unfortunate aspect, and this is typical of Marquee, is they leave out the crucial English language history that both GoD and SPV provided.
Notes: I first discovered Agitation Free by accident in the mid 1980s. One of those albums I bought because it looked cool and was cheap. It had such a profound impact on me at the time, that it was one of those albums that helped shape my musical tastes for the future.
* 1. You Play for Us Today 6:08
**2. Sahara City 7:42
** 3. Ala Tul 4:50
4. Pulse 4:43
5. Khan El Khalili 5:30
** 6. Malesch 8:10
** 7. Rücksturz 2:09
* 8. Music Factory Live 15:15 (bonus track)
1) starts with "I fly the airplane, and you play for us, indeed?". And with that field recording of the small aircraft pilot, an organ overlay is applied with haunting voice and the bass starts to rumble a rhythm. A synthesizer floats a melody on top and the first sounds of acid guitar enter in, while pounding drums and the percussion adds an exotic air. The organ begins to swirl, the intensity builds, and the guitar goes into a frenzied but melodic solo. After what seems like only 2 minutes, but is actually well over 6, the field recording of the pilot's intercom interjects with spoken Arabic and leads to... 2) Recordings of a market in Egypt with percussion and wind instruments. This takes us back to the studio and a percussive synthesized sound. Haunting winds of sound with fuzz box guitar leads, while pounding symbols deliver you to the desert of unknown myths. After returning from the abyss, the band congeals into an incredible jam with superb guitar and bass jamming. By the time we get to 3), if you're not completely immersed into the Sahara desert mystique of this album, there's probably little chance it will resonate at this point. 'Ala Tul' is what the album is about: Atmosphere, intensity, mystery, exoticism, experimental, intrigue. It's another world, and one that wasn't explored prior, or hasn't been since. 4) demonstrates Agitation Free at their most experimental, though the piece begins to take form in the latter half in the classic Krautrock jam tradition. 5) brings us back to the Middle East, though for most of the piece, the emphasis is a light breezy instrumental, and gives us the best clue of where Agitation Free would go for their next album "2nd". 6) is the perfect encapsulation of all that has proceeded it. If there's one piece that defines the album, it is indeed the title track itself. This leads to 7) and the most memorable piece on the album, with a striking melody that was the centerpiece to many of their live jams during this era. This can be best demonstrated by the 15 minute bonus track 8), a stellar piece of Krautrock experimentalism mixed with psychedelic jamming. The kind of music that has your imagination wandering to some obscure artist club in Berlin circa 1972 and wishing you could transport back. This issue also features a short 6 minute video with yet another variation of the 7) theme. Video quality will remind you of the home reels of your youth, but it only adds to the aura.