Embryo - Opal. 1970 Germany

Embryo - Opal. 1970 Ohr

Other UMR features on Embryo

CD reissues: 1990 Materli Sonori (Italy); 1997 Materli Sonori (Italy); 2013 Belle Antique (Japan mini)

LP reissues: 1990 Materli Sonori (Italy); 1997 Think Progressive; 2010 Wah Wah (Spain); 2010 Get Back (Italy)

Release details: Embryo's debut was one of the original 5 Ohr albums, each featuring a unique gatefold cover of painted body parts. In the middle of the front cover, there was a slit that contained a balloon (like the auction photo above). For those with the balloon fully intact, the prices can soar over $500. On the reissue front, it's surprising to see that no indigenous label has taken this on, especially given its historical importance from one of Germany's most uncompromising and famous underground bands. Surprisingly, the Italian label Materli Sonori has managed to exclusively hold onto the rights of the first two Embryo albums. I believe the reason is that Embryo had moved to that Italian label for their new material in the 1980s, and they bought out the rights at that time. Not until 2013 did we finally see a Japanese mini, and given the cool cover, this is the copy I now own. The Belle Antique version, like all Japanese mini's, is true to the original and includes a balloon in a plastic package. None of the reissues sound great and are slightly muddy (and as you can see I've managed to own them all at one point or another), as I'm sure the source doesn't either. But I've never owned an original to confirm that. However, all the CDs feature the 26 minute bonus track, which I discuss below. As for the LP reissues, all of the above are fine reissues that come in a gatefold, minus the balloon. I've had the first two at one point or another, but decided to move them out years ago. I wouldn't mind having an original, but they are consistently expensive.

Notes: "Opal" is very different from the later works by this excellent long running band. Indeed it is an embryonic version of the group. It's mostly psych rock with jazz elements and is fairly straightforward and harmless overall. Two distinguishing songs take it higher: 'Revolution' is a fun instrumental and danceable jazz rock track, that you actually see more in the TV/films of the day (with "wild dancing teenagers" and hair flailing about) than what you would hear on album. 'People From Out the Space' is definitely the highlight - brilliant in fact - not only foreshadowing the sublime "Embryo's Rache" album, but it also fully captures the zeitgeist of the early Krautrock movement. On the other hand 'Glockenspiel' is an annoying attempt at the era's free jazz movement, and is completely at odds with the musical approach of "Opal". 

While I wouldn't want a reissue without the two bonus tracks, I don't personally consider them enhancements to the overall package. 'Lauft' is a loose 26 minute sax, bass, and drums jam with no peak moments. Excellent archival material that tells the whole story, but not necessarily good music. 

Last update: July 25, 2015

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