Sunday, October 7, 2012

To Finish Off With Records Frame Give Me A New Frame Of Mind And A New Way Of Life

Sorry for my absence from these pages for quite some time. In the interim every record, and all were really special, bar 3 great ones from Europe and the summer flew out to firstly get a few choice records from my mate Jamie Holmes @ Double Decker in Allentown PA and then when the trade went sour (NEVER BUY AN ORIGINAL OF FRUMPY'S FRUMPY 2 UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT TO SUFFER WITH A PISS POOR GIMMICK COVER) they went to him to buy 16 masterpiece records from the best record dealer Bernie Shapiro. Bernie is a kind, patient person and our deal was only completed 3 days after it began and completed at his house when I skipped on a beat up copy of High Tide's 2nd for Krokodil's in my mind definitive, absolutely superb stunning last record the double album blow out SWEAT AND SWIM. I ended up spending nearly $3,000 with Bernie, but if there is somebody you want that kind of money to go to it's somebody like Bernie who has choice top of the line records and who is a good hearted, funny, interesting, and above all very special person the likes of which the world has too few of and the record world practically none of.
       Everything I got from Bernie, all 16 records are masterpieces but I find myself starting a long period of entries about UK/European/US/Canadian bands with Frame. Frame from Marburg Germany were together with Limerick Ireland's fantastic psychedelic country/folk/prog rockers Granny's Intentions the band that kicked things off with Bernie for me and I'd had my sights on getting back this masterful record since the summer. Truth be told the 16 from Bernie surpass about all of the ones from Europe and made my toil and misery in the netherworld of record deal Hellishness at least a very pleasant outcome. I'd had Frame 4 years ago in much lesser condition with a banged up cover from an asshole dealer in California from Greece/Italy who puts all his prices in Euros even though he is in Northern California! Then the worst record dealer in the world got it from me in a bad trade as all were with him and refused to let me have it back. I was hopping mad ever since swearing I'd get another copy someday that would be better than the one I gave up and somehow secretly really make him suffer, but enough of that. There's not any point in going off on a tear about how criminally minded and behaviorally nasty most record dealers are.
     Frame came out with FRAME OF MIND in 1972 and their brilliant guitarist Andy Kirnberger had guested on Pell Mell's debut Marburg- named for the city both bands came from. Joining the guitar player was a future member of Pell Mell Cherry Hochdorffer on keyboards, Peter Lotz on bass/vocals (Andy Kirnbirger I believe also contributes to the 3 part harmonies), Wolfgang Claus on drums, and lead vocalist extraordinaire Dieter Becker. One of the rarest German records and also about the most essential you can get for a country that has produced more essential records than just about any other place in Europe Frame's FRAME OF MIND is as warm as a soldier and as comfortable as sitting in the sun on a beautiful day in Autumn watching the leaves turn colour. Yes, I associate soldiers with warmth and resilience and hard hitting no nonsense truth and could easily say the same of the best bands this era produced- Frame, Fantasy from England, Cressida's 1st record, and some choice others who make this kind of progressive melodic heavy psychedelic rock the most intriguing music of the 70s. Later on they'd start to come from stranger places like the lone long player by Arizona's very gifted Autumn People, but Germany, England, and Canada's best had some sort of monopoly on this kind of sound. Frame may just be the best there ever was and amazingly a one off- they never entered the studio again after the legendary FRAME OF MIND. A lot of bands made one offs, but this is one of the most astonishing. Whereas Cressida would have been better only making their first album, Fantasy's even better 2nd was unissued until the early 90s, The Parlour Band became the very different The O Band, and a lot of other bands just splintering off into nothingness Frame may have had the most promising sound, the most perfect first and only album of them all. Wind are a band I could probably say were an exception- a band who made two albums, 3 if you count Corporal Gander's Fire Dog Brigade, which are brilliant and I really wish I still had, but Frame are even better. For starters the songs are better, sharper focused than Wind's, the guitar of Kirnberger is very much like that of Michael Schenker back when the guy was a guitar God, and Dieter Becker has no problem at all with the English lyrics which he probably wrote.
    In fact, Frame sound somewhat Anglo German. Their influences are at times obviously bands like Yes, Procol Harum, Black Sabbath but much more melodic and less menacing, and The Moody Blues, but they interject their wistful progressive heavy mellow psych (yeah it sounds contradictory, but hear the album for yourself and you'll know what I mean) with Teutonic classical overtones, some choice lyric writing about hot summer days and cold months of Winter, and the vocals are lightly accented unlike the heavy accent of many other great German bands.
   I never call a German band "Krautrock" I find that term incredibly offensive and by this time who cares about WW2 and what happened except to learn from it with sympathy for all involved! Germany was a country pulled into a quagmire by a typically power mad politician and believe me I bet a lot of the German soldiers were throwing out their rationed sauerkraut and asking for some real food! By the time the war ended Germany had been seriously wounded and they would take several years to rebuild. My honest opinion is not an opinion but a fact. Had Germany had better distribution bands like Frame would have done a lot of damage, good damage, here with tours, raves from anyone and everyone who heard them, and this whole "Krautrock" nonsense probably began because of fear of a "German Invasion." Sweden was going through a weird period when two just above average looking girls and their two just above average looking partners/songwriters pummeled American and international radio with intelligent, inventive songs in perfect English- Abba. Abba came after Frame. They had their beginnings long before, but other bands too followed such as Dutch progressive masters Kayak. Kayak would eventually try to crack the US market and fail miserably which must have been horrible for them, but Frame- as good as Abba and dare I say a lot more fun than my beloved Kayak didn't even come close.
   Frame may have gone downhill into oblivion with a second release or they may have become at least a big concert draw in Germany, but just like the whole most of German bands in the early to late 70s their album was their one album before they broke up. It's amazing how many bands were active in Germany, but I'll find myself having a hard time to think of a country that produced just as much quality with their numerous offerings. Sure, there were a few real losers like the dreadful Gash and Cornucopia and the whole cosmic electronic nonsense thing, but Frame are of the best kind of German band there is- progressive, psychedelic, but Solid Good Rock. Their songs are full of deceptive changes, flowing melodies, virtuoso musicianship, and really stunning vocals. The opening title track is a beautiful song of pastoral grace with some fine Iommi influenced solos thrown into to spice up the soft flowing sounds with harder rock and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The lyrics speak of the beauty of nature- a recurring theme throughout the album. "Hot Summer Day/Lazing By The River" very lovely. Dieter Becker sings in a deep strong voice somewhat reminiscent of Spring's Pat Moran but even better and I would easily place Frame above even the wonderful Spring for progressive magic. There isn't much mellotron, just a detuned one at the end of the album, but Cherry Hochdorffer's brilliant swirly soaring heavy organ is so powerful that Frame don't need one. There's a lot of variation between the acoustic and the electric and also on the second track "Crusical Scene" it becomes obvious this is going to be fun instead of depressing listening. "Crusical Scene" features more great harmonies, powerful guitar and organ battles, and some playful lyrics. There also are the complex changes in mood and structure that are a theme throughout the record, but probably the pick of the album for many listeners would go to the epic over 11 minute long "All I Really Want Explain." I don't know quite how to put into words how powerful this track is, but it packs the kind of punch in its 11 minute and longer duration that was started like how most things were started- by The Beatles. When The Beatles recorded ABBEY ROAD they were splintering on a personal level, but the tightness of that brilliant side long suite on Side Two left many breathless, wondering just how they came up with something so majestic. Then there were bands like Procol Harum pushing the boundaries of rock and blowing things to fragmentations. There was the better side of Pink Floyd and there was the progressive brilliance of Yes and just to a slightly lesser degree Genesis. Frame came along and their idea was to put all of the above AND THEIR OWN THING TOGETHER. WOW! "All I Really Want Explain" will have you knocked out. Becker is really strong here with his mournful distant to very in your face vocals, the melodies are beautiful, and there are easily 4 or 5 songs thrown together into an amazing epic. The rhythm section are brilliant and Kirnberger plays some wonderful guitars especially in the faster passages of the song where the classical influences really come out to play. You'll probably, if like me, know just how truly lame most American psych is when you try to place it even anywhere close to this. We get too macho. There's none of that here. I love a lot of American bands, but with notable exceptions of which there are many, mainly the necessity of The Wizards From Kansas and Saint Steven in your collection, we were never this good and even The Wizards get out magically magical done in by something as powerful as "All I Really Want Explain." There's similarities in the wide open approach to the guitar playing, though. Remember that America had some great guitar players including the to a lot of people best Jimi Hendrix. Jimi, though he has been dead for a very long time now, will live longer than most living guitarists. He was someone who could interject soul and sympathy into even the most scorching solos and Andy Kirnberger has a lot of Jimi's magic and Ritchie Blackmore's too. I haven't mentioned Deep Purple as an influence. Their simplistic power rock may mean something to headbanger wannanbes, but Uriah Heep and fellow Germans Lucifer's Friend come to mind much more with their way better songs and vocals. There is the long slow part of "All I Really Want Explain"where Becker is sounding soulfully sad and like he is longing for some peace of mind and then the song goes into blissful dreamy harmonies before exploding into Teutonic fury. A real showstopper for progressive/heavy psych.
      Side Two begins with the heaviest track on the album called "If." The lyrics describe a series of "What Ifs'" that are both very positive and on the other hand would have dire consequences. You don't know where it's gonna go. The text is clever enough to have you marveling at it and Becker's strong vocal delivery has some real menace too. There's more powerful charging guitar and organ with brilliant drums and bass also. "If" bears some resemblances to the earlier mentioned Wind, Jethro Tull (without the flute, though), and Black Sabbath although I prefer Frame's heavy hard rock to the more stern and gloom/doom of what would scare most to death in Sabbath. They border on that kind of menacing, majestically loud doom rock, but they never fall prey to the pitfalls that Sabbath avoided and a million other bands fell into. Kirnberger's riffs may recall the great and let's hope he gets better Tony Iommi, but the solos are much more like that of early Michael Schenker. There was a time when Schenker was the best guitar player in the world and don't you forget that. UFO saved my life many times when I couldn't see the point of fighting it out anymore and so did The Scorpions. If you love UFO or Scorpions then Frame will open up a whole new world of great music for you if you can afford the ultra rare ultra expensive original that is! "Winter" follows "If'" and is a completely different kind of song- a beautiful reflective ballad with mainly acoustic guitars, organ, and soaring yet very mournful harmonies. There's an ominously intoned section from Dieter Becker, but mostly very beautiful vocals and melodies. Frame made about the best German record there is and the two short closing tracks are also really great and not throwaways either. "Penny For An Old Guy" is a very complicated song that goes through quite a few changes in just a little over 3 minutes and is full of strange whimsical psychedelic lyrics. "Children's Freedom" is just a beautiful song. "Truebsal" is  a short out of tune mellotron effect and by the end of the album you'll want to hear it again soon.  
    This album features not just stellar, amazing music within, but a great cover that is some of the best art on an album cover if I do say so myself.  Unfortunately, Frame's FRAME OF MIND record is one of Germany's rarest and most highly desired collector's items changing sums for huge amounts of money. The reissue is way inferior, but it's also out of print and runs the gamut between $30 and $40 just for a reissue! Poor distribution and just as poor sales have made this one a real rarity, but it's one of the best records ever made. It's as important for you to get this for your collection as it is to get your hands on a copy of ODDESEY AND ORACLE, but it will be way harder to obtain than the excellent double set TIME OF THE ZOMBIES which includes not just all of ODDESEY, but another whole record that features a lot of great material. What I'm pushing at here was me just reflecting on how this whole melancholic rock thing started with bands like The Left Banke, The Zombies, the wistful and haunting ballads of The Beatles and then The Beatles got heavier with it, Procol Harum came out, and the whole "Progressive" thing just exploded after the whole "Psychedelic Groovy Man" thing exploded. Ah, I remember the days of long hair and outlandish clothes that I used to shock and terrify people with, but now my firm belief in love is just as strong. Frame hold on to a bit of that loving, warm, let's give before we receive vibe of the 60s and I love this album very much. You need to hear it too, and treasure the brilliant sound that Frame came up with on FRAME OF MIND. It's a good one to be into.

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