The Can – Mother Sky

• “Mother Sky” set to a picture of the housing album cover (but limited to just 10 of the 14 minutes). Thanks to signeponge.

9.9 “All-time classic Trance Rock from Germany”

From their second album “Can Soundtracks” (Liberty LBS 83 437 I) released in 1970.

It’s DAY TWO of CAN WEEK here on TLGR. Exciting, huh? I’m only 46 years late to the party : – )

“Can Soundtracks” was their second album of new music but not an album statement as such, being that it’s a compilation of tracks that they were commissioned to provide for various film soundtracks in the last couple of years. In an era when experimental groups notoriously struggled to make ends meet from live gigs or record sales, The Can were perhaps blessed that they had this separate income stream; however, their talents surely merited this in-demand status and this was a two-way street; the film-makers got some great, highly unique material to grace their underground films. The overall sound here tends towards a more conventional variant of the primal trance rock which had dominated the debut LP, but still burns with a pioneering intensity.

In the middle of these staggered recordings, the group’s American lead-singer, Malcolm Mooney, had returned to his homeland, as a result of a nervous breakdown. From the period when he was still with the group, there are two tracks here to feature his vocals. “Soul Desert” (from the film “Mädchen… nur mit Gewalt” in 1970) closes side 1 and finds our man in trademark expressive form, cunningly disguised as half-man half-guitar-pedal – it’s a remarkable sensory experience. Malcolm’s vocals also close side 2; on “She Brings the Rain” (from the film “Ein großer graublauer Vogel” in 1969) he further amazes us all by presenting himself as a finger-clicking jazz singer.

When Malcolm left, the remaining members were stuck, in the middle of a four-night engagement as the interlude band for a play taking place in Munich, without a vocalist. Bassist Holger Czukay explained how they recruited his replacement, Damo Suzuki, in the middle of that run:

Jaki and me were sitting outside in a cafe when Damo came near. I said to Jaki: ‘This will be our new singer.’ Jaki: ‘how can you say that, you don’t even know him.’ I got up from my seat, went to Damo and asked him if he is free for the evening. We were an experimental rock group and we were going to play a concert the night- sold out. Damo said he had nothing special to do, so why shouldn’t he sing. The venue was packed that evening and Damo started murmuring like a meditating monk. All of a sudden he turned into a fighting samurai, the audience was shocked and almost everybody left the hall. About 30 Americans were left and got totally excited about what they heard.

As fate would have it, this strange Japanese wanderer was born to sing with Can. The very first piece that he recorded with the group was “Don’t Turn the Light on, Leave Me Alone” (from the film “Cream” in 1970) which stands as an instant-classic, with its maraca-shaking, latin-flavoured vitality, an instantly memorable 4 note descending riff, and an enigmatic prayer-like murmured vocal from the new lead “singer”.

The album started with 3 tracks from the film “Deadlock” in 1970; “Deadlock”, “Tango Whiskyman” and “Deadlock (Titelmusik)”, the latter of which demonstrated the powerful, dynamic punch that these musicians have in their armoury – it’s little wonder they’re in demand for film work. Damo’s performance on the fantastic “Tango” (another with Latin motifs) demonstrates that they have pop sensibilities when required.

Second from last is “Mother Sky” (here premiered and later included on the film for which it was written – “Deep End” – in 1971) which finds the group in full throttle, rocking it to the max, with an unbelievably skilful blend of punk groove which is way out there in a class of its own; a sound which has not yet been heard on Planet Earth. That hooky high-neck bass and that mega-sharp snare drum would inform 1,000 bands of the future. Damo is right up for it – this is what the signed up for, and he slowly and surely builds up his part in the piece, ruminating on the madness of Palestine in amongst the general cosmic haze of the pulverizing 14 minute onslaught. Not bad for a b-movie extra, eh?

You can check out the rest of my album reviews for 1970 here.

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