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Embryo with Charlie Mariano, live Hamburg 1973

Embryo history

The Crack In The Cosmic Egg

These Cosmic Egg releases are exclusive products officially licensed from Embryo's Christian Burchard.
Limited edition releases of classic
live recordings by the Krautrock and
world music legend, rescued and
remastered by Alan Freeman for the
best sound experience possible!

Ultima Thule also try to carry as much of the Embryo catalogue as possible. and the current stock-list of titles containing Embryo recordings can be found here.

Embryo, the birth of a new sound

Undeniably, one of the most dedicated and seminal of the bands to emerge from Germany in the late 60's - early 70's was Embryo, born out of the hot-spot of new European jazz: Munich, and vehicle for the single-minded ideals of one Christian Burchard and his music. Embryo's history is torturously complicated, so many people have passed through the band, become attuned to the Embryo ethic, and proceeded to produce their own elaborations in other bands. Notorious jazzers like Mal Waldron, Charlie Mariano and others have regularly played with Embryo in concerts, and have also been featured on their albums. Thus, complex as it is, the family tree displayed in this article is simplified!

Early Days
A true "Krautrock" band with its footing firmly in the jazz idiom, Embryo's roots of invention sprang from a group of like-minded musicians, artists etc. known as Amon Düül. Experimenting with new forms of jazz expression, rock and avant-garde, the results of such work can be heard in full glory on Amon Düül II's PHALLUS DEI, a music that was neither rock or jazz, but something unique to Germany, a new music had been born.
    Christian Burchard left Amon Düül II during the recording of PHALLUS DEI and joined up with long time friend Edgar Hofmann to form Embryo, with the idea of producing a music that was a fusion of jazz, rock, blues and soul. The resultant first album: OPAL wasn't what one may expect; a basic form of jazz-rock with a hard-hitting sometimes freaky edge, it would have been quite unique at the time (though nowadays it does seem a mite dated) and has some excellent moments, particularly the albums closer People Out Of The Space, which was one of the few tracks to hint at the Embryo sound to come.

The Krautrock era
Now, a very much in demand live band, with a line-up of (seemingly) constantly changing musicians, the Embryo sound had matured considerably. The second album EMBRYO'S RACHE (Embryo's Revenge) no doubt surprised nearly everyone, with its powerful set of compositions and superb production quality. The extremely tight rhythm section (of Burchard and Bunka), winds, violin and multi-keyboards make for a spectacular music that only occasionally lets up for a song or a touch of lighter atmospherics. Take Revenge (written by Tabarin Man aka Jimmy Jackson), a veritable tour-de-force: multi-percussives and drums beat a complexly vigorous rhythm, joined by chunky organ, slick bass, waves of Mellotron, some great wild sax from Edgar, building up into some of the heaviest thundering riffing ever put on record. Espangna Si, Franco No (which due to its lyrical message offended the Spanish authorities, who cancelled their planned concerts later in 1972) is quite a different style of Embryo, and displayed their unusual approach to songs really well; whereas most bands allow a song to be a vehicle for only a couple (or even less) solos, Embryo do the opposite here - the song becomes interludes to the spacious and dynamic structure of the music. Verwandlung (Transformation) aptly displayed a style that was to be followed on subsequent LP's: a slick form of fusion, with complex rhythmic interplay, lots of keyboards, and solos galore from flute and sax. Surprising at first with this album is the lack of guitar, but not for a moment is It missed - Hansi Fischer's superb flute, Edgar's frenetic sax and versatile violin fill the sound amazingly. ...
    A new major development in Embryo's history was when Schwab introduced Charlie Mariano to the band. Christian said of this - 'He paid us a visit, stayed with us, and we had a jam. The musical communication between us worked, so that as a logical consequence we played concerts together ... of course It was a big surprise for us, because we thought Charlie Mariano was a size too big for us'. The concoction of Charlie, along with the return of Roman Bunka (no I don't know where he went) and new keyboardist Dieter Miekautsch certainly did hit off well, as can be witnessed on the next album WE KEEP ON. For a quartet they made a very big powerful sound, that on tracks like No Place To Go is quite breathtaking, energy is exuded with emotional perfection from every instrument, not least Charlie's versatile array of winds and Christian's incredibly complex rhythms. This album also broke Embryo around the world exported via jazz outlets and (along with the subsequent LP) gaining release in the USA, hence a Billboard reporter exclaimed 'An excellent offering of progressive jazz, coloured with Afro and Indian overtones ... the momentum is there from the outset, and surprisingly it continues to grow with each cut.'...
    In 1978, Embryo and crew embark on their most famous exploit, a touring performance and recording trip through the Middle-East via Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. The trip lasted a lot longer than planned, nearly two years in all, and was documented on hundreds of hours of tape. Impromptu recordings of native musicians, sessions along with Embryo, numerous concerts and festivals - all documented for posterity. Many choice recordings, along with some new studio work fired with the experience of this adventure made up the lavishly presented double album EMBRYO'S REISE (Embryo's Journey). Undeniably their best album for many years, there's a wealth of invention and variety to be found here: STRASSE NACH ASIEN (Road to Asia) opens the album in splendid Embryo riffing style fused with ethnic verve and atmosphere. Elsewhere, there's a smattering of odd songs, duets between Christian on vibes and Eastern musicians, some great live concert recordings and some of the most raucous Embryo rock on record. (Some other recordings from the tour were released on the cassettes entitled DISSIDENTEN VOLS 1 and 2, as well as on the retrospective ANTHOLOGY which featured unreleased recordings dating right back to 1971).

extracts from Audion #9, page 3 (August 1988) "Deutsche Rock 3" (full article in the magazine, will be replicated in the new Cosmic Egg rom)


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