One of Germany’s rock pioneers, Achim Reichel founded beat-era The Rattles, the country’s equivalent to The Beatles, with Herbert Hildebrandt in 1960. Military service drew Reichel from the band; but upon discharge, he continued his musical career with the pop group Wonderland. At the start of the 70s, however, his interests in Eastern philosophies coincided with the burgeoning progressive trend. Teaming with lyricist Frank Dostal, he launched the just plain weird Wonderland Band. In 1971, Die Grüne Reise (“The Green Journey”) was the first album under Reichel’s new moniker, A.R. & Machines. Billed as a “soundtrack to the intended motion picture,” the album is certainly a trip. Reichel recorded the album by himself, adding vocals, percussion and electronic effects; Dostal wrote the lyrics. “Machines” refers to the tape recorders that made up Reichel’s signature “echo-guitar.” In layering multiple guitar lines to hypnotic effect, he predates just about everyone that would follow (Robert Fripp, Manuel Göttsching, Günter Schickert, etc.). “Beautiful Babylon,” for example, is resplendent, and offers a completely different take on the kosmische. There’s also a hippie vibe throughout the record that could be seen as strength (“I’ll Be Your Singer”), or not (“Come On, People”). Yet the album-twangy, metric and definitely psychedelic-is Reichel’s own progressive twist on rock ‘n’ roll, culminating in the whacked-out “Truth and Probability” with Reichel now layering his voice through the tape machines! The album saw release on Polydor, as did the following year’s double-album opus, Echo. Produced again by Reichel, the album enlisted the services of Conny Plank as engineer, and featured a host of guest musicians. With the “Machines” hypnotic echo-guitar in full force, it’s largely augmented by acoustic guitar, tabla rhythms and Reichel’s deep baritone croon-though Peter Hecht’s orchestration also shines. It’s an unprecedented set, and one of the most stunning albums of the era. Later Reichel set up his own Zebra imprint with Polydor and released albums by a variety of artists, including Kin Ping Meh, Ougenweide and Randy Pie. He also would release a few more A.R. & Machines albums, including the excellent IV in 1973. By mid-decade, however, Reichel’s involvement with progressive rock would be limited to that of producer and label head, as his (successful) solo career settled into more commercial territory, beginning with Dat Shanty Alb’m in 1976.
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Taken from The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock, here is an Album of the Week to enjoy and discuss.
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"Always ready with the ray of sunshine"