Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jane "Live At Home"

I spent a year going to college in Germany and one of my roommates had this album.  Since my idea of a progressive band at the time was something along the lines of Kansas, or Supertramp, I remember being pretty pissed off whenever he'd play "Live At Home" - which was frequently - helped him study.  Not only did this mixture of Krautrock progressive moves get under my skin, but the damn thing seemed endless (a double album set, it clocked in at over an hour !)
So here I am some three decades later and I stumble across a copy of the album at a yard sale.  My initial thoughts are something along the lines of $#@(&%, but now that I'm a much more mature and balanced individual I decided to give the album another chance.

left to right:  Martin Hesse - Manfred Wieczoke - Klaus Hess - Peter Panka

Well what did I think about this reunion?  I'll admit it.  I was wrong.  I was totally wrong.  How could I have been so far off base?  Beats the crap out of me.   Having listened to this collection a dozen times over the last year I'm hard pressed to believe I was hearing to the same album.  What once irritated me to no end now sounds surprisingly good - in fact it's one of those live sets I wish I'd been able to attended.  A twelve track, double live set, the album captured the band at an August 1976 concert in Hannover's Niedersachsenhalle.  The fact they were playing in front of a hometown audience probably went a long way to explaining the crowd's obvious enthusiasm, as well as the band's taunt performances.  Musically the set served as kind of a 'best of' overview covering material as far back as 1971 ('Hangman' and 'Daytime') up through 1975's "Fire, Water, Earth + Air".  There was also two new songs - the rather bland rocker 'Another Way' and the sideline jam 'Windows'.  Stretching out over an hour the album certainly wasn't perfect.  Jane never had a great singer and this time out guitarist Klaus Hess, bassist Martin Hesse, and drummer Peter Panka alternated on vocals.  Singing in accented English (I've always laughed when listening to the band's English stage patter), all three were professional, though none was awe inspiring.  Like a lot of 1970s German bands they also had a penchant for stretching out their performances; sometimes to the breaking point - 'Hangman' clocked in at 11 minutes, while the side long 'Windows' was just under 20 minutes.  Yes, pretense occasionally raised its ugly head.  So what about the good news?  Featuring a series of four shorter, more commercial rock numbers side one was quite impressive with 'Rest of My Life' and 'Expectation' among the standout selections.  With the exceptions of 'Daytime', 'Hightime for Crusaders' and 'Windows' there wasn't nearly as much Pink Floyd drone as I recalled.  Long the band's not-so-secret weapon, guitarist Klaus Hess was nothing less than great. He was clearly capable of showy performances, but Hess seldom went for the overboard performance, instead showing restraint and good taste throughout the set - check out his dazzling solos on the ballad 'Fire, Water, Earth & Air', or the instrumental 'Hightime for Crusaders'.  A fantastic player.  Another highlight came in the form of former Eloy keyboard player Manfred Wieczorke, making his debut on the collection.  Unlike many synthesizer players Wieczorke was actually capable of playing the instrument with a degree of restraint - check out his solo on 'Out In the Rain'.  By the way, this is one you'll want to find on vinyl since due to time considerations the CD reissue dropped the track 'Daytime'.   Probably not an album I'll play on a regular basis, but good enough for me to hold onto a copy.
"Live At Home" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) All My Friends   (Jane) - 4:58
2.) Lady   (Jane) - 3:38
3.) Rest of My Life   (Jane) - 4:42
4.) Expectation   (Jane) - 5:32
(side 2)
1.) River (instrumental)   (Jane) - 3:51
2.) Out in the Rain   (Jane) - 6:22
3.) Hangman   (Jane) - 11:55
(side 3)
1.) Fire, Water, Earth & Air   (Jane) - 4:00
2.) Another Way   (Jane) - 5:41
3.) Daytime   (Jane) - 9:41
4.) Hightime for Crusaders (instrumental)   (Jane) - 5:07

(side 4)
1.) Windows   (Jane) - 19:20
As of this writing, the band is still active and has a website at:

YouTube has a couple of related performances: 

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