Week of August 25, 2002

Improved Sound Limited


Axel Linstadt - vocals, guitars, keyboards
Lothar "Johnny" Fickert - vocals, percussion
Ulrich Ruppert - bass
Rolf Groschner - drums


Engelchen Macht Weiter, Hoppe, Hoppe Reiter (Cornet 15030) 1969 
Improved Sound Limited (2 LP) (Liberty LBS 83506/07) 1971 (reissued on CD by Long Hair Music, LHC 00007, 2001)
Catch A Singin' Bird On The Road (CBS 65619) 1973 (reissued on CD by Long Hair Music, LHC 00009, 2001)
Rathbone Hotel 1976 (reissued on CD by Long Hair Music as Improved Sound Limited, not Condor, LHC 00012, 2002)

This Nuremberg group began to play together as early as 1961 under the name Blizzards. They used the name Improved Sound Limited from 1966 onwards. In the late sixties, they specialised in delivering soundtracks for German television and movies by Michael Verhoeven. "Engelchen Macht Weiter, Hoppe, Hoppe Reiter" (1969) was the soundtrack from a Verhoeven film, released on the same label as the first Gomorrah album. I don't know this one (presumably a late beat rock effort), but their self-titled double album for Liberty was very inspired by the American folk-rock of Bob Dylan and The Band. Dylan was mentioned several times in the clever lyrics (from now on written by Axel's brother Bernd), for example, in "Doctor Bob Dylan". Improved Sound Limited also merged some more European elements into their folky rock style, such as some fine flute phrases. Regrettably, their passion for American music led them closer to country music on "Catch A Singin' Bird" (1973). Quite good compositions and lyrics ("The Dark Lord" was about Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings"!), but not exactly performed in the idle way most of us like, I'm afraid. Pedal steel guitar was played by Frank Baum and Ralph Nowy guested on trumpet and sax. Improved Sound Limited changed their name to Condor in 1976 and released a much worse album: "Rathbone Hotel" (1976).

Taken from Cosmic Dreams at Play - A guide to German Progressive and Electronic Rock by Dag Erik Asbjørnsen, Borderline Productions, ISBN 1-899855-01-7

Have to disagree with the author of the article above; Rathbone Hotel is a FINE pop-rock album with vivid melodies, sublime arrangements and superb dynamics that's well worth tracking down! Thanks to the good folks Long Hair Music for giving these releases a second lease on life! And also, watch out for the "posthumous" disc, "Road Trax"!

Alex Gitlin
August 2002

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