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on 18 June 2012
Been a while, hasn't it? Originally conceived way back in 2008, it was a few years after that, in early 2011 that the box set was announced. Delay after delay happened, but finally, well over half a year later than planned, we have it. So, was all this excitement worth it, or does this box set consist of sonic barrel scrapings from the bands long forgotten jams? Well, if Can keyboardist Irmin Schmidt hadn't have had anything to do with it, it might well have done. He remembers that "We always had tapes running, but 10 years' tapes running all the time 12 hours a day would come to an unimaginably big pile...But perhaps a tape would have 10 minutes on it that we thought were good. So there were little snippets and bits and pieces of all kinds from different periods on one tape... chaos." By the sounds of it then, with fifty hours of tapes, had they given in to that money-spinning temptation of releasing multiple volumes, each could have been of a very dodgy quality. Thankfully, this won't be the case. "This is the final extract from the archive. More, there isn't. There are another 47 hours not worth releasing, which will definitely disappear." Schmidt stated, in one sentence, crushing any further speculation.

The set's twenty six pounds asking price seems reasonable, given that you get three discs, three hours of music, a rather sumptuous 10" box and a 28 page booklet. It doesn't disappoint musically either. Starting proceedings is Millionspiel, a trippy rocker locked in Can's trademark percussion-led groove. "Obviously the tapes weren't really lost, but were left in the cupboards of the studio archives for so long everybody just forgot about them." Schmidt's sleeve notes explain, and even after listening to the album for a few minutes you start to wonder why they hadn't dug out the tapes earlier. The Malcolm Mooney led classics-in-the-making Are You Waiting for the Streetcar and Deadly Doris both feel like they could have been contenders for inclusion in 1976's archive comp Unlimited Edition. It's an impressively diverse album, too. Though there's the normal Can fare of tribal deep-funk grooves and some mega jamming, there's also darkly ambient sound collages reminiscent of their disturbing masterpiece Amung or one of fellow noise god's Faust's trippiest moments. Blind Mirror Surf even sounds like an early unreleased Mothers of Invention sound collage. As disc one goes, special mentions should go to the awesome seventeen minute jam Graublau, which rips up chunks of different jams, stitches them back together and leaves the listener to revel in the chaotic brilliance, and also the sinister When Darkness Comes, another example of Mooney's great improvisation.

Discs two is equally brilliant - the early portion of disc two continues where the first left off, with plenty more Mooney material. There's also plenty material from the classic Damo Suzuki era. Disc three comprises of later material, and although their albums did waver in quality when Suzuki left in 73, even the post Soon Over Babaluma material here is rather good. Admittedly at points, disc three is rather weaker than the first two discs - without any vocals to hold things together; the lengthy live tracks (of which there are quite a number) feel chaotic and less focused than they surely would otherwise. However, it never descends into being unlistenable, and is always quite enjoyable - although you do start to wonder why you're listening to this when you could be hearing Tago Mago. There are some gems on disc three, though. Messer, Scissors, Fork and Light is brilliant, Alice shows them at their drugged out mellowest, not dissimilar to Unlimited Edition's Ghommorha in sound, whilst the outstanding live version of Mushroom (which actually appears on the superb bootleg album Horrortrip in the Paperhouse, although here the sound quality is vastly better and it is correctly named 'Mushroom',rather than Paperhouse as it was called on the the bootleg) couldn't be more different from the studio version if it tried, and is even better for it. So then, not only is the album itself (for the most part) brilliant, but I feel that the decision to make the album roughly chronological (One or two tracks skip ahead a few years, but they never feel out of place) adds to the album, and balance between Mooney and Suzuki material is excellent, both having a roughly equal amount of songs, with plenty of instrumentals in between. Basically then, those who value good music need to own a Can album - they're massively influential, and really changed the musical rule book, and given the broad array of eras this covers and the quality of the material, this is an essential purchase for long time fans, and also a worthy introduction to newcomers alike, although the easier option for those looking to fill their heads with Can may be to just buy Tago Mago, which has just recently been reissued in a 40th anniversary edition, and work your way from there.
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on 9 March 2013
Can - The Lost Tapes box set

In the late 1960's, that wild and pre-digital era, something happened in Cologne, Germany. Some musicians with a background in experimental jazz and Stockhausen came together. On keyboards was Irmin Schmidt, a trained conductor of classical music. Their heads had been turned by hearing the Velvet Underground. The inclusion of Malcolm Mooney an American artist with a gift for improvised singing and Michael Karoli who was every inch a rock guitarist sealed the deal. Named Can, their first album `Monster Movie' in 1968 saw them pick up the trail from the Velvet Underground's extended jam `Sister Ray'. With the strong rhythm laid down by Jaki Leibezeit on drums and Holger Czukay on bass the transition into rock music was total and fascinating.
The group's next phase began when Japanese singer Damo Suzuki filled the gap left by Malcolm's departure. The albums with Damo (who still regularly performs unmissable improvised gigs with pick up musos around the globe) were totemic, and had a sound and sense of experiment that was all their own. `Tago Mago' had a sound that was both daring and beautiful. It was followed by `Soundtracks', `Ege Bamyasi' and `Future Days', mesmerising stuff.
Damo departed, though I saw his last gig with them in Edinburgh in 1973. They continued to record and tour as a mainly instrumental unit, with `Soon Over Babaluma' and `Landed' being the albums I most cherish from that period. The individual development of the musicians led them into solo projects, and after a decade of fruitful music Can was no more. Except for the legacy they had left in unreleased material.
The fascination exerted on their loyal following and subsequent generations has meant them being referred to so often as `legendary' and that honour was earned by them on so many different levels. They were trailblazers, and the vast amount of recording done in their home made studios during the Can decade had emerged on albums such as `Limited Edition' and `Delay 1968'.
I was therefore incredulous to find this 5 L.P./ 3 c.d. set of more unreleased material from every phase of the group's development. Listening to `The Lost Tapes' I can only begin to imagine how ecstatic this release has made any fan of Can. It is just stunning that so much quality material as gone unreleased over the years.
I won't attempt to give my reactions to each and every jewel included in this set, but there's not much on this 30 track album that is not aural heaven for me. The rock jams are potent, Malcolm's contributions are right on the money, and the stratospheric sound they developed with Damo and after are well represented. Some well chosen material from gigs (gigs were always improvisational) also sits neatly in this set. Great to sit back and hear all this wonderful music from the vaults. The Lost and FOUND Tapes.
As a footnote I will recommend to you Nick Kent's review of the `Soon Over Babuluma' album which appeared in the mid-70's in the NME. While others struggled to describe Can's sound, Kent did the job without the need to be sycophantic. Nice one, Nick.
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on 27 September 2014
Now a couple of years have gone by it's much easier to get a grip on this sprawling 3 cd collection. All the people that reviewed it after 5 minutes and gave it 'average' 3/5 marks.... it was a bit daft to do that. I've been listening to this set a lot lately and all of it is pretty incredible. Even some of the looser tracks, the fragments and the embryonic birth of well known pieces... all sound fantastic to me.... 2 years on.
Can were certainly at their best when tempered by the razor blade of the ever watchful Holger who knew how to create concise almost-pop out of sprawling jams. There will be no more moments like Spoon, Vitamin C, Moonshake or Sing Swan Song again as bands just don't work like that anymore. Even Can after the golden years 69-74 started multi-tracking and therefore losing the special telepathic chemistry between the musicians.
So - not for Can beginners certainly. But for fanatics, the curious, the students and the collectors this set is a 'must'.
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on 18 June 2012
If you're afraid that this might contain mostly unlistenable outtakes from the seminal albums, don't worry. The quality of material on this 3CD box set is astonishing. The tracks sound incredibly fresh. In my opinion, almost everything on here (with the exception of the superflous 'The Agreement' and perhaps one other track) is intriguing and highly enjoyable to listen to. We've got the fifteen minute (or so) wig-out of 'Graublau'. We've got out and out funkiness on 'Barnacles'. You can hear the beginnings of tracks like 'Vernal Equinox' from Landed (it appears here as 'Midnight Men'). We are also offered a selection of live versions of tracks which veer in really wonderful ways from the original. There are stunning vocal performances from both Mooney and Suzuki, some of which stand up incredibly well to the tracks we know from the albums.

I'm a big Can fan but I think that there is some really accessible (and fun) material on here which would serve as a great introduction to a newcomer. It's also obviously a fascinating listen for an aficionado. Recommended.
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You wait umpteen years for a CD of previously unissued Can music and the proverbial three come along at once...

You could describe this as Unlimited Edition Volume 2. But there are major differences and not just the fact that there's nearly three times as much music here. Firstly, very little on Unlimited Edition bore any relation to any previously issued Can song. Whereas here, there are a whole host of familiar(ish) tunes: On The Way To Mother Sky, A Swan Is Born and Desert are early variants of, unsurprisingly, Mother Sky, Sing Swan Song and Soul Desert, none quite in the league of the previously released versions; Messer, Scissors, Fork And Light is a series of variations on Spoon, used in the soundtrack of the TV detective series for which Spoon itself was the theme and edited together for this set; Dead Pigeon Suite does much the same with Vitamin C; and Midnight Men, from yet another soundtrack, not only fuses elements of both Hunters And Collectors and Vernal Equinox but is unmistakeably the source of the backing track of Oh Lord Give Us More Money on Holger Czukay's Movies album. Also unlike Unlimited Edition, The Lost Tapes includes nearly an hour of live material, some of which is, again, familiar in tune if not always in widely circulated versions. The sound quality of the live material is, in almost all cases, far better than on the 2 live CDs issued as part of the Can box.

Of the remainder, there is a high proportion of material from Can's earliest days - 11 tracks are from 1968 and 1969, though not all feature Malcolm Mooney - one or two even predate his arrival in late 1968. Another 11 cover the Damo Suzuki era, leaving only 8 tracks from their last 5 years. Several of the Mooney tracks (Waiting For The Streetcar, Deadly Doris, Your Friendly Neighbourhood Whore, Midnight Sky) feature ferocious if rather tuneless grooves - there are no previously unheard songs of the calibre of, say, Thief or Empress And The Ukraine King but all of these tracks are great fun and Mooney is on fine form. True Story features Mooney improvising a story over solo organ and is very funny. Several tracks (Blind Mirror Surf, When Darkness Comes, Evening All Day) are very enigmatic and free-form; Oscura Primavera is a very pretty instrumental that sounds more from the Future Days era than 1968; Millionenspiel, pre-dating Malcolm Mooney's arrival, is a driving and tightly structured instrumental from a film soundtrack; Graublau is a lengthy & frenetic cut-up of music from the same film as She Brings The Rain, though none of it bears any relation to that song. Bubble Rap and Abra Cada Braxas are, respectively, studio and live jams featuring Damo, typical of the period. And so on ...

So, does it rival Tago Mago or Ege Bamyasi? No. But there's an awful lot to like here if you're fan. Personal favourites include Millionenspiel; Waiting For The Streetcar; Graublau; Bubble Rap; True Story; Spoon (live - a widely bootlegged version); Dead Pigeon Suite; Abra Cada Braxas; Midnight Men; Networks Of Foam; Messer, Scissors, Fork And Light; Mushroom (live - again widely bootlegged) and, finally, the superb live version of One More Saturday Night. These amount to about two thirds of the total playing time and the remainder is by no means without merit. Apparently this slightly over 3 hours of music was edited down from 50 hours of tapes found in a cupboard in their old studio. It's hard to believe that the remaining 47 hours of tape contained nothing worth hearing but Irmin Schmidt is adamant in the booklet that this is all we're getting, so this set probably represents a full stop in terms of previously unissued Can music. Still, for years there was no sign of anything like this being released, so who knows?
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on 1 January 2013
I got this box set for Christmas - and have found it very good indeed. I had expected more unstructured outtakes, but the editting has left us with a more or less coherent set of tracks. The live version of Spoon (on cd2) is one of the best tracks, with it and the other live material capturing the the improvised nature of Can live. If you can, listen to this 3cd set alongside the 4 cd 'semi-offical' Canobits collection. This fills in some gaps in the recording history.
I will be in a minority it wanting to hear more archive stuff from the period after Damo. I just think this period was very creative in their live work with very extended improvisations.
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on 22 June 2012
Given the dreadful quality of the Tago Mago 2CD release, this is a wonderful surprise whose sound quality is indistinguishable from modern day releases.

For me, I would have liked to have more live tracks, but maybe there is more to come and all the material is great, with one tiny highlight being the Dead Pigeon Suite, which is a stitching together of many different takes on Vitamin C and adds a lot to the original.

The only tiny compalint, for which it would be churlish to deduct a star, is the awful packaging which does not retain the CDs properly that were rattling free in the box when received from Amazon.

Buy with confidence and hope for more !!
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on 6 July 2012
Can-The Lost Tapes, a compendium of three hours of material sifted from more than 50 hours of archive tapes spanning a decade from 1968 , has caused a mighty wave amongst musos the world over. We've had scribes with their mouths open citing an equivalent to Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes and even the lost archive of The Rolling Stones. Some reviews are so gushing that you'd think the Lost City Of Atlantis had just surfaced somewhere in the Mediterranean. It took Irmin Schmidt¹s son-in-law, Jono Podmore, years to sift through the hours and hours of tapes, which had been carefully curated in a temperature-controlled storeroom in Germany. Schmidt never considered the archive really lost but just forgotten and it had to be someone with fresh ears, with some distance from the creativity itself, that had to do the trench work of sifting,identifying and re-compiling.

But let's get rid of a few myths first. I've read comparisons to Kraftwerk and that if the crafty Dusseldorfers were Germany's answer to The Beatles then Can were its Rolling Stones. This is pure fantasy. Can were very much an underground band, only denting the Top Of The Pops studio in London in 1976 with 'I Want More' a track pushed by Virgin whom the signed to in 1975. Fanciful hindsight can easily distort and Can are more accurately accommodated inside progressive rock and can rightly be seen as Germany's answer to Pink Floyd. During the 1970s an apocryphal story has the mighty Can turning down a support slot with the Floyd because they would have to play a shorter set than normal. In the world of Messrs Czukay,Karoli,Liebezeit and Schmidt this would be a no no. Instant composition, improvisation or just plain fearless courage; take your pick, opening this archive brings you that much closer to what Can were all about.

Firstly exactly one third of the 30 tracks feature the original American vocalist Malcolm Mooney. There's an intense spidery quality to the rock played with Mooney, the same kind of intensity beloved of lovers of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. And it covers more or less the same late 1960s period. A track like the brilliant 'Waiting For The Streetcar' could easily have made it to Monster Movie ,if it were a double album. Moving into the Damo Susuki era one is struck at just how different the material here is from the released albums. 'Spoon' , a three-minute single from 1972's Ege Bamyasi is transformed here into a 16-minute juggernaut of explosive drums,searing guitar and improvisatory genius. 'A Swan Is Born' bears little or no relationship to the finished track 'Sing Swan Song' off the same album and so forth and so on.

In 1974 and 1976 Can released two albums of off-cuts Limited Edition and Unlimited Edition featuring their famous Ethnological Forgery Series. Here 'EFS 108','Dead Pigeon Suite' and 'Evening All Day' could easily come from them. Fans of Ambient will swoon in front of 'Nocturnal' and 'Alice', the latter the long sought-after theme music from Wim Wenders's breakthrough film Alice In The Cities from 1974. The set ends on a high note with two incadescent live versions of 'Mushroom' from 1971's Tago Mago and for me the best track on the album a gorgeously live and for once note-perfect version of Ege Bamyasi¹s 'One More Saturday Night'. In short far more in every way than was expected.

Mark Prendergast, London. (Author of The Ambient Century).
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on 26 June 2012
This limited edition 10" by 10" box set looked very nice at first glance. very excited to open it up only to find, once again, three lousy carboard slot impressions for the discs.... lots of dust and paper particles covering the playing surfaces. 2 of the discs firmly placed one on top of the other (obviously a warehouse packaging mistake (the second disc didnt miracle its way into being in a fixed position), and then the third disc was left bouncing & scraping around only to be very very scratched up. I am not the type who whines a lot when I get a cd/dvd/bluray with a single dent or what not. typically they play fine but this was a an ugly disaster coupled with quite a let down on a much anticipated box. I hope the record industry starts to wake up and stop throwing cds in cardboard slots etc. especially as a cost cutting measure on larger sets. I hoped for more from Spoon records. I expect the worst from pink floyd who I will probably never by a box set of.
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on 12 July 2013
This album summarises what Can were all about - experimental and improvised music. The whole album is varied, with the best really fantastic driving rhythms. It is fascinating to think that they produced so much material that didn't make original albums. An album for Can fans for sure, but probably not for new comers.
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