Various Artists

The In-Kraut: Hip Shaking Grooves Made in Germany 1966-1974

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Germany is not generally known as one of the funkier nations on Earth, and when the Teutonic set try to get wild and swinging, something usually sounds a bit off in the results -- which is a big part of the fun with this compilation. The In-Kraut collects 20 German pop tunes recorded between 1966 and 1972, ranging from a witty Hildegard Knef track that sounds like her answer to Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is" to a big band arrangement of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," complete with a gloriously out-of-place organ solo. What you get is a terrific collection of swingin' bachelor pad music, complete with a view of the Reeperbahn; most of the tracks suggest someone like Si Zentner trying to play something like rock & roll, with an added level of cultural disconnect added as the performers struggle to play American-style pop, often while attempting to sing in English (frequently in a manner that suggests they learned the lyrics phonetically). If this sounds like a pan so far, though, it isn't -- The In-Kraut is actually lots of fun, with most of the tunes boasting tight arrangements, great studio bands, and punchy, enthusiastic performances, even if the results often have little to do with rock & roll. (It's significant that, according to the liner notes, the upbeat "Marihuana Manta" was recorded by a musician who never smoked dope in his life, while "Molotov Cocktail Party" sounds less like a call to revolution than a tribute to the pleasures of blowing up stuff.) For the most part, The In-Kraut finds studio-centric big bands attempting to tackle rock & roll, and while they don't quite make it on face value, they come up with something that's exciting, compelling, and lots of fun -- proof that sometimes squares can be a lot cooler than you'd expect.

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