In the early 70s, British DJ John Peel was a great supporter of what later became known as Krautrock and Can recorded four sessions for his show (15 - 20 minutes recorded live at BBC studios) from 1973 - 5. Can's albums were all recorded at their own studio with Holger Czukay producing, so this really captures them in an unfamiliar setting. Can always incorporated a lot of improvisation in their shows, and most of the music on this CD is what Holger Czukay called 'spontaneous compositions.'
The CD starts with a lengthy piece from what is generally regarded as the classic Can line up with Damo Suzuki on vocals. Up The Bakerloo Line With Anne (possibly named for DJ Anne Nightingale) starts rather tentatively with some of Karoli's trademark blues raga guitar, before quickly hitting a Future Days style groove. Czukay and Liebezeit hold down the rhythm, while Karoli and Suzuki free form all over the place and Schmidt adds odd washes of colour from his keyboards. This is Can at the top of their game, demonstrating an almost telepathic interplay and conjuring up mind spinning sounds apparently out of thin air, although the fact that they had been playing together 10 hours a day for several years probably helped. When the piece fades out at 18.46 you're left with the feeling that they'd just got started and there was much more to come. The next two tracks were recorded 18 months later, and bear a strong resemblance to side 2 of Soon Over Babaluma. Return to BB City is a low key piece which recalls Quantum Physics, dominated by Schmidt's ghostly keyboards and Liebezeit's understated percussion. Tape Kebab is a fuzz guitar led freak out in the mould of Chain Reaction, but even more intense - this is one of Karoli's finest moments as a guitarist. Tony Wanna Go was recorded 9 months earlier, and is another long improvisation with some jaw dropping moments. Suzuki may have left, but in 1974 Can had lost none of their drive and fire. The last two tracks were recorded in 1975 at around the time of Landed, and show the band just past their peak. Geheim (Half Past One), as the title implies, is a reworking of Half Past One from Landed and features Michael Karoli on vocals - it's atmospheric stuff, but lacks the intensity of what went before. The last track is based around Irmin Schmidt's piano playing, and there is a splendid interplay with Karoli's guitar. It's highly structured and probably the closest thing to mainstream prog on the album, but as with Geheim there's a feeling that the band have lost some of their other worldliness and that they have started playing safe.
This is an excellent collection of largely original material from one of the seminal Krautrock bands, and shows their development over 2 years and 3 studio albums. Few of their contemporaries had such a talent for improvisation - King Crimson were probably the only other band at the time who had the same kind of interplay - but very little of their spontaneous music has been officially released. This album shows just how good they could be. Strongly recommended.THE PEEL SESSIONS