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BEATNIKS - On A Blue Day
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BEATNIKS - On A Blue Day

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THE BEATNIKS – On A Blue Day (Konkord) LP

The Beatniks had already been playing together for several years by the time they made their first and only album, On A Blue Day, in the summer of 1967. I consider myself something of a connoisseur of European beat music, but I’d never heard On A Blue Day until this frankly stunning reissue.

It’s not a conventional beat record by any means. It’s light-hearted, upbeat, eccentric and delightfully eclectic. There are elements of beat, pop, soul, schlager and psychedelia, mixed and blended in unique and surprising ways that could only have been cooked up in this particular region of Europe. Their harmonies are closer to the Comedian Harmonists than the Beatles or the Beach Boys—which is not a bad thing—and the instrumentation—which includes organ and tenor saxophone—is steeped in the flavors of the raucous beer halls and seedy night clubs where they’d made their bones. The Beatniks existed to entertain, and they do so convincingly and unselfconsciously throughout this album.

The catchy title track has a choppy, staccato precision reminiscent of the lighter side of the Monks (e.g. “Love Came Tumbling Down,” “Cuckoo”) with quirky four-part harmonies that you can picture them singing grouped around one Telefunken microphone, exchanging winks and funny faces between choruses. Their versatility is on display on standouts like “My Poupee,” a sturdy beat rocker with growling DC5-style sax, “My Home is My Castle,” a melodic psychedelic pop piece infused with medieval flute, and “Maureen,” a playful, fast-paced, close-harmony number which makes effective use of marimba. “Meine Guitar” is a lovely schlager pop ballad embellished with romantic Spanish guitar, while “Der Floh” with its crunchy, overdriven bass and intentionally nonsensical German lyrics takes a similar approach to Jacques Dutronc’s “Les Cactus” (as the liners point out) or the Dutch group Het. “My Aeroplane” and “Tam Tam” are silly but entertaining novelty pieces (“Cuckoo” cousins perhaps), “Mary” is a country beer garden lament, and there’s a pair of terrific instrumentals: “Grasshopper” is a stomping workout based on the Mar-Keys’ “Last Night” while “John Bull,” with its prominent bass line and full-bodied acoustic strumming, pays homage to Jet Harris and the Shadows. The album’s most unusual track, and one of my favorites, is “Fernost (Komm wieder),” which starts off with a Japanese kyoto passage with a siren-like Geisha vocal before segueing into a lively instrumental beater with exchanged bursts of sitar and sax.

The presentation on this reissue is one of the best in recent memory. The 180-gram record is an analogue cut from the original 1967 master tapes, the cover is a perfect repro of the original (with Konkord’s name substituted for Polydor’s in the logo), and there’s a full-size, full-color 16-page booklet insert with superb, insightful liner notes by Al Bird Sputnik (in English and German) and a trove of amazing photos, and newspaper and magazine clippings. Konkord knocked this one out of the park. A contender for reissue of the year. (Mike Stax)