The Blackbirds


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1965):

- Klaus Altmeyer -- rhythm guitar

- Werner Breining -- vocals, lead guitar

- Siggi Burda -- bass

- Helmut Vigneron -- drums

 

  line up 2: (1965-66)

- Klaus Altmeyer -- rhythm guitar

- Werner Breining -- vocals, lead guitar

- Siggi Burda -- bass

NEW - Hubert Koop -- keyboards

- Helmut Vigneron -- drums

 

  line up 3 (1966-68):

- Werner Breining -- vocals, lead guitar

NEW - Heinz-Peter Koop -- bass (replaced Siggi Burda)

- Hubert Koop -- keyboards

- Helmut Vigneron -- drums 

 

  line up 3 (1966-70):

- Werner Breining -- vocals, lead guitar

- Heinz-Peter Koop -- bass

- Hubert Koop -- keyboards

NEW - Georg Klein -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

  (replaced Helmut Vigneron)

 

  line up 4 (1970):

- Werner Breining -- vocals, lead guitar

- Heinz-Peter Koop -- bass

- Hubert Koop -- keyboards

NEW - Eckhard Gross -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

  (replaced Georg Klein)

 

  line up 5 (1970-71)

NEW - Peter Bely (aka Peter "Bello" Bell) -- keyboards,

  vocals (replaced Hurbert Koop)
NEW - Wolfgang Bode -- bass, vocals (replaced 

  Heinz-Peter Koop)
- Werner Breinig -- guitar, violin, flute, backing vocals
NEW - Charles Sikora -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

  (replaced Eckhard Gross)

 

 

 

 

- Werner Breining (solo efforts)

- Die Blacks

- Blackbirds 2000

- GÄA (Peter Bely)

- Snake In the Grass

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  No Destination

Company: Saga

Catalog: FID 2113
Year:
 1968

Country/State: Püttlingen, Germany

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5678

Price: $100.00

 

Boy, talk about a band surrounded by misinformation ...  I've seen these guys described as being Belgian, Dutch, French, German, and even English (the latter being funny given the heavily accented English vocals).  Adding to the confusion, they somehow managed to get their two studio LPs released by a budget British label.  To be honest, I can understand some of the confusion since their home stomping ground was the Saarland.  Located in the Southwest region of Germany, following World War II the region spent a couple of years as an autonomous 'state' with France controlling internal and external affairs.  It wasn't until 1957 that the Saar was reunited with what was then known as West Germany.  Full economic reunion with Germany didn't take place until 1959.   Yeah, I know - who cares ...

 

Sharing a common interest in rock and roll, in 1965 friends Klaus Altmeyer (rhythm guitar), Werner Breinig (vocals/lead guitar), Siggi Burda (bass), and Helmut Vigneron (drums) decided to form a band.  They began rehearsing at a local school and within a couple of months were playing cover tunes at local dances and clubs.  They also expanded the band to include keyboardist Hubert Koop.  The following year saw the band gain a wider audience via extensive touring, including some regional concert appearances, and local television appearances.  They also underwent a pair of personnel changes with the departure of guitarist Althmeyer and bassist Burda.  Having opted for a more conventional job, Burda was replaced by Heinz-Peter Koop.

 

LP back panel - left to right:

Werner Breining - Heinz Koop - Hubert Koop - Helmut Vigneron

 

Even though they weren't signed by a record company, in early 1968 the band were given an opportunity to record some material at Horst Jankowski's Stuttgart-based studio.  The songs that would appear as 1968's "No Destination" were recorded in a marathon one day session; a feat made even more impressive by the fact about half of the material was written the night before, or simply improvised on-the-spot in the recording studio.  Largely penned by Breining, the album made it clear these guys had been listening to more than their share of British R&B groups like The Animals, The Artwoods, The Spencer Davis Group, and maybe even a touch of Procol Harum.  That also gave the album a slightly dated feel - more 1966 than 1968.  That wasn't meant as a criticism since the writing and performances (all ten songs were performed in English), were uniformly strong and quite different from most of their German contemporaries.   

 

"No Destination" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Golden Sun   (Werner Breining) -   rating: *** stars

Kicked along by a tasty bass and organ pattern, 'Golden Summer' was a wonderful Mersybeat-meets-Roy Orbison styled ballad that would have made The Hollies, or The Searchers quite happy.  

2.) Space (instrumental)   (Werner Breining) -   rating: ***** stars

Spotlighting Koop's organ and Breining's lead guitar, the instrumental 'Space' offered up a bizarre mash-up of B movie sci-fi sound effects and Stax moves.  Extremely weird and perhaps worth the price of admission on its own.  

3.) No Destination   (Werner Breining) -   rating: ***** stars

Opening up with a Matthew Fisher-styled organ break (think funeral procession), 'No Destination' had a lyric that would make any Gen-X member proud ... "I stay in my bed all of the day because a job is no destination."  (I'm almost embarrassed to admit the first time I heard the lyric I mistook it for 'I stained the bed.')     

 

 

 

 

 

 

1968's 'No Destination' b/w 'Space' (Saga catalog number Opp 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.) Long Tall Dorthe   (Werner Breining) -    rating: ** stars

Thanks to Breining's painful, operatic shriek (he really should not have tried to hit those high notes), 'Long Tall Dorthe' had the distinction of being the most irritating track on the set. 

5.) Sandman's Bound   (Werner Breining) -   rating: *** stars

Apparently one of the songs written on the fly in the studio, 'Sandman's Bound' seemed to be a pissed off rant in response to having to come up with an album's worth of material on short notice.  Nice guitar solo from Breining, but elsewhere the band sounded like they were spending a stoned Saturday playing at a Holiday Inn lounge..   

 

(side 2)
1.) That's My Love   (Werner Breining) -    rating: ** stars

Perhaps because it was a rather pedestrian ballad and found Breining again stretching for the high notes, 'That's My Love' was a pedestrian ballad, though Koop turned in some nice Alan Price-styled organ moves.  

2.) Girl I'm Wondering   (Werner Breining) -   rating: ***** stars

A fantastic dark and brooding rocker, 'Girl I'm Wondering' sounded like a Teutonic Zombies track, complete with Rod Argent-styled organ solo.  Nice !   

3.) Show Me That You Love Me   (Werner Breining) -   rating: *** stars

'Show Me That You Love Me' ... nice rocker, but once again it's marred by Breining's stratospheric falsetto.  The man sounded like he'd overdosed on whippets.   

4.) Something Different (instrumental)   (Werner Breining) -    rating: ** stars

Bland MOR instrumental that sounded like the soundtrack for a laxative commercial - reminds me of something the T-Bones might have recorded. 

5.) She   (Werner Breining) -   rating: ***** stars

Redemption ...  'She' had it all; disillusionment, heartbreak, tasty jazzy guitar, killer organ ...  perfect proto-punk.  Easily the standout performance.

 

In a strange turn of events the album was picked up for release by the British Saga budget label.  Saga clearly had no idea what to do with the collection doing virtually nothing to promote the LP.  Needless to say it quickly vanished into cutout bins.  

 

No, it's not quite a lost classic, but it is a fascinating slice of mid-1960s German rock and for the most part it's as good if not better than anything their British, or continental competitors were churning out.  Well worth tracking down before it gets tagged by collectors ...  

 

 

 

 

 

No idea why, but six of the songs were subsequently reissued on an album credited to the band Snake In the Grass - 1969's 'Hot und Sweet mit Beat".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Touch of Music

Company: Opp

Catalog: 5-34
Year:
 1971

Country/State: Püttlingen, Germany

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG

Comments: German pressing; plays with a bit of background hiss in spots, but no skips

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6025

Price: $250.00

 

By 1969 the only holdover from the original Blackbirds line-up was multi-instrumentalist Werner Breinig.  The new line-up featured keyboardist Peter Bely, bassist Heinz Koop, and drummer Eckhard Gross.  

 

The revamped group released an obscure German 45 for the Opp label:

   

 

 

 

 

 

1969's 'Lead On Light' b/w 'Sherry Baby' (Opp catalog number 40)

 

 

 

 

 

 

1970 found them signed to the BASF-affiliated Cornet label, but under pressure to adopt a more 'progressive' imagine, changed their name to 'Blackbirds 2000' releasing the single:

 

 

- 1970's 'Let's Do It Together' b/w 'Präludium' (instrumental) (Cornet catalog number 5025)

 

The single did little commercially (good luck finding a copy) and Cornet promptly dropped them from it's recording roster.

 

The band promptly morphed back to their original Blackbirds name and underwent another personnel shift with Wolfgang Bode replacing Koop on bass and Charles Sikora taking over for drummer Gross.

 

photo from back panel of LP

 

Signed by the Opp label, the revamped lineup went into Cologne's Rhenus Studio where they were teamed with Konrad Plank.  The result was 1971's "Touch of Music".   So, for what it's worth, it only took me about five years to track down an original copy of the band's sophomore album.  Was it worth the time and effort?  Anyone expecting to hear a collection of beat/pop/rock numbers similar to the debut album was going to be in for a rude awakening.  With Breining responsible for penning all six tracks, this time out the band jumped headlong into the early-1970s progressive pool.  

 

"Touch the Music" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Präludium (instrumental)   (Werner Breining) - 2:17   rating: ** stars

Having already appeared as the 'B' side on an earlier 45, the album opened up with the classically inspired instrumental 'Präludium'.  With the spotlight on keyboardist Bely, this one sounded a bit like ELP, Focus, or Procol Harum after they'd spend a day drinking wine at a picnic in a local park.  Upbeat and quite perky, but nothing particularly awe inspiring ...  

2.) All You Need    (Werner Breining) - 8:30   rating: **** stars

'All You Need' followed the same classical instrumental path as the opener; albeit this time around the spotlight was split between Breining's violin and Bely's organ.  About a minute into the song the vocals kicked in sending the song in a different direction.  Very pastoral and calming ...  I'm surprised at how much I enjoy this eight and half minute opus.    

3.) Return From The Water    (Werner Breining) - 7:08   rating: **** stars

'Return From The Water' was the album's most commercial offering.  A tumbling rocker, that's always reminded me a bit of some of Golden Earrings better work, clocking in at over seven minutes it gave everyone in the band a chance to stretch out, but still managed to avoid the usual boredom that accompanied such jams.  Breinig stole the show with a dazzling lead guitar solo.   

 

(side 2)
1.)  Give Me Freedom    (Werner Breining) - 5:49   rating: **** stars

A pretty, floating ballad that again spotlighted Bely's organ, 'Give Me Freedom' sported some surprisingly sophisticated lyrics and showcased a previously unheard knack for attractive group harmonies.  The mid-song shift to an up-tempo rock setting that served to showcase Breining's lead guitar was somewhat unexpected, but not bad.   Very Procol Harum/RobinTrower-ish.     

2.) What Is Free    (Werner Breining) - 4:08    rating: ** stars

'What Is Free' found the band dabbing their collective toes in jazz-rock fusion.  The track sounded like they'd been listening to lots of Camel, Coliseum, Curved Air, Soft Machine and other English progressive bands.  It didn't do a great deal for me.  

3.) Come Back    (Werner Breining) - 10:55   rating: *** stars    

'Come Back' found the band trying to blend classical, folk, progressive, and rock influences into one big musical stew.  Given such lofty goals you wouldn't have expected much to come out of it and while the results weren't perfect, stretched over ten minutes the track did a surprisingly impressive job of retaining one's interest.  The basic melody was enchanting with  Bode providing some creative bass lines throughout.  Yeah, the extended flute solo and Gregorian harmony sections didn't inspire me to get up and rock the house, but like a couple of the other performances, the pastoral sounds were quite calming.

 

So back to the question of was it worth the extended search?  Nah.  On the other hand, the album was actually better than I anticipated and I can see occasionally playing this one of quiet Sunday mornings.  Not sure how the rest of the family will react, but I'll see.

 


The album proved a commercial flop in Germany (it never saw an English or American release) and the band subsequently called it quits.

 

Under the cute name 'Werner', Breining reappeared with a brief and ill-advise stab at German Pop music.  He managed to release one instantly obscure single:

 

 

- 197? 'Mariana' b/w 'Maria Latana' (catalog number ???)

 

 

The Blackbirds are apparently still a performing entity having recorded a couple of albums in the 1980s and 1990s (I haven't heard any of them), but it doesn't look like any of the original members are involved.  The band has a small website (in German) at:  www.theblackbirds.de

 

 

 

 

 

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