Baltimore City Paper JANUARY 14, 2004 - by Bret McCabe


THE MOVIE First appearing on a VHS tape as part of 1999's limited-edition and now out-of-print Can-Box, the first-ever DVD appearance of Can Free Concert is in the running for the über-cool reissue of 2003. Made in 1972 by two Wim Wenders cronies - editor Peter Przygodda and ace cinematographer Robby Müller - Free is the Performance of concert films, a lysergic collage of studio segments, random still photographs, and footage from the band's February 3, 1972, performance at Cologne, Germany's Kolner Sporthalle, where the limber-limbed quintet performed in front of some 10,000 people while vaudeville acts shared the stage's fringes. One of Krautrock's cornerstone bands, Can fused its era's kitchen-sink popular music into one life-throbbing groove, and the concert here is a brain-spilling of its early-'70s greatness - Mushroom, Halleluwah, and Bring Me Coffee Or Tea from 1971's Tago Mago, Spoon from 1972's Ege Bamyasi, early unreleased cut Doko E, and live bootleg staple Love Me Tonight. And even if Can's sound only kinda does it for you (though if it doesn't, please check your wrist for a pulse), just wait till you get a gander at these four young Germans cranking out lobe-parting drone 'n' funk, especially the turbo-charged hands of drummer Jaki Liebezeit. And nothing quite compares to the sight of the reed-thin Damo Suzuki - is there a better name for a free-associating Japanese street poet chanting an almost impenetrable German-English-Japanese pidgin in front of a German avant-funk machine? - flailing his nearly three feet of black mane clad in a red and pink crushed-velvet, flared-leg jumpsuit.

THE DISCS The DVD version of Free cleans up the iffy sound mix of the VHS version, so now the cosmic flange of Michael Karoli's guitar isn't buried under Holger Czukay's wobbling bass or Irmin Schmidt's keyboard laser tags. And this three-disc set doesn't stop there. Also included is just over an hour's worth of footage shot by the band's manager and compiled by Przygodda into Can Notes, and Czukay, Schmidt, and Liebezeit each remixed a few Can tracks for 5.1 stereo. Disc 2 contains the informative 1999 Can documentary (also from the Can-Box video), a one-minute tribute video from Brian Eno, and the presentation footage of the band receiving a Lifetime Achievement accolade from Germany's Echo Awards. The third disc is an audio CD containing thirteen tracks of Schmidt's, Liebezeit's, Czukay's, and Karoli's later musical journeys, none of which have come close to equaling their earlier work together, but which is a nice tonic from today's same-old, so-called experimental rock all the same.