Xhol Caravan

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Xhol Caravan
Origin Germany
Genres Krautrock
Years active 1967–1972
Labels CBS Records, Hansa Records, Ohr/Metronome Records
Website www.xhol.de
Past members James Rhodes
Ronnie Swinson
Tim Belbe
Gerhardt Egmont "Öcki" Von Brevern
Hansi Fischer
Werner Funk
Gilbert "Skip" van Wych III
Klaus Briest

Xhol Caravan, known first as Soul Caravan and later as simply Xhol, was one of the first bands participating in the launch of the Krautrock movement in Germany in the late 1960s. Their music draws from varied influences and fuses rhythm and blues and free jazz with a psychedelic rock sensibility.

History[edit]

Soul Caravan[edit]

The band was formed in Wiesbaden in early 1967 by three Germans (Tim Belbe on saxophone; Hansi Fischer on saxophone & flute; Klaus Briest on bass guitar) and three Americans (Gilbert 'Skip' van Wyck on drums and singers James Rhodes and Ronnie Swinson).[1] Early concerts consisted mostly of cover versions of American soul artists such as Otis Redding and James Brown, but the band soon began to rely almost entirely on its own material.

After adding Werner Funk on guitar, their first album Get In High appeared on the German CBS label in December 1967. It exemplifies the band's early "soul" sound. Get In High featured a remake of the classic American soul tune "Shotgun" and original compositions that incorporated African-American themes and elements, including "Kerd-I-Wai (African Song)" and "So Much Soul". The live recordings Soul Caravan: Live 1969, Altena 1969, and Xhol 1970 feature a similar R&B sound as well, but also include improvisational pieces stretching in some cases well beyond 25 minutes in length. The "Freedom Opera," heard on the 2001 Motherfuckers Live album but recorded in 1968, clocks in at nearly 50 minutes.

The political disturbances of 1968 were reflected in the band's move towards a more jazzy, psychedelic sound and a change of name to Xhol Caravan. Swinson left the band and returned to the US at about this time.

Xhol Caravan[edit]

Organist Gerhardt Egmont "Öcki" Von Brevern joined at the start of 1969 as the band moved away from soul and towards a more jazzy sound.[2] Rhodes left in August 1969, as did Funk, leaving the band without a guitarist. Van Wych took over vocal duties.

Their second album, Electrip reflected the move away from R&B, fusing free jazz and psychedelic rock together with a satirical, sometimes X-rated, sense of humor and studio manipulation of sounds and timbres.

Xhol[edit]

After Electrip, the band released two more albums, both on the small Ohr label and both with the band name reduced to Xhol, partly to avoid confusion with the British Canterbury Scene group Caravan. Fischer left to join Embryo in 1970, because he didn't want to turn professional and was unhappy with what he saw as a move away from fresh compositions towards drug-fuelled improvisation.[3] This reduced the band to a quartet of Belbe, Öcki, Van Wych and Briest.

The 1970 album Hau-RUK contains two 20-minute-plus improvisations recorded live in a German bar earlier that year. Xhol's last LP, Motherfuckers GmbH & Co. KG consists of several pieces recorded more or less live in the studio. Many Xhol fans regard MF as the group's high point in spite of the patchwork nature of the record. It was recorded in 1970, but released only in 1972 due to creative differences between Xhol's members and Ohr label boss Ralf-Ulrich Kaiser. These differences even influenced the packaging for MF: although Ohr/Metronome usually lavished great care on the sleeves for its records—commissioning custom artwork with glossy lamination and gatefolds for even single LPs—the sleeve for MF was perfunctory at best. It was a cheap, matte laminated single sleeve featuring a photograph of what appeared to be the master tape box for MF, smudged and worn, surrounded by a garish orange frame. There was no information about the band, nor pictures or text of any kind save the handwritten titles of the songs on the record and the words "2 years old" scrawled crudely with green permanent marker on the front. In spite of such austerity, the music on MF offers the listener very good studio recordings of the group, and shows them combining rock and jazz elements and forging into experimental Hammond organ drone/minimalism.

The band dissolved in April 1972. Some fresh recordings were made in 1974 by Belbe, Öcki, Van Wych and Fischer, which were eventually released as bonus tracks on the CD issue of Hau-RUK. Belbe, Fischer and Briest played a few reunion concerts in the late 1990s and early 2000s before Belbe's death in August 2004.

Members[edit]

Tim Belbe, saxophones

Gilbert "Skip" van Wych III, drums and percussion

Klaus Briest, bass guitar

Hansi Fischer, flutes and saxophones (1967–70)

Gerhardt Egmont "Öcki" Von Brevern, Hammond organ (1969–72)

James Rhodes, vocals (1967–69)

Ronnie Swinson, vocals (1967–68)

Werner Funk, electric guitar (1967–69)

Discography[edit]

  • 1967 Get in High (studio recording). CBS Records, Germany only LP.
  • 1969 Soul Caravan: Live 1969. Never released on LP; CD released on Garden of Delights label.
  • 1969? Soul Caravan: Talking to My Soul (live televised performances). DVD released on Garden of Delights label.
  • 1969 Altena 1969 (live recording). Never released on LP. CD released on Garden of Delights label.
  • 1969 Electrip (studio recording). Hansa Records, Germany only LP. LP rerelased on TripKick Records; CD released on Garden of Delights label. Bootleg CD version on Germanofon label.
  • 1970 Xhol 1970 (live recording). Never released on LP. CD released on Garden of Delights label.
  • 1970 Hau-RUK (live recording). Ohr/Metronome Records, Germany only LP. CD on Garden of Delights label. Bootleg version (incorrectly titled "Hau-RUCK") released on Germanofon label.
  • 1972 Motherfuckers GmbH & Co. KG (studio recording). Ohr/Metronome Records, Germany only LP. CD reissues on the Spalax and ZYX/Ohr labels. Bootleg CD on the Germanofon label. Recent limited edition LP reissue on Wah-Wah Records (Spain).
  • 2001 Motherfuckers Live (live recordings from 1968–69). CD on United Durtro label, LP release on Streamline Records.

References[edit]