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In 1970 the jazz-rock group Panta Rhei was formed by Austrian-born Herbert Dreilich, Henning Protzmann and Ulrich „Ed“ Swillms who all had experience with acts like the Henry-Kotowski-Quintett, The Puhdys and The Alexanders. After one succesfull self titled album the band’s female vocalist Veronika Fischer left to persue a solocareer. The band released one more single, ‘Stunden/Nacht und Tag’, when the band dissolved in 1975 and re-emerged (with the same trio as initial founders) in 1977 as Karat. In the initial line up the vocals were done by Hans-Joachim Neumann but due to military service Dreilich replaced him as singer. By 1978, Karat had released several singles, and these were compiled together with other original songs into a debut self-titled album. It contained the hit single "König der Welt" ("King of the World"), a song which stood out and established Karat's signature style of a melodic brand of progressive rock. Poet Kurt Demmler wrote the words to this song, which like much of Karat's later output were philosophical in character.

Karat's second album included the seven-minute long ‘Albatros’, which was indirect criticism of the GDR's austere travel restrictions and the Berlin Wall. The title track ‘Über sieben Brücken mußt Du geh'n’ became an international hit for West German singer Peter Maffay in 1980. The succes of the band itself also expanded to the West where the first two album were compiled under the name ‘Albatros’. Their third album failed to chart however and the band took two years to compose a new album. Again with texts by journalist Norbert Kaiser the 1982 album ‘Der blaue Planet’ sold more than 1.3 million copies. The theme of the album was about the looming dangers of nuclear and environmental cataclysm. For ‘Die sieben Wunder der Welt’ Karat left the prog-path for more melodic poptunes. With succes. Although the band released some critical songs they were honored with the National Prize of the GDR for Arts and Literature in 1984. But the first cracks in the band became apparent. Bassist and founding member Henning Protzmann left the band in 1985. In 1986 singer Dreilich got involved in the short-lived the Gitarreros, where he performed together with Tamara Danz (Silly), Toni Krahl (City), and Mike Kilian (Rockhaus). Still, a new Karat album was released with Tamara appearing as guest on ‘Glocke Zweitausend’. That year Karat received also the Goldene Europa, a West German television award. A year later founding member and keyboardist Ulrich Swillms, left Karat citing health concerns.

By the end of the 1980s Karat had lost all of its other founding members, and also a degree of its popularity. It carried on after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 with Dreilich as bandleader, finding new inspiration in more western-oriented pop rock styles. To Dreilich’s disappointment, over the following years Karat was regarded by many as a relic of the former GDR. Karat released a second self-titled album in 1991, with the title intended to suggest a new beginning. Instead it sold poorly, and Karat would not record again for four years. The comeback came in 1994 when the old albums were released in CD and Karat played a 20th anniversary show. This led to a new album and a return to progressive rock. A second album and a tour followed in 1997. By October of that year Dreilich suffered a stroke on stage in Magdeburg. He survived the event, but returned to performance only after a full year of recuperation and songwriting. Afterward, Karat's pace slowed considerably. In 2000, the band released the compilation ‘Ich liebe jede Stunde’ and celebrated their 25th anniversary in Berlin. The 2003 album ‘Licht und Schatten’ was to be Dreilich’s last. In 2004, a tour with The Puhdys and City was cancelled at the last minute when Dreilich was diagnosed with liver cancer. He died that December, at the age of 62. At Dreilich's suggestion, the band replaced him with his 35-year-old son Claudius (who already released some singles, ‘Der letzte Countdown’ and ‘Winterzeit’). Former keyboardist Ulrich Swillms also rejoined the Group for studio work. The use of the name turned out to be a problem when Dreilich's widow claimed ownership of it because her husband had registered it as a trademark in 1998. Temporarily they changed their name to K...!. to return as Karat in 2007 for the Ost-Rock in Klassik show. In 2010 the first new album with Claudius was released.

On the web:

- Karats official website: http://www.karat-band.de/

If you like this, you probably like.. / european counterparts:

Georg Danzer (Austria)

What do we think:

DB: Dubbing Karat as progressive rock is stretching the genre a bit. They have a symphonic stroke to their music but most of their catalogue is pedestrian German-language rock. That said the music may sound radio-friendly but is of high quality. Seemingly simple they incorporate traces of psychedelia, jazz and reggae. Their early stuff is worth seeking out but mind the early nineties catalogue. The old GDR bands tried very hard to catch up in what they thought was modern music. In doing so they lost their own signature sound.


♪♪♪ - Panta Rhei - 1973

♪♪♪ - Karat - 1978

♪♪♪- Über sieben Brücken - 1979

- Schwanenkönig - 1980

♪♪♪- Der blaue Planet - 1982

♪♪♪ - Die sieben Wunder der Welt - 1983

- Fünfte Jahreszeit - 1987

♪♪ - ... im nächsten Frieden - 1990

♪♪ - Karat - 1991

- Die geschenkte Stunde - 1995

- Balance - 1997

- Licht und Schatten - 2003

- Weitergeh'n - 2010

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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