The +PLUS+ Catalog: Tomorrow's Gift, Wind, Ikarus

DPRP's writers dives into their collections of forgotten albums and bands that deserve a little more attention.

These are not full-blown band histories and often just short album reviews, but we bet some of these artists here will end up having an article in our Forgotten Sons series one day.

For this article I selected three albums that have several things in common. They're all by German bands. These albums were all released on the same label, that went by the weird name +PLUS+, and all in 1970/1971. They were, in fact, the only releases this label ever did. All three albums were also re-issued by the same labels as well: Second Battle (who also released an album I recently reviewed in Collectors Corner #7: Reflections On The Future by Twenty Sixty Six And Then), and later by Long Hair. Finally, there is an overlap in style, and those styles have a lot of progressive elements, hence their inclusion here on DPRP.

+PLUS+ was a progressive subdivision of Miller Records International, who specialised in budget releases. Jochen Petersen produced the albums, sometimes joined in as a guest musician, and was actually part of one of the bands covered here.

Jerry van Kooten

Tomorrow's Gift — Tomorrow's Gift

Tomorrow's Gift - Tomorrow's Gift
Riddle In A Swamp (8:05), Prayin' To Satan (5:10), One Of The Narrow Minded Thoughts Rump (3:29), Tenakel Gnag (2:56), The First Seasons After The Destruction (13:03), How You Want To Live (7:25), Grey Aurora (1:52), Ants (2:52), Breeds There A Man (3:18), King In A Nook (4:26), Sandy Concert (8:08), Enough To Write A Song About Or Two (2:00), Second Song (0:27)
Jerry van Kooten

The first release on the +PLUS+ label was Tomorrow's Gift eponymous debut album. It was a double album, released with catalog number "PLUS 1+2". In an interview with Psychedelic Baby Magazine in 2021, Manfred Rürup said he thought the label pressed 3000 copies of the double LP.

Tomorrow's Gift had been playing for several years in slightly changing line-ups, perfecting their sound by playing live a lot. Many compositions often included long jams. But while good jamming shows the musicians know each other well and feel where the music is going, a good album also requires good songs: good compositions and good arrangements. And this album is definitely safe in that department.

What stands out is that the musical style of Tomorrow's Gift is closer to the British sound at the time than the German school of early prog.

Ellen Meyer's voice is raw and husky, and might be an acquired taste for some people. Those people will also have something against her accent, showing a lack of knowledge of spoken English. I do like a raw voice, though. It fits the music that is also often a bit raw, clearly from the blues-rock school that was popular around that time.

The opening track is showing off most of the band's strong points right away. It's mostly fast-paced with many changes. Flute has a big role in the music, almost as big as the organ and guitar have. There are several passages where they are all playing together, resulting in a full multilayered sound, while still sounding very tight. Several tracks follow suit, most notably One Of The Narrow-Minded Thoughts Romp, Tenakel Gnag, and Ants.

These faster tracks remind me a bit of Julian's Treatment. The organ playing shows the same nice touch Pete Bardens had on the first Camel albums.

Breeds There A Man and King In A Nook are different but deserve special mention. They fit the band's style but have an added psychedelic touch that just sparkles a little extra magic. It's breaking the strong blues-rock based (or progressive blues as I like to call it) of the music.

There are some weirder tracks. Prayin' To Satan is the first. Nice riff and groove but nothing more. Things get bad a few times as well. The First Seasons After The Destruction has a long solo section that is too long and does not go anywhere, and the long and boring drum solo is not changing things for the better. Sandy Concert has Jochen Petersen on sax, and is basically a rocky intro to a sax solo that does not fit the band's musical style and is way too long. I read that the band were told quite late in the process that they were expected to deliver a double album, and it might well be that these tracks were recorded quite late and used as fillers.

The arrangements are one of the reasons why I like this album so much. Objectively speaking it's not a masterpiece, but still a very good example of early prog, with the more British sound a little different from their countrymen at the time. But it ticks so many boxes for my taste that I just listen to this album very often.

Tomorrow's Gift 1971, promo photo from the Long Hair CD. From left to right: Rürup, Karges, Lindner (replacing Paetzke who drummed on the album), Kiefer, Meier.

Other Release: Pop & Blues '70 (1970)

Before the band's debut album, they played at a festival called Pop & Blues Festival '70 held from 28 to 30 March 1970 at the Ernst-Merck-Halle in Hamburg, Germany. Tomorrow's Gift played at least on the 29th. An original time schedule of the festival had them scheduled for each day. Some other bands apparently played at the festival that are not on the schedule, so we'll never know for sure. A 2LP was released containing recordings by Frumpy, Thrice Mice, Sphinx Tush (whose drummer would later join Tomorrow's Gift), Beatique In Corporation, and Tomorrow's Gift.

Pop & Blues Festival '70

The song Sound Of Which is a cover of Donovan's Season Of The Witch but as it lasts for 20 minutes you can imagine there is a lot of jamming going on. It starts of with the song in TG style, with great harmonising of organ, guitar, and flute. The melodies are recognisable, but TG manage to prog it up pretty good. At the 5-minute mark the jamming starts. First a slower bit with mainly flute and percussive organ, but when the guitar joins in, some soloing supported by organ takes us to the 13th minute. A slower and more bluesy section follows. In the 16th minute things slow down with organ and flute dominating the sound, returning to the songs they started with, building up again to a storming end. The vocals are raw as we know them from the album, but she does sound a little tired here.

The solos might be a little too long for some listeners and reviewers, but I really like the performance. There's no noodling or freaky stuff going on, just good playing.

The sound quality and mix are excellent, with some separation to highlight the instruments which works very well during the solos.

Someone uploaded this album to archive.org in not-too-bad MP3, so you can at least listen if you cannot find a copy of the original 2LP or the unofficial CD release. If you want a new copy of the album, French label Long Hair have re-issued the 2LP in 2019 (LHC 209/210).

At a few points, the producers decided to throw in some audience noise a couple of times, even during some of the song. It sounds a little artificial but does not distract too much. Curiously though, throughout the 2LP, the exact same bit of audience noise has been added. Are these even actual live recordings from the Pop & Blues Festival? Or are these studio recordings?

Other Release: Love And Peace (1970)

Now there is another various artists compilation album with Tomorrow's Gift material. It was also released in 1970, so also before the debut album, and it was titled Love And Peace. It was released in 1970 as a 2LP, then a re-issue followed in 2019 on Long Hair. There was also a CD issue (all tracks included, as the album lasts 75 minutes) in 2005 on Red Fox Records but that label is said to be a bootleg label. The bands on this album: Thrice Mice (2 songs: 3 and 10 minutes), Greenlight (4 songs: 6, 4, 4, and 13 minutes), Tomorrow's Gift (2 songs: 4 and 20 minutes), Dr. Roberts Blues Band (1 song: 4 minutes), and Sphinx Tush (1 song: 5 minutes).

Love And Peace

If you are interested in a copy of the Love And Peace 1970 CD, NuMusi Records still have copies.

This Love And Peace album contains two tracks by Tomorrow's Gift: Begin Of A New Sound (4 minutes) and a medley of At The Earth / Indian Rope Man (not less than 20 minutes), of which a jam-infested version of Richie Havens' Indian Rope Man takes the longest part of the jam. Both were not recorded for the debut album so a nice addition to the collection.

The tracks are mostly instrumental and contain a lot of jamming. Begin Of A New Sound has a nice intro in proper TG style. A soft section follows with vocalisations and spoken words. The middle part has that good TG mixing of heavy blues rock with organ and flute providing the melodies. The end part is more guitar-based, but without soloing — more a repetition of the intro themes.

At The Earth is a slow blues with guitar playing and later also experimenting over a layer of organ sounds. The experimenting does not last long, though. It sounds like a bit like The Doors building up a long song waiting for Jim Morrison to join. It takes a few minutes before a more structured song exposes itself and things get better. A drum solo introduces Indian Rope Man which almost sounds like Maggie Bell is singing with The Doors. Very nice version! During the song itself there is not a lot of soloing, and you're almost waiting for more things to happen. Then the jamming continues and a long guitar solo is paying off the waiting time. Organ supports in its own way, as usual with TG. A fast-paced outro has a brief reprise of Indian Rope Man and a revisit of some earlier theme. With 20 minutes it is outstaying its welcome a bit but certainly has its good parts in TG style.

Overall this is not a very good album, to be honest. Several tracks are quite boring with Crashville by Sphinx Tush topping the list: harmonica noodling for the first half of the song, then a drum solo, and finally a riff repeated ad nauseam except for a short outburst on guitar that is actually good but far too late to save anything. Greenlight is OK, Dr. Roberts Blues Band too. Thrice Mice sound dated in the first song but a bit more adventurous in the other.

As with the previous various artist compilation album, it is unclear when and where this was recorded. I've read that some people think it was recorded at the aforementioned Pop & Blues Festival '70. But since this Love And Peace album contains a different version of Crashville by Sphinx Tush, I doubt that.

The title Love And Peace hints to the Fehmarn Festival in September 1970, where Jimi Hendrix played as well. The photo on the cover might very well be taken at that festival. But a band playing Red House while Jimi Hendrix is at the same festival would be very strange. In all band listings of the Fehmarn festival, only Thrice Mice are ever mentioned, and most lists even details like the artists who cancelled or could not make it, so I have a hard time believing any of the other bands played at Fehmarn. So I have my doubts about that theory as well. It might still be a collection of different live recordings.

Somewhere else I read someone claiming this was a collection of mock-live studio recordings of some German bands. That changed things. Hearing the recordings this is very likely, and I am warming up to this theory. There are no audience noises audible at all on this album (as opposed to the obviously fake audience noises on Pop & Blues '70). The Sphinx Tush song has two guitars playing, while the band credits list only one guitarist, which then has to be an overdub and then not likely to be a full live recording. The mixes are quite good as well (which of course could be done using multi-track recordings from any live performance). The production is not very good though - too loud here and there, like a hasty job.

So, I tend to believe that the recordings on this album were made in the studio, and that that might be true for the other album as well. That would make Pop & Blues '70 and Love And Peace just misleading titles because of the hinting towards festivals. It's just weird that I cannot find any info on this. The albums were released on different labels (this one on Somerset, the other one on MCA) but maybe this was a common way to make a quick and cheap compilation album to cash in with some unknown names. On the other hand I can see that albums like this could help unknown bands to spread their word.

In any case, since I have not found any other album where these tracks have been released, it is a very interesting album of original and otherwise unreleased recordings.

Other Release: Goodbye Future (1973)

Bernd Kiefer and Manfred Rürup (who used the spelling Manne Rurup at the time) and drummer Zabba Lindner (who replaced Gerd Paetzke shortly after the release of the first album so was part of the band for several years) on a much more jazz and experimental album with under the Tomorrow's Gift name, titled Goodbye Future in 1973. That one falls beyond the stretch of my taste to cover here. Fans of prog in the Canterbury style should have a listen. The band changed again under the name Release Music Orchestra and released several more albums.

In the interview with Psychedelic Baby Magazine, Rürup tells a bit more about this era of the band.

Karges went to play with Novalis for a while, was in Extrabreit, and finally got really succesful with Nena.

Wind — Seasons

Wind - Seasons
What Do We Do Now (8:27), Now It's Over (4:24), Romance (1:32), Springwind (7:08), Dear Little Friend (4:18), Red Morningbird (15:50)
Jerry van Kooten

Released as "PLUS 3" was by Seasons by the band Wind. Wind consists of twin brothers Andreas (bass, vocals) and Lucian Büeler (organ, piano, vocals, percussion), plus Steve Leistner (lead vocals, harmonica, flute, percussion), Thomas Leidenberger (guitar, vocals), and Lucky Schmidt (drums, percussion, vibes). Label boss Jochen Petersen plays flute on the opening track.

The opening with percussive Hammond and rough vocals places Wind in the progressive blues corner for me, and on the heavy side of that, where you'd find bands like Uriah Heep, early Deep Purple, and such progressive hard-rock bands. Changes and breaks in the song also make a reference to Nektar, the heaviness makes it like Steppenwolf or a Hammond-led Blue Öyster Cult. Having the guitar and Hammond alternating solos is what I love about this style.

After this, the next track is a bit of a let-down, as it is a slow, ballad-like song, led by Hammond with some vocals and a bit of guitar and piano. A nice track, but hardly anything special. As can be said of the 90 seconds piece following it, with just clear and distorted piano. This does not make things better. I can understand about needing some time to breathe, but after only one heavy track of 8 minutes?

Springwind then? Yes! Guitar in the far left, Hammond in the far right, there are fast sections with frantic drumming, alternated with different slower parts. Good harmony singing, and many parts where so many things are happening. Good arrangements. Dear Little Friend follows the style but more compact.

Wind, promo photo used in the booklet of CD issue of the second album. From left to right: Thomas Leidenberger, Lucian Büeler, Steve Leistner, Lucky Schmidt, Andreas Büeler

The long final track is a mix of everything. Starting of mysteriously with sound effects and acoustic guitar. Drums and Hammond slowly join in, growing slowly into the next part that makes me smile. The middle section is slow, too slow. Although the slow intro works, this middle section just takes too long, and it lacks a bluesy feeling to keep the fire burning. When the harmonica comes in and the guitar returns, you feel the sound building towards something again, and my smile returns.

I would have done the mix a bit different. In parts with heavy guitar solos (in the left channel), the supporting Hammond (in the right channel) is louder, drowning out the guitar. Even in the softer sections, the Hammond is just a little too loud. The mix is quite consistent and only has a few deviations, for example where the guitar is mixed into the centre after a short guitar melody in the beginning of Dear Little Friend.

Wind is probably the band on the +PLUS+ label with the widest range, or biggest contrast in styles. It does not mean it works best. The middle section of Red Morningbird and tracks 2 and 3 don't keep me warm either. The heavy parts and a few of the slow parts I really like a lot. So it's an album of contrasts, reflected in my listening experience.

The album was re-issued on CD by Second Battle (SB 016, 1991 but also 1997) and later by Long Hair in 2010 on both LP (LHC 86) and CD (LHC 82; this got a re-issue in 2021 — one on black vinyl and one on red vinyl). This is the first time I find a Second Battle issue that has been mastered softer than any other issue. Did they change their preferences over time? The Long Hair issues are slightly louder but no noticeable compression was applied and there is no clipping.

Other Releases

The same line-up recorded (1971 or 1972) and released (1972 or 1973 — sources are not consistent) a second album, Morning. Quite a change from the first album, since the music is stripped of most styles, focusing on mostly slow-paced, softer but still melodic songs, where Now It's Over and Romance would not feel out of place.

Ikarus — Ikarus

Ikarus - Ikarus
Eclipse (15:24), Mesentery (6:11), The Raven (11:43), Early Bell's Voice (7:43)
Jerry van Kooten

The last release +PLUS+ ever did, catalog number PLUS 4, was the eponymous album by Ikarus, which turned out to be their only album. What started out as a jazz-rock formation slowly evolved into a more psychedelic and progressive form of a blues-based sound. Several listeners would probably now add the dreaded "Krautrock" label to it. (Dreaded since it is abused for anything coming from Germany instead of describing a style. Also, it apparently was never used in the early 1970s.)

The six-piece that recorded this album comprises Wulf Dieter Struntz (organ, piano), +PLUS+ producer Jochen Peterson (guitar, sax, flute, clarinet, vocals), Manfred Schultz (guitar, vocals), Wolfgang Kracht (bass, vocals), Lorenz Kohler (lead vocals), and Bernd Schröder (drums, percussion).

The album opens with a long suite that crashed the door without an introduction. Multilayered hard-rock like Uriah Heep or Deep Purple. But not long after, a jazzy clarinet solo. Back to a psychedelic section with a hint of Moody Blues, after which a Doors-like organ solo follows. And that's only halfway the first, albeit long, track.

Mesentry is a slower and more psychedelic tune. The first half has great interplay of acoustic guitar and keyboards (not just Hammond). The second half is trippy but still structured and not freaky. Freaky is the middle section of The Raven, after the jazzy intro. Experimental like it happened a lot, and it is limited to a few minutes here, after which a both bluesy and symphonic ballad takes shape. Early Bell's Voice is half jazzy, half progressive, interweaving both influences constantly. The half-spoken vocals in the second half make it sound a bit tired, though.

This is just to say the music of Ikarus is not straightforward, it is probably the most diverse of the three albums on the +PLUS+ label. The mixing of prog and jazz-rock works very well in several places, but in others it feels like it is not heading anywhere, like when a jam becomes unhinged. The rockier bits from the opening do not get a reprise, which would make it a better album to my taste. But early progressive jazz-rock with several other influences. Fans of The Flock, Can, or Van Der Graaf Generator will like this.

Ikarus, promo photo from the booklet of the Long Hair CD.

Other Releases

The compilation album Pop & Blues Festival '70 that also contains a track by Tomorrow's Gift, has to be mentioned here as well. Before Ikarus, the band called themselves Beatique In Corporation. They also played at that festival in April 1970 at the Ernst-Merk-Halle in Hamburg. Or at least they were recorded for the same compilation album, if the studio recording story is correct. The album contains two tracks by Beatique In Corporation: Going Straight (3:41) and Sunwave (15:15). Note that the LP label has the latter listed as Sunwave (incl. Sing Hallelujah). The same audience noises that are used throughout the album are added on these tracks as well.

This recording of Sunwave was used as a bonus track on the 2015 re-issue on the Long Hair label of the Ikarus album. I cannot imagine how the decision was made not to include Going Straight as well. The CD including the one bonus track is less than an hour, those 3:41 could not have been a problem with the duration. A bit of a waste not to have the complete recorded output on a single disc.

Sunwave fits the Ikarus album pretty well. On the positive side it has a lot of variety in sound and composition, making it harder to appreciate as a whole, since I think more people will like different parts than everything. The soloing gets more focus now. The jazzy passages are getting a bit freaky. Going Straight is a relatively short, fast-paced jazz-swinging piece that is mostly one long saxophone solo. A little too much to my taste, but it fits the Ikarus style pretty well.

The Pop & Blues '70 2LP has been digitised and put on archive.org in MP3 (high bitrate). And Sunwave can also found on YouTube. Also, not surprisingly, Long Hair have actually re-issued the 2LP in 2019.