Munchener Freiheit (Munich Freedom) started its recording as a two-guitar quartet on Umsteiger (Transfer). Displaying a definite knack for power pop with exceedingly good Beatlesque harmonies, they also go in for some tracks with slightly eccentric arrangements. At points they reach genuine offbeatness, fitting for a band led by an ex-member of fringe space rockers Amon Duül II, namely singing guitarist Stefan Zauner. It’s a bit of an unsatisfying mix, but the high points are, well, kind of like eating Ring Dings: empty calories, but awfully tasty. (Despite Zauner’s Anglo-pop voice, the record’s all in German, including a version of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”)
They subsequently jettisoned the musical weirdness altogether. On Licht, with Zauner moving over to keyboards, the overall sound is more commercial and pop- oriented. That it comes shrink-wrapped with a combination sweat-band/visor (!) should suggest the record’s intended appeal. Again, there’s the same kind of swell pop-rock, but some veers dangerously close to pap.
By Herzschlag Einer Stadt, possibly the group’s best album, the lineup had stabilized as a quintet with two keyboardists including Zauner, by then primarily the singer (and, teamed with guitarist Aron Strobel, chief songwriter). He’d also been the producer, with former bassist Freddie Erdmann but, starting with Herzschlag, the records were overseen by Armand Volker. This proved to be a formula for success — the quintet are now quite big pop stars — but the slickness that went into it became increasingly annoying. (Here, it’s just insidiously ingratiating.)
Von Anfang An (From the Beginning On) conveniently summed up Munchener Freiheit’s output for their hit parade fans, with non-LP single tracks and the most commercial (not necessarily the best) of the previous LPs, including live, alternate and remixed versions. Traumziel has a surprisingly mature sound and, while some of it lapses into blandness, the rest is enjoyable ear candy. Curiously dropping the first half of their name, Freiheit issued Traumziel in an English-language version, Romancing in the Dark, with three remakes from previous LPs slotted in. Traumziel actually hangs together better, and understanding the lyrics hardly makes a big difference.
By Fantasie, the gradual stylistic modernization (adding in dance-rock elements and so on) had counterbalanced most of the original charm — even of Zauner’s voice. The record still has worthwhile moments, but it’s mostly dull. For international consumption, the lyrics were translated into English (or, as on at least some of the tracks, rewritten). “Keeping the Dream Alive” (a softer, fluffier, longer version of “So Lang’ Man Traume Noch Leben Kann”) leads off the LP, instead of ending it.