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Koes Bersaudara - 1967 (Sublime Frequencies)

14 May 2010

Rock is often called the music of rebellion, but rarely is it so true as here. A quintet of Javanese brothers who moved to Jakarta and started playing rock ‘n’ roll after hearing the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, Koes Bersaudara (which merely means Koes Brothers) started recording in 1962 and gave their first concert in ’63. Then the Beatles hit, a brother quit, and Koes Bersaudara became a mop-topped foursome. Unfortunately for them, Indonesia’s President Sukarno considered the Beatles a cultural threat, and Koes Bersaudara ended up in jail for three months in 1965 for playing Beatles songs in their concert sets. The interesting booklet notes say that they might have been set up, though at this point that can’t be definitively known.

This CD compiles their two 1967 albums, the 10-inch Djadikan Aku Domba Mu (Make Me Your Sheep) and the later LP To the so-called “The Guilties.” The former, though glancingly addressing their prison stint, is mostly well-behaved ballads, and hasn’t aged well (or, at least, Western rock fans will find it less interesting). The LP, though, is a boiling outburst of garage rock that directly challenged the government – the song “Poor Clown” (one of the few sung in English) is about Sukarno. It’s no wonder that the folks at Sublime Frequencies place it first on this CD (which also includes a bonus track – the only stereo track here – from a compilation album). This is a thrilling disc both as a piece of history and as pure rockin’ musical energy.