Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5
When folks talk about Can's essential albums, Unlimited Edition does not often make the list. It�'s admittedly an odds and sods collection and features tracks featuring vocalists Malcolm Mooney, Damo Suzuki, and the four-piece Can. And yes, there are definitely a few duff tracks. Regardless of these shortcomings and discontinuities, Unlimited Edition holds together surprisingly well (at least the first disc does) and is home to some of Can's best tracks, including arguably the very best Mooney tracks.
Can always kept the tape rolling at their Inner Space studio, so they had no problem coming up with prime stuff that may have simply not fit on their proper LPs. Let's go ahead and talk about the Mooney tracks first, which I feel are the highlights of this album. Mooney appears on four tracks: "Mother Upduff," "Fall Of Another Year," "Connection," and "Empress And The Ukraine Kid." In the Pitchfork Media review, they note that these tracks would make a kick-ass EP and I wholeheartedly agree with them. It's like hearing an alternate universe Can where they were just as good as the prime Suzuki years, but in which Mooney had never quit the band. It's a very different, more-rock oriented direction, but still provides a showcase for Can's metronomic signature and a bit of weird experimentation. I especially dig the extremely strange story and avant-jazz backing in "Mother Upduff." It sounds like Mooney's making it up as he goes along and I mean this as a compliment. Mooney's vocal seems to be pre-emptively channeling Jello Biafra on "Connection." If there's any downside with the Mooney sessions, it's the repetition. Can did this with Suzuki too, but they also more or less abandoned all sense of conventional rock with Suzuki. Still, when the riffs are as awesome as those in "Fall Of Another Year" and "Connection," I have no problem with a little repetition. As a side note, Mooney's vocal seems to be pre-emptively channeling Jello Biafra on "Connection."
Suzuki's tracks are also quite good here, but don't stand out as much. I do enjoy the strange chanting of "Doko E," but Can probably did end up with their best stuff on the proper albums when Suzuki was their vocalist.
The band does quite well on their own here. Opening track "Gomorrha" is awesome, with one of the best deployments of Can's recurring 'descending-riff' motif. It's certainly a standout for bassist Czukay.
Along with plenty of song snippets which are fun but were probably never fleshed out enough for a proper album, there are also five tracks from Can's ethnological forgeries series. Once again, these would not have fit on the bands classic albums (although later installment would show up on albums like Flow Motion), but it's very amusing to hear the band attempt world influences ranging from Turkey to Japan to Dixieland jazz.
I really love listening to this album. Although laden with one non-epic (I'm looking at you, 17-minute long "Cutaway") and some piecemeal one to two minute tracks, Unlimited Edition makes for a fine tour of Can at their often best. It's like a retrospective from an alternate dimension where Can put out something different that Tago Mago or Ege Bambasi.
Can - 1976 - Unlimited Edition