Lucid Culture


CD Review – Max Raabe & Palast Orchester – Heute Nacht Oder Nie

Classically trained retro croooner Max Raabe is a big name in Europe. Working strictly in grand style, this is a characteristically ambitious effort (the title translates as Tonight or Never), a double live cd of classic and obscure swing jazz, cabaret, Weimar blues, dancehall numbers and some ballads, most of them from the 1920s. Had Raabe decided to record them in mono with a few pops and crackles, collectors would be going nuts over this stuff. He and his crew have done their homework – this really sounds like the genuine article. It’s not going to appeal to everybody: many will find Raabe’s mannered delivery stilted and completely over the top (rather than singing in character, he is the character). But fans of this stuff won’t be able to resist. For Raabe, life is indeed a cabaret to be savored in all its exquisite decadence. His Teutonic accent only adds to the period ambience. And he’s funny (this is a guy who once did a deadpan, fully orchestrated cover of Oops I Did It Again). His backing band, Palast Orchester is topnotch with lush strings, buoyant horns and incisive, tasteful piano, banjo or tuba authentically filling in the low frequencies. Ultimately, this is festive party music, best enjoyed after a holiday gluwein or three. Most of the songs here are short, three minutes at best. Some have a nostalgic feel, others are exuberant, with a few comedic numbers and instrumental interludes (which are actually the cd’s best moments – this orchestra really cooks). 


There’s a fast, amusing oompah song here titled My Little Green Cactus. Their version of Kurt Weill’s Song of Mandalay is more restrained than Brian Carpenter’s but still good. Dream A Little Dream bounces and plinks along, closer to the original than the Mama Cass hit. Likewise, the version of Alabama Song here benefits from a straight-up treatment, far funnier than Jim Morrison’s. Occasionally Raabe will pull out all the stops and show off his operatic chops; one song features a solo on the spoons. The tuba also takes center stage on a couple of occasions. Campy? Sometimes, yes. But it’s a good party. Fans of the A-list of the American oldtimey revivalists – the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Jolie Holland, the Moonlighters, les Chauds Lapins et al. will enjoy getting acquainted with Herr Raabe and his mischievous crew.

November 29, 2008 - Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Where can I buy Max Raabe’s CDs from please?

    Comment by Kate T Bananas | May 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. amazon has it, as well as record stores throughout Eueope and many here in the US as well. Here’s the amazon link:

    Comment by delarue | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  3. Moin, Moin from Texas!
    If you like Max’ music and the Golden entertainment of the 1920s, you might like Brendan McNally’s dark comic novel “Germania” (Simon & Schuster, 2009), about the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers, four somewhat magical, Jewish vaudeville entertainers and onetime child stars who were the toast of Berlin before WWII and who reunite during the surreal, three-week “Flensburg Reich” of Admiral Doenitz, Hitler’s very unlucky successor.

    Comment by dasboogiewoogie | February 10, 2010 | Reply

  4. Just discovered Max Raabe and Palast Orchester myself. Can not wait to get their recordings!

    Comment by The Fine Duchess | April 18, 2013 | Reply

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