Friday, October 24, 2008

Liberty Keeps The Dream Alive

Please note: this post was originally published on 3 May 2008. It has been slightly modified and the original link to a sample MP3 has been removed.

1989 was an especially eventful year. Tim Berners-Lee developed this curiosity called the world wide web, students were told they could no longer loiter in Tiananmen Square, city planners decided Berlin no longer needed a wall smack bang in the middle of the city (I think it had something to do with blocking the cycle track), and I found myself listening to a German group singing about keeping a dream alive, whilst I was stuck in gridlock along Parramatta Road in Sydney's western suburbs.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that the German quintet Freiheit sang about 'Keeping The Dream Alive' the same year that East and West Germany underwent the transformation toward unity. Freiheit is German for 'freedom' or 'liberty'. The band actually goes under the moniker of Munchener Freiheit in Europe - named after a square in their home city of Munich.

Freiheit had enjoyed considerable success in their native country in the early to mid 80s, their biggest breakthrough coming with the 1986 album Von Anfang An ('from the beginning'). Freiheit then set their sights on penetrating the English speaking pop markets, and so began recording in both German and English. 1988's 'Fantasy' was to be their breakthrough album in the lucrative U.K. market. 'Keeping The Dream Alive' reached #14 in Britain and #55 in Australia. When I first heard the song (whilst breathing in Sydney traffic fumes) I actually thought it may have been a new track from Paul McCartney (he was due to soon release his 'Flowers In The Dirt' album). The song was not dissimilar in style to McCartney's 1983 song 'Pipes Of Peace', and then when it hit the lush orchestra laden chorus the melody reminded me of Cyndi Lauper's hit 'Time After Time', with more than a hint of E.L.O. about it. Curious but very effective mix. Maybe it was the traffic fumes.

None of that detracts from the originality of Freiheit's sublime composition and stellar performance of 'Keeping The Dream Alive' (featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and The Jackson Singers). I guess a lot of pop's greatest songs have been derivative in nature. Anyway, I purchased the vinyl 45 at the time and later scored a copy on CD via the songs inclusion on a volume of the Time-Life CD series 'The Emotions Collection', though I've not tracked down a copy of the Freiheit source album 'Fantasy'. 'Keeping The Dream Alive' peaked at #14 on the British charts in December 1988 and #55 in Australia in April '89.

Freiheit recorded one more English language album before focusing their attention once more on their home market. According to Wikipedia (which is where I've managed to find most of the info for this post) Freiheit , once more Munchener Freiheit, represented Germany in the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest, finishing 18th. They continue to record and tour around Europe.

How would Freiheit have fared had they been an American or British artist? Who knows, but 'Keeping The Dream Alive' is every bit as good as any power ballad by Foreigner or Phil Collins.

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