Friday, September 25, 2020

STEFAN DAAGARSSON – STRÖMKARL I ELRANSONERINGSTIDER (Forsaljud, 1976)

 
Swedish vocals
International grading: *

Stefan Daagarsson is quite an illustrious character. His career began in 1966 with pop band The Snippers which was followed by the advent of Charlie & The Others in 1967. The following year, major publishing company Bonniers published his first novel ”...är att berätta allt”, followed by another Bonniers book in 1969. In 1970, Daagarsson set up his own publishing company named Inferi through which all his subsequent books were released up until 1984. Inferi was also the name of the cultural magazine he ran up until 1979. Daagarsson was also the very first to publish poetry by Ulf Lundell who later became one of Sweden's most succesful writers and rock artists. For a couple of years, Swedish Television hired Daagarsson as a playwright. He's also a painter with several exhibitions under his belt. In 1984, he re-invented himself as Rotebergs-Raggarn, a fictious humurous character who had some success with both 45s and albums up until the early 90s. Simply put, Daagarson is a Jack of all trades.

”Strömkarl i elransoneringstider” is the only album under his birthname, and was released by Hudiksvall area label Forsaljud in 1976, a fairly active label responsible for both progg and non-progg discs including fusion band Berits Halsband sole LP and both albums by folk outfit Agö Fyr. ”Strömkarl i elransoneringstider” blends 'humurous' pastiches, typical Swedish troubadour styles and folk inspired numbers with lyrics with a sort-of-poetic flair. He obviously inhabits some talent but the album's disappointing with only very few decent moments, such as opening track ”Pigan” which alludes to Swedish folk songs in style as well as lyrical content. Daagarsson isn't much of a singer either, with a rugged, unmelodic phrasing and a lacklustre, slightly squeaky voice. In its best moments, ”Strömkarl i elransoneringstider” comes off as a 'C' grade version of Kjell Höglund who had a much better grasp of pastiches and lyrical vitality, and at worst, as an untalented parody of troubadour par excellence Cornelis Vreeswijk.

Spelmansminne

Thursday, September 24, 2020

KENNETH THORSTENSSON – ACK VÄRMLAND... (Oktober, 1976)


Swedish vocals
International relevance: *

Hyper-leftist label Oktober, home to Fria Proteatern and other similar nincompoops as well as being responsible for a number of unlistenable fistwaving various artists compilations, released Kenneth Thorstensson's only album. As a singer, his talents are limited – to put it politely. He sings in the Värmland dialect with an annoying vocal style that's oddly shouty with a monotonous kind of timbre. He's backed by musicans from Södra Bergens Balalaikor and Opponer which imemediately gives away that the music is in a sort of folky style. Some songs have a cabaret touch which doesn't help its case. Most songs are Thorstensson penned, either entirely or in collaboration with others, but he borrows a traditional song as well as defaming John Fogerty with ”Vi gir aldri åpp”, an embarrasing translation of Creedence Clearwater Revival's ”Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”. Hearing it, I'd rather ask ”Have You Ever Felt the Pain?” because this is seriously painful to endure. Hopefully you haven't.

When Thorstensson turns to yodeling on side 2, I just fall down dead with shame on his behalf.

Thorstensson later founded (the better) Arvika Gammeldansorkester.

A curious footnote: Robert Aschberg took some of the pictures used for the album cover. Aschberg later
became known as a provocative talk show host and is still known as an outspoken media personality. In the 70's, he was involved in the leftist circuits. Later he explained it was because they had the prettiest girls.

Vi gir aldri åpp

LASSE ENGLUND – DRAKVÄDER (Alternativ, 1974)


Instrumental
International relevance: ***

 Lasse Englund's first album, and the first of two released on Kjell Höglund's Alternativ label (the second one being ”Den andra depressionen” released three years later). His technical skills were already firmly in place this early on in his solo career, but as opposed to the previously reviewed ”Lila och orange”, here they are backed up by real substance. The songs are mostly instrumental; the only vocals heard are hummed harmonies on a couple of tracks. The well-composed pieces have an occasional Swedish folk feel, but really owe a lot more to English and Scottish folk music, with Englund even slipping in a short passage from ”She Moved Through the Fair” Davy Graham style to the intro of ”Benke Plankton”. However, Englund's style at this point was assumingly mostly influenced by John Renbourn. The tabla and hand drums work on multiple tracks wouldn't have been out of place on Renbourn albums such as ”A Maid in Bedlam”. But with that one being released in 1977 – who influenced who? I'm sure Renbourn must have known about this Swedish picker and was probably rather impressed by his chops.

Englund's playing is fluent, inspired and fun, and further help from other players including multitalent Kjell Westling makes ”Drakväder” a very appealing and often very beautiful listen. Especially if you're into the folk baroque guitar stylings of Graham, Renbourn, and Bert Jansch in his least bluesy moments. ”Drakväder” is indeed Englund's finest hour as a solo artist. The cover art is nice too, with an elaborate private pressing feel. Better yet: The album can still be found fairly cheap.

Fiskmåsen
Drakväder

Thursday, August 27, 2020

TILLSAMMANS - TILLSAMMANS (Kompass, 1976)


 Swedish vocals
International relevance: **


Not to be confused with GregFitzPatrick's Handgjort offshoot of the same name, this seven-piece was a Christian outfit that featured Tomas Ernvik on bass and guitar. Despite suffering from several wimpy ballads, it has a fair share of progressive and not-quite-symphonic folk rock moves. The playing is consistently good throughout (including some semi-heavy guitar) and the songwriting is above average, especially if you close your ears during the more overt, sugarcoated "Jesus is a nice bloke" songs. Oddly enough, I sense a wee bit of Paul McCartney and his mid 70's Wings here and there.

"Hela mitt liv" opens side B and has a slight renaissance air which nicely compliments the tasteful almost-folk harmonies. Tillsammans retain the faint folkishness on "Undran i vår tid" and on the mournful "Människor", the latter being the best track here. These three tracks help making the second side stronger than side 1.

Despite the reputation Tomas Ernvik earned through Vatten, the album can still be found fairly cheap. It's not a masterpiece by any stretch, often too much on the well-meaning side of things, but some nice guitar passages and a couple of listenable enough tracks, it's certainly better than the standard Swedish Xian albums that appeared in droves in the 70's.

SCALA-TEATERNS ENSEMBLE - HÅR (Sonet, 1968)


Swedish vocals
International relevance: **

Originally an off-Broadway production in 1967, musical "Hair" eventually became a Broadway blockbuster, spawning multiple domestic versions in numerous countries of the free world. The Swedish staging was performed at the Scala theatre in Stockholm 1968, the very same year it moved to the proper Broadway stages (thus being the very first musical to make that particular move).

Appallingly subtitled "American Hippie-Yippie Love-In Musical", the musical backing was provided by Baby Grandmothers in their later Mecki Mark Men incarnation, although the album was technically credited to Scala-Teaterns Ensemble. The inclusion of Kenny Håkansson, Mecki Bodemark et al is the only thing to make this release historically interesting, but it has to be said that it's impossible to tell the identity of the band just by listening to the LP. While they conjure up some appropriate groove when needed, any fairly talented group of musicians could have achieved the same thing. The focus is on the singers, but the male and female vocals are maddening, with the female vocals being especially grating. After all, it is a musical, and musicals are an inherently grating abuse of music, like a watered-down version of the operetta which is a watered-down version of the opera which is annoying to begin with.

Those expecting anything along the lines of Baby Grandmothers' "Somebody Keeps Calling My Name" or the Jimi Hendrix impersonations of Mecki Mark Men are up for a major disappointment. "Hår" is just another provincial below average take on a silly musical parodying starry-eyed hippies. Which too was annoying to begin with...

The album was also released by Sonet in collaboration with shampoo and conditioner manufacturer Sunsilk (what else!) with a different sleeve (see below), also in 1968.



Wednesday, August 26, 2020

GRUPPKORSBANDET - HÖR OCH HÄPNA (no label, 1976)

Swedish vocals
International relevance: *

The liner notes read:

This isn't an ordinary record. We're neither skilled nor commercial - you have to be that to get an album released by an established label. That's why we've made this record ourselves.
We can't allow the music being taken over completely by a flock of professional musicians while the rest of us hardly dare play to ourselves, let alone to others.
MUSIC BELONGS TO ALL OF US!

How cute. Too bad it's all progg baloney. It sounds just like something those nine members of Gruppkorsbandet had repeated like a mantra to get it right like a quote from Mao's little red book, probably in front of the mirror so that they could strike the perfect progg pose while parroting the tired old progg credo to any old person unlucky enough to be around to hear. It's all nonsense, because nobody stopped anyone from playing anything. Not even in the 70's.

Take a look at the cover. The typeface looks like something off an information brochure from the official Don't Have Fun Institute saying Eat Brown Rice And Be Boring. Look at the nine regular people and their regular people postures. Look at the dull, washed out greyness of it all. Take the record out, put it on. It sounds exactly like you'd expect from the yummy-yummy brown rice munchers with regular people postures pictured in forty shades of grey. Nothing wrong with regular people or brown rice or even the colour grey, but hey...

It's all acoustic folk styled songs with a typical political bent (needless to say, there's an Eisler/Brecht track, mandatory to albums like this). Several members sing simultaneously, Vietnam-solidarity-action-group-with-righteous-placards style. If you want to sing along yourself, a lyric sheet is included. Just yell away.

And, the final nail in the coffin of a stillborn album: a Fria Proteatern cover.

Music belongs to everybody. Fine and dandy, but please keep me out of this.

No links found.

Friday, August 21, 2020

DORIS - DID YOU GIVE THE WORLD SOME LOVE TODAY BABY? (Odeon, 1970)

English vocals
International relevance: **

This album sometimes get lumped in with progg, but it's not really a progg album. "Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby" may have been released in 1970, but it's still mid to late 60's sunlit pop with sprinkles of light groove and easy listening jazz. Doris Svensson is a fine singer with a distinctive voice with mildly rough edges that fits her style nicely, but progg it is not. Except with one spectacular exception: the eerie "You Never Come Closer". 

Hands down the standout track in this collection, it was featured on an British acid jazz comp in the 90's which brought new attention to the original Odeon album (which, of course, skyrocketed in value) and provoked the demand for a CD reissue in 1996, expanded with neglectable singles tracks by Doris's previous pop outfit Plums.

"You Never Come Closer" is a cool-beyond-belief track, later reworked by its composer and noted jazz pianist Bernt Egerbladh for the soundtrack to Swedish 70's television drama thriller series "Ärliga blå ögon" ("honest blue eyes"). Worth mentioning is that horror painter and sometime cover art designer Hans Arnold did the short but wonderful intro sequence of the series. The soundtrack recording was sung by James Hollingworth, released as a 45 in 1977, the same year the TV series became a mandatory watch to hoardes of Swedish viewers. (I've added a link to the intro at the end of this review for you to compare Doris original track to the reworked soundtrack variant.)

The title track of "Did You Give the World Some Love Today Baby" is a nice enough easy listening tinged pop track, but the next best tracks after "You Never Come Closer" are "Don't" and "Beatmaker", both utilizing a charming flower sprinkled groove in a mild funky fashion. But they never come closer to perfection than "You Never Come Closer" does...

A classic album for whatever reason, but still overrated to my ears. And not progg.

Full album playlist (minus bonus tracks)

Opening sequence to "Ärliga blå ögon"
James Hollingworth soundtrack 45