Thursday, September 20, 2018

MONICA TÖRNELL – Jag är som jag är... (Philips, 1978) / Ingica Mångrind (Philips, 1979)

Jag är som jag är... (Philips, 1978)
International relevance: **
Swedish vocals

After two English language albums, Monica Törnell returned to Swedish with ”Jag är som jag är...”, produced by Björn J:son Lindh and featuring Okay Temiz on percussion on ”Lotus och Casanova”. Some samba, some jazz, some fusion, some folk, some blues, all with the typical session musician sound of the day, clean and perfect and ultimately very dull.

”Progglådan” features a live show from around the time of ”Jag är som jag är...”.

Ingica Mångrind (Philips, 1979)
International relevance: *
Swedish vocals

Törnell's last album of the decade is even worse than ”Jag är som jag är...” with too much production sheen and hopelessly lifeless perfomances. Worst of all is the Swedish Dylan cover of ”Like a Rolling Stone”, and the disastrous take on The Beatles' ”Drive My Car”. 

KEBNEKAJSE – Ljus från Afrika (Silence, 1976) / Elefanten (Silence, 1977)

Ljus från Afrika (Silence, 1976)
International relevance: **
Instrumental, other languages

The later Kebnekajse albums are largely ignored (the Kenny-less dung pile ”Vi drar vidare” should be ignored, with a vengeance). By the time of ”Ljus från Afrika”, they had moved away from the Swedish folk rock that brought them love and attention, and towards Africa as the title of this 1976 album declare, ”light from Africa”. I don't have a problem with that per se, but most of ”Ljus från Afrika” is too close to West African highlife music for me. However, it does have ”Tigerdans/Wind”, a Kenny Håkansson driven spaced-out track firmly rooted in the darker side of afro funk, and heavy rocking closing track ”Brudarnas parti” that is too good to be lost to oblivion. 

Elefanten (Silence, 1977)
International relevance: ***

Kebnekajse's last original album with Kenny Håkansson on guitar (and new drummer Åke Eriksson taking Pelle Ekman's place) is much closer to prog rock than what ”Ljus från Afrika” is. The African influence is kept to a minimum, but unfortunately, it has two horrible Mats Glenngård tracks pointing towards the style of ”Vi drar vidare”, ”Saab Mustang” and ”Grabbarnas afton”, totalling 18 painful minutes. Also, Håkansson must have caught the fusion virus on ”Elefantens strävan mot Nirvana”. Last track ”Halling från Ekshärad”, a traditional tune, is a throwback to Kebnekajse's folk rock years and is, after all, ”Elefanten's” high point.

”Elefanten” is the work of a band who wants to take their music further but without quite knowing where to go. The album does have its moments, but it would be a filthy lie to call it a Kebnekajse classic. It's a billion times better then ”Vi drar vidare” though...

A sleeve variation exist, with the 'J' in the band name being larger on some copies. 

ORIENTAL WIND – Bazaar (Sonet, 1981)

International relevance: ***

This album is a bit different to Okay Temiz's excellent ”Oriental Wind”. Recorded four years later, this is a somewhat more fusion influenced with a greater emphasis on instrumental technique (hint: Janne Schaffer appears). Some parts are veering towards free jazz, and while that's nice and while ”Bazaar” is a pretty good album, it's a bit too flashy for my taste and doesn't grab me as much as ”Oriental Wind”. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

ÄLGARNAS TRÄDGÅRD – Delayed (Silence, 2001; recorded 1973-1974)

International relevance: ***
Instrumental, Swedish vocals

The history is full of albums that have become legendary in their absence. The fewer that have heard an unreleased album, the better it gets in the imagination of those who haven't. Only rarely, albums like that can live up to the expectations.

Recorded in 1973 and 1974, the recordings subsequently released as ”Delayed” was meant for a follow up to Älgarnas Trädgård's highly regarded debut ”Framtiden är ett svävande skepp förankrat i forntiden” from 1972. During the mixing sessions for the album, cracks began to show within the band which led to them disbanding before the work was done, leaving the recordings unfinished until 2001 when Silence finally released it on CD with its appropriate album title.

If ”Framtiden är ett svävande skepp” was spacey, ”Delayed” is much less abstract with only ”My Childhood Trees” reminiscent of the debut. ”Delayed” is heavier in a more typical contemporary prog rock fashion. Unfortunately, when members Dan Söderqvist and Jan Ternald mixed it for the posthumous release, they added tons of reverb which make the album sound more anachronistic than I believe it would have if released as originally projected. I don't think the music is particularly good to begin with, but it would have been better if given a drier mix. Now it's still something of a lost album.

VON ZAMLA – Zamlaranamma (Urspår, 1982)

International relevance: ***

Samla Mammas Manna's first 'Z incarnation' Zamla Mammaz Manna disbanded following the marvellous ”Familjesprickor” in 1980. The year after, Lars Hollmer and Eino Haapala formed the second 'Z incarnation', Von Zamla, and recorded this album in the autumn of 1981. Von Zamla continued up until 1984, and put out two albums before disbanding, this one and ”No Make Up!” (1983).

Like ”Familjesprickor”, the much more synthesizer heavy ”Zamlaranamma” sits firmly in the RIO category but lacks the powerful tension and brilliance. Most of this album sounds like Lars Hollmer's solo music but with a more serious approach. A lot of it sounds like a bit too intrusive background music to a TV series you're not sure if you like.The album's OK but a far cry from "Familjesprickor".

An album of previously unreleased 1983 Von Zamla live recordings, simply called "1983", was eventually released in 1999 on Cuneiform.

BENGT BERGER & KJELL WESTLING – Spelar (Ett Minne För Livet, 1977)

International relevance: ***

Ett Minne För Livet was a label founded by a musicians' collective of Archimedes Badkar, Vargavinter, Spjärnsvallet and Iskra. They released only a handful of albums including this duo live recording by the great Bengt Berger and Kjell Westling. The album is an OK free jazz effort but it would have benefitted from shorter performances, maybe two improvisations on each LP side instead of just one. While they manage to keep the momentum going, it's hard even for them to come up with fresh perspectives on ideas when they're stretched out to around eighteen minutes. ”Till hafs” is better than "Ad Libido" in that regard, more dynamic, but the entire album suffers a bit from being repetitious.

The album has been rereleased with a new cover on Berger's excellent Country & Eastern label as "Live in Stockholm 77".

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

SLIM'S BLUES GANG – The Blues Ain't Strange (Sonet, 1971)

International relevance: **
English vocals

Pianist Per 'Slim' Notini was an early flag-bearer of Swedish blues. He was greatly influenced by piano legends Memphis Slim and Fats Domino, and in 1967 he travelled to Chicago to play with Magic Sam on his classic ”West Side Soul” album. He was one of Peps Persson's earliest musical cohorts, and years later, in 1975, they made the album ”Blues på svenska” together. He also appeared with blues guitarist Rolf Wikström. He also co-founded Swedish world renowned reissue label Route 66 with Jonas Bernholm and Bengt Weine in 1976, championing rhythm & blues from the 40's and 50's, thereby bringing new and extremely well deserved attention to a largely forgotten kind of music.

Although founded already in 1962, Slim's Blues Gang didn't make their debut album ”The Blues Ain't Strange” until 1971 which, as it happens, is the gang's only album. Notini may not be a first rate blues vocalist, but he gets the job done. The album is a very credible effort with a tight and solid backing from Rolf Wikström on guitar, Ola Brunkert on drums, Åke Dahlberg on bass, and Christer Eklund and Olle Frankzén on saxes. The reworking of Elmore James's ”Stranger Blues” (”I'm a Stranger Here) has some really fine guitar work from Wikström, ”Break It on Down” moves its hips in a suggestive way, ”Gone Father Blues” rolls and tumbles along nicely, and the devil-may-care ”Tow Away Zone” is a hint at Notini's stint with Magic Sam. Very good!

Slim Notini later left the devil's music behind, became a Born Again Christian and turned to gospel music full time in the 90's.

Full album playlist