Sunday, September 23, 2012

MIDSOMMAR – Midsommar (Moondisc, 1972)

International relevance ***
Swedish vocals

Midsummer is one of the most cherished holidays in Sweden and many people celebrate the midsummer night out in the country. We eat traditional food and drink ”brännvin”, a special kind of alcoholic beverage, often enhanced with spices and flowers. Celebration often starts in the afternoon and continues until early the next morning.

Midsummer is ”midsommar” in Swedish, and the name seems highly appropriate for the band who chose it as their name. Their lyrics often deal from with topics closely connected with ”the old Sweden”, sometimes in relation to the so called progress of modern times. Nature, traditions and life in the old days are common subjects. The lyrics are political in a broader sense in pointing out the flaws of modern society, but they're kept in a general mode so just anybody suspicious of greed, commercialism and environmental issues can agree with them.

Midsommar is best known for their hard rocking debut ”Belsebub är lös”, one of the earliest examples of rock music with Swedish lyrics. Their second one, the eponymously titled ”Midsommar” veers towards a softer sound, sometimes akin to folk rockers Contact. ”Midsommar” still has some heaviness to it, but the song types are mellower in general. This isn't bad at all, because Midsommar were good songwriters, at least in terms of music. Lyricswise, they are somewhat naive even if the subject matters are important (which hardly will bother any foreign listener). Having said that, ”Midsommar” is more uneven than ”Belsebub är lös”, and a few of the songs here are actually downright bad. That goes for ”Killen och bostadsbristen” which comes across like a heavier version of some Swedish dance band of the 70's, and ”Reklamdjungeln” (although I'm genuinely sympathetic to the anti-commercialism message of the lyrics).

The opening track ”Illusionen av en färdigutbildad akademiker” is probably the best known track on the album since it was included on the 4 CD box set ”Pregnant Rainbows for Colourblind Dreamers” which was released in conjunction with Tobias Pettersons excellent ”Encyclopedia of Swedish Progressive Music 1967-1979”. The choice of this Santana inspired uptempo track might give the wrong notion of ”Midsommar”. Songs like the decidedly Contact sounding ”Sedan urminnes tider”, the semi folksy ”Balladen om Belfast”, the heavy organ led ballad ”Naturen kämpar” and the rural ”James Lindberg Hughes” is far more typical to the album in general. To my ears, songs like these outshine most of the material on ”Belsebub är lös”, but given the unevenness of the album as a whole, ”Belsebub” probably gets the thumbs up over this one in the end. Also, it's worth pointing out that the vocals on ”Midsommar” sometimes have a bit of a crooning nature that isn't as obvious on the debut album. I have no problem with that myself, but some listeners might have so it's worth mentioning.

Over the years there has been a debate over the actual release dates of both Midsommar albums, and many people were uncertain if this one or ”Belsebub” was the first album. No year of release is printed on any of the albums. The arguments seem settled now though, and ”Belsebub är lös” is considered to have been released in 1970 and the follow-up in 1971. As far as I know, none of the Midsommar albums have been reissued, but "Midsommar" is easier to find than "Belsebub".

There is also an album by a band called Jukebox who released on album on Marilla in 1975 with three of the Midsommar members present. Organist Dan Pihl later produced Swedish comic character Ronny Jönsson (by actor Claes Malmberg) as well as single by disco queen Tina Charles! Saxophone player Reg Ward later joined for instance Dimmornas Bro, Mörbyligan and Magnus Uggla for session work. He also teamed up with Ulf Lundell on his Nature backed live album ”Natten hade varit mild och öm” recorded in 1976.

Illusionen av en färdigutbildad akademiker

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