Thursday, October 4, 2012

BLÅKULLA – Blåkulla (Anette, 1975)

International relevance: ***
Swedish lyrics

Highly acclaimed progressive outfit, often compared to Kaipa and Norweigan prog band Junipher Green. Inspiration came from Deep Purple in particular, but they still come across as a hard rock version of Swedish teenage star/teen idol of the 70's Ted Gärdestad. Yes, the playing is enthusiastic and they obviously enjoy what they're doing but no matter how much I listen to the band's sole album, it strikes me as vastly overrated. It's decent in parts, but nowhere near such a classic many claim it to be. The lyrics try hard to look intellectual but rarely elevate above the level of embarassing naivety. That will hardly bother anyone not understanding Swedish, so perhaps the major reason for ”Blåkullas” reputation is one so common within the collector crowd: loud guitars. And organs.

Blåkulla began their career in 1971 as Kendal. They came from Gothenburg on the Swedish West Coast, and recorded a couple of songs in 1974 before original bassist Steinar Arnason left the band to join Iceland (guess their origin!). Recordings from this '74 session were added to the original album as bonus tracks when it was released on CD in the mid 90's. When Arnason left, Blåkulla were close to disbanding, but were persuaded by the Anette label to record an album. Why Anette showed such an unadulterated interest is something of a mystery, given that the label was run by popular Swedish dance band Cool Candys. Maybe they simply wanted to jump the progg bandwagon. The album was released in 1,000 copies and the entire run was sold out in a whizz, making it the desirable collector's item it is today. After the album was released, organist Bo Ferm left the band which finally called it quits in at the very end of 1975.

Judging by the 1974 recordings, the band obviously had a clear vision from the start, and their eponymous release was simply a matter of refining their sound.

After the split, drummer Hannes Råstam went on to form lesser known band Text & Musik who put out two forgettable albums in the second half of the 70's. He also played drums in Björn Afzelius back-up band Globetrotters, and offered his drumming services to several other progg acts over the years. However, most people know Råstam from his excellent work as an investigative journalist for TV, a work which rendered him several desirable journalist awards. Råstam died in January 2012 but his book on Thomas Quick, a Swedish serial killer who Råstam tried to prove innocent in a book released posthumously, is currently subject to serious debate in Sweden, causing questions as to the reliability of the Swedish juridical system.

Guitarist Mats Öberg has left rock music for classical guitar, and he also works as a doctor.

Blåkulla” is an acknowledged classic and a rarity, but as far as I go, it certainly isn't worth the amount of money people ask for it.



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