Friday, October 5, 2012

FIGARO – Figaro (CBS, 1976)

International relevance: *** 
Swedish vocals

This is typical to what I call ”satellite progg”, something that is related to progg but not quite progg in itself.

It's fair to call Figaro a supergroup. Members Anders Nordh and Palle Sundlin had previously been in Life, Resan, King George Discovery and Baltik. Nordh was also part of, for instance, Tages extension Blond. Sundlin also played bass on Lasse Tennanders 1974 debut album ”Lars Vegas”. Singer and guitarist Peter Lundbladh had done session work for several artists and would continue doing so long after Figaro split up. He had a successful solo career, and most Swedes remember him for his painfully annoying summer hit ”Ta mig till havet”. He was also in Nailband alongside Figaro drummer Tommy Andersson, who, like Sundlin and Lundbladh, also had done stints with Lasse Tennander. The same goes for Torbjörn Eklund who had been in the obscure Opponer, and later went on to play on a couple of Bo Hansson albums, as well as the second solo album from Kebnekajse's Mats Glenngård. So it's easy to see that when Figaro got together as Duga (a pun on a Swedish expression that's impossible to translate), it was a pretty seasoned lot. In time for recording sessions for their only album, they changed their name to Figaro. It was recorded in the end of 1975, and released the following year by CBS.

The CBS label gives a clue to what they sound like. This isn't a hardboiled progg album filled to the brim with leftwing social criticism. On the contrary, it's a rather commercial sounding effort, and the band did in fact score a hit with ”Framåt” culled from the album as their only single (backed with ”DJ”, also taken from the album). The sound isn't far removed from other commercial acts of the times such as Landslaget, and sometimes there are even slight hints at teen idol Ted Gärdestad. To be honest, it's an album that I don't really want to like.

But I can help but doing so. The songs are incredibly well crafted with some imaginative chord changes. The melodies may be on the smooth side but they are simply irresistable. The playing is, as you can imagine, on the top of the heap, with Nordh in good shape. The production is dense and rich; especially the acoustic guitars have a full, ringing sound. Songs range from the mellow, Crosby Stills Nash & Young-like ”Fjärilen och katten” full of shimmering, to the heavy(ish) ”Hem” which is as far as the album ventures into progg territory.

It does have some real clunkers too though. The social commentary on cannabis use in ”Harry Brass” (translates to ”Harry Pot”) is naïve and the song is simply moronic. Equally idiotic is ”En hypokondrikers bekännelse”, but that one is short at leasta, clocking in on just over one minute. Hit single ”Framåt” might not be the best example of the album's qualities but it still has some odd appeal. The lesser tracks are in a minority, and it's tracks like the previously mentioned ”Fjärilen och katten” and ”Hem”, along with the beautiful ”Höst”, the rocking ”Hjältars hjältar”, and the lush ballad ”Egen kvinna” that defines the album.

Commercial or not, I can't help but give in to ”Figaro”.

Sadly, the best tracks off the album isn't availabe on Youtube at the time of writing, so all I can offer you is their single ”Framåt”. 

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