Thursday, September 28, 2017

A VARIOUS ARTISTS SPECIAL: 4 POLITICAL COMPILATIONS

Just like one might expect, there's a slew of various artists albums released during the progg years. Some of them are regional releases covering a local scene such as ”Bygg ett eget musikforum”, a double album including several lesser known Uppsala bands plus an exclusive track by Samla Mammas Manna. Others in turn document specific events, such as ”Alternativ festival”, released by MNW in 1975 consisting of live recordings from Alternativfestivalen held as a protest manifestation against the commercially oriented Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm 1975 following Abba's ”Waterloo” victory in Brighton the previous year. And there's of course the famous 2LP set commemorating the Gärdet festival that many consider the starting point of the entire progg movement.

There's also a fair share of charity styled albums produced to bring attention to certain causes and raise funds to help for instance striking labourers. These albums are of an undeniable historical value, artefacts to remind us of a particular events and moments in time. However, few of them are fun to listen to for other than strictly academical reasons. More often than not, they're bogged down by political fundamentalism and tiresome sloganeering. Even if you sympathize with the core sentiment of the leftwing world view expressed in the lyrics, they soon get overbearing, rendering many of the albums straight up unlistenable. I consider them being of limited interest even to foreign listeners unfamiliar with the Swedish language, due to the often low quality music. That said, they're still part of the progg movement and thus clearly within the scope of this blog, why I've decided to present some of them here as the first in a series of brief overviews.

 ARBETARKAMPEN OCH AVTALSRÖRELSEN (Arbetarkultur, 1974)
International relevance: *
Swedish, Italian and Finnish vocals

Featured artists: Finn Zetterholm / Narren / Jan Hammarlund / Klasskamraterna / Oktober / Marie Selander / Knutna Nävar

Publishing house Arbetarkultur was run by Swedish communist party SKP, but had several record releases out during the 70's from artists such as Maria Hörnelius, Röda Kapellet and Unga Gardet. ”Arbetarkampen och avtalsrörelsen” (”the labourers' struggle and the round of wage negotiations”) has catalogue no. AKLP01 and was recorded live at the Labourer's convention in early 1974. Far left stalwarts Knutna Nävar make a contribution with ”Det är något konstigt med friheten”, while singer/songwriter Jan Hammarlund, one of the first to openly declare being gay and a fierce mouthpiece of the Swedish gay rights movement, appears with three tracks. The album closer speaks for the album's sentiment, a full cast performance of ”The Internationale”.



HÖR MASKINERNAS SÅNG (Proletärkultur, 1973)
International relevance: *
Swedish vocals

Featured artists: Knutna Nävar /Maria Hörnelius / Boråspionjärerna / Wiveka Warenfalk / Fred Åkerström / Röda Ropet / Röd Morgon / KPML(r):s Blåsorkester

”Hör maskinernas sång” (”hear the singing of the machines”) is similar to ”Arbetarkampen och avtalsrörelsen” only more hardboiled left-wing, being released by Proletärkultur, the label affiliated with communist party KPLM(r). Of course, KPML(r) figureheads Knutna Nävar appear on the album providing two tracks, plus backing Maria Hörnelius up on ”Den trojanska hästen”. Also featured is renowned singer Fred Åkerström. The album is recorded during KPML(r)'s federation day meeting in 1973 and each song is followed by the unproportionally loud Soviet Union styled audience roar. ”Hör maskinernas sång”– appropriately rounded off with yet another version of "The Internationale" – is the perfect album for anyone who wishes to poke fun at the sometimes over-zealous Swedish leftist engagement in the 70's. 


LÅT ALMARNA LEVA (Metronome, 1971)
International relevance: *
Swedish and English vocals

Featured artists: Cornelis Vreeswijk / Bernt Staf / Fred Åkerström / Tage Lidén

The album was recorded in May 1971 in Kungsträdgården, Stockholm in conjunction with the massive protests against the felling of elm trees that were 100 years old to make way for a new subway station. It was a battle of political inclinations, but the real struggle took place between the ordinary protesters and the police. Thousands of people participated in the protests and many of them took turns occupying the area day and night to prevent the trees from being cut down. The trees themselves were occupied to stop the chainsaws and several people were hurt during the week-long clashes, but the protesters won and the elm trees are still there as a much loved symbol of the power of the right to protest. 

Various bands and artists supported the protesters, such as Envoys who, with vocal backing from Charlie & Esdor (of Gärdet festival fame), released a benefit 45 "Almarna åt folket”, a cover of ”Power to the People” with John Lennon's original lyrics translated into a war cry in defense of the preservation of the elm trees. Other noted singer/songwriter artists appeared in Kungsträdgården during the protests, including Cornelis Vreeswijk, Bernt Staf and Fred Åkerström, all appearing on ”Låt almarna leva” (”let the elm trees live”), released on the major record label, Metronome. Short speeches and interviews with the protesters and supporters are interspersed between the tracks, providing the recording with a pronounced documentary feel and the album is highly valuable time capsule of those events. Musically speaking, it's one of the most consistent albums in this post, but it's doubtful it would make much sense to non-Swedish listeners without necessary insight into the historical events which took place all those years ago.


STÖD DE STREJKANDE HAMNARBETARNA (Proletärkultur, 1974)
International relevance: *
Swedish and English vocals

Featured artists: Thomas Ellerås / Harald ”Bagarn” Andersson / Knutna Nävar / Anja Svederborg / Fred Åkerström / Mats Lundälv / Sven Wollter / Röda Ropet / Dan Berglund

Another typical Proletärkultur release, similar to ”Hör maskinernas sång” above with some of its artists re-appearing here; Knutna Nävar, Fred Åkerström and Röda Ropet, along with several other KPML(r) sympathizers including Knutna Nävar member and later to be famous actor Sven Wollter, and singer/songwriter Dan Berglund, performing one of his best known song "De mördades fria republik" in his typical world-weary voice. (Berglund later left the KPML(r) party and came to dismiss the political engagement of his youth.) The title reads ”support the striking dockers” and there's nothing that can be said about the album that the title doesn't give away immediately. All acoustic pamphlet songs, performed in a typical overwrought ”engaged” fashion. Recorded live at Marx-Engels-huset, "house of Marx-Engels". Go figure.



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