Tuesday, September 26, 2017

ART OF MUSIC – Hallo and Farewell (Buttercup, 1971)

International relevance: ***
English vocals

”Hallo and Farewell” is one of the rarest progg albums of all time, recorded on a Tandberg reel-to-reel recorder one day in April 1971 and released a little more than a month later on the tiny Buttercup imprint in an edition of 100. The Buttercup catalogue is rather small, mostly consisting of singles and EP's in a variety of styles. To my knowledge, the only other full length album on the label is by Swedish dance band Gayes. Like all Buttercup titles, ”Hallo and Goodbye” was released locally in the Malmö area, home of label head Staffan Olander who in 1973 won top prize 10,000 SEK in the national version of Double or Nothing thanks to his seemingly unlimited Beatles knowledge. (Some years later, Olander hosted several Beatles special shows on Swedish Radio, airing an array of very rare Fab Four recordings, at the time unheard by most.)

As expected from the 1971 release date, ”Hallo and Farewell” retains a pronounced late 60's feel, sometimes thanks to Swante Bobeck's swirling Hammond organ. Four of the songs are penned by the band, the five remaining ones being covers of varying origin, including the lesser known Eric Burdon composition ”White Houses” (from the 1968 ”Everyone Of Us” album), and an understated but spirited jazzy take on the Bobby Hebb chestnut ”Sunny”. However, the highlights are their take on Ray Davies' beautiful ”Tired of Waiting” which Art of Music amazingly enough turn into something not too far removed from The Velvet Underground's third LP; and the band original ”The City” which resembles obscure U.K. folk acts like Shide & Acorn and The Water Into Wine Band, only better.

”Hallo and Farewell” was produced by Staffan Olander as Staffan Olsson but whether he actually produced it is up for debate – it's probably closer to the truth that producer here means ”he who turned on the tape recorder”. It's a true underground effort, and whilst the four members of the band aren't top notch musicians by any stretch, they manage to create an oddly appealing, moody, semi-psychedelic basement atmosphere. It may not be an essential album but it's head and shoulders above other private pressings such as Prefix's 1974 album ”Brustna illusioner” and the disgustingly terrible Malaria album from 1970.

Art of Music appeared on TV and radio a few times but weren't around long enough to make another album – they disbanded the same year ”Hallo and Farewell” was released. They do however appear on a couple of seven-inches, so rare they're not even listed in Tobias Petterson's extensive ”Encyclopedia of Swedish Progressive Music”. The three-track ”An Art of Live Music” EP (assumably a live recording including a cover of The Beatles' ”Lady Madonna”) appeared in 1972, and does also exist in a special Christmas edition entitled ”God jul 1972, gott nytt år 1973) with an added introduction by Staffan Olander. Also from 1972 is a split EP with fellow Buttercup act Mattis and the otherwise unknown G&D. Art of Music's contribution is exclusive track ”A Place in the Sun”. The following year, 1973, the foursome appeared as a backing group on Hasse Permbo's 45 ”Balladen om Karl Hubert” on the Playback label.

In 2013, German label Psychedelic Music approached the former band members for an expanded reissue of the album, although I'm uncertain whether it actually came out. There do however seem to exist an edition with a blue, not black, cover.

Tired of Waiting

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