Tuesday, September 26, 2017

GANDALF – Gandalf (Gandalf Skivprod, 1977)

International relevance: ***
Swedish and English vocals

There are of course several bands sharing the name Gandalf, with this Uppsala band being one of the lesser known. Their sole album was originally intended to come out on the communist label Oktober, but after hearing the track ”Plastisk Svensson” which they deemed being ”too anti-working class”, Oktober got cold feet and decided to cancel the release. Instead, Gandalf opted for a self-paid edition of 500 copies on their own label Gandalf Skivprod, eventually making it a much sought-after rarity, now in the €150-200 price range.

To be honest, it's rarity status is the only thing it's got going for it. The music is less than exciting, sometimes with touches of straight-ahead boogie rock (as in the particularly horrendous ”Balladen of Fyristorg”), but mostly the songs move in a semi-symphonic/progressive vein with a couple of heavy guitar leads. The album has a couple of nice flute passage, but being otherwise insufficient players, the band fails to make their point properly – some of the time signature changes are clumsily executed to the point of embarrassment. On top of that, the garage-y sound which sometimes adds to the mood of an album simply doesn't sit well with what Gandalf is trying to achieve.

With the exception of closing track ”The Spoon”, all lyrics are in Swedish which should delight non-Swedish speakers as this lot was as bad lyricists as they were instrumentalists. The social commentary (drug problems, the school system, environmental issues etc) is formulaic and inferior singer Johan von Feilitzen have a hard time trying to make the metre fit with the dull melodies. von Feilitzen later joined radio friendly and best forgotten Uppsala outfit Hansa Band.

”Gandalf” is the perfect example of an album that's in demand with collectors solely because of its scarcity. Had this been an album released by the hundreds of thousands (which wouldn't have been reasonable given its overall sub-par qualities), no-one would have paid any attention to it. There's no reason why anyone should in its edition of 500 either – especially not with the current price tag.

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