Monday, October 2, 2017

KVARTETTEN SOM SPRÄNGDE – Kattvals (Gump, 1973)

International relevance: ***

Ranked #16 on the blog's Top 25 list

Kvartetten Som Sprängde started out as a quartet just like their name implies but were reduced to a three-piece before making their lone album for the legendary and collectable Gump label. However, the trio format is perfectly sufficient, with guitarist Finn Sjöberg interweaving folk inspired melody lines with Fred Hellman's thick layers of moody organ and the free flowing and pulsating beat provided by drummer and jazz legend Rune Carlsson.

”Kattvals” comes across like a cross-pollination of early Bo Hansson/Hansson & Karlsson, Kebnekaise and Fläsket Brinner – the latter is a particularly valid reference in the case of the stunning ”Gånglåt från Valhallavägen”, evoking the similarly titled ”Gånglåten” from Fläsket Brinner's debut album of 1971. ”Vågspel” offers up more of Hellman's folk derived harmonics, similar to Bo Hansson's "Sagan om ringen", conjuring up mental images of dark Northern forests and twilight goblins. As declared by its song title, ”Andesamba” (”Spirit Samba”) relies on Latin influences (which has provoked some misleading comparisons to Santana) with a forceful drive again prevalent in closing track ”Ölandsshuffle”. But all tracks are worthy of mention really, as the album has no weak moments. ”Kattvals” is a tour de force, a grand moment in progg history. No serious progg fan should live without it.

Unsurprisingly, ”Kattvals” has been reissued a number of times, thus making it obtainable to those who cannot afford the increasingly expensive originals. Sadly, Kvartetten Som Sprängde weren't around long enough for another album but they did join singer/songwriter Bernt Staf as a backing band on his 1973 album ”Valhall”.

However, a four track Kvartetten Som Sprängde radio session exists, made for the weekly Tonkraft show in September 1973. This 30+ minutes session remains unreleased, making it one of the most glaring and unforgiveable omissions from Swedish Radio's shoddily edited and poorly presented box set ”Progglådan”, comprising a total worth of 40 CD's of previously unreleased archival material. Why wasn't the excellent Kvartetten session included? It screams out for a prompt official release!

Fred Hellman had previously been in Zoom who released one 45 in 1968, featuring decent but non-essential cover versions of The Beatles and Traffic. Rune Carlsson's pre-Kvartetten career includes sit-ins with Eric Dolphy, Chet Baker and Krzysztof Komeda among others, and later went on to playing drums for numerous artists mainly in the progg and jazz field. He died in 2013. Finn Sjöberg earned reputation as a session musician, appearing on albums several high profile acts including ABBA. He also made one largely forgettable solo album, ”Finn” in 1978.

1. Andesamba 

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