Saturday, June 18, 2022

RUNO ERICKSSON'S OMNIBUS – RUNO ERICKSON'S OMNIBUS (Four Leaf Clover, 1980)

International relevance: ***
Instrumental, vocal effects

For what it's worth, I had never heard of this album until very recently when I stumbled upon it by chance. To be honest, I had never heard of Runo Ericksson's name either until then. At least not knowingly. I have, however, heard his trombone before – he appears on numerous recordings by artists mostly in the jazz field, including national treasures Jan Johansson, Monica Zetterlund and Mikael Ramel's dad Povel Ramel. And strangely yet – he's present on one of my all-time favourite jazz albums, George Russell's dazzling live album ”The Essence Of George Russell”! But somehow, his name never registered in my memory.

In my defence, Runo Ericksson played a successful hide-and-seek spending lots of time abroad, from the end of the 60's mostly in Switzerland. Prior to that, he studied under Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache and French composer, conductor and Polar Music Prize winner Pierre Boulez.

Being something of the eternal sideman, ”Omnibus” was his first – and as far as I know, his only – album as a leader. Recorded in Switzerland with Swiss, Austrian and American musicians, it was released on Swedish label Four Leaf Clover in 1980. And what an album it is!

Taking cues from both spiritual jazz, free jazz and Eastern traditions, it's an elevated work of art, dripping with mysticism without ever getting cheesy (like a lot of spiritual jazz does). It's musically sparse but emotionally dense, and although it often turns its attention inwards, it's never insular or arrogant. ”Omnibus” has a wide-open heart and welcoming arms; an intense care for the listener. It's also no stranger to surprises, as in ”Fiddeling” when a Swedish folk tune suddenly bursts through but vividly coloured with bright Indian pigments. The pieces move lightly, sometimes so lightly they seem to levitate and lit the air with the beautiful colours of the music. I'm not a fan of jazz guitar, but here, Harry Pepl's guitar smoothly adjusts to the essence of the sometimes eerie groove of the collective. This is a masterpiece of an album, unique and strangely detached from time, sometimes bordering on psychedelic in spirit but always moving in its own mysterious ways, never failing to stun, captivate, and amaze.

Full album playlist

ASTON REYMERS RIVALER – COMPLETE ALBUMS 1979-1981

 
While a first glance may not reveal any overt progg credentials, Aston Reymers Rivaler were in fact cut from the same cloth as Peps (especially in his later years), Ronny Åström and Dag Vag. Mixing African influences, reggae and other Caribbean styles with elements of both cajun music and old-timey Swedish dance tunes, it's no wonder that several Dag Vag members occasionally sat in with the band, and that the ever so open-minded Per Tjernberg, fresh from Archimedes Badkar and then known as Per Cussion, was a permanent member for a while. Also, their first two albums were released by Musiklaget, the very same label responsible for Bättre Lyss, Solen Skiner, Underground Failure and other certified proggsters.

Aston Reymers Rivaler were originally a street band, and a continuation of obscure rock outfit Rockslusk who subsequently had two tracks on a Sista Bussen tape compilation entitled ”Mediokra hjärnor” in 1982. Aston Reymers Rivaler released several albums in the 80's, but only the first three fit in with this blog's timeframe.

Från myggjagare till foträta (Musiklaget, 1979)
International relevance: *
Swedish lyrics, instrumental

The debut LP immediately defined Aston Reymers Rivaler's eclectic musical mix and demonstrated their penchant for exuberant tongue-in-cheek performances. But if the humourous element seemed fresh and catchy back in the day, it unfortunately sounds dated today, a bit like those 'funny' hats you see in 40 years old pictures of your parents at parties that seemed cheerful then but cringe-worthy today. Still it has a couple of OK tracks, namely ”Sambo” (although the possibly ironic jungle themed lyrics are relentlessly dated) and the bittersweet instrumental Russian traditional ”Metsäkukkia”. The track ”Bruno och Vera” was chosen for a single and gave the band a minor hit.

Full album playlist


Kräål
(Musiklaget, 1980)
International relevance: *
Swedish lyrics, instrumental

Second album ”Kräål” (= the word ”creole” with a made-up Swedish spelling) was a bit more polished than its predecessor, but similar in style. The track ”Stockholms ström” was never released as a single, but it quickly became a massive radio success nonetheless. A Swedish cover of Millie's early ska hit ”My Boy Lollipop” entitled ”(Min tjej) Sockertopp” is this album's cringe peak, while their first full-on foray into reggae ”(Vi bygger om) Hela Stockholm” is surprisingly credible with its mild use of dub effects. Fittingly enough, it features Peps on backing vocals, clavinet and tambourine. Thinking of it, it wouldn't have been out of place on Peps' own album ”Spår”.

A non-album single from around this time brought the band another hit, as the anti-nuclear power calypso ”Godis är gott” was released with the March 1980 nuclear power referendum in mind. ”Godis är gott” and ”Stockholms ström” are probably Aston Reymers Rivaler's still best known tracks.

Full album playlist


Tvål (Metronome, 1981)
International relevance: *
Swedish vocals, instrumental

For their third album ”Tvål”, the band switched labels from the independent Musiklaget to major label Metronome which may partly explain why it suffers from a duller sound. Also, their patented gumbo of styles began wearing thin at this point. You may not like the first two albums, but they were nevertheless bubbling with joy whereas ”Tvål” sounds predictable and lacklustre. Album opener ”Jakten på amazonkvinnornas guld” is a decent stab at New Orleans rhythm & blues (with some nice harmonica work to boot), but again, the best track is another brooding extended reggae number called ”Det går”.

Full album playlist

Friday, June 17, 2022

FOLKVIND – FOLKVIND (Oktober, 1977)

Swedish vocals, instrumental, a capella
International relevance: **

Trio Folkvind's sole LP is a straight-ahead folk album with mostly traditional tunes, some augmented with new lyrics. It's quite likely the only trad folk album to mention heroin and Ritalin in its lyrics.

Despite being released on the Oktober imprint (and featuring a Fria Proteatern member, Marie-Louise Söderström), it's a pretty good album. It's well played with mainly fiddle, keyed fiddle and zither providing the musical backdrop to Eva Tjörnebo's voice that fits in nicely with style. Some tracks are pretty evocative, such as ”Jag vill gå vall” and ”Visa från Önnarp” – the latter almost sounds like something out of the ”Wicker Man” movie.

It will hardly appeal to the casual progg fan, and unless you have a special interest in traditional Swedish folk music, it will surely be dismissible, but it's a solid if unremarkable genre piece with the occassional peak moment.

No links found

VARIOUS ARTISTS – ROCKPLOCK (Talking Music, 1980)


International relevance: *
Swedish vocals

Compilation of five Christian bands contributing two tracks each, on the Talking Music label. The five bands featured are Dynamis, Vackert Väder, The Information, Kyrkstöt and Rubbet. While no band is fullblown progg but more in a pedestrian AOR and hard rock vein and of little interest, there are proggish undercurrents in Vackert Väder's and Rubbet's contributions. Kyrkstöt's ”Hårda krav” is a boneheaded boogie number, but the lyrics take a welcome dig at the fashionable politics of the day even if it's from a severely Xian perspective.

Kyrkstöt released a 45 also in 1980, while the other bands all had at least one album under their own name.

Full album playlist

Thursday, June 16, 2022

HEAVY LOAD – FULL SPEED AT HIGH LEVEL (Heavy Sound, 1978)

 International relevance: *
English vocals

Formed in 1976 as a trio by brothers Ragne and Styrbjörn Wahlquist, it wasn't until the early 80's that Stockholm band Heavy Load had their real breakthrough – as a quartet – championed by Sweden's then only high profile heavy metal journalist Anders Tennngner. Albums ”Death Or Glory” and ”Stronger Than Dirt” – along with busy gigging – made them into Sweden's first prominent contribution to the ever growing heavy metal scene. With their old Norse aesthetics, they were also pioneers of what was to become known as the nebulous Viking metal style, predating even Bathory with a couple of years.

However, when ”Death Or Glory” was released in 1982, they already had one album out. Released as early as in 1978, ”Full Speed At High Level” was self-financed with support from Stockholm hard rock shop Heavy Sound who put it out on its shortlived imprint bearing the same name as the shop. Falling somewhere between 70's hard rock and the not yet fully developed heavy metal, ”Full Speed At High Level” not only suffers from being insufficiently self-produced, but worse: inexperienced songwriting and amateurish playing. Ragne Wahlquist's vocals are laughably bad, weak and screechy, much like the guitars actually. The drums (handled by Styrbjörn Wahlquist) try so hard to be powerful, but due to the inferior production, it sounds is if they never quite gel with the rest of the music. Dan Molén's bass is perfectly audible though, flipflopflapping about in the midrange. It takes only one listen to ”Full Speed At High Level” to understand why Heavy Load was once dubbed Sweden's very own Spinal Tap.

The best tracks, if you can find anything here worthy of that description, are also the two most rooted in prog, the rambling, twelve-minute ”Storm” and ”Caroline”, which could have been moody with a producer without a broken hearing aid.

Heavy Load's later albums aren't good either, but at least the band hade obtained some clue of what they were doing by then. Here they just don't know squat. ”Full Speed At High Level” flaps and flaps like a psychotic turkey, never going anywhere but right down to the ground. It's easy to poke fun at this meltdown as the ambitions are so high and the results are so low, but honestly, it deserves no better than being laughed at – hard. It's more comedy than anything else, and a definite must-hear for fans of grand fails.

Full album

SYDKRAFT – SYDKRAFT (EMI, 1979)


International relevance: -
Swedish vocals, English vocals

This is an album I've hesitated to put up here for years. But as it's among those '100 bands you also might want to check out' in ”The Encyclopedia of Swedish Progressive Music” book, I thought that I should have a go at it anyway, if only to get it done with. While it has faint progg hints as in the guitars of ”London (Hela dygnet laddat)” and ”Lycka till”, it's not really a progg album at all. It's closer to the commercial pop rock of bands such as Noice, Snowstorm and Magnum Bonum. Names that mean little or nothing to foreign listeners but say a whole lot to Swedes. And what they say is not good.

Sydkraft may have had more pronounced new wave or pop punk edge than the aforemention bands, but not enough to redeem their truly annoying songs. The best track is the Buddy Holly cover ”Love's Made A Fool Of You” which features some pretty hot harmonica from Mats Ronander (Nature et al), but it's still pretty redundant. The worst moments by far is Sydkraft's attempt at reggae which is closer to an insult than a tribute. For some reason, some people holds this album in pretty high regard, but don't ask me why because I found this one a 24 carat clunker. They had two singles out as well (both included on the digital reissue), but thankfully they never relased another album.

Full album playlist

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

GEORGE T ROLIN BAND – THE GRUNDEN RECORDINGS 1980 (Flymama, 2019)

English vocals
International relevance: **

Archival release from a band with a pretty solid progg provenance. Three members had been in Scoop, a Södertälje band which also featured Kenth Loong from Blueset. Christer Åkerberg of Trettioåriga Kriget not only brought his guitar to the band, he also let them rehearse at Trettioåriga Kriget's rehearsal space named Grunden (where this session was recorded, hence the album title). George Trolin in turn had made a good impact as a singer for Panta Rei.

But to be perfectly honest: the band's progg connotations are far more impressive than their music. Although tightly performed and executed with serious intentions, they end up rehashing 70's Stones licks and some washed-up Mott The Hoople ideas. And as impressive Trolin was in Panta Rei, well, here he sounds more like a Mats Ronander of Nature doing hungover Mick Jagger impersonations. It's Åkerberg who's the star here, stealing the show with some really elegant and soaring guitar work, on ”Hey Girl” in particular.

While ”The Grunden Recordings” may seem interesting on paper, it's pretty redundant in reality, with their pre-history raising wrong expectations.

George T Rolin Band had one 45 out in 1983, "Sommaren kommer" b/w "Elenor". It's on the CTR label and is neither expensive nor very sought after.

Full album playlist