Sunday, October 22, 2017

IN LOVING MEMORY OF OVE KARLSSON 1946-2017


I am very, very sad to announce that Ove Karlsson passed away this morning, 22 October, at the age of 71.

Multi-instrumentalist and key member of Arbete & Fritid as well as Nya Ljudbolaget, plus a participant in many, many other projects including the majestic free jazz big band G.L. Unit, Karlsson was a stellar character on the progg scene. His importance cannot be overrated – without him, so much music I and countless of others dearly love would never have been made. Certainly not in the way we know it.

I never knew him personally but we did exchange a few messages over Facebook. He was always very kind, even when he was ill, which he was for a long time, spending his final months in Mora Hospital. But he was a fighter and should be remembered as such, bravely battling his ailments and illnesses up until the very end when he just couldn't fight it no more. He refused to give up, and so he won even though he lost the ultimate battle.

My sincerest thoughts go to Ove's family – do know that he will be in our hearts and minds, through his music that will remain a never fading reminder of one man's overwhelming creativity and vision.

Rest forever in peace, Ove, and thanks for touching our souls!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

RÄVJUNK – Uppsala Stadshotell brinner igen (Shadoks, 1976-1980)

 
International relevance: ***
Swedish and English vocals, instrumental

Rävjunk's self-released 1977 album ”Uppsala Stadshotell brinner” has been a collector's classic for ages, thanks to the jam heavy, guitar driven tracks. I personally think the album is overrated because, unlike most apparently, I like the punkier side of Rävjunk a lot better. ”Uppsala Stadshotell brinner” has its share of high octane hit-and-run tracks of course, including ”Hey Little Girl” and ”Jag e så skitig, jag e så paj” but they just aren't as good as the three seven-inches the band released on their own Sub label in 1979 and 1980. A proper reissue of those was long overdue when Shadoks Music finally compiled them in 2016, adding seven previously unreleased recordings (including Wire cover "40 Versions"), effectively creating a proper follow-up to their legendary first.


Kicking off with ”Bohman, Bohman”, what could possibly go wrong? A raging and hilarious full frontal assault on Gösta Bohman, then leader of right-wing political party Moderaterna, with lyrics unsophisticated enough to get the song banned by the Swedish Radio. (Later, the reincarnated Rävjunk performed an updated version of the song, changing the lyrics to ”Reinfeldt, Reinfeldt” in 'honour' of Moderaterna's new leader and Prime Minister of Sweden 2006-2014, Fredrik Reinfeldt.)

While ”Uppsala Stadshotell brinner igen” has its progressive touches, particularly on the previously unreleased tracks of the 'B' side, the album as a whole is a no-nonsense affair further examplified by the punch-in-the-face take on Bob Dylan's ”All Along the Watchtower” and a Swedish version of Stooges chestnut ”I Wanna Be Your Dog” (”Roland Agius se ut över stan!”). There's a different kind of energy at work here which simply blows most of ”Uppsala Stadshotell brinner” to smithereens. When I talk about Rävjunk, this is what I mean.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

LOVE EXPLOSION – Love Explosions bästa låtar (MNW, 1971) / LAG & ORDNING - 51, Moderately Beat (Ramblin' UNLTD, 1975/1979)

 LOVE EXPLOSION – Love Explosions bästa låtar (MNW, 1971)
International relevance: **
Swedish vocals

LAG & ORDNING – 51, Moderately Beat (Ramblin' UNLTD, 1975/1979)
International relevance: **
Swedish vocals

It's impossible not to compare Gothenburg's Love Explosion and Uppsala's Gudibrallan. Both of them were first generation Gärdet proggers, both of them utilized a sense of vulgarity, and neither of them bothered too much with skills, as confirmed by the albums they released at the time. Classic albums at that, but with one major thing to set Gudibrallan and Love Explosion apart: Love Explosion's ”Bästa låtar” is a very bad album.

Love Explosion sound just like they're acting, dumbing themselves down, trying to dazzle people with their self-conscious incompetence: ”Listen to this! We can't play! We're so progg! Cool, eh? And we can say 'cock' on record too! Sooo subversive and daring, eh? Now dig us!” Rebels without a cause. Or giggly kids yelling ”poo!” at the dinner table.

I don't have an 'official' Worst of Progg list, but if I did, this would certainly be on it.

The entire album of puerile dross is available free for download from the band's website, including the original version of ”Djävulens patrask”, an unauthorized Swedish translation of Bob Dylan's ”Desolation Row”. The illicit use of Dylan's music prompted MNW to hastily replace the original edition of the album with a new issue including a rewritten all-original version of the controversial track. The website also offer albums by a later incarnation of the band.

The original Love Explosion disbanded in 1972. Singer Dennis Huntington went on to form Lag & Ordning who recorded an album in 1975 that went unreleased until 1979 when it appeared on private imprint Ramblin' UNLTD. ”51, Moderately Beat” is less folksy and more of a blues and rock'n'roll oriented effort, including Chuck Berry and Reverend Gary Davis covers in Swedish. Had it been a British album, it would probably have been lumped in with scruffier pub rock acts such as The Count Bishops. Still slapdash and raggedy but far more pertinent, ”51, Moderately Beat” is quite simply a much better album than ”Love Explosions bästa låtar”. Better yet, it stands out as an object lesson of the straightforward Gothenburg brand of progg.

Two tracks from "51, Moderately Beat" also appears on Röda Ropet's 1975 album "Spänn bågen", "Nynnat och sjungit" and "Rudolf e stark".

With ”51, Moderately Beat” trapped in limbo, Huntington started Huntington Band who released one underrated album in 1977, refining the down & dirty vibe of Lag & Ordning.

LOVE EXLOSION:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

LARS LUNDBERG & MATS LODÉN – Rebecca (Rebecca, 1977)

International relevance: ***
English and Swedish vocals, instrumental

Thanks to German reissue label Shadoks, this rarity has now been brought back from obscurity in its original shape. There was a CD reissue a couple of years ago, remixed and expanded with five mostly negligible bonus tracks but the Shadoks release stays true to the original 1977 album.

”Rebecca” was pieced together from different sessions in '73, '74 and '76, including one track by Lars Lundberg's and Mats Lodén's previous band Savannah. (There are loads of unreleased Savannah recordings in the vaults, most of them of poor sound quality according to the reissue's liner notes.) Only 200 copies were originally made of the album for demo purposes, but failing to attract any major label interest, the dynamic duo sold the remaining copies locally in Luleå in the north of Sweden. Lundberg even sold the reel-to-reel machine used for the sessions to afford the pressing!

”Rebecca” opens with ”I den varma solens famn”, the most atypical track of the entire album, being the only one in Swedish and the heaviest one on offer here, coming off like a hybrid of November and U.S. band Stone Harbour. The remainder of the album is in a more subdued singer/songwriter vein, sometimes akin to ”Hunky Dory” era Bowie (especially in "God's Little Child" and "I'm A Mountain"). Neither Lodén nor Lundberg are great singers, and the vocals suggest a fluctuating grasp of the English language, but the somewhat peculiar atmosphere transcends the shortcomings. ”Rebecca” has a beguiling way of creeping up on you, closer with each spin. While some musical references are obvious, the overall feel is rather singular, psychedelic but not quite psychedelic, intimate yet elusive, primitive yet oddly sophisticated.

When Lundberg and Lodén were conscripted, the duo fell apart. Lundberg gave up on music for medical studies in Uppsala, whereas Lodén relocated to Stockholm, joined various local bands and became an author.

I den varma solens famn
I'm A Mountain

Monday, October 16, 2017

GUDIBRALLAN – Uti vår hage (Silence, 1970) / II (Silence, 1971)

 GUDIBRALLAN – Uti vår hage (Silence, 1970)
International relevance: ***
Swedish vocals

GUDIBRALLAN – II (Silence, 1971)
International relevance: ***
Swedish vocals

I never use the term 'proto punk' anymore. I don't like it, and the more I think about it, the more irritating it gets. It's just the present day's presumptuous way of forcing the past to fit with the current notions of historical events and processes. It's an afterthought at best. And so, Gudibrallan were not a 'proto punk' band. They were, however, a sometimes great rock band with a refreshing 'fuck off' attitude towards music, authoritative decrees and organized politics.

Founded in Uppsala in 1968, Gudibrallan's first gig was in a church, much to the congregation's dismay... It's safe to say Gudibrallan found a more receptive audience at the first Gärdet festival in June 1970. Fronted by inimitable singer Örjan Terje, they trashed their way through a ramshackle set including a wonderfully blasphemous Swedish version of ”Cadillac”, ”Farbror Sven” (”uncle Sven”), mocking left-wing and right-wing politicians alike (the ”uncle Sven” in question is then Swedish Minister for Defence, Social Democrat Sven Andersson).

Gudibrallan translated existing songs to Swedish several times. For instance, ”Hey Joe” became ”Hej Gud” (”hey God” – probably one of the most shocking songs of their first public appearance), and one of their best known tracks ”Sosse” was in fact ”It's Too Late” by The Kinks (later recycled for ”Jag minnas en gammal bil” by another Swedish band, Torsson, in 1980).

Gudibrallan's 1970 debut album ”Uti vår hage” was recorded in one day, mixed in one day and released two weeks later. Contrary to popular belief based on catalogue numbers, Bo Hansson's ”Sagan om ringen” wasn't the first Silence release – ”Uti vår hage” was. Almost fifty years later, its wild and twisted beauty is as fresh as ever. You may call it progg; if you insist, you may even call it 'proto punk' but to me it's simply a prime example of Swedish 70's rock music at its anarchic best.

”Gudibrallan II” followed in 1971, a more contained effort than their uninhibited debut – controlled or contrived, depending on your bias. Maybe the presence of engineer Bo Hansson allayed their initial ferocity? The best tracks are ”Hispan” and classics ”T-doja” and ”Sosse”, the latter displaying obvious similarities to The Kinks' ”It's Too Late” (which, as a side note, was recycled in 1980 for ”Jag minns en gammal bil” by another Swedish band, Torsson), while ”John Boy” and ”Visa om jungfrun” are in a International Harvester/Träd, Gräs & Stenar vein. It's a good album but not on par with their debut.

Original copies of ”II” came with a bonus single, ”Handgranat och bajonett” (a spoof on Swedish 1946 hit song ”Tjo och tjim och inget annat”) and the excellent ”Ät mera gröt” that would have been great on ”Uti vår hage”.

The original Gudibrallan quit in 1974, but in the 80's Örjan Terje reformed the band with new members including Mikael Katzeff (formerly of Elektriska Linden) and Åke Eriksson (Wasa Express). They had a couple of 7” releases in the 80's, and a full length album in 2004, ”Visor från Sovjetunionen”. They still play occasional gigs. In 1995, Silence released ”T-doja” which would have fit the 'best of' slot it was meant to do had they only included ”Ät mera gröt”.

From UTI VÅR HAGE: 

From GUDIBRALLAN II:

Sunday, October 15, 2017

TELGE BLUES - Telge Blues (Philips, 1975) / BLUE FIRE - Blue Fire (MIstlur, 1978)

TELGE BLUES – Telge Blues (Philips, 1975)
International relevance: **
English vocals

BLUE FIRE – Blue Fire (Mistlur, 1978)
International relevance: **
English and Swedish vocals

In my very first post to this blog, I said that Södertälje was a blues city, with Sven Zetterberg being of paramount importance. Zetterberg rose to local stardom in the 70's before earning international reverence in the 80's and beyond. Deservedly so, as he was a great harp blower, an even better guitarist and as years went by became one of the most soulful singers ever to come out of Sweden.

Zetterberg moved from his native town of Skärblacka to Södertälje in the late 60's, and in 1972, he founded Telge Bluesorkester with excellent drummer Stefan ”Stoffe” Sundlöf among others. (Telge is an older name for Södertälje.) The following year the band did a session for the Tonkraft radio show, bringing the yet unsigned band to national attention. This in turn led to several commitments as support act to international blues stars visiting Sweden. In 1975, Telge Bluesorkester, with their name abbreviated to Telge Blues, Philips Records signed them for what was to become their only album. (For those taking notes, the drawbridge seen on the album cover is one of the best known local landmarks.)
 

Although ”Telge Blues” can't compare with Zetterberg's later victories (his solo albums in particular), it's a rough and ready urban blues effort. Tracks like ”Wish Me Well” and Billy Boy Arnold's ”I Wish You Would” are too crude to make their point, but ”Act Like You Know Me”, ”Hard Road” and ”Checkin' Up” are credible enough.

After the demise of Telge Blues, Zetterberg and Sundlöf went on to form Blue Fire who later changed their name to Chicago Express and became Sweden's prime blues band for fifteen years. Blue Fire were a more self-assured band and an all around more efficient machinery than Telge Blues. Zetterberg grew as a singer, and while his greatest achievements were still years ahead of him, his and the band's potential was already evident in slower numbers, ”Suicide Blues” in particular.

”Telge Blues” was the first ever album released on the Mistlur label, later home of Trettioåriga Kriget, Thomas Almqvist, Torkel Rasmusson and other progg acts, as well as several noted Swedish punk bands.

Special thanks to Tor-Björn Lyrhed for his kind permission to use his early 70's pic of Sven Zetterberg.

TELGE BLUES:

BLUE FIRE:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

KRÄLDJURSANSTALTEN – Voodoo Boogie (Urspår, 1981)

International relevance: ***
Swedish vocals

The very idea of a 'progg purist' is contradictive as progg is so very multifaceted to its very nature, but I suppose some wouldn't count Kräldjursanstalten as progg enough, perhaps suggesting they were basically a punk band with odd time signatures. This ambiguity only makes Kräldjursanstalten even more interesting, suggesting a nebulous border area genre of sorts along with bands like Unos Kanoner, Fiendens Musik, and the Älgarnas Trädgård/Anna Själv Tredje related Cosmic Overdose.

UK magazine The Wire probably came closest to the truth when they claimed that Kräldjursanstalten is the band best conjuring up the spirit of Captain Beefheart. Or, in the words of Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes: "Few have been able to harness the forces he unleashed and decontextualize them into a new, individual take on his legacy – into a new art-form. Sweden's astonishing Kräldjursanstalten [...] were an exception." Kräldjursanstalten's notion of rhythm was similar to Beefheart's, like tossing the music into the air, capturing it on record just before the pieces hit the ground and fell into their 'proper' place. But make no mistake: They were one tight outfit and they knew exactly what they were doing. (Other contemporary bands tried but failed, like Mögel and Boojwah Kids.)

Early 80's radio show Ny Våg (”new wave”) dedicated to punk and whatever music grew out of it occasionally warped the airwaves with Kräldjursanstalten. Most listeners couldn't stand them, except one who wrote a letter to the show praising the band, saying ”they're so tight the drummer can't keep up with them” (quoted from memory). A perfectly impossible and impossibly perfect description of the band's sound.

The drummer in question was Michael Maksymenko who later – appropriately enough – teamed up with John French and Henry Kaiser in shortlived outfit Crazy Backwards Alphabet. Maksymenko was also involved in different radio and television productions, including the provocative mid 80's radio show Studio Korrekt. Completing the Kräldjursanstalten line-up were Agaton twin brothers Stefan (bass) and Thomas (guitar).

Their 1980 five track 12” debut ”Nu är det allvar!!!” (subtitled ”Som ett fyllo i ett minfält”, ”like a drunk in a mine field”) is good, but fulfills their potential only partly, as in standout tracks ”Det löser sig atematiskt” and ”Fet och feg”. An unreleased Tonkraft show, recorded in July 1980 six months after ”Nu är det allvar!!!” confirms that Kräldjursanstalten got better fast. A further six months on, their spastic, deconstructed/reconstructed music came into full bloom with ”Voodoo Boogie”. ”Breda räfflade gummidäck”, ”Minst värst” and the title track squirt and jerk and skimp and thump, chasing Captain Beefheart through the outskirts of rhythm, occasionally even catching up with him in terms of energy and complexity. It's easily one of the best Swedish albums of its era, and one of the most intriguing. There's no other album quite like it, i.e. unless you count ”Trout Mask Replica” and ”Lick My Decals Off, Baby”.

Kräldjursanstalten even had the coolest band name ever – ”The Reptile Asylum”. It sounds better in Swedish but still, you just can't beat that.

Voodoo Boogie (full album)
Ta över (from "Nu är det allvar!!!")