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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Kalevala - A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic CD (album) cover

KALEVALA - A FINNISH PROGRESSIVE ROCK EPIC

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

 

Various Genres

3.57 | 50 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Per Köhler
5 stars I feel sorry for all people who never will come across this, to say the least, well-fed triple Cd. Most probably I hadn't myself, but fate laid it in front of my eyes in a second-hand shop. For the modest price of 125 kr(19 dollars), mint quality, this is almost half of a brand new. Synphonic takes 35. That means a little more than 4 kr(or 60 cent) per song. Or new 8 kr($1,15). That is not only cheap, it is theft! What about royalties for 30 bands!? All other reviewers here and on other sites who give K. average, below average, maybe "quite good" or at best "very good". My conclusion is different: I adore Kalevala. Probably the best (unreleased) collection of music I've heard. Tastes differ; still for me it's almost unbelievable that someone who is a true fan of the genre don't love this. What if an analogous had been released in the sixties? That would have meant seven or eight Long players in a gaudy paper box. Most likely something of an event or at least a noticeable occurrence. Today, or a decade ago, it was reduced to if not a trifle so at least just one of the scores of releases that particular week. Surely it went unnoticed even for most of the prog community.

The running time of Cd 1 amounts to 82:25 and that's record in my entire collection. Heard earlier that 80 was the limit but that's obviously not the case. Actually it was, I have encountered problems in a portable Cd player, which didn't appreciate its overextended guest. 2 and 3 are just slightly below 80, that means 240 min...four hours of music. To treat K as just another 'sampler' isn't just wrong but ridiculous. To brush it aside as 'neo-prog' isn't less ludicrous. On the contrary, it contains rich, varied material that possibly never would have seen the light of day elsewhere. Hats off to Colossus Magazine who came up with the idea. What's symptomatic, and also highly unique, is that here are multitudinous of groups that exceed themselves in a glaring way. I've heard quite a few of the present artists before, and can only state; did it take this fabulous recording to realize their true potential?

Initial HAIKARA is a classic Nordic prog band whose debut album from early seventies has stood the test of time. Present version of the band, and their fabulous but fateful11:30 min long track outshines everything they've done since the reformation. This is, more than anything else, the true theme of Kalevala. Simply to shine. The occasional vocals, meant to ascend into the mythological Kalevala, are laid on a high octave. They are calling for times long past. OVERHEAD sounds more anglophile but from same point of the compass. Up-tempo and energetic up to 5:30 when you're taken by surprise by its complete conversion, it turns into soft acoustic. Could easily have been start of a new tune if you weren't on the alert. A conductor would define it as; vivace turns bruscamente into mezzo piano. A father-to-son relation between first two Finnish bands. Move with the westerly wind and let SIMON SAYS in. "Som Floden Flyter" is one of the very few songs to be found on a regular studio album with any of the bands included. Mentioned track cropped up several years later on disc Tardigrade. This time in a three min+ longer version. Whether you've heard that version or not, you still get the feeling that it's somehow cut off here. Could be understandable, something had to go in this competition for space. It does not in any sense affect the splendid quality of the song.

Net site All Music asserts that bass phantom Jonas Hellborg plays on K, as a part of SIMON SAYS. He is given generous and extensive introduction to the reader. Interestingly, I strongly doubt that the emigrated Swedish born New Yorker knows that he's here playing. Actually the guitar players name is Hallberg. Still Hellborg has a connection to Swedish prog. I've seen him performing with both Jaime Salazar and Zoltan Czorsz(drummers in The Flower Kings). The same abbreviated situation for following Swedish band SINKADUS. Their offering with penetrating staccato intro is just as competitive as anything they have done before the career came to a halt. At least partly split up, the remaining male quartet contributed to a couple of conceptual works like K. "Trubadurens Kval" is a surprisingly short affair for a band that normally prefers elbow-space. It just ends too quickly. The zealous onlooker may ask why two Swedish bands have been placed no. 3 and 4. It would have been more logical to include at least one Italian group(there are seven such on Cd 2 and not a single Swedish). Is the concept story that coherent or are groups 3 and 4 compensated for undesired 'edits'? A 90 min. running time is still not achievable. Let's move southwards, three Italians are included on disc 1. II CASTELLO DI ATLANTE's roots go back all the way to the mid seventies, although they for some reason didn't enter the studio until early nineties. "Ilmarinen" displays a group that knows perfectly well where, how and why a symphonic song is structured.

MOONGARDEN and SUBMARINE SILENCE share an important quality; keyboard player Christiano Roversi. He's a part of both bands and has written or co-written both tracks. S. SILENCE attracts your attention as soon as you catch sight of debut album from -01. Yes it's unmistakably Paul Whitehead. For the Genesis connoisseur, it's like detecting a lost cubical Picasso painting! A typical Genesis cover band, one may dub them. Both in tone and color. Their own compositions don't disgrace them either. "The Three Battles" is a pleasant instrumental with enough contents to keep the fire alive. MOONGARDEN is inimitably different. Roversi has many irons in the fire; this is just two of them. Possibly could the production of what's playing been a scrap more prolific. The sound was left locked up in the control room, not least the drums. The magical 10 min. line is anyhow subtly crossed. UK's MAGENTA(not the folk music band from same region) performs "Lemminkainens..". How many British recordings with Finnish title have you experienced in your lifetime? Female vocalist Christina Booth is a delicacy throughout first half of the tune. Bel canto! She is replaced by not less effective Kashmir-like riffs on the second. METAPHOR from the U.S. let the world become familiar with Cd Starfooted. The song here might sound harsh for a newcomer but its melodic value comes creeping after a while. I like it more and more.

CLEARLIGHT led by Cyrille Verdeaux, accompanied by American singer/drummer Shaun Guerin and others, lay out a minor symphony in form of a 10 min.(called "Movement 3" on own record). Normally they are found in the instrumental vein though. This is actually the second released version. Present issue is 2 ½ min. shorter, a removed sax section is evident. Some may call CLEARLIGHT's general direction laid-back muzak, but what we find here is truly competent. Epic and beautiful piano playing from the leader of the French born outfit. Shaun Guerin, who also was a part of a Genesis cover band (they are quantitative!), never got the opportunity to witness the release of K. Sadly he passed away in 2003. Born in the same year as myself, with compatible musical orientation, Shaun does one of his best vocal performances on "The Boat Builder"(Listen to the multi-layered overdubbed voice on "Movement 3"). I will seize the opportunity and dedicate this review to his memory. (If you have further interest in P. Whitehead, check out Shaun's solo album The Epic Quality of Life and its incredible cover by the classic artist).

Only slightly shorter than 1, how can 2 possibly live up to the phenomenal standard of the first disc? Sounds too good to be true if so happens.. The boot country Italy dominates Cd2 with a vengeance, with seven out of ten tracks. Is the quantity really related to the quality? Anyhow, Norway's one and only contribution ORCHARD start up the party. No matter how much you search in your local Cd shop, you will not succeed. Their recorded legacy seems to be limited to K. I don't like this song less than any on previous Cd. Some wild Tull flute with harder guitar bottom is a characteristic theme in this opening instrumental. GREENWALL brings the longest track on K. "The Wedding" has points but is perhaps too extended. 10-11 min. would've been more appropriate. The female vocalist(does she sing in English?) lowers the overall impression in the lush and string drenched composition. More Italy and anew a temporary unit, this time in form of REVELATION. So where did they find a makeshift act like we got here? Are they piled up in a supply only to be taken out when it's time for a conceptual triple/ or fourfold package? REVELATION is another example of the high achievement displayed on K. Possibly they have lent an ear to PFMs 'Is My Face on Straight'? Just compare the effective accordion elements.

Once again All Music is out bicycling. They place REVELATION geographically on the North-American east coast. Every band member has changed name, instrument and probably wife as well. More melodramatic Nordic tones in folk disguise from Finnish SCARLET THREAD. Frail violin tones throughout a short/medium long instrumental. I must have listened about forty times almost in row to MAD CRAYON's "Il Suono Dei Ricordi". As I recall I had an album, I think the second, but it got lost. There's no time to mourn. One of the best songs I've ever heard! Utterly melodic, dual flutes, well-thought-out vocal harmonies. Soaring prog/jazz tinged instrumental parts in finest Pat Metheny style. Of all 13 Italian bands included on K, MUSEO ROSENBACH is probably the most renowned. Their album Zarathustra(with its bizarre cover), is on many top 10 lists of Italian prog. Or even on the definite top 10. I have to admit it's on neither of mine. They reformed at the turn of the millennium with a mix of new/old members. "Fiore Di Vendetta" is the third song on K that you will find elsewhere. It was rerecorded on a very recent record by the group. As I heard it here first, I clearly prefer that version. Needless to say it's another great inclusion on K.

LEVITHAN(it's getting sweaty..); I don't even have to listen to the whole tune. It carries on in the 10 min. trad, but the piano/flute section between ca 4,15-4,35 is enough to saturate the most fastidious prog fan. I'll save the rest for another time. I was close to miss MALIBRAN(simply because they are the fourth Italian band beginning with letter M). Like quite a few others here, a band belonging to the nineties school. A more condensed track, plentiful of good flute. The vocals are a minor part, concentrated to short section of the song. The tempo slows down with SOFIA BACCINI, so does the quality. The female solo artist isn't up to scratch in this league. Here is appealing to ask; where are bands from i.e. Germany hiding? Weren't they invited to participate on K? Final track and second British inclusion comes from rather unknown act ELEGANT SIMPLICITY. It's more a one man project by multi instrumentalist Steven McCabe who has an extensive discography. An instrumental with likeable theme, also space for virtuoso guitar excesses.

Rome wasn't built in one day, and it took 13 Italian bands to get K ready. About three of them superfluous. On Cd 3 only CANTINA SOCIALE reaches normal high standard. Others are easily forgotten. CANTINA S. is in the melodic vein, which is a common feature on K. The basic idea of K is retro- sound and performance. Escapism from programming and stiff rhythms. A few years into the noughties after the second- and third wave of progressive. That's a praiseworthy decision. Out of the concrete block back to the forest. To summarize the massive Italian participation one can establish that for most part they are found on the lighter side of the spectra. That's everything but degradation, but there's nothing like the ultra raw eccentricity of Balleto Di Bronzo. There's a distinct line of demarcation in Italian prog before and after let's say -77, or even earlier. The three Finnish inclusions on 3 are appreciably more uplifting. AARDVARK(an English word but emanating from South African Dutch!) are performing in their native language. Once there was a British band with same name. Finnish is remarkably more sprawling than the smooth and fluid English. There are four different languages presented here. That is the French unit(s) evaded their homework. Italian is greatly romantic. Can't judge the reception and opinions of the Swedish vocal worthiness.

AARDVARK, all Finnish, but residing in all corners of the globe, managed somehow to put their musical pieces into one unit. So did compatriots GROOVECTOR, but within the borders of 'the land of the thousand lakes'. An exquisite and relaxed instrumental. If it wasn't for the sharp competition why not a future classic? Followed by additional instrumental tones from WHOBODIES. They offer us the by far jazziest moment on K. There's a unit called QUADESH, which you never have heard about before. Just like WHOBODIES(and earlier mentioned ORCHARD and REVELATION), the only recorded appearance occur here. In the case of QUADESH alas, one can understand why..Just delete. That leaves us with three remaining tracks, and what tracks! THONK, pure and unadulterated Hammond from central Europe and Switzerland. A stunningly good thing without disturbing voices. The intro reminds you of similar Hammond and U. Heep song Sunrise. THONK recorded a record in Par Lindh's home studio outside Stockholm. That vouches for genuine goods. Only to be challenged by the record thick and costly booklet included in the set.

More capital of Sweden, GRAND STAND knocks you to the hilt(if you weren't already) with stupendously strong "Stormen". You might detect some Floydian guitar pyrotechnic but that won't bother you. Didn't have that high expectation actually. I have witnessed two previous Cd with G.S. and can't recall a better song than on K(I've lost count of how many other similar cases here..). Lasts for seven min. and then fades out without precaution. As Cd 3 runs for a diminutive 76:30, GRAND STAND should have filled out the remaining space(why all Swedes..?). Final band, French CAFEINE, debuted in the mid nineties. There were at least tendencies of a challenger to Echolyn, Flower Kings, Spock's Beard and others. This never happened. "Way is Open" is actually their last recorded work. Composed by keyboard player Christophe Houssin with lyrical contribution from the outside. A vast tune running for an impressive 11:40. Reaches higher into the sky than the Eiffel Tower. I place it among the very best tracks on K(which doesn't say little!). Dramatic, eventful, energetic..You name it.

Kalevala doesn't only feel like a music collection. Rather a huge family meeting, despite character of isolated case. Everybody gather for a joyful time, say thank you - good night. You don't have to be uninvited guest, just go ahead and purchase it! Not every square millimeter on Kalevala is of highest calibre, but that would be virtually impossible. I take away four songs, which is negligible. Add to this some minor fluctuation here and there. But with four fleshy hours of by and large new creation, this is a clear five star rating. Everything else should be false marketing. Seen from the perspective of the band; why donate a good song/lengthy composition to a project like this? The royalty income must be highly limited(compare the number of bands to the under-price). The public relations are narrowed to its purchasers. Without knowing any exact sales figures, many record buyers regard this kind of project with skeptical eyes. It becomes a curiosity, no matter if it's a better curiosity. So one sticks to one's own fave bands. Luckily, the many groups didn't pay heed to professorial reasoning like this. We are only grateful for the venture. Very grateful! As pointed out before, the price tag $35 is on the low side. It ought to be at least the double. I would gladly, and by right, pay $70 myself, provided that I was aware of the content of course.

As the ten-year jubilee of K draws nearer apace, have a look at how many bands who are still, or rather not, around today. Possibly they are all living in Hawaii by now. Squandering the millions they never earned from the Kalevala Project.

Per Köhler | 5/5 |

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