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Wasa Express

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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3 stars It's not that usual to learn about yet another fusion band from Sweden. I was fairly to eager to give a spin to the premiere album by Wasa Express. After it stopped playing I could say I was satisfied with what I had heard. Overall mood could be marked as fusion-infected but you'll also notice traces of more commercial music styles such as funk (Masseur,Doing the korpraal)or hard-rock (Wood-boog,Cadillac) which does not necessarily mean it's a bad idea. However, in this particular case I find those other-genres trips a bit distracting and I didn't admire Wasa Express branch of funk.

Music is dominated by guitar, instrumentation is fine and vocals are not missed in any way even though there are to be heard occassionally. The best song for me is by far the first track, a fiery piece of fusion battle which makes you jump from your seat. Just that it could have been longer. Another highlight is New tuna,

This album is worth listening although it won't broaden your musical horizon. On the other hand it offers fun and joy of playing music. I wonder what other Wasa Express albums are like. The band are still alive and kicking, playing gigs and composing new music.

Report this review (#88215)
Posted Saturday, August 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars WASUP?

A very average jazz-funk-rock album, with no obvious connections to Prog Rock, being almost completely devoid of improvisation or extended and varied compositions, or even dynamic textural changes. The playing is as good as you'd expect from seasoned session musicians (I don't know if that's what they were, it's just what they sound like), and the production is surprisingly rich for 1977, bringing out a lot of timbral nuances in the instruments.

January Man seems to take a long time to kick in - everything is well played and the composition is reasonable - but there are no surprises, just the standard sort of stuff you'd expect from about 5 years earlier. Once it does get into a groove, it's very simple fayre - a keyboard jam over a single chord, and no progression of the music, just a single sound-sphere that isn't so much explored as laboured to death. And it's the best track on the album.

Son of a Peach is more of the same - a simple jam led this time by the lead guitar, but this time, over two chords. These are simple chords laden with minor 6ths, with tinkly keyboard layers that create a nice atmosphere similar to that often heard on hold music loops. The guitar playing is good, with flavours of Steve Hillage lite here and there, and precision that lends a slightly over- produced feel to the music. At no point in time do you get the feeling that the capable musicians are pushing the envelope of exploring possibilites, rather laying down some tried and tested formulae.

Masseur ups the tempo, and features some cool synchronised runs between the guitar and keyboard, and a very dextrous bass line. Unfortunately, the guitarist gets trapped into repetitive loops, and the whole shebang gets repeated - sadly, there seems to be no room for improvisiation in this tight composition, that ends up feeling repetitive... didn't I just say that? :o)

Doing the Kopraal is in disco-funk territory, and shares the same issues as Jan Akkerman's 3rd album - in an elevator or supermarket, this might be fine, but it doesn't hold much interest for the progressive music enthusiast. It's kinda nice, and swings well, and might even go down well on one of those School Days disco nights - if that's the sort of thing you dig.

Woog Boog, then comes as a bit of a surprise, being in 12-bar boogie-woogie territory with the cool twist of some tasty and speedy licks from guitar and synchronised bass. Nothing you haven't heard before - most of the rock licks stemming from the Gary Moore/Michael Schenker school of thought, with maybe flavours of Steve Morse.

The rock theme is continued in the embarrassing Cadillac. Sounds like the guys had fun making it, but it offers nothing of taste, just a horrible 12-bar mess. The guitar solo is the nearest I've heard so far to improvisation - but it sounds like all the instrumentalists switched instruments, and the drummer got landed with the guitar, the vocalist with the drums, and the roadies got to do the vocals. Nastier than nasty - don't say you haven't been warned!

Then we switch back to the jazz-rock we started out with. New Tuna is a kind of reprise of January Man, with some of the chicken-pickin' of Doing the Kopraal, and the two chord jam of Son of a Peach. Some good playing, but decided absence of compositional ideas until the slow section at 3:36, in which a tinkly electric piano sound leads us through some reasonable but slightly dull atmospherics towards a messy pentatonic bass solo, and rounding off with a tedious drum solo.

As for the next 3 tracks, Brother Wet is another jazz funk number in a similar vein; Mr Curry is probably the most interesting track on the album, with angular strides and contrasts in texture that are altogether too jaunty for my tastes in places, and a calm ambient section that's not at all unexpected; and Adventure, which is possibly the least adventurous piece I've heard so far.

Albums like this are 10-a-penny, and this certainly isn't the worst I've heard of this kind of thing - but it's hard to see it being of interest to anyone except someone that wants to find out what jazz-funk-rock sounds like, and enjoys fast, precision, pentatonic jams with oodles of self-indulgence.

Collectors/fans only.

Report this review (#159423)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars WasasExpress and specialy thir first album from 1977 selftitled is one of my fav albums from jazz rock with progressive passages from the '70's. I was realy surprised to se how low rated this album is, only few reviews and very negative, quite strange to me because I found the album very well performed in swedish style with a lot to offer. Having in the band well known members from progressive rock scene from the '70's not only from Sweden, coming each one from diffrent bands as Solar Plexus or Made in Sweden and conducted by the great drumer Ake Eriksson , the one who worked across the years with many artists was easy to come with a solid album, even was little late for this kind of music style to aproach in late' 70s. I like the album a lot, great rhythmic parts, great druming, fantastic keybords , a real gem I must say, at least for me, I don't find any bad pieces or unintristing moments founded by others. Each piece is diffrent to each other, bring something quite intristing in both progressive and jazz atitude, nice polirhythmic changes, some parts are funky some are fusion, some are progressive but melted in an uniqyue swedish way. Some highlits as opening track January man, Doing the kopraal , New tuna or Brother wet show how talented this band was, but with all that after this album, ok, even their second one is ok, but after that they gone towards to a more comeprcial phase, that cost them a lot and finaly disbanded in 1980. This album remains their best effort for sure, and one as in the booklet of the remaster CD in digipack format shows a classic album from swedish progressive/ jazz rock scene. I will give 4 stars, being a great album , plus it has a very funny and great aswell cover art. Good musicians, good album, but very underrated. recommended
Report this review (#425334)
Posted Thursday, March 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Another one of the mass of 70's Scandinavian Jazz/Fusion/Rock bands, Wasa Express came from Stockholm, Sweden and were formed in 1976.The band initially played instrumental Jazz- Rock, led by drummer Ake Eriksson (who had played with Egba, Coste Apetrea and Kebnekajse), guitarist Cary Sharaf el Din, bassist Bo Häggström (ex-Solar Plexus and Made in Sweden) and keyboardist Bo Hallgren.A self-titled debut appeared in 1977 on Sonet.

The first couple of tracks of the album are decent, especially the dynamic Fusion opener ''January Man'' with its powerful breaks and grooves, while ''Son of a Peach'' is a good Jazz- Rock cut with fine guitar solos.From this point the quality of ''Wasa Express'' drops dramatically.Most of the remaining length time is dedicated to funky Rock and slick, uninspired Jazz/Fusion with no surprises, while the keyboards sound really cheap and the few vocals present try unsuccesfully to add a ZAPPA-esque humurous touch, but the result is simply dull.It is really hard to describe how a great opening piece would lead to such uninspiring compositions shortly after.The next interesting track will come just a step before the end of this LP and it is ''Mr. Curry''.This is trully inventive Jazz-Rock with the complex rhythms and cool spacey synthesizers at the middle indicating that Wasa Express was a band capable of more.The closing ''Adventure'' is just another dissapointment, an average attempt to mix Rock'n'Roll with Heavy Fusion, which ends up as a fail.

Be warned that this album contains just a few tracks of great inspiration, while I doubt if the rest of it will satisfy even dedicated fans of Jazz-Rock.The album has seen a CD reissue in 2005 with three decent bonus live tracks, which may give this album a higher music value...2.5 stars.

Report this review (#765696)
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Wasa Express debut album came out just when what we today know as "Jazz Fusion" was born out of the ashes of what before was known as "Jazz Rock". The heavy shredding of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever gave way to the slick elevator horns of Weather Report. And in the background disco loomed large. Wasa Express defied this trend with their guitar heavy sound wich works both to their advantage and to their disadvantage. They are obviously a bunch of really talented guys. Special credit goes to the drummer "Doctor" Åke Eriksson. Before we in Sweden had Tomas Haake and Morgan Ågren there was this guy, a real beast, who was very inspired by Billy Cobham (and i mean it, the kit he used during this time was basically a carbon copy of Cobhams 1977 Tama Superstar kit!). However, it is also evident that these guys come from a Rock 'N' Roll background and not a Jazz one. The best Jazz Fusion records in my book are those with a good swing to it (my top 3: "Birds Of Fire", "One Size Fits All" and "Crac!") the two opening tracks on this album has shades of this, but after them, not so much. The Rock overshades the Jazz most of the time. "Masseur" and "Doing The Kopraal" are both catchy but they really dont go anywhere. There is also a whole bunch of weird stuff on this album. "Woog Boog" is 70's blues rock in the style of ZZ Top, "Cadillac" is a terrible and unfunny parody of the old Hep Stars hit, "Brother Wet" is Country and "Adventure" is 60's Guitar Rock like The Shadows. Combined with the Funk songs that is about seven genres of music on one album already! Most of the song are good on their own but i thought i was listening to a Jazz Fusion album? Give this a spin on Spotify if you want to. Drummers will probably also find a lot to enjoy in Åke Erikssons mastery. But if you are interested in early Swedish Jazz Fusion i recommend that you pick up something by Made In Sweden or Jonas Hellborg instead.
Report this review (#952888)
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013 | Review Permalink

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