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TOLONEN!

Jukka Tolonen

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Jukka's solo debut

Finland's Jukka Tolonen is an acclaimed veteran guitarist that few in the US have heard of, but he has had a long and successful career. His debut solo album in some ways reminds me a bit of an early Akkerman album in that it has some wonderful moments but a few misses as well. He started on piano in a musical household and made the switch to guitar after seeing The Beatles and others on television. He is one of those individuals for whom you can just tell music runs naturally through his veins, for whom it flows out in his playing. He is an extraordinary guitarist and keyboardist but as we know that doesn't always guarantee one will be a great songwriter too. At this point he was only about 19 years old and the results are mixed but very promising. Tolonen is also famous for being a part of the group Tasavallan Presidentti.

"Elements" is a joy to take in with Jukka's guitar bursting in wild abandon. I would guess Hendrix and Clapton to be influences on Jukka and I feel there are some similarities in style with Howe and Akkerman though I wouldn't want to guess if they were actual influences. This cool track doesn't stop with spirited guitar however, there are some really great melodic piano sections by Jukka himself who was adept at more than one instrument. There are also some wonderful flute and saxophone parts. Bass duties on the song are handled by none other than Mr. Pekka Pohjola making this album of even more interest to Fin-prog fans. In "Ramblin" things take a funkier jazzed-up tone with an immediate heavy groove to the rhythm section and saxophone, sounding a bit in the Traffic neighborhood. The guitar work is pretty ferocious again, adept, nimble, and fresh. "Mountains" is a big change-up, a duet between the meditative, melancholic guitar of Tolonen and some wonderful faraway saxophone by Pekka Poyry. Jukka takes a short solo that sounds a bit like Garcia on a quiet Workingman Dead's track but really stays out of Poyry's way here, to great results. This is a beautiful and unique piece of songwriting. "Wanderland" is primarily another keyboard piece by Jukka showing his talent there as well, though the song doesn't do too much for me. The album closes with a live track called "Last Night" which is a heavy blues-rock thing as Jukka shows off a little Jimmy Page jamming. Recorded in Helsinki presumably in '71 this track again features Pohljola live on bass. The sound is not bad for the time but still not great, and the baffling fade-out at 3 minutes makes you wonder why when they had plenty of space even in the vinyl days.

Tolonen is a nice historic slab for those who want to hear this virtuoso guitarist early on, and for fans of Finnish rock. "Elements" and "Mountains" are standout tracks that are quite good but totaling 14 minutes between the two hardly makes the album essential. The Love Records re-issue of 2004 features quality sound but a scant 2-page booklet with just a few liner notes.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#164886)
Posted Monday, March 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This was guitar maestro Jukka Tolonen's debut record released when he was only 19 years of age. He shows surprising maturity as you would think at that age it would be a shred-fest.The year was 1971 and Jukka would also release an album with his band TASAVALLAN PRESIDENTTI (their second one) and then be part of WIGWAM's "Fairyport" album as a guest guitarist. He had a busy and fantastic year. Pekka Pohjola and Ronnie Osterberg both from WIGWAM guest on this album. I should also mention that the final track "Last Night" is a live tune and it features Jukka playing with WIGWAM. In the liner notes Jukka relays how Ronnie from WIGWAM was constantly asking him to join their band, but Jukka thought if he left TASAVALLAN PRESIDENTTI that band would break up, he felt why not have two great bands instead of just one.

"Elements - Earth / Fire / Water / Air" opens with unique and impressive sounding guitar melodies. A good rhythm before 1 1/2 minutes comes in. Piano comes and goes. I like the bass and guitar here. Piano takes over after 3 minutes, then some spinet before 4 1/2 minutes from Jukka. A calm a minute later with flute. Guitar comes in then sax before 6 1/2 minutes. Flute is back and piano ends it. Impressive track. "Ramblin" opens with bass, drums and guitar as sax plays over top. This is an uptempo song with sax leading the way early then Jukka comes in and leads on the guitar. Nice bass lines too. Sax takes the lead again late. Great sound.

"Mountains" opens with strummed guitar as sax joins in. We start to get a guitar melody before 3 minutes when the sax stops.The earlier melody of sax and strummed guitar returns to end it. "Wanderland" opens with strummed guitar as percussion, drums and bass join in. Piano and spinet also come in. Electric guitar follows. "Last Night" is the live tune with WIGWAM although Jim Pembroke isn't on it. A nice way to end the recording as Jukka lets his hair down with some steller playing.

The enjoyment level is what's keeping me from giving this a 4 star rating, even though it's an impressive debut.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#202343)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Guldbamsen
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Site and Forum Admin
3 stars Baby steps

This is the first album by guitar wizard Jukka Tolonen. Having already played in both Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti, Jukka suddenly decided to make a solo album where he could stretch out on the guitar, which should come as little surprise when one hears his involvement in the aforementioned groups, where he mostly added warmth and depth to the proceedings - only seldomly breaking away from the melodic storyline.

On Tolonen! he showcases his skills as musician rather than a lead guitarist, and he does so in a pretty unique way. Instead of using all of his studio time lying on top of some heavy blues based riffing - ornamenting the music with high soaring fiery guitar solos, which he also does on occasion, he decides to weave a series of intricate melodic string plays, creating a magical world that wouldn't be out of place in the sort of movie, where unicorns and phoenixes roam. Sure the man showboats a little during the album, reaching for that ever so wobbly and fleeting groove of the great Jimi Hendrix, but most of the time he is there massaging acoustic guitars and what sounds like harps and other such delicate string instruments.

What I like most about this venture is the cosy atmosphere. It feels like you're sitting in his living room with a fire going - drinking warm tea with rum - smoking space tobacco and relaxing like a regular polar bear rug stretched out on the wooden floor. A lot of this is down to the other instruments involved - such as the omnipresent clay-pot drums which sound so passionate and real, that you start wondering whether this album is becoming a little bit too realistic and in fact is playing from the insides of your bedroom - hiding suspiciously under the bed like a Finnish fusion ninja on the prowl. Other such things that take you into Jukka's personal quarters on that most comfortable of rugs, is the sound of the piano. It's simple and in the background, but it sure does feel like a friendly musical hug - surrounding the music in a safe and secure layering of sound. These cosy and magical sections are spread throughout the album, but especially the first cut Elements shows these delicate blossoming beauties in their full floral presence. Indeed sounds like opening ice blossoms.

The fire and raging Hendrix dominated segments that tear through a track like Last Night seem strangely uncalled for in the midst of all this frail and magical beauty. Also the convoluted nature of the free-spirited and rather meandering jazz rock that Ramblin' wields only works for this listener the first time he heard it. The haphazard feel of the reeds should be something I adore, but on this record it feels a tad out of place - like a big red sausage in the queen's hair-dew. Again, that should be right up my alley...

So all in all a mixed bag of nuts with intimate deeply moving bursts of blooming genius, but also the odd unmemorable tune that all but too well mix in with the dirt brown wallpaper of your old tool shed. Still, when this album flexes its beauty and keeps to its floral emanations, it just takes your breath away. 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to Guldbamsen (BETA) | Report this review (#754454)
Posted Thursday, May 17, 2012 | Review Permalink

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