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Pekka Pohjola - Harakka Bialoipokku [Aka: B The Magpie] CD (album) cover


Pekka Pohjola

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars The pattern of his first album is repeated on his second effort (I don't know if this album was recorded after he left Wigwam or not , however) that got released in the UK as the Magpie. This is to say that the first side is very classicaly oriented much like a sort of chamber rock developped by some RIO artist much later in the 70's (not far away from Univers Zero) but again no clear musical direction appears here. Again , I have a preference for the second more energetic and jazzy side presenting again more of Pohjola's superb bass guitar play as well good brass playing sometimes captivating.

Pohjola's first two album came out as a 2 on 1 cd , unfortunately not doing justice to the artwork but might be an interesting offer, because both albums separately would take too much needed shelf space on the general proghead's collection.

Report this review (#26035)
Posted Monday, January 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Harkakka Bialoipokku (B The Magpie) is the greatest instrumental album ever. That's all I can say of this album. Album tells a story about little magpie who wonders the world. Atmoshperes are unbelieveable. And the whole story is told without words and it works. Pohjola is a genius.

I love this album.

Report this review (#26036)
Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Pohjola hit one out of the ballpark on his second solo outing. Here he's joined by a trio of saxophones, which add a brassy big-band feel to some tracks and a sort of makeshift orchestration to others. Sort of like a miniature Gil Evans Orchestra, this is where Pohjola's skills for arrangement, making a few instruments sound like a lot, really comes into its own. The scores for the reeds, combined with Pohjola's rich, sonorous bass and classically-tinged piano, sounds fuller than anyone might imagine.

Beginning with the solo piano piece "Alku", the sounds vary from the subtly building "Ensimmäinen aamu" to the brilliantly swinging album-closer "Elämä jatkuu". It all adds up to a classic of instrumental progressive, crossing borders between symphonic and jazz fusion effortlessly, as though there were no distinction. A fascinating album.

Report this review (#49608)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the gem that was "Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva", Pohjola came up with this even better album. There is much progress from the aforementioned debut, instead of the dominating organ we hear piano played by Pohjola himself, and the general structure of the album is more homogenous, after all it is a concept album, about the adventures of a little bird (that cover is beautiful). "Alku" is an atypically somber intro the album, but with a good melody. It is elaborated on "Ensimmäinen aamu" which boasts a very melodic chorus played by the winds. "Huono sää" is probably the most depressing thing Pohjola ever committed with dissonant but well-resolved harmonies reminiscent of Britten, with stunning arco double bass sound similar to cello. We escape from this misery with the second part, that presumably portrays magpie's joyfulness after his first encounter with bad weather has ended. After that we have the climax of the story in the next two tracks, with an energetic and dissonant image of a battle. "Sekoilu seestyy" is supposed to be the resolution but this is where the instrumental homogeneity of the album ends with most of the track being a duo between electric piano and electric guitar (marking their first entrance). This signifies the magpie's entrance into adulthood after all of his exciting experiences. The last track however comes back to the original instrumentation, much to my displeasure, as it would have been better ended with the new magpie headbanging to some rhodes and distorted guitar. "Harakka Bialoipoku" is a very original fusion album that is high on composed content and low on pointless jamming.
Report this review (#132246)
Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In 1974, multi-player Pekka Pohjola turned in a more carefully finished if somewhat less exuberant work than his stunning debut two years earlier, and it was a more than worthy follow-up. With only his soprano sax player remaining from 'Pihkasilma kaarnakorva' but a new and larger band of drums, brass and woodwinds, Pohjola crafted a logical progression from that landmark record and expanded on a musical promise he'd made. His piano and bass are unmistakably jazz-rooted but his material would be hard-fought as 'Jazz', retaining that unique Nordic perspective on the world's musics, able to rearrange it all in the most compelling way and give us a taste of what this whole 'progressive thing' could really sound like, could really be. Like a slightly mad composer, he saw the bigger picture and along with artists as Samla Mammas Manna, the Zeroes, Bo Hansson and Zappa, he wanted it to exist.

'Alku' opens on Pohjola's somber piano, ascending wholetones from long ago, emotional counter lines and some uplift too, becoming almost a folk lament. 'Ensimmainen Aamu' continues building on the established theme, another layer is applied, variations expounded upon, and soon we're so wrapped up in what's going on we've forgotten everything else. More structural additions, re-interpretations, derivatives, juts, eddys and currents that all eventually flow back to the same body of water. The blackness of 'Huono Saa/Se tanssii' with its tense strings that extend forever, sax players Eerno Koivistoinen, Pekka Poyry and Paroni Paakkunainen's soprano screams in the night, and Pohjola's pumping-heart piano. 'Ja nakee unta' is some lift after the dark clouds-- a fun but slightly twisted number wherein, like a Charles Ives piece, the sound of at least two marching bands passing each other can be heard. Killer get-up-and-dance jazzrock in 'Hereillakin uni jatkuu' full of vintage 1960s horn arrangements and thu-dunking clubhouse bass rhythms from Pekka. An appearence by guitarist Coste Apetrea and his tasty licks in 'Sekoilu seestyy', all wrapping with the nearly 8-minute closer, a celebratory reprise of the whole affair. Like a great idea you had, forgot, and now only exists as a long-grieved fantasy, Pekka Pohjola's second record was the product of the kind of times in music we rarely see.

Report this review (#183580)
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars I'm completely stunned at how good this is. I really didn't think it would be as good as his excellent debut, but in my opinion he surpassed it. Pekka of course was the great WIGWAM bassist from Finland, and this is his second solo album which was released in 1974 after WIGWAM's "Being" record. Fairly similar in style to the debut but he's added more horns and the piano has a greater role.This is a concept album although there are no lyrics. The story is in the liner notes, and it's a charming and well told tale about a magpie named Bialoipokku.

"The Beginning" features piano melodies throughout, as we can picture the magpie breaking out of his shell and being born into this world. "The First Morning" opens with more piano but a much fuller sound. Horns before a minute and some nice bass too. This sounds so good, very uplifting. "Bad Weather" opens with piano then the bass takes over followed by violin. This is dark. Piano and bass still create this sombre mood unti it kicks in before 5 minutes and brightens up. I like the way the horns pulsate over and over. "Bialoipokka's War Dream" is catchy with piano out in front early. Horns take the lead before a minute. This contrast continues for a while then it's horns leading the way to the end.

"Bialoipokka's War" is relaxed to start until the tempo picks up a minute in. Horns, bass and drums all stand out. The piano becomes prominant. Amazing sound 4 1/2 minutes in, I really like the bass. "The Madness Subsides" is a beautiful mellow track with piano to start. Guitar follows and it's fantastic ! So intricate. A bass solo 3 minutes in to the end. "Life Goes On" features horns, light drums and bass. Piano before a minute as the tempo picks up. The sax is great after 2 minutes as it plays over top.

This is so melodic and well thought out. The arrangements and overall playing are a delight.

Report this review (#198918)
Posted Tuesday, January 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A sweet musical story about a bird (and life)

John Davie (sinkadotentree) was right again. Here is an album so thoroughly enchanting that it belongs in our "overlooked and obscure gems" feature if not there already. With his second album the late Pekka Pohjola has proven himself to be a few levels higher than I had previously given him credit for. Recorded in Stockholm in the autumn of 1974 this is the story of a little bird named Bialoipokku-a concept album about his adventures told completely without words or vocals of any kind, again proving that instrumental music can be all encompassing. Our little Magpie is born into a peaceful forest only to find out life is not easy street. "On that morning, or maybe a little bit earlier, as the sun was just opening his big eyes, a miracle happened in the small wood. A tiny magpie broke the shell of his small, strange, greenish egg. The miracle was Bialoipokku." [liner notes story excerpt]

The music of "Harakka Bialoipokku" is categorized here as jazz yet this is not the difficult or abstract jazz practiced by some of her artists. This is an instantly accessible and melodic musical story that can be enjoyed by any music lover, whether or not they consider themselves a jazz fan. The sounds on the album are almost exclusively the creation of Pohjola's piano and bass, along with fantastic saxophone and percussion. There is almost no electric guitar and I tell you with a straight will barely notice the absence. The musical story is absolutely rich, full bodied, and varied. The composition is always interesting and melodic, dramatic and then subtle, full of conflict and great beauty. Gnosis' Sjef Oellers sums it up like this: "The second album continues on the ideas presented on the debut album, but in a slightly more mature way. The fusion/jazz rock element is maybe even stronger on Harakka Bialoipokku than on his first album, but there are still symphonic/classical references and Zappa-like arrangements for brass. Piano and saxophone play a very prominent role on this album. Some of the tracks recall a more sparse and melodic Samla Mammas Manna."

Personally I love the many piano and e-piano passages that are gentle and whimsical, along with the piccolo, used to help you visualize the mood and exploits of this little bird. When the clouds get dark and he faces adversities the musical mood gets harder-edged with sometimes abrasive sax cuts. But the songs never get unnecessarily cluttered and that is Pohjola's real gift here: really nicely layered arrangements that seem to spotlight individual performances perfectly while still maintaining a band sound. I found the bright edge of this music, with the bass/piano lead reminded me occasionally of parts of Cat Stevens' "Foreigner" album which has those same punchy accents. The contrast between the heavy, somber, almost Floydian brooding that begins "Huono Saa" and the light-hearting marching that ends it is masterful. And my personal favorite "Ja Nakee Unta" which to me is a perfect musical interpretation of flight. You will also find a few great jams here with Pekka's driving base flourishes challenged by heated sax wailings and tight drumming-he is playing the bass guitar as a lead instrument on much of this album. By the time you get to Coste Apetrea's delicious electric guitar solo in "Sekoilu Seestyy" you will lament the fact that he was not used more often. On the other hand there are plenty of guitar albums out there and the light, nimble focus here was surely part of the grand design. My single complaint with this album is the rather unremarkable ending, which sticks out like a sore thumb after all of the perfect little victories preceding it. "And a strange peace came over the little magpie, the only memory of his dream were the blisters on his yellow toes. "It's the end..for some time," he said."

Ultimately this album is a celebration of life and the joy of being alive, all expressed without one word of silly spiritual gobblygook-proof again that language/lyrics are not a necessary component of great music. Be sure to get the more recent Japanese cd edition which features splendid remastered sound, and a lovely recreation of the outstanding cover art in mini-lp sleeve.

Report this review (#216235)
Posted Saturday, May 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I celebrate here one of my first ventures into Finnish prog. Already quite familiar with a good swathe of Swedish prog groups and a number of Danish acts, I have been eager to explore the Finnish scene (with a number of Wigwam CDs in the mail as I write this). My, though, what a place to start!

This is an absolute gem, a rich jewel of instrumental music that should make any magpie dance about in a dust-raising, feathery fervor. As a base for comparison, what comes to mind, at least to these ears, is a meeting place of Camel and Frank Zappa. There is something here of Camel's slow, majestic build and sweep and unique mode of counterpoint, alongside Zappa's brand of orchestrated jazz, particularly the kind of elegant compositions found across "Uncle Meat," "Hot Rats" and "The Grand Wazoo" (there is a good reminiscence of Ian Underwood-styled hornwork especially). Which is to say that the jazz element here is of the meticulously- and melodiously-arranged variety rather than the angular squonking kind (if that stuff scares you away). I'd call the whole project a little more aggressive than Camel and perhaps a tad less avant-garde than FZ, but this doesn't make for a bland little pudding of moderation. No, I feel like Goldilocks. This seems, just right.

What I can't convey strongly enough (partly from lacking the musicological terminology) is the compositional maturity of the entire piece of music. It all begins with a solo piano movement and a slow, minimal chord progression that gradually gains momentum. On the subsequent pieces, a full group enters, introducing simple but elegant themes that accumulate subtly, and continue to develop in a way that strikes me as equal part classical and jazz, compositionally speaking. And, gosh, it's all just so darn pretty.

While Part 5 ("Bialoipokku's War" in English) has some heavy use of phasing that firmly locks the recording in some swishy aural 1970s, for the most part this material is played and recorded with a simplicity and dynamic energy that avoids some of the era's worst ego-noodling. The playing throughout serves the needs of the composition. Curiously refreshing.

I won't summarize the story of Bialoipokku the magpie that is laid out in the liner notes, but I will say that the story is suitably more of a quaint tale than harrowing saga, more Tove Jansson than Kalevala, but like Jansson's glorious tales, Moomin and otherwise, Pohjola's album offers up a nuanced and moving experience in the guise of its playful little magpie.

At this point I prefer this to Pohjola's next recording, "Keesojen Lehto" ("The Mathematician's Air Display"), but give me time. I might be back.

Highly recommended.

Report this review (#271233)
Posted Thursday, March 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Pekka Pohjola was classically trained pianist and violinist, but better known as bass player for Wigwam. He played with Wigwam between 1970 and 1972, and then went solo. His solo debut was strongly influenced by Zappa's Hot Rats, and this, second one, continued that direction, but adding more brass and piano.

The music on this album could be described as symphonic jazz-rock with deep roots in classic and Nordic folk. Compositions all are melodic, excellently played and arranged. It's a kind of Nordic fusion I really like - you will hardly find there funk or American jazz influences, but huge musical component is European classic tradition and cool, a bit melancholic Nordic folk songs. This tradition was continued by almost every great Nordic jazz fusion artist, from Ian Garbarek to Terje Rypdal. Possibly this music catch me because of similarity to Baltic folk musical culture as well.

So - perfectly played and arranged jazz-rock with many classic elements ( and one of greatest Finnish sax player Eero Koivistoinen participation), extremely professional compositions, nice melodies. Nordic Hot Rats? Characteristically for Nordic music not too much drive though.

Perfect album for jazz-rock and symphonic prog lover, one of Finnish prog cornerstone!

My rating is 4+!

Report this review (#292982)
Posted Sunday, August 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars Since when I purchased Mathematical Air Display thinking to buy a mike Oldfield's album I've been impressed by the music of Pekka Pohjola, but that album remained a single episode in my collection for several years.

It's thank to PA that I've been able to find some more albums and the more I dig into his production the more I like it.

First of all he has a distinctive sound and production. The same that can be heard on the album re-recorded with Mike Oldfield. Respect to that album, that's the third, and to the debut, this one has more piano and more classical oriented parts.

It's a concept album, too. Recently I've seen a forum thread about "instrumental concept albums", and this deserves to be included in the list, even if I don't know anything of the concept, apart of being about a magpie. However the different feelings transmitted by each track give the impression of different moments of a story. There's no need to read the translation of the title to feel that "Bad Weather" is about a sad situation.

The whole album flows very well and is good both as background (car driving) and to concentrate on it on different level of attention. I mean that one can try to imagine the story behind the concept (regardless if you know it or not) or alternatively keep an ear to the skillful playing of all the band.

"Sekoilu seestyy ~ The madness subsides" deserves a special mention because of one of the best bass solos that I know. Pekka Pohjola was not usually very self-indulgent and this is one of the few bass solo in his discography.

I'm probably excessive, but 4 stars only seem too few to me.

Report this review (#436422)
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pekka Pohjola's second solo album sees him growing beyond the influence of Frank Zappa and exerting his own intriguing vision of fusion. The Zappa influence is still there, but on this album Pohjola also shows an ability to slow things down and adopt a more sombre and melancholic mood here, a majestic and uplifting air there. This greater versatility helps distinguish the album from its predecessor and establishes a unique atmosphere which sets it apart from other efforts in the fusion genre, as well as Pohjola's work in Wigwam. Fans of Pohjola's first album will be well advised to check this one out and witness his growth as an artist.
Report this review (#530093)
Posted Friday, September 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In 1974 Pekka Pohjola released his second solo album ''Harakka Bialoipokku''.It was however a hard year for him, as he also closed the life chapter called Wigwam forever.The album was released again on Love Records and featured a different line-up that on its debut, still quite impressive: A huge sax section with Eero Koivistoinen, Paroni Paakkunainen and Pekka Pöyry along with trumpetist Bertil Loefgren and drummer Tomi Parkkonen, while Coste Apetrea offers his guitar touch in one track.

With such a huge sax section you can expect a mindblowing Jazz Rock album, considering the great talent of Pohjola in arranging music pieces.Pohjola's second offering sounds a bit more flexible than his fantastic debut, not equally satisfying to my ears, but still containing plenty of fine moments.The endless sax deliveries with the melodic, twisting and virtuosic themes make ''Harakka Bialoipokku'' flirting dangerously with the emerging R.I.O. movement of the time.The saxophonists are accompanied by the great and deep bass lines of Pohjola, who again performs the piano parts, either offering short Classical-inspired introductions or catching up the groove of the tracks.Again a Pohjola album delivers lots of different approaches and the music ranges from pleasant to dramatic and cinematic.However it lacks the impressive interplays and unique rich sound of ''Pihkasilmä kaarnakorva'', with the exception maybe of the opening piece ''Alku'', which is a marvelous Jazz/Fusion/Prog track with symphonic references and amazing musicianship.

Not on the same level as Pohjola's debut, but again Virgin Records' executive Richard Branson was so impressed by this work that decided to release it the next year under the title ''B the Magpie'' for the English market.Warmly recommended to all fans of jazzy Progressive Rock.

Report this review (#897132)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2013 | Review Permalink

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