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Pekka Pohjola - Space Waltz CD (album) cover


Pekka Pohjola

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars Following two albums with his new band, including the slightly awkward transitional album URBAN TANGO and the TV movie soundtrack EVERYMAN, Pohjola again sees a somewhat shifting cast of characters playing alongside him. Actually, it's more or less the same band, but this album sees the welcome return of the great Seppo Tyni on guitar.

This album was quite a bright spot in the dark 1980's. Nobody made synthesizers sound like an outer-space symphony orchestra like Pekka Pohjola does here. Everyone else was trying to make Fairlights and DX7's sound like real instruments, but here the synthesizers are used to make, well, synthesizer sounds! The result is something that is utterly unique, that doesn't sound married to the time it was made. So while other albums from 1985 have aged horribly, this one transcends its date.

The set of songs is one of my favourite. "Cat Boulevard" is actually a somber reworking of the old Wigwam track "P.K.'s Supermarket" (from FAIRYPORT). "American Carousel" is a shimmering and sparkly tune, perfect for opening the album. The title track is one of those fun "fast motion" Pohjola numbers, while the epic "Risto" gradually builds and builds to an enthusiastic climax. Tyni really comes into his own here, with some of his most emotionally affecting playing. It ends on a gentle note with the meditative "Changing Waters".

Of his 80's albums, this one is the strongest I've heard thus far. A simply excellent record that epitomizes all that is good about Pekka Pohjola.

Report this review (#49637)
Posted Saturday, October 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The 80's were a terrible time for prog IMO. Most bands sold their soul to the biggest devil of them all - money. However, there were still some artists/bands who stayed true to themselves, and one of them was surely Pekka Pohjola. While it's fairly easy to hear that this album was made in the 80's, for once, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, the keyboards do sound a bit dated and the music does have a slight 80's twist, but when you get past that, you'll realize there's some great music for you to discover here.

Again I find myself hesitating, trying to figure out how to describe this album. In fact, it's nearly impossible. Pohjola has a very distinctive style, so if you haven't heard any of his songs/albums, this review is probably not that helpful. Space Waltz manages to combine his classical tendencies, with the obvious jazz-rock elements and there are even moments where the music could be described as symphonic prog. All this quite effortlessly, if I might add. The music sounds natural and quite accessible also, in Pohjola's standards.

There are lots of keyboards on this album, but mr. guitarman Seppo Tyni gets to shine too, on many of the tracks. As Mike already pointed out, Cat Boulevard is a new version of Wigwam's PK's Supermarket. It's much slower than the original, and the atmosphere is surprisingly gloomy and dark... Quite an interesting version, but it works quite well.

None of the tracks are weak, and the album works nicely as a whole. Not a perfect album by any means, but still quite good, and confirms my believe that Pohjola has never made a downright bad album. Nevertheless, do not start here, it's best to work your way up chronologically with Pohjola.

Report this review (#68521)
Posted Monday, February 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars My favourite albums by the Finnish fusion maestro Pekka Pohjola came in the hazy 70's; this album, like most of his 80's releases, has a more modern (80's) keyboard and electric guitar playing. The liner notes underline how Pohjola didn't sell himself to commerciality or "realms of New Age noodling", and that this album was "certainly one of the most memorable ones to come out of Finland that year". That could be true, but I prefer judging this against his own output instead of the lower-quality music of the time. The style of guitarist Seppo Tyni (or maybe it's the way Pohjola writes for guitar) is somehow boring and monotonous to me. The line-up has two keyboard players, and also Pohjola the bassist plays keys.

Majority of the five tracks don't really turn me on. 'American Carousel' is as uninteresting as the title. Playful 'Cat Boulevard' is an update of a WIGWAM track from 1971. I don't now remember the original, but this doesn't remind me at all of the early 70's or Wigwam (not that it should, of course). 'Space Waltz' continues the not-very-emotional clean-shaved jazz rock with its "driving beat, shifting time signatures, integrated synthesizer/bass solo, and circus-inspired breaks".

But the best is yet to come. 'Risto', nearly 14-minute composition, is the one with the nicest melodies. Melancholic, relatively slow melodies that have a strong emotion and that are instantly recognizable as Pohjola's. Also the final track 'Changing Waters' "with the modern-classical overtones" is fine; so fine that it was reworked into a title track of Pohjola's 1992 album. These two tracks save the album from being a bore to me. In all, it's a safe and accessible fusion album. From Pohjola's 80's output I still would rather recommend the compilation New Impressionist or Flight Of The Angel (1987).

Report this review (#141943)
Posted Thursday, October 4, 2007 | Review Permalink

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