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Finnish Prog History in a Nutshell

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Matti View Drop Down
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    Posted: June 26 2014 at 13:06
Inspired & encouraged by blogs on Japanese / Australian / Italian / etc prog, I feel I ought to do my own thing on Finnish prog history. To share information for proggers around the world! Big smile 

(I'm having a project which should result as a book, probably in 2016 or 2017. In 2013 I published a book on British, European and North American prog in the timeline of 1967-1979. It has received a warm reception among prog listeners of my country.) 

Since last winter I have listened to myriads of Finnish artists that can be associated with the prog genre. I have intensively expanded my music library, with the valuable help of libraries and artists themselves. As a side product I have reviewed a lot of Finnish albums here. (The reviews are NOT material to be recycled into the book, as a review's function is totally different, but they are nevertheless a helpful part of the whole project.)

The idea for this blog just came into my mind. Actually, it hardly becomes a real blog with updating and continuity at all. Closer to truth, it will just be a running through the decades picking artists and their albums and making general remarks, not an essay with higher goals. The bands / artists will be typed in CAPS and marked with (-) if they're not in the PA database. I probably won't do links, as useful as they would be in this sort of context.
The sixties
The formation of the Finnish prog scene was, to a large degree, made possible by the new forward-looking record company Love Records that started in 1966. One of the founders was OTTO DONNER (-), a notable figure in the Finnish jazz history. The label released jazz, lyrically oriented albums of the new (left-wing) song movement and eventually also rock, including the pioneering prog acts.
 
The first Finnish "prog" rock album is without a doubt the eponymous 1967 album by BLUES SECTION (-). It featured the English immigrant JIM PEMBROKE (-) as vocalist. Saxophonist EERO KOIVISTOINEN (-), another important jazz composer, was their member too, and Hasse Walli was the first notable Finnish rock guitarist.
 
The disbanding of Blues Section led to the founding of WIGWAM. Their debut Hard N' Horny (1969) was half written by organist-vocalist JUKKA GUSTAVSON (who was heavily influenced by Traffic's Stevie Winwood), half by Jim Pembroke, the more pop oriented of them. 1969 saw also the debut of TASAVALLAN PRESIDENTTI which featured another British vocalist, Frank Robson. TP's music is mostly jazz-rock, sometimes with blues flavour. The young virtuoso guitarist JUKKA TOLONEN, TP's central composer, started his succesful solo career emphasizing on instrumental Fusion two years later.
 
A very unique album worth noticing is Eero Koivistoinen's Valtakunta (1968) which he composed for modern Finnish poetry. Vocalists included Eero Raittinen, who by the way replaced Robson in TP for the albums Lambertland (1972) and Milky Way Moses (1974).
 
A band called CHARLIES (-), which was not on Love Records, is said to be Finland's first heavy rock band. Musiikkia elokuvasta Julisteiden liimaajat (1969) was made for a low-budget film which was never shown in public. Their English-language music was influenced by the British heavy pioneers and Jethro Tull.
 
And there were also the Underground movements of Helsinki and Turku. The former included the group SPERM (-) whose PEKKA AIRAKSINEN has later made a large solo discography of electronic music.
 
The early years of Finnish prog were very much dominated by the two legendary bands, Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti. They were highly respected and got some recognition abroad too, but their albums weren't any bestsellers. Right from the start Finland's prog had its own personality, ie. there weren't followers of bands like Genesis, Yes or ELP.




Edited by Matti - June 27 2014 at 03:44
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Matti Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 27 2014 at 06:59
The Early Seventies
In 1970 Love Records released the debut Magneettimiehen kuolema by PEKKA STRENG, collaborating with Tasavallan Presidentti. Streng's personal music is psychedelic, mystic, folky and naiive in a charming way. The lighter and jazzier Kesämaa (1972) features e.g. jazz keyboardist Olli Ahvenlahti and reeds player Pekka Pöyry who was a member of Tasavallan Presidentti - and who appears also on Wigwam's classic albums Fairyport (1971) and Being (1974). The latter, emphasizing on Jukka Gustavson's complex composing style, is perhaps the most legendary of all Finnish prog albums.
 
The bass virtuoso PEKKA POHJOLA joined Wigwam for their second album Tombstone Valentine (1970) and released his extraordinary solo debut Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva in 1972, which was followed by several other instrumental prog / fusion classics. Also JIM PEMBROKE (-) started to release solo albums, the debut Wicked Ivory (1972) under the pseudonym Hot Thumbs O'Riley.
 
APOLLO's eponymous, sole album (1970) is a Heavy Prog classic. The thick-voiced vocalist Harri Saksala sings also in the KALEVALA debut People No Names (1972), an eclectic work ranging from heavy to jazz-rock. Their line-up changed for the second and more uneven album Boogie Jungle (1975). ELONKORJUU's debut Harvest Time (1972) is a strong album mostly in Heavy Prog style. Led by guitarist JUKKA SYRENIUS (-) the band released their next album renamed as Harvest: Flyin' High, Running Fast (1978) is pure fusion, closer to jazz than rock.
 
The early 70's fusion scene included - besides those solo careers of prog band members - some other albums that can be mentioned in the prog context, such as Plastic Maailma (1971) by reeds player PARONI PAAKKUNAINEN (-), the sole album Taikakulkunen (1971) by short-lived WOODOO (-), and guitarist JUKKA HAURU's (-) Information (1972).
 
One of the most legendary and longest living of Finnish prog bands, HAIKARA, debuted in 1973. They play dark and complex Eclectic Prog. Their second album Geafar (1974) is another fine work, but the third one Iso Lintu (1975) is more uneven.
 
One non-prog band I'd like to mention is the vocal-oriented folk group PIHASOITTAJAT (-). They debuted with an EP Rocky Road to Dublin (1972) but turned into Finnish with very charming albums Hattukauppiaan aamu (1973) and Kontaten kotia (1975). Recommended to the friends of peaceful folk-rock!
 
 
Around 1974 the Finnish prog scene was turning a new page. TASAVALLAN PRESIDENTTI disbanded and both Jukka Gustavson and Pekka Pohjola left WIGWAM. Several new bands operated in mid-70's, even if the prog genre had slowly begun to lose its status. The more mainstream "Finn-rock" was strongly developing. The use of mother language was of high quality in the lyrics of e.g. Dave Lindholm, Juice Leskinen and Hector.
     (At this time heavily Bowie-influenced Hector - his real name is Heikki Harma - approached prog's artistic nature with his wonderful second album Herra Mirandos (1973). His fourth album Liisa pien (1975) failed commercially but it's very prog-oriented, and my favourite. It includes the Finnish-language covers of King Crimson's 'Epitaph' and Procol Harum's 'As Strong As Samson'.)


Edited by Matti - June 30 2014 at 00:37
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hellogoodbye Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 27 2014 at 07:51
Thumbs Up Very interesting. Thank you.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DamoXt7942 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 27 2014 at 18:00
Love Finnish Elektra Sperm / Pekka Airaksinen really. Thanks for your notification mate. Fantastic thread! Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Matti Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 29 2014 at 04:16
^ Thanks for kind feedback! Let's continue...

The Mid-Seventies

As I mentioned, at this time there were several new bands, many of them short-lived and having only one full album in their output. MAGYAR (-) made their proggiest songs such as 'Saastepilkku' in the beginning of the decade, and they can be found on "Love Proge" compilations. The album Uusiin maisemiin (1974) probably wouldn't sound proggy enough for PA inclusion. NIMBUS from Salo released the album Obus (1974) which I haven't yet heard but soon will; it's described in this site as psychedelic rock with prog influences. SESSION (-) and their sole album Unikuva (1974) is neither very impressive rock from prog's point of view.


The year 1975 is stronger especially for the new artists. FANTASIA's eponymous album is fairly good, jazzy prog. TABULA RASA from Kangasala (small town next to Tampere) released the very pleasing, eponymous debut. It is melodic and atmospheric, comparable to Kaipa's debut, and the flute is a lovely ingredient. Long ago when Finnish prog wasn't very widely familiar to me, this was my favourite. TR's second album Ekkedien tanssi (1976) is far more mediocre rock. NOVA's sole album Atlantis (1976) was too unnoticed at the time; it is Eclectic Prog with lots of keyboards and some jazziness.


Also on the Fusion genre a couple of new names pop up (PEKKA POHJOLA and JUKKA TOLONEN continue making good solo albums. Pohjola also joined Swedish Fusion group MADE IN SWEDEN together with TP's drummer Vesa Aaltonen, for the album Where Do We Begin, 1976. And Pohjola was supported by Mike Oldfield on his excellent album Keesojen lehto, 1976).            Too forgotten JUPU GROUP's Ahmoo (1975) is almost the Finnish answer to what was happening in the American Fusion at the time. MARU & MIKAEL (-) were a pair in real life too; their very little known album Destination Nowhere (1975) is quite nice jazz-rock with female vocals. The aforementioned guitarist Jukka Hauru released Episode the same year. Nono (1976) is the little known sole album of another guitarist NONO SÖDERBERG (-). PIIRPAUKE debuted in 1975; this notable group led by reeds player sakari Kukko is still existing, but their unique blend of jazz and World Music - unexistent term at the time - was perhaps at its most impressive on the earliest albums.


Fusion is a good word to describe also the instrumental, melodic prog of FINNFOREST (who had recorded some vocal songs earlier, see "Love Proge"). Eponymous debut (1975) was followed by equally strong effort Lähtö matkalle (1976); these albums appear also as a 2-in-1 CD release. (Their leadman, guitarist Pekka Tegelman has later made solo albums and composed for singers such as Liisa Tavi.)


Pembroke-led WIGWAM had gone through a radical change in their line-up and style; guitarist Pekka Rechardt became the supporting composer too. Nuclear Nightclub (1975) was a huge commercial success and is still considered as a milestone in Finnish rock history. The music of this new Wigwam has been described as "deep pop". The next album Lucky Golden Stripes and Starpose (1976) is notably weaker. Uneven Dark Album (1977) has some strong individual tracks. After that the band collapsed for a long period of time. Oh, almost forgot: synth wizard ESA KOTILAINEN, who momentarily played in Wigwam (and on the albums by the aforementioned Hector among others), released the Electronic Music classic Ajatuslapsi (1976).


ROYALS (-) was a "supergroup" featuring e.g. Pave Maijanen (who, by the way, produced Nuclear Nighclub) and Hurriganes-guitarist Albert Järvinen, and their album Spring 76 (1976) includes some prog elements. Some years back the CD re-release of singer-songwriter MATTI JÄRVINEN's (-) sole album Matin levy (1976) was met with enthusiasm among Finnish prog listeners. A classic indeed, but in the end perhaps not very clearly progressive rock; may have a faint chance to get into our Crossover Prog category.


This chapter turned out to be quite a fertile one! The late seventies (ie. my next chapter) will include some further new names before the very, very anti-progressive decade makes all prog extremely rare in Finland.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 29 2014 at 04:50
Very interesting, congratulations!!! and success with the writing of your book!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 29 2014 at 05:06
Nice blog Matti
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Matti Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 03 2014 at 03:32
^ Thanks! Big smile
The Late Seventies and the Early Eighties
 
In 1977 the downhill of Finnish prog was getting very visible when it comes to the number of prog [related] releases. WIGWAM's Dark Album and KALEVALA's Abraham's Blue Refrain are far from their better works. JUKKA GUSTAVSON finally started his solo discography with Jaloa ylpeyttä yletän... ylevää nöyryyttä nousen...(1977), which is a brave "jazz symphony", followed by Valon vuoksi (1979) and Toden toistoa (1981). JUKKA TOLONEN continues making albums, though they are not as good anymore as earlier in the seventies. PEKKA POHJOLA joined with e.g. Olli Ahvenlahti to form a Fusion supergroup called THE GROUP (eponymous sole album, 1978) and Pohjola also continued his solo output with the fine albums Visitation (1979) and Kätkävaaran lohikäärme (1980). The guitarist Pekka Tegelman of FINNFOREST (their third album was Demonnights, 1978) had a short-lived Fusion group called JARGON (-), whose eponymous album (1979) is very hard to find; I haven't yet heard it.
 
These years are still not without some new good prog artists too. KAAMOS' sole album Deeds and Talks (1977) is very nice, melodic prog. Young T. T. OKSALA (-), who later became a notable producer, released Radio Storm (1978), an original combination of contemporary rock and lively Fusion. FAROUT (-) released one album of instrumentally oriented jazzy prog, Further Out (1979). SUKELLUSVENE (-) was an instrumental Prog / Fusion group whose too forgotten sole album Vesi- ja lintumusiikkia (1979) hasn't been released on CD. SCAPA FLOW's sole album Uuteen aikaan (1980) with female vocals clearly belongs to the 70's prog despite its late release year.
 
Singer Petri Pettersson (NB! when the artists are not typed in capitals, they don't belong to the prog genre at all or have any chance to be added in the Archives, and therefore they don't have (-) after them!) has released vocal music and several translations of international pop hits of the 60's / 70's. However his finest, partly poetry-based album Nuoruus (1977) - composed mostly by Pekka Tegelman - includes artistic depth that can be thought of as proggy, and to some extent also his next, weaker album Ehkä meille vielä jää aikaa (1979). Other non-prog popular artists to approach progressive thinking were Dave Lindholm, whose intimate and thoughtful classic album Aino (1982) was arranged for a small chamber orchestra by Otto Donner, and the punk-originated (!) rock group Hassisen Kone with their highly praised rock classic Harsoinen teräs (1982).
 
Before entering the hollow emptiness of the eighties, it's perhaps good to pick up the SCARAB album (1983) by the group that in the nineties became known as AGENESS! No other Finnish group has represented so unquestionably Neo Prog style with clear Genesis influences and all, but now I'm getting ahead of the timeline... I haven't got Scarab yet, but I guess it must have been an odd release in the musical climate of its time.


Edited by Matti - July 03 2014 at 03:39
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bridgingloansguru Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 04 2014 at 07:30
Finnish Elektra my favorite and my love is with you Finnish Elektra.
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