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


Pekka Pohjola


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.23 | 181 ratings

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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.

Finnforest | 5/5 |


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