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Samla Mammas Manna - Samla Mammas Manna CD (album) cover


Samla Mammas Manna



4.05 | 139 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While generally lumped into the greater Rock In Opposition category of progressive rock due to the fact that this Uppsala, Sweden based band was one of that renegade musical movement's original participants, the oddly named SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA which is said to have taken its moniker from a Swedish nursery rhyme, was in reality more of a hybrid between the zany musical antics of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention mixed with the jazz-rock virtuosity of bands in the Canterbury Scene with a clear parallel alongside the Dutch band Supersister. SAMLAS were one of the first to usher in the Swedish "progg" movement with this eponymous debut album that was released in 1971 and unlike many of the Swedish rock scene of the era eschewed overtly political themes and instead engaged in extreme bouts of absurdity.

Known for their wild mix of jazz, rock, folklore and circus music, this early album displays the band in simpler form before they went hog wild into jazz-fusion territory on their second album "Måltid" and despite cranking out some veritable rockin' grooves and pounding rhythmic drives, the SAMLAS crafted this debut completely with no guitar sounds at all, another attribute that they shared with their Dutch brethren Supersister but only on this first album. Guitars would become a prominent feature as the band evolved however on this one it's the organ that is the star of the show followed by the bass lines that also include a bit of piano and a subordinate percussive section in the form of drums and congas.

For the most part this is an instrumental journey that mixes the disparate musical elements of 60s psychedelic rock, turn of the decade Canterbury jazz and the silly Zappa-esque avant-prog experiments. The opening "Circus Apparatha" is the most blatant example of the band's career long fascination with carnival music and circus jingles but the vibe remains all throughout the album even when this quartet drifts off into long freeform jamming sessions. Vocals are sparse but when they occur they maximize the Canterbury whimsy and avant-prog absurdities to the n-th degree. The opener contains fairly nonsensical lyrics with some exaggerated German lyrics thrown in whereas elsewhere vocals are primarily used to lighten up the otherwise serious virtuosic musical constructs.

Musically speaking this album is all over the place in many ways. While the first track is steeped in circus music that screams out that the show has come to town, the Canterbury sounds immediately replace the festival and as time goes on psychedelic jams and even some 60s garage band sounds can be heard. The congas at times bring some Santana-esque Latin rhythms to the forefront but without any guitars to wail away, it sometimes sounds a little lacking. "Manna Jamma" is more akin to early Krautrock similar to what bands like Xhol Caravan were crafting around the time. While the later albums would really delve into the more avant-garde experimental world of progressive rock, this SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA debut is actually quite accessible much as the earliest Soft Machine albums were before the band went for the avant-fusion jugular.

This album really sounds like no other even within the greater SAMLAS discography. While recognizably the SAMLAS, this one is missing the guitar heft that Coste Apetrea would bring to the table on "Måltid" and the effect sounds like a more stripped down crude refinement of the more familiar albums that followed. Nevertheless, despite this not measuring up to some of the later works, this is a dynamically unique sounding album that shape shifts throughout its run and keeps the party churning on as the circus show unfolds. While the most 'normal' of the SAMLAS canon, this is by no means a simple rock album. There are many adventurous journeys not only into the absurd but these tracks also contain healthy doses of off-kilter time signatures and unorthodox fusions of disparate sounds. This is a compelling listen for sure and while the band would improve in virtually ever aspect of their sound on the sophomore release, this is by no means a throw away debut. On the contrary this may be required to actually understand how all the craziness came to be!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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