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Haikara - Haikara CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.24 | 148 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars While small in number, the Finnish progressive rock scene of the early 70s was robust enough to create a viable market at least within Finalnd's territory. The movement was kicked off by Wigwam in 1968 but several artists followed including Pekka Pohjola, Jukka Tolonen and Tasavallan Presidentti. While not nearly as popular as the aforementioned artists during those early years, the Lähto based HAIKARA (Finnish for "stork") has none the less weathered the decades well and is considered one of the most artistically creative progressive bands to emerge from the fertile golden age of prog.

This band was founded by Vesa Lattunen (vocals, guitar, piano), Markus Heikkerö (drums) and Timo Vuorinen (bass) in 1971 but would soon add the two additional members of Vesa Lehtinen (vocals, tambourine, cowbell) and Harri Pystynen (flute, saxophone) who previously played in Charlies. The band released its self-titled debut in 1972 and experienced minor success although never experienced much recognition outside of Finland but nonetheless crafted an extraordinarily unique sound unlike any prog band in all of history actually.

Consisting of only five tracks, HAIKARA composed a unique mix of King Crimson inspired prog that utilized heavy rock guitar and complex time signature changes mixed with pastroral folk sections but the most unique feature of HAIKARA's sound was the inclusion of a brass section as well as cello which included five additional session musicians to create a larger than life sound for a band in a rock context. Sounding somewhat like early Chicago mixed with King Crimson and Genesis, HAIKARA delivered melodic catchy tunes based on Finnish folk music only played on rock instruments with the contrapuntal backing of a brass section.

Beginning with the oom-pa-pa polka brass heft of "Köyhän Pojan Kerjäys - The Beggings Of A Poor Boy," HAIKARA establishes a veritable brass rock sound with only slight prog complexities and although all lyrics are in the Finnish language, the soulful vocal tradeoffs of Lattunen and Lehtinen evoke a passionate display of instantly catchy ear hooks that are augmented with a thick brassy bombast that adds a touch of angularity from time to time however the album becomes more complex as it proceeds with the following "Luoja Kutsuu - The Lord Asks For You" generating a more sophisticated flair of progginess which only continues as the other three tracks all clock in around the ten minute mark and engage in some serious labyrinthine compositional zigzagging accompanied by nice instrumental interplay.

With lush folk passages trading off with psychedelic jamming sessions graced by fuzzy guitar soloing and soft brassy contrasts, HAIKARA's debut literally stands in a world of its own which is why it has been deemed on the classic Finnish prog album's to emerge from the 70s and while the band didn't find much success beyond this meager selling debut album, history has been kinder in recognizing its innovative musical motifs decorated with the varying rock, jazz and folk aspects. Out of all the Finnish bands that emerged in the earliest part of the 70s, HAIKARA is by far the most eclectic of the bands but unfortunately never made it to the level of bands like Wigwam who actually found recognition outside of Finland.

This is an album that is perfectly represented by its album cover art. It retains a bit of homegrown folklore as represented by the verdant countryside complete with wildlife but also displays a darker side and like the dragon in the sky a sense of awe that offers unexpected surprises that provide a startling contrast to the more familiar sounds. Lots of really excellent musicianship on this one as the band can effortlessly change from emotive acoustic driven folk passages to bombastically jagged soundscapes that pull out the big guns with heavy uses of frenetic tempos, excess guitar distortion and ample use of unorthodox time signatures. This is a brilliant album for sure and one of Finland's best examples of early prog.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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