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SBB - Karlstad Live CD (album) cover



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4 stars 4 1/2 stars for this excellent live Album. Thought Solar Fire (GROBSCHNITT) was good, this one blows the mind. Not everone agrees however. The quallity of the recording (If you can get the CD) is not optimal. Allthough it's a live recording of the 70- ties you can hardly hear any audience. SBB (3 musicians) were playing live in 1975 at Karlstad. After explaining their audience they did not rehearse their music they take off and play for 45 minutes. If you like Since I have Been Loving You Led Zeppelin or Help Me Ten Years After, you will like this live performance. It might not be to PROGGY, but listening to this record makes you feel you are part of the (amazed) audience.
Report this review (#149528)
Posted Thursday, November 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars This is the best thing i've heard from SBB. It's a live concert from Karlstad, Sweden from 1975. In fact in the liner notes the band relates how this recording was held in reverence by their Polish fans at home because of the sound quality and the performance. I also hold reverence for this recording. I haven't felt so emotional and excited in a long time when listening to a cd. There isn't a band in existence that these guys need to take a back seat to when it comes to playing. The drummer reminds me of Peart and Cobham because of how fluid and powerful he is, while the guitarist is simply all over this album.The third member and leader on vocals and Hammond organ etc. is unbelieveable. One reason for this incredible performance was simply how free they felt being away from their communist country of Poland. They described it as : "For SBB, that time was like relaxing in the sunshine, with beautiful people and fairyland atmosphere". This recording absolutely cooks ! By the way each song blends into the next.

"Pretty Face" opens with spoken words from a band member followed by keys, drums and atmosphere. Nice. In fact it reminds me of WEATHER REPORT here. It kicks in at 2 1/2 minutes to a powerfuil sound. Man this guy can drum ! The guitarist is amazing as he rips it up. The vocals come in before 4 minutes as it settles with organ floating in the background. I'm completely blown away by the instrumental display that follows. It blends into "Born To Die" as the organ floats while vocals come and go in a passionate bluesy way. Drums 2 minutes in. Guitar after 3 minutes. I'm humbled at this point and deeply moved. The organ rises to the surface 4 1/2 minutes in and the guitar is lighting it up until it's on fire. Drums come more to the fore after 7 minutes. It settles and blends into "Clouds".

Piano and guitar come and go, some atmosphere here. Cymbals and synths take over 2 1/2 minutes in also coming and going. It's building 4 minutes in as the organ floods in and drums roll. It blends into "Stormy Bay". You have to hear how powerful this is ! The organ, guitar and drums just kill. My God ! It blends into "Wonderful Sky-Ride" where it settles before 2 minutes. Vocals follow as organ and light drums continue.The organ gets louder 4 minutes in then the guitar starts to fire it up as drums pound. No words. It settles and blends into "Return To The South". Drums lead the way with intricate patterns.The guitar comes and goes. It kicks in at 3 minutes. This reminds me of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA. Check out the drummer ! Love the guitar 7 1/2 minutes in.

Without question one of the best live albums I have ever heard.

Report this review (#239415)
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perhaps the fines and rarest release by SBB and somewhat unique in the sense that here the guitar tends to dominate more than the keyboards. That being rather the opposite in most of their other works.

Here, the compositions are more structured than on their first "Live" album. A strong Mahavishnu influence is also unmistakable, yet it remains closer to Symphonic than Jazz Rock..

From beginning to end, this performance captivates the attention, often resulting in a second, even third(!) consequtive spin. It's that good! Indeed, it would have a place amongst my choices of 10 in a "Desert Island" collection.

A great starting point in exploring the band's bewilderingly large discography, only released in full in recent years.

Report this review (#871627)
Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
5 stars Shivers

Before I venture into the northern pastures of Scandinavia for my upcoming reviews, I'd like to make a short trip to Poland to highlight an album, I personally rank among the very best live albums ever made. I may even prefer it over King Crimson's The Great Deceiver, and part of the reason for this is the 'imminence' of this concert - the overpowering urge to play music you sense from the musicians involved.

Back when SBB started out as Czeslav Niemen's "backing band", and indeed all throughout their heyday, Poland was under a Communistic rule. Everything was under wraps and music should preferably consider itself with anything but the thriving reckless prog rock sneaking in from the decadent west. SBB, or Silesian Blues Band, were as a consequence basically outlaws during the first leg of their existence. In spite of this, they continued to play what they wanted - developing a distinct style of their own based around the close bond between the jazz and blues rock world. What came out at the other end though had both of these music styles completely bend out of shape, sounding like a fiery take on The Mahavishnu Orchestra teaming up with Gong, Secret Oyster and a couple of the more melodically inclined RPI acts of the day.

Coming from a country as iron-clouded as Poland, and then travelling across Europe to play gigs, must've felt like freedom. - I am talking about the very essence of the word here. The amount of artistic relief these guys suddenly felt is beyond immeasurable. The group said so themselves; they were overwhelmed with the freedom they experienced coming into Sweden in 1975. Anyway, you don't need to read any of this for you to understand - all you need to do is listen to this awe inspiring release.

There's an emotional power running through this recording equivalent to a couple of Hiroshima bombs - and then some! Main man Józef Skrzek actually instigates the gig by stating, in his slightly tainted English, that the show will be a special one "it will never repeat" as he so aptly puts it. Taking care of bass guitar, piano, moog, Hammond, synthesizers and vocals - he is a real poster child of music eclecticism. With only 3 band members, one could be lead into thinking that a live album like this could suffer from underdeveloped musical ideas and whatnot, but that is so far from being the case - it literally defies belief.

In many ways this Karlstad release features SBB in both a highly familiar dressing, and then quite the opposite. There's an exuberance here shrouding everything they do in a superman like zeitgeist. Add to that, guitarist Antymos Apostolis, who normally tends to reside in shadow, is right up front and fully in charge on this baby. It's a welcoming pleasure to hear him going all out. It really is. Whether the band is going through the more fusion based blues pieces, or they're just throwing out these incredibly fiery jams - he's always there. On SBB's studio albums you almost never get to hear that, and may I just add, what a damn shame, because this dude can cook! Boy does he ever cook on this album!

Last but not least, we find one of my drumming idols: Jerzy Piotrowski. Hell, he may just be my all- time favourite drummer. With his imaginative poly-rhythms and orgiastic tom usage, this guy is perhaps one of the rare percussionists out there who understands the subtle beauty of mixing insane complexity with improvisational power. He genuinely sounds like a mix between Billy Cobham and Area drummer extraordinaire Giulio Capiozzo - that is without ever losing his endearing melodic feel. I can listen to this man's drumming for days on end - he's got a natural understanding of the beat that you just can't learn. It feels like it emanates from the very pores of his skin. I bet his mom went to some proto-stomp classes, back when he was bobbing around inside her belly oven.

The entire Karlstad gig seems to float together as one unassuming fluid piece of music. The different tracks all weave together in a seemingly uncomplicated fashion. The opener, for instance, called Pretty Face - with all of it's speeding fusion vibes, ferocious beat and loud guitar screams, still manages to die down to a mere whisper with a soulful yearning organ, before slowly setting sails on the serene waters of Born To Die. With a frail and goosebumps inducing feel to it, the tune develops vocals - and you suddenly get to hear just how beautiful of a singer Skrzek really is. This bridging between the first two tracks makes the small hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. If I were a girl I'd probably find a comfortable place to sit down and cry happy tears for a week.

I find countless of these moments on Karlstad. Small odes to the rare glimpses in life that send shivers down your spine and makes your soul orgasm. I'd recommend this facet of sonic life to everybody with ears, yet we all seem to find these life invigorating jolts in different parts of the musical world. If you're into classic prog though, then this might just turn out to be the mistress of your life.

Report this review (#1026358)
Posted Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Review Permalink

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