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Pekka Pohjola - Visitation CD (album) cover


Pekka Pohjola

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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5 stars At last, Pekka Pohjola had been allowed to give his imagination free-rein. This is Pohjola at his most creative and innovative. With no limits placed on what he could and couldn't do, this is an all-out production that totally achieves what it sets out to do.

Joined not only by a brass section this time, but also by the strings and woodwinds of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, he at last achieves the synthesis of symphonic orchestration and jazzy soloing. "Third-stream jazz", the old heads would call it. Also important players are keysman Olli Ahvenlahti and virtuoso guitarist Seppo Tyni, Pohjola's compatriots in his fusion-oriented side-project, The Group. Tyni's rather McLaughlin-esque guitar soloing is the icing on the cake here, adding a delectable timbre to an already delicious dish.

Choosing high points on such a fine album is hard to do, but album-closer "Try To Remember" is classic Pohjola, building gradually from gentle oboe and string caresses to a maelstrom of fury and excitement. It's the next step above "Elämä jatkuu". Shortcomings? I can't think of any! In fact, if the album has any disadvantage at all, it's that it's too damned short, at a paltry 32 minutes! One wishes it would go on forever.

In summation: an ambitious album that, for once, achieves its lofty goals, and in spectacular style to boot. It's albums like this that are the reason we listen to prog for in the first place. Absolute highest recommendation!

Report this review (#49610)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars On the surface this is a stylistic return to an album Pohjola did 5 years before this one, heavy on winds plus additional strings. But so much progress can be heard since "B the Magpie" when it comes to the actual compositions and the performance. It is better balanced harmony and better musicians backing up Pohjola (even though he's the one in the rhythm section!). There are some tracks that come close to modern big band style, for example "Image of a Passing Smiles". "Vapour Trails" on the other hand is (almost) a straightforward rocker and "Strange Awakening" is more in the chamber style of early 20th century. Really you can do no wrong with this album, everything is still sounding fresh aftter almost thirty years. The best Pohjola album and essential addition to any prog rock collection.
Report this review (#132275)
Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I finally got the remastered (2003) of this beauty. Wow, the whole album is great, but the last song - Try to remember - is just definitive Pekka Pohjola.

The blending of real brass/woodwinds/strings is what makes this that unique experience in the catalogue of Pekka's. Not that he doesn't do it elsewhere, it's just that it's quite focused, and yet not obtrusive, just complementary. And of course his musicianship, along with the other masterful players is so natural that you don't even notice it.

For me, that illusive; playing your butt off, no one notices because the music is so good, is what seems to separate real musicians and composition from the over aggressive types. And for some reason the Euro's just do this so well.

Another fine entry in the sadly completed cannon of Mr. Pekka Pohjola. Long live Pekka, long live progressive music.

Report this review (#212836)
Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is Pekka's fourth album and many feel this is his best effort. I still prefer the first two albums to this one but having said that, this is an excellent album. Lots of horns (sax, trombone, trumpet and tuba) and some strings too. I like the guitar work as well from Seppo Tyni. Hey it's all good. Pekka as usual is on bass and keyboards.

"Strange Awakening" opens with piano before the drums and some powerful outbursts come and go. Horns after a minute and they sound really good after 2 minutes. The contrast of the sound calming down then kicking in continues. Nice bass and drum work 4 minutes in. Great tune ! "Vapour Trails" features pounding drums as the guitar plays over top. Piano and bass fill out the sound. Horns 3 minutes in in this uptempo track.

"Images Of A Passing Smile" opens with horns and aboe as bass and cymbals play along. Strings come in then we get a fuller sound before 1 1/2 minutes as the guitar and piano stand out. It settles then kicks in again. "Dancing In The Dark" is my least favourite. It's a catchy drum / percussion / piano / horn soundscape. Guitar before 1 1/2 minutes then horns lead before the guitar returns. Nice bass late. "The Sighting" sounds good when it kicks in with horns but it's brief. Aboe arrives before it kicks in once again. "Try To Remember" has a mellow intro then it turns melancholic. It sounds better after 3 minutes as it brightens some. The horns before 4 1/2 minutes sound great.

I can't give this anything less then 4 stars, but it's a low four stars.

Report this review (#260367)
Posted Monday, January 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars This album left me speachless at the first listen. It has all the goods that I have previously found in "Mathematical Air Display", or better its reprint as a Mike Oldfield's album and this is more or less what I was expecting. What I have found is much more. There's a lot of everything. "Strange Awakening is slowly opened by piano in a way similar to "The Sighted Light" and after a couple of minutes grows fully jazz. It's a great opener which gives a clear idea of this album's quality.

"Vapour Trails" is a masterpiece of progressive fusion. Even if skillfully played it's easy enough to be liked by newbies, too. There's no self-indulgence from any musician and this results in a sort of very artistic easy-listening. The sax section reminds me to another album that I love very much that's Soft Machine's "Land Of Cockayne", even of old Machine's fans would surely disagree with me.

"Image Of Passing Smile" is a classic Pohjola track. It goes through various moments and subgenres. It's based on samba-like rhythm but has some grotesque moments, quite theathral.

"Dancing In The Dark" is mainly fusion with rock moments in the guitar riffs and one of the best bass solos ever performed by Pekka.

"The Sighting" is shorter and even if good seems like a filler lost between all this great material.

"Try To Remember" similarily to Strange Awakening starts with a repetitive theme that grows slightly from acoustic guitar, percussions and of course, bass then becomes orchestral with the brass section and once "at regime" there's room for a beautiful bass riff. Like the best Pohjola's tracks it changes several times and what is incredible is the ability to mantain the listener in the same state of mind even with pieces of music totally different one from each other. It's not a patchwork of short pieces. It flows as a single thing, something that also the big ones sometimes failed to achieve.

Is it a must have ? I think so. Strongly suggested to who is not familiar with JR/F, as a starting point.

Report this review (#449533)
Posted Thursday, May 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album will leave you speechless. It's a trip of wonderful moods and melodies.

Strange Awakening: You find yourself in a melody which has the energy, sweetness, epicness, and a little bit of craziness. It's not sad, it'll never make you cry. It's Pekka Pohjola. It's incredible. The melody continues on a more symphonic way while you stop thinking you are listening to jazz. It's not jazz. But then a sax solo, you're in it again. Then the melody again, it has a great instrumentation where everytime you hear the same melody, it feels different and stronger. Then Pekka gives us a great bass solo. Thank you, I didn't think I deserved that.

Vapour Trails: You're in a rock song. But again, it's not a regular one. I'm not going to try to describe the artist's melodies, you just need to hear it. This is the first time I'm listening to one of his albums and it's incredible. Song progresses into new areas where you feel more comfortable. Electric guitar solo begins and works perfectly. Progression. Sax solo. It's the same rhythm behind. Actually the last part of the song reminds me of 80s for some reason. That's ugly, right?

Image Of A Passing Smile: Now you're in a truly softer mood. It's sad, it's mysterious. Then the song slowly turns more insane. You don't know what to do. But it suddenly slows down, it's the saddest moment. Then just after that moment the song starts again with a truly insane rhythm and melody. It progresses into another rhythm, incredible instrumentation. The same feeling I got is from the King Crimson album "Lizard", because the melody actually sounds like a circus("Cirkus") theme, but it's insane, it has some deep problems to work on for years. It's a high point in musicianship to reach feelings like this in your music..

Dancer In The Dark: Reggea? OK, I guess I'll get used to it. I cannot praise this album enough. It's only the third time I'm listening to it, so I hope it's a healthy review. The song progresses with cool brass section. Some rhythm changes, some bass attacks.The song gets back to the beginning, OK we're going in again. With a gentle bass solo, the song fades out.

The Sighting: Another crazy song. I can't believe how I fell in love with his melodies. His chord progressions are the definition of prog rock. And it's symphonic like hell, and it has great solos, it always shifts the mood for a better one. You can embrace all that in this song, it's an incredible one as well.

Try To Remember: OK I will. I promise. The song starts with the gentlest bass melody. The string instruments show you the way, they whisper you the sad truth. But it's not even the third minute, the mood shifts into a more hopeful theme. Then excitement, the feeling of a Grand Finale! Brass section takes you away. The tempo only builds more. Rhythm change with a bass solo. Then the drums get more epic, more atmospheric, it's gonna explode! And it does! The brass section and the drums ends the epic journey with a short but incredible attack. Thank you Pekka Pohjola, thank you guys who put their heart into this album...

It's unbelievable that how many moods you can change in 31 minutes. Pekka Pohjola's incredible melodies and symphonic approach to progressive rock and the incredible instrumentation takes you to places you've probably never been before. Now I understand why some people think that this guy changed their music lives! Undoubtedly 5 stars. Recommended to human species, birds and butterflies. Frogs can listen to it too. But not cows. I don't like their staring. OK cows too.

Report this review (#565786)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Having spent two albums edging away from the comedic, Zappa-inspired whimsicality of his debut solo album, Pohjola injects a sense of fun back into his music with Visitation, particularly on the energetic and almost funky Dancing In the Dark. What's particularly notable here is that at this point the overt Frank Zappa homages are entirely out of the picture, Pohjola having arrived at his own distinctive style of fusion which is expressed with style and verve over the course of the album. Without any guest stars of the stature of Mike Oldfield to overshadow him, Visitation is purely Pohjola through and through, and an excellent expression of his maturing musical personality.
Report this review (#753449)
Posted Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars By the time ''Keesojen lehto'' was released Pohjola became involved in yet another Finnish Jazz Fusion supergroup, simply called The Group.He would team up again with Olli Ahvenlahti for this project, so what more reasonable than to invite him to participate in his next solo album.As The Group released the only album on the Dig It label, Pohjola would follow the same line with ''Visitation''.Fellow The Group guitarist Seppo Tyni would also play on this one, which sees Pohjola reinviting a huge wind and horn section of guest musicians and collaborating with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in two cuts.The album was recorded early in 1979 and was launched later in the year.

Stylistically there were less than expected changes compared to the previous album, but the sound was somewhat redefined, because the electric piano now played a major role instead of other keyboards and the album contains powerful sax, trumpet and trombone parts within the orchestral arrangements.So, the name of the game here is another Symphonic/Fusion/Jazz Rock affair with some great guitar parts -maybe the jazzier element of the whole album- beautiful electric piano and a fantastic, solid and dynamic rhythm section, led by Pohjola and Vesa Aaltonen.There are still some lovely FOCUS underlines, especially when Classical and jazzy flavors are combined, the orchestrations are well-crafted and the atmosphere is reminiscent of the front cover: a sci-fi/fantasy one, reflecting fairly on the imaginative music here, propelled by tons of melodies, quirky cinematic edges and big orchestral movements.Speaking of the album's symphonic tunes, these are reminiscent of British solo artists like GORDON GILTRAP or even STEVE HACKETT, but the music here is more playful and virtuosic due to Pohjola's constant love for jazzy colors.''Vapour trails'' and ''Dancing in the dark'' shine through for being excellent examples of energetic, intense and rich Fusion with some pounding bass lines and impressive guitar work.

We've reached the 80's here and Pohjola kept producing qualitive works with progressive extensions.The most consistent musician of the whole Finnish Prog/Jazz Rock scene, returning with another beautiful work of orchestral Symphonic/Jazz Rock.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1387035)
Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars PEKKA POHJOLA's fourth album Visitation is regarded by many as his finest, "the true musical fruition his early albums had clearly promised" (Robert Silverstein's liner notes, originally on Warner's CD re-release, unimaginatively circulated also on Svart Records' recent vinyl gatefold release). I personally prefer the debut Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva (1972), but this one indeed is more energetic and modern, more virtuotic and bold, sonically more brilliant, and it contains both the guitar that was absent on the debut and the woodwind/brass that was absent on the Oldfield-collaboration Keesojen Lehto (1977). One sad thing is the shorness of this album: 32 minutes.

I'm not going to argue against all the hype, but much of the music is not exactly up to my taste, not the Pohjola style I'm fond of; it's slightly too sharp and brassy at the cost of the more introspective & emotional side, with the clearest exception in the lovely closing tune 'Try to Remember'. I openly admit that my fourth star is more objective than subjective, but no less deserved anyway: anyone declaring Visitation a masterpiece is absolutely right, at least if (s)he truly loves it personally.

Only six tracks in total, why not some words on each. 'Strange Awakening' has a great sound especially in the beginning featuring an echoed piano, and the soprano sax solo by Pekka Pöyry is awesome as is the outstanding bass near the end, but as a composition per se it could be a bit less repetitive. 'Vapour Trails' is very adrenalin-dosed jazz rocker in which guitarist Seppo Tyni (Pohjola's bandmate from The Group) takes the leading role.

'Image...' has a semi-melancholic depth which is occasionally buried in the guitar/brass-heavy arrangement; with more elegant and introspective approach throughout the track I'd enjoy it even more, but those fond of virtuoso playing will find a lot to enjoy here. Very bold and rhythmic 'Dancing in the Dark' is my least fave track, graced by e.g. Markku Johansson's trumpet solo. Guitar is again unnecessarily loud. 'The Sighting' opens interestingly without guitars and percussion but the arrangement becomes again quite heavy. Aale Lindgren's oboe is a nice detail in it.

Finally the intimate and introspective side takes over in the beginning of the marvelous 'Try to Remember': this would also function as an example of a masterful and extremely rich arrangement. It features the woodwinds and strings of The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Here the various instruments are not climbing on each other's neck as on the more hectic tracks, instead the arrangement has several phases using different instruments. A masterpiece combining the emotion, virtuosity and grandiosity, and one of the finest Pekka ever composed. Risto Kurkinen's cover drawing is not as good as on Keesojen Lehto, but it definitely works better on the vinyl format.

Report this review (#1495387)
Posted Wednesday, December 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Pekka Pohjola's "Visitation", 1977, is not exactly the best place to start Pohjola's aquaintance, music composition wise. Better yet check on the flawless and clockwise performances by each member at every single moment. Amazing!

It's songwriting travels all the expected routes and shares the expected amount of atonalities and abrupt speed fast detours to be featured in a Prog page.

A perfectly threaded prog-eclectic-Rock/Jazz approach which includes a fusion of Latin flavors, "classic" Jazz and non prog strictly influences like Classical music and Big Band Jazz or Swing.

Once you see beyond its apparent "stiffness", you will notice its charms, yet the catchy riffs, more than once, are more annoying than catching, but its comedy like instrumental irreverence saves it from being just that.

Impeccable performances and a lot of spectacular highlights! Stick to that and start to imagine that maybe Mr. Frank Zappa will shed on some hilarious lyrics wherever he is.

3.5 PA stars.

Report this review (#1504997)
Posted Tuesday, December 29, 2015 | Review Permalink

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