It’s Midsummer and that is the time when most of us Finns flee to our summer cottages on countryside and drink our asses off and listen to old Finnish music. This year I was having an urban Midsummer at home and I was kinda inspired of all the bonfire and sausage grilling pictures people kept posting on facebook. I decided to celebrate the Summer Solstice my way and do a small mix of late 1960s and early 1970s Finnish groovy music. Since I decided to do it yesterday it’s done in a haste, I hope you still enjoy it. cheers.
Six years after the Bigroup album, Peer released an album called Hit man. It’s credited to a group called Sound Prospect - without a doubt another made up name for some group of session musicians strictly built for a library record.
Hit man starts with the funky uptempo title track “Hit man”, that sounds like it’s taken straight from some blaxploitation soundtracks. It’s actually just what the title says, a great chase funk track with some serious suspence feel and also the best track of the album. Next one is a midtempo track “Catcher” that sounds better by the name than actually is. After some decent and not so decent tracks comes “Even balance”, a funky midtempo jazz jam with some nice organ work. It’s followed by funky downtempo jazz track “Als blues” and more mellow sounding midtempo “Stevie bee”. Mellow but groovy “Mount calme” is also worth to mention aswell as the last track, “Latin -a go-go”. Hit man isn’t maybe one of the best library albums around but it still has it’s moments.
Peer International Library Limited was a London based production music library company that was established in the late 1960s by Dennis Berry (aka Peter Dennis). It was closely affiliated with the other library company Southern, - which was also run by Dennis Berry. They often shared releases and that’s why certain titles appear on both Peer and Southern catalogue. This album here, called Big hammer, was credited to a band called The Bigroup, but without a doubt it was some studio musicians group with a made up name for the album. And it was also released on Southern.
The opening track “Big hammer” starts the album strongly. It’s a banging midtempo psych funk track with a hint of oriental vibe every now and then. A stronger oriental vibe comes with the next one, a downtempo sitar and flute driven mellow groover “Anna purna”. I’m not exactly sure if it actually is a sitar but sounds a lot of it. After the dramatic “Devil’s stronghold”, comes “Rolling”. It starts promisingly with a nice break, but then turns into a melancholic midtempo groover. Next up are two quite heavy downtempo psych funk tracks called “Beat norm” and “Heavy lift”. After them comes one of the best tracks on the album, “What’s coming”. It’s a strong upbeat track with heavy breakbeat drums and some wailing melodies on top. Then there’s again two mellow but psych heavy tracks called “Blow-suck blues” and “Gentle swell” before we get to the last track, “Bombilation”. “Bombilation” is a great midtempo organ driven psych funk groover with some electric guitar work (I’m still not a fan of those) and banging beats. All the songs are relatively long for a library record, all the tracks except one are over three minutes what makes it a more pleasant one to listen.
Joseph Van Het Groenewoud was born in Amsterdam in the mid 1920s. In 1947, in the aftermath of the World War II he moved to Belgium to avoid the military service in Dutch East Indies (nowadays Indonesia). He had already started to play violin and bass during his time in Amsterdam and his musical career started in Brussels ballroom orchestra almost immediately after he moved to Belgium. He also changed his name to Nico Ooms, Propably to confuse the Dutch authorities or something. In the late 1950s he was also involved with the forming of the famous Belgian latin influenced group The Chakachas. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Ooms was quite active in the latin music scene of Belgium. At some point - possibly in the late 1960s - he changed his name again, this time to Nico Gomez. And that name he bore till his death in 1992. At that time he also started to record albums with his own bands. In 1971 he released an album with his new group, The Afro Percussion Inc. The album was called Ritual. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were only very few studios in Brussels, so it was obvious that the same studio musicians were used in different projects. The same musicians that were involved with Ritual, were also responsible for most of the other funky releases that came out from Belgium in the 1970s - El Chicles, Chakachas, Chicken Curry, Super Funky Discotheque, SSO, Black Blood, The Sumos etc. The list is very long and it explains the quality of certain recordings from Belgium that time.
What comes to the music, Ritual is quite different compared to his previous albums. While the previous recordings were more or less big band performed latin music with an easy listening feel, Ritual has some serious funk, afro-cuban and even chicano rock influences. The album starts wth the raw latin funk take of Perez Prado song “Caballo negro”. It’s an uptempo, a little messy but really funky song with a short break in the end. Next one is a midtempo latin track “Naci para bailar”, which is really groovy but a little lazy. There’s also some nice organ work. Then comes “Cuba libre”, again a very funky latin groover with a very dominating guitar sound and a catchy hook “te quiero, cuba libre..”. After that comes a very groovy version of “Samba de una note so” (better known as “One note samba”) followed by another banging uptempo latin funker “Baila chibiquiban”, with a nice break in the middle. Then comes a song that always reminds of a certain local beer comercial no matter who’s version it is that I hear. Nico Gomez‘ version of “El condor pasa” with a quite heavy downtempo beats is however one of the best I’ve heard so far. Next up is the first standout track of this overall great album called “Lupita”, originally by the king of mambo Perez Prado. With funky and banging latin beats and a quite massive and long break makes it a bboy friendly banger. It’s followed by another heavy downtempo latin funk track “Pa! pa! pa! pa!”. Then comes another bboy friendly standout track, “Ritual”, with banging breakbeat drums, nice breaks and som fuzz guitar works. Last track of the album is mellow but heavy and banging version “Eso es el amor” (the original was Belgian #1 hit in 1958 as performed by The Chakachas), that is mostly quite downtempo but fastens the pace every now and then. The original pressing of this album is really rare and pricy - last time I saw it, was at Utrecht record fair few years ago, and it was 800 euros. Well 800 is way too much in any circumstances, but one can always ask… There’s however few different later pressings around, although they seem to be quite scarce too.
Combo Xingú was founded in 1971 and is widely concerned as one of the first Chilean bands to play western funk music. It was formed from the remains of disbanded Chilean group Beat Combo aswell as from the students and alumni of the Chile’s National Conservatory of Music. The heart of the band was the former Los Geminis and The Thunderbirds member, pianist Sergio Arellano who was leading them. Besides the bandleader Sergio Arellano on piano and organ, the key members were Raul on percussion, Gamboa Nelson on bass, Patrick Wolf on guitar, Manuel Muñoz on trumpet, Steve Moya on tenor saxophone, Luis Ortiz on drums and Fernando Fiori on vocals. Combo Xingú was disbanded after only two years of activity and two albums in 1973.
While the first album, the self-titled Combo Xingú, was more or less easy listening and local folk sounds, the second album, simply Xingú, was pretty much funk. And it’s sometimes incorrectly presented as a Chilean library music release. The album starts with an uptempo, flute driven jazzy breakbeat track “Baja a las chiquillas” - a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Bring down the birds”. Then after the acoustic guitar driven vocal track “Puente sobre aquas turbulantas” (cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge over troubled water”) comes a funky version of The Nite-Liters song “Tanga boo gonk” followed by a midtempo psych funk take of Nina Simone song “Don’t let me be misunderstood” here named “No permites que me interpreten mal”. Next up is a heavy but funky version of the Led Zeppelin classic “Moby dick” with some psychedelic latin percussion work and some tangled drumming in the middle. Then comes three nice funk tracks. First an original composition by Sergio Arellano, jazzy uptempo “Black power”. Then a nice version of the James Brown classic “Hot pants” and finally another original composition by Arellano, an uptempo instrumental “493 west”. The last two tracks are downtempo “Luces brilliantes”, a cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright lights, big city” and a cover of Santana’s “Everybody’s everything”, an uptempo jazzy vocal funk track with some serious guitar works.
A well known Japanese pop rock group Godiego was formed in 1976. The original line up consisted of the band leader and keyboardist Mickey Yoshino, second keyboardist Yukihide Takekawa, guitarist Takashi Asano, bassist Steve Fox and drummer Tommy Snyder (who replaced the original drummers Hiroomi Harada and Ryoji Asano pretty early). They all handled the vocals too. Godiego did several soundtracks for example to the Galaxy Express 999 and Journey to the West II series. Their key to success was however the theme song for Monkey Magic in 1978, that also gained them name in abroad too. In 1977 they released a soundtrack for the pretty unknown movie called House.
Despite the weird “funny-tracks” and some mellow cheesy numbers, this one is still worth to get. There’s is actually quite a miscellaneous mixture of songs in this soundtrack. There’s one very deep blues track called “Hungry house blues”, an instrumental r’n'b/boogie track with some motorcycle effects called “Buggy boogie”, an uptempo jazz-rock fusion track called “Eat”, a haunting uptempo funky fusion track “Oriental melon man” and then there’s the best track of the album called “Eat eat”. It’s a midtempo funk jam. That’s about all I can say about it, listening tells you more than my hundred words. In my opinion House is worth to get if seen cheap enough.
Another well known detective drama soundtrack composer is 1941 born Takayuki Inoue (井上堯之). He started his career in rock bands The Spiders and PYG before forming his own combo, the Takayuki Inoue Band (井上 堯之バンド), a band that would propably follow him for the rest of his life. Among some various soundtracks and regular albums, Takayuki Inoue Band got a job in 1972 of the theme song for the new Toho produced detective drama series called Taiyō ni Hoero! (literally Bark at the Sun). The series immediately become really popular. It ran 15 years from 1972 to 1986 and it’s one of the longest running detective series in Japan within its 718 episodes. It even spawned a sequel simply called Taiyō ni Hoero! Part 2 that ran from 1986 to 1987. But that’s enough for the series, let’s get back to the music. As said Takayuki Inoue got the job for the title theme and that along the series became extremely popular. As was the case with most of the other detective series, there was quite a big amount of different soundtrack albums released. And almost all of them were by Takayuki Inoue Band. Some of those were specially themed releases from different years and some were so called BGM Best -albums, that contained tracks from several episodes. One of these themed albums was called Sunrise. It was released in 1977 and it’s one of the best of the series.
There’s a lot of funky tracks on this album. Of course they are funky in a Japanese detective series way, so they do have that certain feel, but that’s only a positive thing. The a-side of the album is basically one suite, but still separated to different tracks. It’s better this way, since it’s always a pain in the ass trying to find the start of that one good song in the middle of a 24 minute track. And here the fourth part of “組曲 「太陽にほえろ！」” (Suite ‘Taiyō ni hoero!’ ) called “逃走と追跡” (Tōsō to tsuiseki) is the killer. It’s a three and half minute drum break with some horn stabs time to time. And it’s the getaway track of the album. There’s of course some other goodies her too among the basic dramatic mellow stuff. “スコッチ刑事のテーマ” (Sukotchi keiji no tēma) is a distant variation of the Taiyō ni hoero! main theme with all the basic elements. The third good one is “華麗なる情熱” (Kareinaru jōnetsu). Both are midtempo detective theme type of tracks and the latter being the better one. As a whole this is indeed one of the best albums of the series, but of course some of the other ones have good moments too. We’ll have to get back to them on some point later…
1931 born Tatsuya Takahashi (real name Tatsuro Takahashi) is one of the most well known band leaders in Japan, and a very talented tenor saxophonist as well. Takahashi started his career in 1961 and after years of hard work, he moved to Tokyo and became the fourth bandleader of the Tokyo based big band called Tokyo Union in 1966. That was the point when the band was really starting to gain reputation and become a big name in the scene. In that point their name was also settled as Tatsuya Takahashi & Tokyo Union. Basically they were a strict jazz band, but they did some pretty good soundtrack scores too. Seems that along anime, the Japanese people had also a very strong thing to detective series throughout the 1970s and 1980s. (kinda same way as the Germans in the 1980s). So it was kind of natural, that Tatsuya Takahashi & Tokyo Union did their share of the soundtrack albums to several different detective series. Among these was a soundtrack to the series called Seibu Keisatsu Part II (literally Western Police). Actually they did more than one of these albums, but we’ll talk about this one particular now. Seibu Keisatsu was a detective drama series that was running from 1979 until 1984, with total of three seasons. Part II and Part III (seasons two and three) soundtracks were mainly played by Tatsuya Takahashi & Tokyo Union, while the Part I (season one) was by The Hornets. As expected, the soundtrack music varies from dramatic themes and mellow moods to some funky jazz and hectic chase funk.
The opening track “ワンダフル・ガイズ ～ TVサイズ” (Wandafuru gaizu ~ TV saizu) starts the album with the known quality of the Tokyo Union, it’s a typical uptempo detective theme with some disco feel in it. “ワンダフル・ガイズ ～ フルサイズ” (Wandafuru gaizu ~ furusaizu) is a full version of the same track, while the first was a shortened one fitted for television. Next one, “気分は最高” (Kibun wa saikō), instead is a very mellow and kinda sad track. Then comes “デンジャラス・チェイス” (Denjarasu cheisu). The name means dangerous chase, but it’s still a very nice midtempo jazz track in a Tokyo Union way, not a hectic chase theme. “ハッピー・ボーイ” (Happī bōi) is just what the name happy boy stands for. An happy but short track with a certain circus feel. Then comes two sad mellow tracks, “トワイライト・ストーリー” (Towairaito sutōrī) and “ロンリー・ポリスマン” (Ronrī porisuman). Well with the names like twilight story and lonely policeman, what else they can be. The last track on side a called “ジャングル・ヒーロー” (Janguru hīrō) is a killer uptempo chase theme with some percussion works, nice melodies and occasional guitarwork. The first track on side b is “パトカー・コンボイ” (Patokā konboi), again a quite nice uptempo detective theme but the cheesy disco feel gives it a little minus. After a mellow “ダーティー・ヒーロー” (Dātī hīrō) comes “スーパー・チェイサー” (Sūpā cheisā), the best track on the album. It’s a very blaxploitation-like uptempo chase funk track but with again some cheesyness. With a name like super chaser, what else you actually expect but a chase track. Too bad it’s a quite short one. Again there’s a one mellow drama song “哀愁のエアポート” (Aishū no eapōto) before we get to another uptempo track. “サラブレッド” (Sarabureddo) has some slightly annoying guitarwork, but despite that it’s a very nice one. And the same order continues to the end. First mellow and dramatic “友情” (Yūjō), then uptempo discoish “軍団マーチ” (Gundan māchi) and last one “サンセット・ハーバー” (Sansetto hābā) is again a downtempo drama track. Overall Tatsuaya Takahashi & Tokyo Union did their job quite well as this is a very decent soundtrack among the countless others that came from Japan during the 1970s and 1980s.
Right after his first full length, a “live” album called Kirka keikalla, was released this second album of Kiril “Kirka” Babitzin simply called Kirka. It was an album of studio recordings but it wasn’t actually an studio album. It was a compilation of his earlier recordings that were originally released as 45s between 1967 and 1969. So if you’re not a format purist and accept only these quite scarce 45s, this is your choice to get the good ones. The sound quality of this album is pretty ok compared to some other Scandia releases from the same period.
The albums starts with the breakthrough song of Kirka career, “Hetki lyö”, originally released in 1967. It’s a cover of “Beat the clock”, written by Richard Gottehrer and Jonathan Stroll and released by the US pop rock group The McCoys in 1967. It’s more rock and at the same time more funk than the original and somehow always gets people moving whenever it’s playing. Next one is a funky country track “Okolona river bottom band”, a cover of Bobbie Gentry’s original from 1968. “Kellon soiton kuulla saan” (literally “I can hear the bell toll”) is a cover of “No help from me”, the b-side track from the biggest selling hit “Green tambourine” of the US psychedelic pop rock band The Lemon Pipers, written by their headman, Ivan Browne. Originally it was released in 1967, Kirka recorded this almost the same sounding version a year later. Next to mention is “Pitkän tien pää” (literally “End of the long road”). A pretty good cover of the 1969 original “Spinning wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears. it has hard drums, nice horns and all, but sadly no break. There’s however two tracks over the others on this one. “Yksinäisyys kolkuttaa” (literally “loneliness is knocking”), a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “Happy” from 1969, written by Lee Hazlewood. It’s a funky uptempo groover and in my opinion, it’s even better than the original. The wailing organ solo of Esko Linnavalli in the middle of the song is really amazing and reminds me of the Alan Hawkshaw stuff. In this album is also included four songs from the Jörn Donner movie 69, “Alku kaiken kauniin”, “Igor”, “Mr. wonderful” and “Voin haaveesi täyttää”.
In an interview Kirka tells that Jörn Donner was making a movie at that time and needed the music for it. So he rushed into the Scandia office and told that he needed a singer, a good one, and he knew Scandia had one. So Donner picked up Kirka to sing the soundtrack songs that were first released on a four track 45 ep and later on Kirka’s self titled debut studio album. Kirka also tells that Donner already had in mind some songs made by Claes af Geijerstam that were already recorded in Sweden and he wanted Kirka to sing them in Finnish.
So Kirka did sing his raw vocals to these four tracks and the rest is history. Included in these four songs is the toughest track on the album, an uptempo funk track called “Igor”. It starts with an open break and soon the bass joins in. In the middle there’s a solo that sounds much like sitar and therefore “Igor” has been labeled widely as a psychedelic sitar funk track. But it’s actually not a sitar, it’a a regular guitar with really loose strings and they just made it sound like a sitar. Innovative huh? Jörn Donner also made an international release of his movie and he wanted an international version of the soundtrack too. So he took the same four soundtrack songs sung this time in English by the Swedish rock singer Tommy Körberg. And there was included of course “Igor the dog”. But that’s another story and I’ll tell you about it later. Nowadays Kirka album is quite hard to find and not that cheap. But it’s still an original and beats easily those youtube ripped mp3’s people seem to be playing in bboy jams these days.
Of the three Christmas albums James Brown did between 1966 and 1970, Hey America it’s Christmas was the last. It was first released in 1970 on King records with a different cover and then a little later the same year on Polydor with this black cover.
There’s eight songs on this album and most of them are Christmas ballads, a little politically tinted at times of course. It was 1970, so it was natural to have political awareness. The title track “Hey America” starts the album with a funky uptempo breakbeat drumming and vocals about having a Christmas peace all across the nation and so on. Basic Christmas spirit stuff you know. The beats are not that heavy on the track but it’s still among the best on this album. Another good one is “Go power at Christmas”, a midtempo Christmas funk track with James talking about Christmas spirit over a horn breakdown in the middle. Third one worth to mention is “I’m your Christmas friend, don’t be hungry”, a midtempo funk track with a lot of horns. Don’t get me wrong, I like the rest of the songs too, they’re guaranteed James Brown stuff but still a little too mellow for me. “Hey America” was also released as an 45 and some versions of that single have “Hey America part 2″ on the flipside. So if you want this three and half minute instrumental of that track along the vocal version from the album, you need to get the 45 too.