Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bo Hansson - 1976 - El-ahrairah

Bo Hansson

01. Utvandring , del 1 - 5 (16:35)
02. Patrull (1:23)
03. Skogen (3:39)
04. Flykt (4:10)
05. Watership down (9:38)

06. Migration Suite (Bonusspår) (11:38)

- Bo Hansson / Piano, Keyboard, Guitar, Bass, Tamburine
- Bosse Skoglund / Drums, Percussion
- Fredrik Norén / Drums
- Göran Lagerberg / Bass
- Kenny Håkansson / Guitar, Bass
- Sten Bergman / Flute
- Thomas Netzler / Bass
- Torbjörn Eklund / Flute

I remember the first time I read Richard Adams Watership Down. If anybody out there hasn't already read it, then I urge you to pick this one up, as it most vividly incorporates everything from Tolkien to Homer in a way I've never come across - before nor since. This book had a profound effect on me, and I had jagged edged dreams of bloody rabbits for weeks on end - imagining myself deeply immersed in the great adventures of El-Ahrairah.

Now, Bo Hansson has never been the man to shy away from "stealing" inspiration from well known novels, but in all honesty he has never really made a mistake that way. One could state that he chose the safe bet with all these records - starting off with the now famous Lord of the Rings, but back then there were no film to back up a get-rich-quick-scheme on the basis of the new Hollywood blockbuster. -Nor were there any for Watership Down, although it had its fair share of success, when it was released in 1972 - staying on the best seller list until February 1975.

El-Ahrairah is a mystical character in Watership Down - it is a rabbit legend of sorts, that inspires these little creatures to do better - to think outside the box, and to be cunning as the devil himself - just like the rabbit in your back yard eating carrots and cabbage like there was no tomorrow, when you yourself are far far away on the big oceans of sleep. In Lapine, his name is a contraction of the phrase Elil-hrair-rah, which means "prince with a thousand enemies".

Having read the book first, for then to jump on board this musical adaptation, I obviously had my doubts. Would it take away from the fantastic experience - maybe even diminish the great fondness I had for this awe inspiring tale?

No is the quick answer. Just like Lord of the Rings - El-Ahrairah feels strangely in tune with the novel's gripping proceedings. The first cut called Utvandring (Exodus) describes in sonic pomp and grandeur, how a small group of rabbits are forced to leave the comfort and security of their own home due to the overhanging dangers of a soon to be man made building project. The music is beautiful towering symphonic rock with a strong penchant for the late sixties, which comes through in the warmth and glow of the interplay between guitar and organ. Sloshing back and forth the images of rabbits torn between their home and the unknown wilderness in wait - are almost tangible to this listener.

Such is the story with every track on here, and if you are fond of the subtle natural beauty of the piano escorting mighty cascading walls of gorgeously orchestrated music, then El-Ahrairah is a safe bet. The production of the thing is another winner. Whereas most artists had adopted the pre-80s sounding mixing with the metallic cleanliness attached to nearly every electric instrument, Bo Hansson stays true to his old hippie roots(remember this guy started out back in the late 60s contributing greatly to the aspiring hippie groove scene) and delivers a vibrant and warm production that elevates the true character of both the involved musicians and the underlying storyline. Let me put it this way: Retelling a story that in short revolves around the close bond we(the rabbits) share with nature, and how we with every new modern initiative are in danger of loosing the things that link us to this old and mystical connection - retelling it with music that is heavily drenched in chrome-like surfaces and distant studio techniques would perhaps be a step too far towards playing the devil's advocate.

This album works like a story being read to you in a language you yourself discover along the way. It is exciting music speaking of horrors and impending bravery, when the plot craves it - either through dangerous sounding guitar snarls - or the lone cow bell tick tocking away in the back counting down to the moment of fear's sudden impact. The story also has great many strolls - shorter travels from rabbit hole to thicket - from undergrowth to the vegetable garden, where many of these are told through some delicate flute sections, that sprinkle the music in colours of autumn fields in receding bloom.

If you're into the oldest and most treasured way of teaching - that is telling stories, inspiring images of the mind - and then having these handed over to you through the sonic palette of a highly capable and imaginative rock n' roll band, then you should start digging around for this wonderful trip out of the rabbit hole.

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