Monday, February 8, 2016

Apollo - 1970 - Apollo


01. Symboli (2:42)
02. Lohduton Uni (5:05)
03. Hyvä Ihminen (4:34)
04. Ajatuksia (5:04)
05. Trimalcion (3:18)
06. Hideki Tojo 1884-1948 (2:38)
07. Laulu Ystävälle Varjojen Maassa (3:46)
08. Valolta Suojattu Sydän (2:35)
09. Labyrintti (6:19)
10. Pakoon Maailmaa (2:58)

- Harri Saksala / vocals, accordion, harmonica
- Eero Lupari / guitar, voice
- Heimo Holopainen / bass, voice
- Edward Vesala / drums, gong, tabla, bongo, vibraphone, flute, voice

Apollo was formed in 1969 by three ex-Topmost members (Harri Saksala, Eero Lupari, Heimo Holopainen) and one Edward Vesala. Topmost was a very popular group in Finland in the late 60's, so when Apollo was formed, they were considered somewhat of a "supergroup". LED ZEPPELIN had just released their debut, and they were apparently a huge influence for the band, which is a bit strange as those influences are not that clear when listening to their only, self-titled album. The debut was released in 1970, when progressive rock (in Finland at least) was still in its babyshoes, and that does show. It's very much a mixed bag, blending (possibly too) many ideas together, but it's nevertheless a quite charming album. The album consists of a few rough rock tracks ("Red" era KING CRIMSON meets LED ZEPPELIN), and a couple of interesting "ballads" in the vein of PROCOL HARUM. The most progressive ones are definitely Edward Vesala's experimentations in Labyrintti and Trimalcion, which don't seem to have any clear structure, blending together different percussions, flutes and what not.

The album was reasonably succesful in Finland, but soon after releasing the album, Apollo was already gone. Edward Vesala went on to become one of the most respected Finnish jazz musicians, and Harri Saksala later appeared as the lead vocalist on KALEVALA's excellent debut album "People No Names". I do recommend the album for those who are interested in the early days of prog (assuming you can find it..), but it's not the missing masterpiece you've been searching your whole life.

This obscure Finnish band features three distinct songwriters, which explains the fragmentation of the material on this self-titled effort. It starts with "Symboli", which is primarily stoner-rock, and on a secondary level a bit progressive. On the other hand "Lohduton Uni" is primarily progressive (the symphonic kind), and on a secondary level vaguely psychedelic. "Hyvä Ihminen" is almost easy-listening (it could feature in a Carpenters album), without saying that it's bad. "Ajatuksia" returns to stoner-rock, in other words to acid-hard-rock, and is overall a bit doomy, as if a distant Northern cousin to Black Sabbath. "Trimalcion" steers course in a dramatic manner: it begins as an ethnic ritualistic sketch (flute, drums and ambiance), but proceeds with an exuberant tropicalia/ tribal samba, and then reverts to the opening ethnic ritual, to finally end as some sort of jazzy stoner-rock. Apollo are on to something here.

By "Hideki Tojo 1884-1948" it's obvious that their specialty is stoner-rock, while the singer sounds like a crazy pastor sermonizing to decadents. However, "Laulu Ystävälle" also shows they have a knack for the dense symphonic atmosphere. After such intrigue, the jolly "Valolta Suojattu Sydän" sounds totally minor. Thankfully another highlight comes with "Labyrintti", whereas an ambient-improvisation intro is followed by a jazz-influenced jam-based theme, only for more furious soloing to follow. Nice stuff. The closing "Pakoon Maailmaa" is more soft-rock, albeit elegant. The icing on the cake on what is a decent and eclectic album are superb performances on drums and keyboards, courtesy of Edward Vesala and Harri Saksala respectively.

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