I always knew the best album in the world would be from somewhere in Europe with my inclination leaning heavily towards Northern Europe. I've heard many masterpiece albums from all over the world and certainly some, like Tasavallan Presidentti's 1969 debut, are very expensive whilst some are still affordable. If I had to add it all up and had the time to come up with which country produced the most great music it would probably be either a country like Germany, England, or all the Scandinavian countries with also quite a few from America and Canada. As you can tell from that there is no one country that has a monopoly on the best albums ever recorded, but there definitely was a peak period and that was between 1967 and 1977- a full decade's worth of exciting, invigorating music.
-Europe, Reality, And Fantasy The Prelude To The Album Of My Dreams-
I've not designed an album cover for almost a year now. I haven't been having any great ideas come to my head, but there have been times when albums I wish were real I've churned out week after week. I have other interests. I love hockey and hockey players and in general I'm a pretty friendly and giving person with a really rough and dark streak in there too. I guess hockey and music are like that. I, for a long time, would be creating albums that reflected this and although none of them are real I have heard music that comes close to that kind of perfection that in the actual world couldn't exist because stylistically it just is too diverse. Tasavallan come closest on their first album. You have your Holy Grails- most of which are albums I can't afford and if I do have them it was pure luck or a reissue. With that comes the question of "How Much Would You Pay For One Album?" I've gone way down. I'm sick of $700 albums that have one or two odd moments that are disjointed. Hell, you can spend over $1,000 and get something as amazing as The Koobas or Elonkorjuu's HARVEST TIME or you can get something as musically unmusical and worthless as America's Lazy Smoke.
In the 1960s music was growing as rapidly as the counterculture that sponsored it. There would be as many new bands with albums out as there would be boys setting fire to draft cards and heading up North to get away from the horror of Vietnam or newly turned on hippies with flowers and kaftans preaching the message of love. It was a remarkable time I wish I could have been a part of. I certainly did my best to recreate it when everybody hated me for it in high school, but one very intelligent kid can't make a whole revolution happen. I got a lot of attention both really negative and also sometimes very good for my beliefs, but I was just beginning my journey.
Later on in life my mind darkened. It had been there a few times before, but I just at a certain point had had enough of trying to convince wholly wrong people that they were wholly wrong. You can't really get into the mind of a madman and make him into somebody who can see rationality and common sense. I was young enough in my teens to believe I could, but that died a long time ago although I'll still try and fail miserably at it. Sometimes a good kick in the head or a lamented death I laugh at is euthanasia when nothing else will successfully end somebody or a group of people who are violent, hate loving, and destructive. I'm not saying I became at odds with "Flowers and Love" I never did and I never will. I just have realized that at a certain point in your life you may harden and mature. For a long time I was uncomfortable with that. I was coming up with really dark musical and social ideas to express my frustration, but at least the frustration led to something artistically creative.
Tasavallan Presidentti's eponymous debut album from 1969 is miles ahead of and miles away from their primitive pseudo avant garde fusion screaming and moaning that would follow the departure of British born vocalist/writer Frank Robson and it was Robson who was pushing the band to be a melodic sort of Finnish Procol Harum or a precursor to what it would take most bands everywhere a full two further years or so to reach. This album, though from all the way back in 1969, has dispensed with the flowery vibe that had been so prevalent in that era and is much more of an intellectual progressive sound with a more resigned, disillusioned, and melancholic vibe to it. After rambling much about personal dreams and travails I'll let my pen speak and it will speak of what may be the best progressive album ever made.
-Tasavallan Presidentti From 1969 And Still Sounding Ahead Of Anything Else Then Or Now-
It just doesn't get any closer to what I've heard in the best musical dreams and came up with as a dream record than this. Everything is sparkling great here. With Frank Robson responsible for nearly all the material on the album you'd think this album would have a very British sound to it, but you would be mistaken. Comprised not just of Robson of course, but also of virtuoso guitarist Jukka Tolonen, brothers Junnu and Vesa Aaltonen on flute/sax and drums, and bass guitarist/keyboard player Mans Groundstroem this is Finnish as can be or as Northern Europe as can be depending on how much you know about Finnish bands. Also, the early recording and release date of 1969 is really hard to believe. This album would later find soul mates in the music of Denmark's Old Man & The Sea, Norway's Popol Vuh (later Popol Ace), Culpeper's Orchard's best work (also a Danish band and also a band with an accent-less British vocalist), Belgium's Waterloo (who came out in 1970), Elonkorjuu, and a plethora of other bands of which the furthest from Northern Europe you'd hear music by would be from Germany, but these other bands all came out for the most part over a year later! Even Procol Harum and Traffic who had a huge impact on this album had more period flavor than Tasavallan Presidentti's first!
The album begins with "Introduction" and already after the first 30 seconds this is not 1969 music. When Robson's magic real opening track "You'll Be Back For More" comes in the power of his voice which is devoid of an English accent and the attack of the band sound much more like the early 1970s underground progressive bands with the key word here "Heavy" progressive. Robson sings in a soul and blues derived strong voice that is quite a bit like Gary Brooker's in Procol Harum, but he isn't ripping Brooker or any other singer off. The vocals are soulful, plaintive, expressive, and melodic. The same words could be used to describe the music which is full of subtle yearning and hard hitting underground rock. "Obsolete Machine" is a group composition and features more of the later early 70s vibe and darkness of the first track. Robson's vocals are superbly rich and melodic as is the music whose warmth matches the polar opposite eerie "world gone up in smoke" lyrical theme of the song. There are some pretty violent lines here, but like Elonkorjuu you'll barely notice them as the music is so uplifting to listen to.
When I first heard Tasavallan's work with Frank Robson it was on the 1971 album which repackaged at least two of the songs on here and I thought the song "I Love You Teddy Bear" was from 1971! The track before it "Who's Free" like the first two songs is fantastic continuing the brilliance of this album and the spirit of progressive underground revolution herein, but "I Love You Teddy Bear" is something different altogether. You'd expect a children's song or a throwback to the toytown popsike vibe of 1967 from the title of the song and you get a hauntingly beautiful love song with no references at all to what the title suggests. The organ and flute swirl around Frank Robson's beautiful voice and Jukka Tolonen steps out of the spotlight for the song on the album that reminds me the most of Procol Harum and Aphrodite's Child. It's hard to think of a more perfect album than this and one of the things to add to the perfection of the vocals and music is the complete lack of one mistake for the whole album lyrically! "Crazy Thing" is split into two segments and is an interesting jazzy instrumental that doesn't last very long at all, in fact both here and on Side Two it lasts for under a minute. "Drinking" closes Side One with a hard rocking track with some real anger at society. Robson is going to live the way he wants, give the finger to social respectability, and rock out with a passionate hatred for any kind of conformity.
It's no surprise that this album is rare and expensive. This as unlike 1969 as you can get, coming out of Finland which is a small country, and for a major label deal outside of that little wonderful country these guys had no chance of it. It wouldn't be any different in the 70s and that is a real shame. There are a lot of bands that could have turned American and British audiences on if they were given a chance, but for European bands it just rarely ever happened. You'd think some band would have made it big, but I'm not surprised at the same time that we were living in a boring and horrible world when it came to "Popular Music."
Everybody wanted to see the sunshine or else they wanted blood, guts, violence, and pain. As you can tell from what I'm saying there was no room for really exciting music when there was a small niche for progressive underground bands amidst the dreck of James Taylor and worthlessness of early heavy metal that wasn't the good early heavy metal like Black Sabbath it was rubbish. Black Sabbath managed to break through in a big way, but it was good luck. Even though Sabbath did well in America the place where the most was going on that was successful in America was still only England and that is a bit boring when the language sung for all lyrics is a first language. However, Jon Anderson, Peter Gabriel, and Greg Lake were the good news that England had great vocalists and Yes were undoubtedly with Genesis the most exciting band who were a huge hit.
Frank Robson, though, is something different. The only tracks contained on this album where you hear an accent are the spoken experimental poem "The Ancient Mariner" and the no frills rock of "Roll Over Yourself" where Robson pretends to be a cowboy! Everything else is arch European and judging from his lyrics Frank Robson was sick and tired of English poncy stuck up stupidity and I'm not at all surprised that he didn't stay in England long when he wanted to find some sanity. We could have helped this band out earlier, but we gave them a contract for their last album MILKY WAY MOSES which was like their other Eero Raatinen fronted album LAMBERT LAND musically worthless. If you have the opinion that Tasavallan Presidentti are a boring jazz fusion nightmare then you really should spend as long as it takes to you to locate this wonderful album. The sound quality is great and the performances of all 5 of the band meld together into a cohesive whole that represents the best underground melodic heavy progressive album ever recorded. This is progressive rock minus the pomposity and boring lyrics of many bands that are in that category of music.
Tasavallan Presidentti's first from 1969 is a landmark, a meisterwork, and is essential to your collection. Few other albums come close to this and I would actually go so far as to say that in a world of everything but perfection this is perfection. If you have an open mind it will be blown when you listen to this and also I would say that listening to Tasavallan's 1969 debut is a very nice, warm, and rejuvenating experience that is way above the stagnant nothing music of prissy British folk , James Taylor, and most of the other crap that was selling like hot cakes at the time. I'll go so far as to say that I like Sandy Denny's vocals in Fairport Convention and place them higher than many other British bands who eventually have become too commonplace for me, but their trad stance and her too feminine folk not enough anything remotely rock stance are made even more boring when I hear Frank Robson. There is no folk here. Instead, we get something a lot more interesting. The jazz influences are kept melodic and the whole album is just beautiful. If you love music you'll love this especially if you want something new, different, and unlike anything else. I give this the highest rating that I can give- a real dream come true.