Tasavallan Presidentti - Lambertland 1972

5 stars Stuart Nicholson's excellent book "Jazz Rock: A History", has only a few faults, one of which is its too abbrieviated history and analysis of the European jazz rock scene. One or two clues to what has been omitted, will be found from listening to this record. Tasavallan Presidentti are one of those seemingly obscure bands who contributed to jazz rock's development. Even so, they were briefly popular in the UK because of "Lambertland".

Sonet distributed the vinyl version in the UK around 1973, with a sticker on the cover, stating "....Tasavallan Presidentti are a tidied up Traffic...". As selling aid, it told the potential buyer more about the band's earlier albums and much less about the music here. With "Lambertland" TP had developed well beyond the jazz-tempered, psychedelic rock of Traffic, and produced this minor classic of fusion. This is jazz fusion that evolved in the typical European way: rock musicians taking in jazz influences (cf. much of American jazz rock was jazz musicians taking on board rock rhythms and electrification). Let's examine one of my all time favourite jazz rock tunes, as a an example of this album .

'The Bargain' is a rock tune that within a few bars has become jazz. Fade up an urgent drum shuffle, quickly sax and wah wah guitar overlay the drums, provided by Jukka Tolonen and Pekka Pöyry respectively - both as solo musicians nowadays have reputations equal to Jan Akkermann - at least amongst those who know their albums. Then a beautiful interplay of guitar with sax, giving a call and response with the vocalist. The lyrics are well sung in English beit in the blue rock style of the period - a lesson learned from fellow Finnish musicians Wigwam; if you want to break the British and US market sing in English. Lines of verses initially sound disconnected - but listen well these are words about shoe-shine boys, bargains, street hustle. This upbeat tune lingers long in the memory and for me, simply has stood the test of time, as does all this album.
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4 stars After TP's second album (not the one with Pekka Streng), it became clear that their vocalist Frank Robson would not continue as the leading vocalist. This eventually lead to the fact, that Eero Raittinen joined the band. While I still don't quite understand why - his voice is considerably more suitable for a blues outfit - it did help this album to become a totally unique item. His voice is generally seen as the worst part of this album, but nowadays it's pretty much impossible for me to imagine anyone else singing here. As for the music, well, it's mostly brilliant. Jukka Tolonen was at the top of his game in 1971-1973, his inspired guitar playing is nothing short of spectacular. It's futile and pointless trying to compare Tasavallan Presidentti to anyone, but it seems I'm doing it anyway. Imagine Soft Machine on stage with the guys from Colosseum joining in, and add a rough, bluesy vocalist singing with a bizarre accent to the mix, and you'll have a slight idea of what this sounds like. Pekka Pöyry on flute & sax gives his own special touch to the album - his flute playing is often soft and gentle, but the man is no slouch with the saxophone either. Don't get me wrong though, Lambertland is ultimately a pretty raw and wild album - you won't find anything similar to the "slicker" and slightly over-produced approach of Return To Forever and Weather Report. All in all, when it comes to "primitive" jazz-rock, it rarely gets any better than this. Lambertland is not a perfect album by any means, but it's more than worthy of the price tag. 4,5 stars

Just a quick note to say that TP's other albums are very dramatically different to this effort - not as progressive, not as good.
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Tracks:
1. Lounge
2. Lambertland
3. Celebration Of The Saved Nine
4. The Bargain
5. Dance
6. Last Quarters
Bonus Tracks:
7 - Selvä näkijä
8 - Sisältäni Portin Löysin

Musicians:

- Jukka Tolonen / guitar
- Eero Raittinen / vocals
- Pekka Pöyry / saxophone, flute
- Måns Groundstroem / bass
- Vesa Aaltonen / drums
Releases information

LP: Love Records LRLP 60 (1972) / CD: Love/Siboney LRCD 60 (1990) and 2010!


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