Swedish Family - Vintage Prog

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Helikon House
Catalog Number: CD001
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:25:00

Being an avid fan of the latest progressive rock, I'm torn between the classic sounds from the seventies and releases just starting to surface. Back in the day when technology was young, progressive musicians had innovative ideas and clever new instruments. Unfortunately, they didn't have the production to back these ambitions. Music sounded tinny and tiny. Through the decades this gave way to bombastic and big music in the mainstream. Progressive rock was left in the lurch, but slowly worked its way back to the forefront of a niche market. Fans like me have gone back to the original lairs and pilfered them for anything of value. In the end, we're mostly waiting on pins and needles for new releases to satisfy our hunger. The latest offerings take more of a bend on pop or metal and few bands stay true to their roots. The Flower Kings, Kaipa, Karmakanic, and The Tangent are rare exceptions, while supergroups like Transatlantic are already in the history books. Bands actually "from" the seventies like Yes and King Crimson come in limited quantities.

Returning to the present, Tomas Bodin has accomplished an uncommon feat. He has put together his very own progressive version of Spinal Tap, which he calls Swedish Family. Tomas uses authentic instruments and the sounds are purely magical. This will satisfy fans of both classic and modern progressive rock. It is the best of both eras and the instrumentals are out of this world. Tomas is the Indiana Jones of progressive rock. He uncovers artifacts from yesteryears and conjures up ghosts from the past. The music is adventurous in the way of The Flower Kings and Flying Food Circus. The production is so good nobody should really fall for the claim that this is anything vintage.

Here is what Tomas brings forth from the cellar:

"Stoneheart" - The heart of this song is far from stone. It is warm and fuzzy. This is a psychedelic romp in a tropical forest. There is life in every nook and cranny. Tomas has a real knack for compositions that allow each instrument to venture down their own path.

"A Man Without Mind" - Early on, Tomas brings us one of the highlights from the album. A jumpy beat that involves a unique combination of synthesizer sounds. This piece is like the opening to "Last Minute On Earth." The theme is reprised in many wily ways. An accordion is also introduced here. It will be a recurring guest throughout the album.

"The Gothenburg Heroes" - It feels like a homecoming for heroes. The hobbits have slain the dragon and head home with their treasures. Keyboards dominate this piece on their journey back. As they near the village, they are met by its inhabitants. The guitars and drums join in and kickoff a surprise celebration.

"Waltz Of Sadness" - A sax wails in its sadness. The accordion and keyboards do what they can to raise its spirits. The music is moving and somewhat depressing. It is similar to some of Sting's slower jazz-oriented songs.

"The Last Goodbye" - This captures the bittersweet moment of a last goodbye. There are smiles and handshakes. There is laughter as friends reminisce. There are hopes to meet another time, but it is likely their paths won't cross again. Nonetheless, it is a joyous event. All ends on a good note with happy memories. The sax salutes and many hands wave goodbye. People become specks as the moment fades away at a distance.

"From The Foot" - This is blues from a backwoods bar. There is really no boundaries or format. The guitar is lost wandering in its own world. A scat singer is featured late in the song.

"The Summerdress" - The mood is laid back. The accordion and saxophone mingle for an afternoon of shopping. In a quant shop, the couple encounters clothes made of the finest linen. After trying on a few outfits, each decides upon their wardrobe. They bargain with the shop owner. The couple is striking in their new duds. The track is most similar to "The Gothenburg Heroes" encountered earlier on.

"The Flu" - Staying home from work or school due to illness is not altogether dreadful. A sofa, a pillow, and a blanket make it much more comfortable. A box of sweet popsicles helps to ease a sore throat. A box of soft tissue relieves a runny nose. A bell nearby gets the attention of a friend or spouse playing nursemaid for the day. A sandwich, a drink, anything the heart desires, is only a jingle away. The bell is rung many times in the song. Nagging complaints in the form of a scat are embellished upon in order to get some extra care. The patient is a whiner who is both troublesome and demanding. The feet are propped up, the remotes in hand, and the phone is disconnected. This song captures the essence of a day of hooky. While sick with the flu, all the comforts make it alright. The condition makes it easy to get away with some bad behavior. Once better, the flu and its benefits are greatly missed. This is the best song on the album.

"?stuna Anthem" - There is a quiet cottage in the middle of nowhere. The breeze is still. No movement is seen for miles in each direction. Even the rattling of the trees has subsided. The organs are the resident of this deserted dwelling. They find themselves alone after a brief visit from the sax. This is quite a lonely place.

"The Agent Dance" - The drums alternate between a march and a jazzy beat. The guitars are an unpredictable and uncontrollable kid. The organs are its naughty siblings instigating him to do his worst. The bass is the older brother attempting to bring calmness to these wild children.

Bonus Tracks:

"Always Grumpy" - The song has a great beat. The grumpy old man is easily riled. He revels in his petulance. This grump makes Oscar the Grouch look like a mild-mannered Muppet.

"Brunos Erotica" - This is the most bizarre song on the album. It may be closest to the jams in Unfold The Future. It is more instrumental jazz than progressive rock. This is a strange way to finish the album. At this stage of the game, it goes by unnoticed. The melodies from earlier tracks continue to prevail over one's thoughts.

Fans of progressive rock will surely be satisfied by this project. It may not be vintage. It may not be part of your family. Still, there is no question Swedish Family's debut is good old-fashioned Swedish prog.


[Because there are no plans to archive here all our past news, I though I'd include here a pair of news items that were originally published prior to this CD review - ed.]

News: July 5, 2004:


Swedish Family - Vintage ProgThanks to the wonders of technology some very important music will soon (end of July) be released in the digital format. It concerns the album Vintage Prog, a collection of the most popular songs written and composed by the long forgotten but impressive band Swedish Family. Pulled from the band's impressive but extremely limited ten album output (originals demand fortunes in collector circles!), the original mastertapes have been carefully restored in order to deliver the best sound quality possible. From the very first studio album S?j Det P? Ryska (Success In Moscow) from 1969 to the very last live album Hungrig I Ungern (Hungry In Hungary) from 1979, all the best songs are now bundled onto one single CD.

Swedish Family combines the talent of some of the most important names of Swedish prog history, such as the highly respected Redar Gitsdorf on guitar, Veke Berg on bass, Hadde Wattn?t on drums, Inge Naning on Rhodes Piano and Minimoog, Britt-Marie tambourine and the leader of the band Bo Dean on Hammond organ. Added to this impressive roster of outstanding musicians comes a wide selection of guest stars that have appeared on the various albums over the years.

The Swedish Family was one of the top bands in the late sixties, early seventies and they kept going for nearly 10 years. The band was a true inspiration to most of the bands during this period. Swedish Family picked up their melodies from the tradition of Swedish folk music, rock and classic styles. They blended it all into one original brew: the Swedish Family mix, a style that became very well known all over Scandinavia. Vintage Prog is the first re-release of the Swedish Family on compact disc and also a perfect chance to get all the top songs together on one disc and in a digital quality. Due to the loss of most of the mastertapes, chances that the rest of the band's unique discography will ever see the light of day on CD is unlikely, making Vintage Prog a true must have.

Expect a review of this unique album together with details of where to obtain your copy, on this website soon!

[Source: John "BoBo" Bollenberg]

[And then, a few weeks later? -ed.]

News: July 31, 2004:


Swedish FamilyWe begin this news update with an update of an item we published earlier this month.

Swedish Family: the explanation!

What fun we all had when none other than Tomas Bodin one day mailed me, telling me about his new invention ? the Swedish Family! Indeed, the [news] article I posted a while ago was an added slice of authentic Spinal Tap, as there never has been a band called Swedish Family ever. It was all the sick mind of Flower Kings keyboard player Tomas Bodin, who invented this all around instrumental combo.

With Bo Dean and Inge Naning being Tomas Bodin, Hadde Wattn?t being Hasse Bruniusson, both Redar Gitsdorf and Veke Berg being alter egos of the unique Roine Stolt, and tambourine player Britt-Marie being Tomas' girlfriend, Swedish Family has been a real joke from start to finish. Inge Naning is indeed Swedish and means "I have no idea," whilst Hadde Wattn?t means "has anything happened?" Meanwhile Gitsdorf has something to do with a shortcut on PC which ended up becoming Roine Stolt's alter ego on guitar.

Even the name of the band is a funny story because when you translate the word "groupsex" from Russian to Swedish it becomes ? Swedish Family! To make it complete, even the sleeve design looks ? hilarious! Pulled from a manual for organs way back in 1963, the family picture indeed fits the humour behind this all instrumental idea even further.

However what isn't fun [e.g., a joke] is the fact that the actual album exists. Recorded with the aforementioned alumni, you can get your hands on this true collector item through the Flower Kings website which is: www.flowerkings.se.

[In case you're wondering; no, ye ol' editor was not in on the joke. ? gullible ed.]

[Source: John "BoBo" Bollenberg]

Stoneheart (6:03)1 / A Man Without Mind (5:01)2 / Gothenburgs Heroes (3:58)3 / A Waltz About Sadness (4:03)4 / The Last Goodbye (4:28)5 / From The Foot (6:10)6 / The Summerdress (3:08)7 / The Flu (5:17)8 / ?stuna Anthem (3:22)9 / The Agent Dance (4:11)10 / Bonus tracks: Always Grumpy (4:18)* / Brunos Erotica (3:06)11

Bo Dean - Hammond organ
Veke Berg - bass
Algot Davi - accordion, flute, vibraphone
Redar Gitsdorf - guitar
Inge Naning - Rhodes piano, Minimoog
Britt Marie - percussion
Hadde Wattn?t - drums
Alf Willberg - soprano saxophone

Tomas Bodin - organ, Rhodes piano, Minimoog
Hasse Bruniusson - drums
Roine Stolt - guitars, bass

Success In Moscow (1969)
Who Is Cess? (1970)
Sorry But I Have The Flu (1972)
Even Harder (1973)
When Kids Do It For Fun (1974)
Why Air Was Clean And Sex Was Dirty (1975)
Europe Alive (1976)
But I Will Take A Big Step Forward (1977)
Workers On Strike - Live In Gothenburg (22 May) (1978)
Hungry In Hungary (Live in Budapest) (1979)
Vintage Prog (2004)

Of course, only the last is real

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin SE

Added: August 22nd 2004
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website: www.flowerkings.se/?s=projects
Hits: 762
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]