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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Rag I Ryggen

Rag I Ryggen

Review by Gary Hill

If you like Vanilla Fudge, you will probably like this disc. It's the only album ever released by this Swedish band. This disc, minus some of the bonus material here, was originally released in 1975. It seems to merge sounds of bands like Vanilla Fudge with more classic prog elements and even textures of groups like Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath. The result is a hard edged, rough around the edges progressive rock sound that has a lot of unrepentant fire and fury. The wide eyed, albeit somewhat naïve, enthusiasm of this music is perhaps its biggest charm. This may not be the most polished prog you've ever heard, but it's obvious to tell that these guys really loved what they were doing. This disc can be purchased at Record Heaven's website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Det Kan Val Inte Vara Farligt
I'm guessing if you speak Swedish the title makes sense, but for those of us who don't, that's a mouthful! This comes in with a super heavy, Black Sabbath like progression. It runs through in that style for a short time, then the main song structure, a more progressive rock jam takes the track. The lyrics to this one are all in Swedish, but the rocking groove is easy for anyone to understand. While the production, as is the case on the whole album, is dated and a bit weak, this hard rocker is very cool. At times it feels a bit like White Witch and at other points there are leanings of harder edged ELP. This drops to a keyboard solo segment that begins building up in dramatic Yes-like modes. Then it erupts with dramatic bursts of powerhouse crunchy prog that has a killer mysterious sound. This whole segment begins to feel like a cross between Yes and Vanilla Fudge here, threatening to explode. Instead it moves out into a more ambient keyboard driven segment that has those same influences. This then turns the corner into a faster paced prog jam that moves through a couple changes before returning the track to the main segment.
You Know It Ain't Easy
This one is in English. It opens with acapella vocals. After a while keys begin to hint at sounds in the background until it explodes out into something that feels more like a proggier take on Uriah Heep, but as the bouncing main structure emerges, I hear elements of the Animals in there, too. Although this mode holds it for quite a time, it turns around the corner into a fast paced jam that is more pure Uriah Heep, but with a touch of bands like Yes thrown in for good measure. As this runs into the next movement keys herald it in with a Wakeman like sound, but instead of rushing up to greet this, the band instead drop it back to the earlier mellow section only to rise it back to the main song structure. They twist this around into a psychedelic jam that is quite bluesy. They move it out of this through a killer keyboard dominated jam, then drop it just to percussion to end the track.
Spangaforsens Brus
This is a neo-classically oriented prog rock instrumental that has a very familiar main melody line. It's a cool jam, although there aren't a lot of changes - just solid instrumental work. It has a definite Celtic texture to the progression.
Jan Banan
Another with Swedish vocals, this one fires in as frantic prog rock. It features some cool jamming and an odd, but kind of fun keyboard line. The percussion here is just about insane. They twist the arrangement around just a little later, turning in a killer ELP-like jam.
Naked Man
This comes in with a keyboard wash, then a bass line brings it up, and the cut really feels a lot like Uriah Heep as it climbs. Waves of flute wash across bring with them Jethro Tull like textures, and as the band launch into a new fast paced bluesy progression those Tull influences are more apparent. This turns into a psychedelic prog journey that's pretty cool. At times this one almost feels like Spinal Tap does prog to me. They twist it into an instrumental jam, starting with a screaming keyboard solo. They bring in more Tull textures with a flute solo as this carries on. They eventually take it back to the song proper to continue and eventually end.
Queen of Darkness
Keys start this, then it erupts into a fast paced jam that's again quite like a more prog rock oriented Uriah Heep. This one screams out in the instrumental break. It then moves back to the song proper, and after a short time there drops to just the keys that started it as they take this cut into a new progression, a mellow slower progressive rock groove that has a lot of drama and power. The slower, mellower textures remain for the next vocal segment. Then a new ELP like fast paced instrumental jam takes over from there and eventually ends it, rather awkwardly.
Banningsserum
Another Swedish cut, this one has a sound that's a combination of ELP, Vanilla Fudge and early Deep Purple in a killer furious jam. The main guitar riff almost sounds like something Peter Banks would have come up with in Flash or even the early days of Yes. They put in another smoking fast paced instrumental jam here, this one part prog and part early metal. Then as a major twist, they turn this into a more melodic strummed guitar excursion for a short time. This is arguably the best cut on the disc. The guitar solo on this one is very tasty.
Bonus Tracks
Banningsserum - Live 1975
The recording here, as could be expected of a live tape of an obscure band in '75, is weak. That's a shame, too because I think I like this version of the song better. It seems to be more progressive in terms of the keyboard sounds. The guys really sounded like they were on fire during this concert. This recording isn't so bad as not to be listenable, but bad enough to make you wish there was a better recording out there.
Jan Banan - Live 1975
Again, a rough recording, this is another smoking rendition, again making you wish that it had been better captured. Some of the sounds the band pull off are far superior to the studio take, but this recording is not even as good as the one before it. That borders on travesty. This one does border on unlistenable as there are a lot of drop outs.
Land Over The Rainbow - Live 1975
It's obvious on this recording that it was on a vinyl record because pops and cracks are audible. The thing is, this previously unreleased song (not just a live version unreleased, this song was never released in any formtat) is possibly the coolest by this outfit. Frankly, it's hard to hear parts of this, but what you can make out is very strong progressive rock. It doesn't differ a lot from the rest of the album, but has a more polished prog sound. I'd love to hear a better recording of this one.
 
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