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Wigwam - Pop-Liisa 3 CD (album) cover

POP-LIISA 3

Wigwam

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.05 | 3 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
4 stars During the years 1972 - 1977, the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE had a radio series in which Finnish groups performed a live set in the Liisankatu studio (Helsinki), in front of the audience. In 2016 Svart Records releases these gigs that haven't ever been broadcasted since the original airing. And what a hidden treasure there was in the YLE vaults! The groups in the "Pop Liisa" series include e.g. Tasavallan Presidentti, Jukka Tolonen Band, Kalevala, Nimbus, Finnforest, and even a couple of short-lived line-ups (of acclaimed musicians) that never released an album. Also the groups in the parallel "Jazz Liisa" series are mostly representing the legacy of the legendary Love Records. These releases have a high historical value, and also their sonic quality is much better than what average gig recordings of the time would have.

In Novembr 1973 it was WIGWAM's turn. The classic quartet of Jukka Gustavson (organ, vocals), Jim Pembroke (vocals, electric piano), Pekka Pohjola (bass) and Ronnie Österberg (drums) had just recorded their challenging masterpiece Being that was to be released three months later. The next summer both Gustavson and Pohjola would leave the group. Gustavson claims in the liner notes that despite the tormenting experience -- for example the bass drum broke down during the show and Ronnie was in a bad mood -- this was one of the best performances in that line-up. I believe that.

The opening track 'Imagine' (the John Lennon cover that Wigwam often permormed in their gigs) wasn't part of the original radio show: they had spare time before the appointed hour. The official opening number 'Nipistys' was from Pekka Pohjola's solo debut Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva (1972). Nearly 9 minutes of instrumental and very original fusion/jazz-rock with the virtuotic organ playing in the centre. After the line-up introduction by the show host Erkki Lehtola comes the charming little finale from Being, 'Marverly Skimmer' (aka 'Friend from the Fields') by Jim Pembroke. These first two performances aren't radically different from the album versions, except that the latter is a minute longer (3:40).

The album version of 'Fairyport' (Fairyport, 1971) has wonderful details with reeds, so Gustavson had to make a quartet arrangement for this superb prog classic. IMHO this version naturally pales in comparison, but as a live performance it is excellent nevertheless. The closing number 'Grass for Blades' originated from Jim Pembroke's debut solo album Wicked Ivory (1972); the gorgeous anti-war song became a Wigwam live classic for a good reason. Here it is 9 and ½ minutes of powerful, dark emotions, extended from the rather modest original with the instrumental section. All in all, this live set is more or less the best one there is to be listened to from this quartet.

PS. Each full-length CD release of "Pop / Jazz Liisa" features two separate sets. This Wigwam set is paired with a five-track set of TAIVAANVUOHI, which was a jazz-rock quintet led by guitarist-composer Sami Hurmerinta. It's one of those groups that never released albums.

Matti | 4/5 |

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