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APOLLO

Heavy Prog • Finland


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Apollo biography
Apollo was formed in 1969 by three ex-Topmost members (Harri Saksala, Eero Lupari, Heimo Holopainen) and one Edward Vesala. Topmost was a very popular group in Finland in the late 60's, so when Apollo was formed, they were considered somewhat of a "supergroup". LED ZEPPELIN had just released their debut, and they were apparently a huge influence for the band, which is a bit strange as those influences are not that clear when listening to their only, self-titled album. The debut was released in 1970, when progressive rock (in Finland at least) was still in its babyshoes, and that does show. It's very much a mixed bag, blending (possibly too) many ideas together, but it's nevertheless a quite charming album. The album consists of a few rough rock tracks ("Red" era KING CRIMSON meets LED ZEPPELIN), and a couple of interesting "ballads" in the vein of PROCOL HARUM. The most progressive ones are definitely Edward Vesala's experimentations in Labyrintti and Trimalcion, which don't seem to have any clear structure, blending together different percussions, flutes and what not.

The album was reasonably succesful in Finland, but soon after releasing the album, Apollo was already gone. Edward Vesala went on to become one of the most respected Finnish jazz musicians, and Harri Saksala later appeared as the lead vocalist on KALEVALA's excellent debut album "People No Names". I do recommend the album for those who are interested in the early days of prog (assuming you can find it..), but it's not the missing masterpiece you've been searching your whole life.



Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
Because Apollo were one of the first Finnish prog bands, so they surely deserve a spot here.



Discography:
Apollo, studio album (1970)

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APOLLO discography


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2.03 | 12 ratings
Apollo
1970

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3.00 | 1 ratings
Pakoon Maailmaa
1970

APOLLO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Pakoon Maailmaa by APOLLO album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1970
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Pakoon Maailmaa
Apollo Heavy Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars Finnish short-lived band APOLLO, featuring members of the 60's pop groups Topmost and Soulset, was founded in 1969 with a clear source of inspiration in mind: LED ZEPPELIN (whose debut had come out at the time). The sole album "Apollo" (from 1970) has received rather unfavourable reviews here. Understandably so, because it's a very mixed bag of heavy stuff, balladry and drummer Edward Vesala's two experimental instrumental pieces, and the proto-heavy rock style was so new thing back then that the studio people working on the recording didn't much have a clue. It's also the rough, throaty vocals of Harri Saksala, singing in Finnish, that can be a red flag to international prog listeners.

Svart Records have re-released "Apollo" on vinyl, and the package contains this single too. I can't review the album since I've done that quite a long ago, but here's the debuting review for the 7". It turned out to be practically useless as a supplement, since both tracks are form the album, unlike I was hoping with 'Ohjelmoitu ihminen' (= Programmed man).

On the LP its name is 'Hideki Tojo 1884-1948'. This song written by Harri Saksala is among the heaviest and grittiest of the set, telling - in the first person - of a soldier who just obeys the order to kill. I googled the name and found out that Hideki Tojo was a general, and Japan's prime minister during WW2. In a way the technically imperfect recording fits to this heavy song's nature. As a composition it's not much to celebrate, just a riff-based heavy rock piece of under three minutes, but especially Eero Lupari's electric guitar shows how well the band had absorbed the new genre.

The other song 'Pakoon maailmaa' (= Escaping the World) is not a heavy rock song; instead it is quite melodic and mellow, more or less similar to what Saksala would later perform in the realms of the usually poetry-based vocal music, except that the sound is of a rock band, and that the lyrics are deeply somber, in a contrast to the lighter music. This is among the best tracks of the album.

 Apollo by APOLLO album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.03 | 12 ratings

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Apollo
Apollo Heavy Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

2 stars I follow one law. Don't respond to other's reviews and ratings. Now I'm gonna partially broke it. Because I feel this album is not only forgotten by anyone, but also buried by those, who should promote this kind of things. Prog reviewers.

I'm not Finnish, I'm way down south in Central Europe with normal rock. North of Europe was always interesting and some kind of different. This is album from beginning of prog music and I see some string elements. Aren't they associated with symphonic prog ? And heavy sound of guitars like Uriah Heep ? I mean - this music reminds me other Finnish bands, Haikara is the most visible example. But also others. Considered how old this is, almost forty years, from year when prog was very rare minority, it brings something special. Of course, it can't be compared to 1973 for example. But try to compare first Uriah Heep and this. This is better for me. Heavy like heavy, apples and apples, not pears.

It's heavy, good. It has a little bit of synths, good. Psychedelic sound sometimes, good as well. Melody, prog sound, lyrics which doesn't make any sense (I can't speak/understand Finnish) at all, so just music remains. And it stands well for their 4 stars.

 Apollo by APOLLO album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.03 | 12 ratings

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Apollo
Apollo Heavy Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

1 stars Good grief. It’s beyond me why Warner Music felt the need to reissue this thing. I’m all for highlighting early prog music in the interest of history and all, but these guys were a long way from being ready for prime-time musically when this thing released. Judging from various biographies it seems several of them went on to respectable and fruitful musical careers, but it wasn’t on the strength of this album.

Other than the poor production (there are several places where you can actually hear the tape splicing), the worst thing about these tracks is the general lack of any cohesive sense of musical discipline in the arrangements. Acid guitar riffs blast out inexplicably at odd times; the bass player doesn’t seem too interested in what the drummer is doing, and the vocalist is – let’s just say not very good.

If there is a redeeming quality here it would be the liberal use of eclectic percussive instruments, plus flute, harmonica and an accordion that sounds like an organ (or maybe that is the organ, not sure. There does seem to be an organ and also some use of vibraphone scattered here and there). On the other hand they aren’t used very well in some cases; either the tabla or bongos get slapped haphazardly during “Ajatuksia” with no attempt at rhythm whatsoever, and the uneven employment of the flute is just baffling. On “Trimalcion” the thing starts off well enough but by the end it sounds as if the flautist is simply tuning while the drummer bounces pieces of soft wood off his skins.

I could go on but I won’t. This thing must appeal to someone or a major label like Warner wouldn’t have released it (or would they?). I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone though. I should probably give this two stars just in deference to the judgment of Warner’s talent ‘experts’, but I won’t. One star and my apologies to any Finnish fans who are offended by that. Nothing personal.

peace

 Apollo by APOLLO album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.03 | 12 ratings

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Apollo
Apollo Heavy Prog

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars This legendary record started for me with a huge disappointment, and I was very close to throw the CD out of the window immediately. Reasons for my repulse were the horrible vocals singing extremely stupid lyrics, describing the usage of LSD. I'm pretty sure that the whole album was done while tripping and boozing in the rehearsal room. "Now we are doing some really progressive drug music, YEAH!" Also the crappy album covers were surely drawn whilst getting a bad overdose. The raped woman figure probably stands for The Lady of Finland, a figure how Finns usually symbolize our country. The lazy jazzy blues rock of the album opener fades out luckily quite quickly. The following "Lohduton Uni" (Hopeless Dream) has some good percussion arrangements on the impressionist opening theme, and here the vocals are sung with a more proper manner. The music flows tender and ecstatic, and the lyrics are very depressed. This tune first fades out during a solo, and then introduces some silly accordions blowing the final fanfare, not being very striking arrangement in my opinion. "Hyvä Ihminen" (A Good Man) has thoughtful lyrics, and the music is jazzy pop tune with string arrangements and a good middle part for flute. Sadly also this track had to be faded out again. "Ajatuksia" (Thoughts) is then another disgusting sounding song. The singer states that he'll overthrow the parliament, won't use money and so on. This was probably quite strong political criticisms during the year 1970, but today this won't bring anything new or interesting thoughts for me at least. It is good to rebel and think on your own, but the revolutions just bring worse monsters as dictators, excuse my nihilistic attitude to idealistic anarchism dreams. The composition is a lazy bluesy rock rant with interesting psychedelic fuzz guitar and some percussion included, but I'm still quite sure that the first time of listening of this track will also be my final one. Jukka Gustavson was mentioned as a helper on the line-up list of the album, and there are some neat keyboards to be heard here, which might be his playing.

Apollo's drummer Edward Vesala made a very respected career as a jazz musician, and many of his albums were released by the famous ECM label, which might be considered as some sort of merit. There are some hints of his upcoming career in his two solo tracks on this record. "Trimalcion" is first of them, being an instrumental number with great tunes sounding classical Japanese music, and there's a strong presence of percussions. Maybe due the recording time and rock context, this composition of Edward sounds quite much like the early Jade Warrior. The track ends to a short jazz chaos resembling Frank Zappa's 1960's material. "Hideki Tojo 1884-1948" continues the Japanese theme, but the composition is again basic bluesy hard rock tune with bad singing.

"Laulu Ystävälle Varjojen Maassa" (A Song for A Friend in The Land of Shadows) is melancholic and slow psychedelic oriented ballad, being quite beautiful and real highlight on this album. "Valolta Suojattu Sydän" (A Heart Concealed from The Light) is another basic bluesy tune with "thoughtful" lyrics and fadeouts, but next we luckily get another instrumental compostition of Vesala. "Labyrintti" (Labyrinth) is divided in three parts, and it opens with soft guitar and vibraphone tones creating a modern calm space often present on the ECM label's recordings, which the drummer would be doing in the future. The next part is more oppressing atavistic chanting featuring the band too. After this we return to the melodic realm of Edward's percussions. The change from climax to the funeral bells is edited very roughly. After this the album ends to "Pakoon Maailmaa" (Escaping The World) which is another shorter sung track, musically being a calm jazzy pop rock tune with strong lyrics.

This very unbalanced record infested with league of ugly fadeout endings and bellowing vocals should mostly interest serious fans of Edward Vesala, and also those who want to check out rarer Finnish vintage rock records. This record was not released by the famous "Love Records" label, which released a big amount of all Finnish vintage prog, a factor making it bit more obscure along with albums like "Obus" of Nimbus, Haikara's early discs and Eero Koivistoinen's fabulous"Valtakunta".

 Apollo by APOLLO album cover Studio Album, 1970
2.03 | 12 ratings

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Apollo
Apollo Heavy Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars (3,5 stars) The only release of a Finnish group that - along with their contemporaries Tasavallan Presidentti and others - explored the rock music by adding some free jazz and avant garde. In fact, Jimbo's thorough introduction to APOLLO says it all better than I can do. I borrowed this a couple of years ago and taped it partly. I'm not so deeply fond of it but I find it quite interesting and I wonder how non-Finnish proggers would like it. The singing (Harri Saksala) in Finnish may be hard to take, though Saksala has a strong, a bit raw and Gabrielish voice. But the lyrics sound a bit clumsy to a countryman too. Aside from singing, you might hear some King Crimson, or e.g. Procol Harum in the soft ones.

I think it's the drummer Edward Vesala who's the main character here. His wide set of instruments, including flute, and a fierce percussion style (he comes from the jazz scene) is the key whether one falls for this album or not. Some instrumental pieces are quite hard to digest. The easiest to enjoy are ethearal numbers that remind KC tracks like 'Moonchild' or 'Lady of the Dancing Water'. This one's for the adventurous listeners of early foreign avantgardish prog. Oh, one more thing: the instrumentation info misses "wool socks" by Harri Saksala. Whatever it means...

Thanks to Jimbo for the artist addition.

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