01. Equatorial rain (6:59)
02. Sweet Jolly Joyce (3:47)
03. The Invasion (5:58)
04. Shadow Of A Gypsy (4:38)
05. Green Man (4:38)
06. Accheron (4:47)
07. We Can Work It Out (8:43)
- Torsten Olafsson / vocals, bass, spinet
- Peter Mellin / Hammond organ, grand piano, vibraphone, vocals
- Finn Olafsson / electric & acoustic guitars, vocals, percussion
- Glenn Fischer / drums, percussion
- Johnny Reimar / backing vocals
Well if you keep turning over rocks it’s inevitable that every once and a while you’ll find something worth keeping underneath some of them. That’s the case with Ache, a surprisingly underexposed proto/heavy prog Danish band whose existence dates back nearly forty years. These guys may be well known to their fans, but like the saying goes – ‘if you’ve never heard it it’s new to you’.
Well, I’d never heard these guys until recently, and had only heard of them from doing routine research of symphonic prog bands during the process of updated biographies and trying to find the logical connections between groups of various sub-genres. When I finally got a chance to check out one of their albums this seemed to be the best choice since it was more varied than their two-track debut and fell into a more promising time period than their final two mid-seventies albums.
I haven’t heard any of those other albums yet, but this sophomore release of the band is well worth taking some time to get to know. The music varies widely, from heavy Hammond-fueled rock to a sort of rock ballad to muddled-sounding psych to a really novel Beatles cover. All great stuff!
The lineup includes a bunch of unknowns: then seventeen-year old guitarist Finn Olafsson on a warm Rickenbacker as well as acoustic and 12-string; Peter Mellin on his fat Hammond and chortling out well-timed vocal harmonies, not to mention vibraphone and overlaid piano tracks throughout; percussionist Glenn Fischer; and bassist/vocalist Torsten Olafsson. There are also lots of “special effects”, mostly toward the first half of the album and mostly what appear to be pre-recorded sounds mixed back on tracks during the post-production process.
The album cover shows what appears to be a boogey man, or maybe just some creepy guy in a Halloween costume (do Danes recognize Halloween?). Anyway the lyrics for most of the tracks are typical late-sixties combination fantasy with vaguely social overtones, and partly psychedelic. The title track by the way kicks off sounding like some sort of early Manfred Mann ditty with a simple tempo, very little percussion beyond simple snare, and acoustic guitar. But the Rickenbacker kicks in shortly, and by the time the Hammond wades into the mix its clear this isn’t something from a 1965 playlist.
Back to the beginning though, “Equatorial Rain” starts off with some of those goofy sound effects, but these quickly give way to a Hammond/vocal dirge that could pass for Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison in a b-side of the Doors 1967 classic “The End”. In fact Torsten Olafsson shows an uncanny ability to sound like Morrison at several points of this album. This stuff isn’t quite as powerful as what the Doors were doing at the same time, but from what I’ve read these guys were better showmen in that they didn’t no-show half the time or have their lead singer puke and expose himself when they did make it to the stage. So in those two ways they weren’t like the Doors at all. Selah.
The more I listen to “Sweet Jolly Joyce” the more it makes me picture David Bowie trying to do punk while on acid. Hey, I’m all about word pictures, and that one works for me.
You can tell this wasn’t recorded in a single session (and maybe not even at a single studio). “The Invasion” is much more muddled and flat-sounding than the rest of the album, and is basically a slow, hypnotic psych number with long Hammond passages that culminate in a nice guitar/drum finish. This is a multi-part and rather abstract story of some sort that probably made a lot more sense in 1970 than it does today.
The band’s one-hit claim to fame must have been “Shadow of a Gypsy” since it still features on their web site (both the lyrics and the music). This is a very Procol Harum-sounding tune, mysterious, Hammond heavy, mystical lyrics, and deep harmonic backing vocals from what sounds like the whole rest of the band. I can easily see this being a hit any time between 1968 and 1973.
“Acheron” is another tune whose keyboards and guitar remind me a lot of the late-sixties Doors, but maybe with a little more of a jazz texture than what those guys ever displayed.
Finally the album ends with the most unexpected and original version of the Beatles “We Can Work it Out” I’ve ever heard. Basically this is an organ and drum dirge that progresses into a highly rhythmic and very psychedelic extended instrumental/ chanting passages and vocals that sound more like a stoned Londoner than some Nordic dude. Hard to describe, but if you can find this it’s a very original rendition that most prog fans will probably enjoy. Best guitar work on the album as well.
According to the band’s web site these guys seem to still be making music in some fashion or another, although it doesn’t appear they put any albums out in about thirty years. This seems a bit obscure to me but the CD has only been out for about eight years so there must be many more well-informed proggers than I as the demand must have been there to reissue it on CD. A great find, one of those rare examples of excellent very early prog that didn’t end up on the overexposed, overplayed list like most of the huge prog bands of that day. Highly recommended to pretty much any prog music fan.