Monday, May 3, 2010

The Spotnicks - 6 albums

The Spotnicks-In London 1962

The debut LP by this premiere Swedish rock & roll group — who blazed a trail across Europe a decade before ABBA was even a lightbulb going off in the heads of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersen, and did it from precisely the opposite starting point, working almost exclusively as an instrumental group — is mightily impressive five decades on. Their sound is similar to that of the Shadows, but their attack on their instruments is less predictable, and the Spotnicks also have more of a pure electric sound, not relying too much on acoustic guitar even for rhythm. The result is a surprisingly rocking version of Jerome Kern's "Ol' Man River" (with some serious attempts at vocalizing to the words by Bob Lander, who does well here and not nearly so on "My Old Kentucky Home") — as one highlight of the record, it rocks along like a nice piece of electrified pop 'til Bo Winberg's guitar comes in, and then it lifts off in the stratosphere. "The Spotnicks Theme" isn't much to write home about, except as a by-the-numbers showcase for every member of the band; but "Nightcap," authored by bassist Björn Thelin, shows that these guys were as versed in jazz as they were in pop and rock, and listened to their share of Tal Farlow and company; similarly, "No Yaga Daga Blues" shows the quartet quite at home in the bluesier side of jazz. "The Rocket Man" uses Russian source material, and fully a third of the stuff here is traditional tunes cranked up on electric guitar and bass — speaking of which, you haven't glimpsed the potential of the latter till you've heard the traditional Irish tune "Garry Owen" played on electric guitar. And that's just half of what makes this album so cool — had this been an EMI or a Decca release, chances are we'd have a bunch of highlights like those described but no hits, the latter held back for an eventual compilation; but The Spotnicks in London was a release of Oriole Records, a much more emaciated outfit, who couldn't afford not to put the group's most recognizable songs on the album; and so we've got "Havah Nagila," "Amapola," and all of the other records with which the band charted in England and across Europe. The result is an album that's practically a "best-of" and a "greatest-hits" collection of their early music.

The Spotnicks--In Paris 1963

The Spotnicks-In Berlin 1964

The Spotnicks--In Acapulco 1967

The Spotnicks- Tokyo 1966

The Spotnicks-Spain 1963

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