Perfect Pop Records

Perfect Pop Records

POP57 – Luna Kafé

Haakon Ellingsen

Perfect Pop/Tuba!

If you’re looking for sea shanties, this is not the album for you… If you’re looking for the purest of quiet pop, Bounty is it!

Haakon Ellingsen has kept going in the Norwegian pop underground for several years. He was front man of Gramophones and a vital part on two out of three albums by Last James. Bounty is the successor of his first solo album Minstrel, also released by Perfect Pop. In between was What Is To Come…? by Sir Haakon and the Popular Musicians (2004), that somehow drowned…

Bounty is a 33 minutes journey, nine songs of 1960s tinged pop, pop-sike and slightly folk and acoustic oriented songs. Haakon has brought several of his excellent and popular musicians into the studio once again. The songs are dominated by cello and other assorted strings, flutes, keyboards, guitars, mandolin… and the rest, including a charango from the Andes (small manolin-alike instrument). What really strikes me is the production, differently developed for each and every song – chamber-pop might be a proper description.

I’m not too thrilled by the opening track “On A Silky Veil With The Wind From The Harbour”. It lacks some firm melodic direction. (And the title sounds almost like something hippie-whimsy Marc Bolan might come up with in his early days of Tyrannosaurus Rex.) To some extent the same goes for “Mohama”. The closing track “Music Man (1978)” is a completely different thing. Recorded under harsh conditions by a young Haakon in that year, probably. His guitar technique was not fully developed at the time. The microphone used was not of the hi-fi kind and there are lots of pet sounds (meaning real pets) in the background. Amusing…

The remaining two thirds of the album is pure pleasure. There is a certain sombre, cerebral playful something about those six songs, so beautiful it hurts! They have a bittersweet gentle aftertaste only matched by Brian Wilson at his creative peak around Pet Sounds (meaning the 1966 album) and Smile (1966-67), and the song “‘Til I Die” a few years later. The songs don’t seem to be particuly American or British inspired, or inspired by music from any other country for that matter, apart from the lyrics. They’re out of time and out of geography, in a way, if you know what I mean. Especially “How Little We Talk About Sky” with a merry string and flute arrangement and “Generously”, only vocals accompanied by a gentle piano, discreet mandolin and strings, are stunning. They are the perfect ballads Jeff Lynne (Idle Race, Electric Light Orchestra, Travelling Wilburys and … The Beatles…) has been striving at for the past 40 years.

I’ll not say a lot about the lyrics, written by Haakon except “Melted Into Memory (Stanzas For Music)” by Lord Byron. They are not printed in the booklet and I tend to misunderstand if I don’t have them on print in front of me. Though I guess some of them have to do with the longing for the southern seas; Haakon is an armchair sailor. The title of the album has to do with HMS Bounty, the mutiny in the Pacific and all. Captain William Bligh and leader of the mutinists Fletcher Christian (immortalised on screen by Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, respectively; forget about the later remakes with Marlon Brando and Anthony Hopkins…) are among those being thanked in the booklet. The title track even includes some real chanting from Tahiti or thereabouts, I guess. We also have the occasional sounds of the rolling waves here and there.

What more can I say than: That’s the way, aha-aha – I like it!!

Copyright © 2005 JP

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