Brought To Your Attention 005

Solar Plexus ‘Solar Plexus’

 

 

  Odeon/EMI 1972 Double Album Gatefold.

Recorded at EMI studios Stockholm.
Side C recorded at Norrköping, Sweden by Göte Nilsson.

 

Track List –

Side A.

1. Bouillabaisse    (6:52)
2. A Polska From Orsa    (0:38)
3. My Song Is For Her     (3:27)
4. Loveliness     (8:20)

Side B.

1. Wallenberg    (6:07)
2. The Eye Of Odin    (4:59)
3. Like A Spinning Sun    (6:18)

Side C.

1. Concerto Grosso For Pop Group And Symphony Orchestra
(24:03)

Side D.

1. Phrygian Samba   (4:41)
2. Think When We Live All Together   (3:15)
3. They’re Building Their Cities    (6:02)
4. A Real Goodun’    (3:48)

Personnel –

Tommy Borgudd – Bongos, drums, tamborine and temple block.
Carl – Axel Dominique – Composer, electric piano, flute and piano.
Monica Dominique – Electric piano, organ and vocals.
Tommy Körberg – Vocals.
Georg Wadenius – Bass, electric guitar, piano forte, Spanish guitar, maracas, tambourine and vocals.

Binnie Kristal-Andersson – Lyrics.
Per Lysander – Lyrics.

Producer – Gunnar Lindqvist
Engineer – Gunnar Lööf
Cover – Lena and Olaf Landström
Photos – Peter Cohen/ Körberg by Bert Mattsson

Track D4 is a cover of Jack McDuff’s ‘A Real Goodun’.

 

The über switched-on Swedish jazz super group that was Solar Plexus, were furnished with enough talent to sink a dreadnought, assembled as they were from some of the countries most prolific and gifted prodigies, gathered together to produce an early 70s citation to jazz-fusion – no sniggering at the back there you Mighty Boosh fans.

Leading this crusade were the husband/wife team of pianist composer Carl-Axel and organ vocalist Monica Dominique.
Carl a classical musician turned hipster, and composer of the winning Eurovision entry by Swedish group Nova, his actress misses Monica, Eurovision entrant and winner of best Swedish newcomer award Tommy Körberg, former Made In Sweden drummer and future racing car champion Tommy ‘Slim’ Borgudd – also played on a few Abba tunes – and all rounder Georg Wadenuis – another former member of Made In Sweden who would later join Blood, Sweet and Tears – all joined forces for this minor opus.
A helping hand with the lyrics came courtesy of the writers Binnie Kristal-Andersson and Per Lysander

This self-titled brain food garishly illustrated gatefold album inhabits the very same terrain as the much-revered group Nucleus; who also rather confusingly released an album named Solar Plexus the year before in 1971.
There’s also the vestige of the Soft Machine lurking around every nuance and corner, especially when the band experiment with timing, alongside the more redolent sweeping vistas and grand allusions into classical music as practiced by David Axlerod.
An opiscule creation, this record split over four sides flips between full-on progressive grooves to stirring passages of pulchritude and beauty. The vocals, when they do emerge, range between Bill Withers resigned lovelorn sighs to politically driven, and often wry commentated, narratives on town planning and the onslaught of globalisation.

The opening announcement of intent comes via the jumped-up acid-funk ‘Bouillabaisse’. The title derives from the Mediterranean melting pot fish stew or soup, an analogy if you like, which suits the purpose of this bubbling concoction of organ stabs, rapid drum snaps and pulsating bass runs, that’s all thrown together to create something tasty to feast on.
It sounds like our Canterbury austere Soft Machine being driven at full speed through the streets of San Francisco, their hair running free and wild, the song sheets thrown into the wind.

A short interlude ‘A Polska From Orsa’ – you got to hand it to them, at least the title rhymes – follows on from the first track, with Carl-Axel blowing earnestly on a shepherds flute. This unaccompanied dry lament is perhaps an evocative musical painting to the municipality of Orsa itself, an area of Sweden located north of Lake Siljan that’s home to a large population of Finns apparently.

That Bill Withers reference I mentioned just now is made apparent on the enchanting ‘My Song Is For Her’, which tries to lay down some Scandinavian sweet soul upon the jazz foundations they’ve so far laid down.
Tommy Körberg rouses some emotional charges, cocking-a-snoot at a cash proud rival to the affections of a girl who resides at the end of a metaphorical road. Tommy lashes out chin-stroking semi-patronising lines like “keep all your money my very rich friend, keep it for it only brings sorrow”.

Side A of this expansive double album finishes on the nigh-on eulogy to a mysterious bereavement, the swooning hymn like tones of Monica and the parroting fashion flute turn the mood serious.
‘Loveliness’ has diaphanous sighs, translucent builds and ethereal floating grooves, which wind their way towards a more funkier burst of smooth guitar riffs and bongos, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac.

Sweden’s neutrality during WW II worked two ways. Neither appeasing or outright defying the Nazis, or to that matter the Soviets who also blocked them in, some individuals used this official stance of staying out of it as a way to take part in subterfuge.
The industrious wealthy Wallenbergs of Sweden were a controversial family, Raoul Wallenberg the famous son who tried to become an architect and sought solace in manual labour. Regarding money as a way to achieve something more worthwhile in life he travelled from one occupation to another until the war broke out, when he took a job in Budapest and joined a group of fellow countrymen turned humanitarians. Using the guise of diplomatic immunity they housed many local Jews in their own special acquired and owned homes, whilst awaiting specially made-up passports for a life in Sweden, where they treated Jews with less contempt, and saving them from the horror that awaited if they were picked-up by the local authorities.
Highly dangerous of course, yet ironically it was the Russians who picked him up on January 17th 1945 when they took the city from the Germans. Arrested as a spy, he was taken into custody and died only a few months later, under highly suspicious circumstances, which are still disputed. Solar Plexus produce a brash thumping souped-up jazz tribute to the man, Tommy shouting out trumpet impression vocals with Monica singing backing, the lyrics almost presented in a dry witty whimsical style, that sound almost like ridicule at times. The words seem to betray some cynical remarks about the subject, but the beats at least sound good.

Side C is given wholly to the orchestral suite of ‘Concerto Grosso For Pop Group And Symphony Orchestra’, an extravagant avant-garde mix of the West Coast Art Experimental Band, Electric Prunes circa Release Of An Oath and The Beatles ‘Revolution no.9’.
The Norrköping Symphony back our Swedes on this 24-minute sweeping epic, that builds from the ‘Sorcerers Apprentice’ classical shenanigans to allusions of Stanvinsky and Elger.
Based around the Baroque technique of passing round the composition between both soloist and the orchestra, Solar Plexus drag this aloof traditional theme into the now, cutting in with Sanata-esque percussive Central Americans rhythms and acid-rock guitar solos.
Without doubt the albums standout track by a mile, triumphant and monolithic in execution, the audacity of such a high-minded conceptual idea paying off in droves, and it was recorded live, just to add to their prodigious outpouring of talent.

The final slab of vinyl casts similar illusions to higher themes and influences, the ‘Phrygian Samba’ namedrops the chromatically mode favoured by the ancients of Greece, though the Phrygian’s themselves were a race from the pages of antiquity, based in what is now central Turkey.
Taking on the old world formula of basically playing all the white notes from D to D, they take on the mantle of a shuffling Soft Machine, refined with some Spanish guitar, maracas and temple block, re-enforcing the atmosphere of an Aegean sea voyage, before slipping into a Kojack inspired detective chase sequence.

The following track ‘Think When We All Live Together’ descends into some kind of Bavarian beer hall chorus to a whimsical Teutonic piano. Tommy and Monica wax lyrical protest odes to the onslaught of Americanisation in Europe, their fears voiced in such biting satire prophesying that “Norway will be an amusement park”, whilst poor old Denmark is turned into a parking lot for the France shopping mall.

This social-political rhetoric is repeated on ‘They’re Building Their Cities’, which takes a pop at town planners. Monica sounds like a Scandinavian Grace Slick when she opens up the track, the backing taking on a brief nod to Focus theatrics, turning into a spookily whirling jazz-funk odyssey.
“They’re building for someone, but not you and I” is sang over screaming Hammond and busy non-ending bass runs, and tips into an almost parody of jazz-fusion snazzy pomp, lovely.

Finally the Georgie Fame and Billy Preston organ squealer chant ‘A Real Goodun’ finishes the album on a much lighter note.
This loosely based version of the American bandleader Jack McDuff’s composition, is less free flowing and abstract then the original, turning the instrumental ditty into a more feel-good show tune. You can almost hear a compare announcing, “good night, glad you could make the show, safe journey home now”.

Solar Plexus masterfully produce an outstanding double album of awe-inspiring musicianship, ambitious in nature, chin-stroking aside it’s a classic.
They would release four albums in all over their short career – disbanding in 1975 – everyone of these LP’s is well sought after by collectors so finding a copy could be tricky, but you should at least give it a try, even if you’ve only a passing interest in the genre.

DV.

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