Monday, October 9, 2023

Wigwam - Tombstone Valentine (1970 finland, spectacular bluesy psych prog rock, 2013 remaster and expanded)

Formed in 1968, Wigwam recorded "Tombstone Valentine" in 1970 at Finnvox studios, Helsinki, the album was produced by the infamous Kim Fowley and was a wonderful collection of highly original material such as the album title track and compositions like Wishful Thinker, 1936 Lost in the Snow and For America

Undeniably the crown jewel of Finnish progressive rock, Wigwam released Tombstone Valentine in 1970 and quickly gained international attention. Unlike the first album released a year earlier, this album was a more focused effort at creating memorable songs that were both unique and exciting. I would have to consider it more of a pop album that had strong progressive elements sprinkled throughout. The addition of new members Jukka Tolonen (guitarist) and bassist/composer Pekka Pohjola brought a cohesiveness that had not yet been attained on 1969's Hard N' Horny. The rest of the line-up featured Jukka Gustavson on vocals, organ, piano; Ronnie Sterberg on drums; Jim Pembroke on vocals: Heikki Laurila on guitar; banjo; and Kalevi Nyqvist on accordion. 

Where Hard N' Horny was a more exploratory and disjointed effort, Tombstone Valentine can easily be compared with the likes of Procul Harum, Traffic, and yes .... even the Beatles without ever loosing the progressive foundations we fans so admire and crave in our musical diets. Perhaps of even more significance is how this album essentially opened the door to several additional albums over the next few years that managed to get better and better as the group fully gelled and developed a style and sound that has become a hallmark of progressive rock.

No single element can be clearly defined as the definitive reason for this album's overall success, but I would offer a personal bias of sorts: I have always considered Pekka Pohjola to be one of the finest bassist ever. The first track has become the  go to  track for me, followed by the next ... all the way to the end. Throughout the album can be found elements from many schools of style and sound. Track 4 for example is very much in the Canterbury vein ala Soft Machine, Caravan, and Supersister. The first track has a psychedelic hook that is unstoppable. The jazz elements are strong and well placed. The musicianship presented here is easily on par with the likes of Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull. I really believe this is a band without limitations. If that sounds good to you, wait until you hear the album!

Esoteric Records/ Cherry Red Records has graciously included two bonus tracks on this reissue Pedagogi and Haato that were the A & B sides of a 1970 single released in Finland. Owning these two tracks alone is reason enough to pick up your own copy, but Esoteric went further still and included a fine essay to boot. The artwork is fully restored as well, so by all means secure a copy for your own collection, and enjoy some great tracks from Finland's finest.
by Thomas Rhymer
1. Tombstone Valentine (Jim Pembroke) - 3:07
2. In Gratitude! (Jukka Gustavson) - 3:46
3. Dance Of The Anthropoids (Erkki Kurenniemi) - 1:07
4. Frederick And Bill (Jim Pembroke, Pekka Pohjola) - 4:26
5. Wishful Thinker (Jim Pembroke) - 3:46
6. Autograph (Jim Pembroke, Kim Fowley) - 2:39
7. 1936 Lost In The Snow (Pekka Pohjola) - 2:11
8. Let The World Ramble On (Jim Pembroke) - 3:20
9. For America (Jukka Gustavson) - 4:22
10.Captain Supernatural (Jim Pembroke) - 3:02
11.End (Jukka Gustavson) - 3:39
12.Pedagogi (Jukka Gustavson) - 3:29
13.Haato (Mats Huldén) - 4:10
Bonus Tracks 12-13

Pekka Pohjola - Bass, Violin
Jukka Gustavson - Organ, Piano, Vocals
Ronnie Osterberg - Drums, Percussion
Jim Pembroke - Vocals
Jukka Tolonen - Guitar
Heikki Laurila - Guitar, Banjo
Kalevi Nyqvist - Accordion 
Erkki Kurenniemi - Synthesizer