Session - Unikuva. 1974 Finland

1. Unikuva 7:19
* 2. Sunny Blue 4:12
* 3. Jäätelöprinsessa 3:37
* 4. Tahdon olla kanssasi 2:43
* 5. Torstin tanssi 3:06
* 6. Persialaisella torilla 6:34
* 7. Syksy 4:32
* 8. Serenadi huomiselle 2:57

My original review from the CDRWL said: A strong progressive rock album with loud guitar solos, organ, electric piano, horns and most significant, a fiercely driving bass. In fact the bass playing reminds me quite a bit of Trettioariga Kriget's first album. The occasional happy chorus lines call to mind Haikara circa Geafar mixed with a quaint late 60s psychedelic style. Lots of cool vocals in Finnish. And there's more than a nod to Wigwam from their Fairyport days. For a major label effort, this has to be considered one of the most obscure. I spent time with some big time Finnish collectors about 16 years ago and pretty much heard every progressive album from the country (I can say that with some authority now that so much time has passed). The Scapa Flow and Sepi Kuu titles from the original list are but a mite two examples of that experience. Except no one mentioned this title and I have to wonder if they even knew of it. A seriously obscure album.

One of the typical criticism's leveled at hardcore collectors (like me) is our apparent disregard for the quality of music all for the sake of the rarity itself. I can only speak for myself, but it's something I'm very conscious of when listening to rarities. The CDRWL is filled to the brim with albums that very few have heard, and in many cases I don't think they're very good. And I say so. The old cliche "the albums are rare for a reason" usually does apply. But it doesn't ALWAYS apply, and that's important to understand. Session is one of those albums that makes the search worth it. It really is good, and it remains unclear why it is so rare. I had thought for some time that maybe EMI didn't actually release it, or that they only distributed it. But the liner notes below clearly contradict that notion.

Now part 2 of the same theme: We tend to exaggerate how great something like this is, because it's a new discovery. Imagine yourself as a longtime gold miner. When you first start out, the gold is right there for the taking. It's pure and it's easy to find. But as you keep digging, it gets harder and harder to find anything of merit. But when you do find a decent sized nugget, it's exciting and you want to tell others of what you found deep in the mine. Unfortunately many do not share your enthusiasm - for a variety of reasons (including jealousy, argumentative dispositions, difficult personalities) - but the primary reason (and a very valid one) is that it's not near as great a nugget as the ones you found 20 years ago. That's usually true. So it's all about setting expectations. I cannot stress how important that is when presenting an obscurity like this. Session is an excellent album. What I would call a total classic 12 on Gnosis (or 4.5 stars on Rateyourmusic). But it's not a Hall of Fame 13, 14 or 15 (or perfect 5 stars). And I'm probably going to rate it higher than most people, but to understand that, you must read on.

Unikuva is one of those albums that doesn't squarely fit in the progressive rock camp. This isn't a band that was influenced by Yes, Genesis, ELP, etc... It's more a rock oriented effort in an era when interesting instrumental breaks were crowd pleasers, and solos on organ and guitar were expected. So much of the European progressive rock from the 1970s is just this - 70s rock music with a few more ideas than the AM radio bubblegummers. This is true whether we're talking Kalevala, Junipher Greene, Ache, November, or hundreds of others from Scandinavia or elsewhere in Europe.

I think the hardest song to get into is the title track 1). It's definitely one of the most dated of all the songs, with a heritage that sounds more like 1969 than 1974. The organ and bass lines absolutely jam, but the vocal and brass sections are awkward, and very poppy. Technically one could argue this is the most progressive track on the album, especially some of the darker VDGG sax moves that are intertwined throughout. Starting with 2), Session begin to show their more poppy ambitions. I just happen to think they are great songwriters, with melodies that are memorable. And of course, the superb organ and guitar solos with tight sax charts don't hurt either. And this is a good a place as any to talk about the bass player. He is a MONSTER! I know there are many out there who struggle with anything but English vocals, but I cannot imagine this without the Finnish language. It fits so perfectly well and adds a unique dimension. 4) is a kickass rock instrumental, and not commercial at all. 5) is completely the opposite. Even more dated than 1), this track reminds me of Strawberry Alarm Clock circa "Wake Up... It's Tomorrow". And I absolutely adore the pop psych of SAC, so bear that in mind. 6) starts by showing off bassist Hannu Kaikko, and that's a good thing believe me. After which, the group launches into a rather intense, but fun, progressive rock instrumental. 7) may be the best representative of the album as a whole. This would be my pick for one sample on MySpace. 8) is another one of their commercial songs that has a great melody - and I can't help but give it a one star highlight.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Rocket Records

Translated liner notes (a HUGE THANKS to Kai from Finland for these).

"Session came together in Kouvola in 1971, out of the ashes of the group Horizon, which had existed for a couple of years. Session initially looked up to The Band and the Allman Brothers Band for inspiration. They took part in the third ever Finnish Rock Championship contest in December 1972 and came third. Session's line-up was Jorma Seppälä (vocals, guitar), Timo Heikkilä (guitar), Hannu Kaikko (bass) and Juha Tykkälä (drums).

Love Records offered the group a recording contract. They released their debut single "Sanni Blue" / "Pääsky" ["the swallow"] in the summer of 1973. Both songs were composed and written by Hannu Kaikko. They also recorded a version of Albert W. Ketelbey's "In a Persian Marker", which appeared on a 1974 Love Records compilation Rock & Roll juhlaa 5. Session began to get gigs and often opened for Wigwam and Hurriganes, among others.

At this stage, Jorma Seppälä left and keyboard-player Osmo Seppälä entered. Juha Tykkälä started singing from behind his drums.

Record companies were hesitant about singing the new line-up. They started recording an album at their own expense at the [famous two-/four-track basement studio] Microvox studio in Lahti. The finished album was their debut Unikuva. EMI finally agreed to release it.

For the album, Session were augmented by saxophonists Ari Pukkila and Mane Hyytiä, and vocalist Leena Wiehn, who appears on the title track.

Unikuva comprises eight songs. The versions "Persialaisella torilla" and "Sanni Blue" (note the changed spelling) are new recordings. EMI released "Torstin tanssi" ["Torsti's dance"] and "Jäätelöprinsessa" ["the ice-cream princess"] as a single in 1974. Hannu Kaikko wrote arranged all songs and wrote all of them, except "Persialaisella torilla". The lyrics were by Juha Tykkälä and Kaikko.

Finnish progressive rock was still commercially viable in 1974, but Unikuva received little attention from the media or the public.

Session's line-up changed rapidly after the album's release. In short time, the group featured guitarists Juha Björninen and Harri Louhensuo, drummer Ari Ahlren and vocalist-guitarist Esa Pajunen. Heikkilä was the only original member in the final line-up. The end came in 1976, when it became commercially untenable to go on.

Session's music began to appear on compilation albums in the 1990s. The 1990 vinyl compilation by Impulse, Kymijokibeats 1965-1981, contains "Tahdon olla kanssasi" ["I wanna be with you"] from Unikuva. The compilation's 1991 sequel contains the Love Record version of "Sanni Blue". "Pääsky" appears on Siboney's 4 CD compilation Anna mulle Lovee from 1994, "Persialaisella torilla" on 1996's Love Proge and "Sanni Blue" on Love Proge 2 in 1998.

The rarity of Unikuva has made it one of the most collectible Finnish records. Copies in good condition have commanded the price of several hundred Euro. This is the first time any of the album tracks have appeared on CD. The CD was mastered from the original master tapes and co-produced by Rocket Records and EMI Finland Ab."

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