Mess - Sven Grunberg's Proge-Rock Group Mess. 1975-76 Estonia (archival)


In 1993, yours truly left the shores of Finland by ferry boat to what seemed like another planet at the time: Estonia. A place forbidden to go for us Americans only a short while before. It had been only a little more than a year since the Soviet Union had collapsed, and this small determined country was mightily rising itself out of the ashes at a blistering pace. I could write books about that experience. And to think I hadn't even been to Latvia yet... and eventually ended up backasswards in the Ukraine, oh my... I was clinically crazy.

In my imagination, some many years before that, a copy of Finnforest made the same ferry boat journey. Contraband that is was, the album was hidden under heavy brown blankets, passed along carefully and heard by only a select few in shadowy corners, well outside of earshot of the ever present Authorities.

Finnforest, of course, were influenced by the Dutch melodic masters Focus. And here you have your story line for the "Proge-Rock Group Mess", recordings from 1975-76 that survived in good shape. And what Sven Grunberg did with this sound is nothing short of genius. There are hair raising melodies and sequences here that are entirely unique. Check out 'Küsi Eneselt' as but one amazing example. In retrospect, one can hear many similarities with the Swedish group Dice. Similar influences and similar conclusions, but different flavors. Obviously one didn't know the other, and yet the comparison holds.

These recordings never made it to Melodiya vinyl (I don't think Breshnev would have been too happy about that, no sirree). And the sonic quality is very good, but not great, as one would expect. But otherwise, this is an extraordinary recording for the time and place. I would argue that these are the best 1970s progressive rock sounds, that I've heard anyway, from the old USSR. Seriously.

Personal collection
CD: 1995 Bella Musica (Germany)

The Strangiato reissues include a live set as well. Thanks to Bas and Achim for the heads up on this release!

4 comments:

  1. "the best 1970s progressive rock sounds, that I've heard anyway, from the old USSR"
    Couldn't agree more. Some 10 years ago I bought "Küsi Eneselt" (from an Estonian label), which is an archival album with more or less the same tracks, or perhaps even a straight reissue of your album (I haven't done a detailed comparison), except that the version I own has a bonus live disc. Highly recommended.

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    1. Ah! I saw that release, but didn't realize it was a second press with bonus. Oh yes, I see now this version had two pressings. One with the live set and the other without.

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  2. Actually, there are further differences between these two CD releases than the extra concert material on Küsi eneselt. Not only is the song order different, but Mess is actually a slightly edited version (by Grünberg himself). It runs just under 54 minutes, while Küsi eneselt is 61 minutes. About half the tracks are shorter by several minutes. The longest song "Küsi eneselt" has lost six minutes, though Grünberg has turned one excised section into the CDs short closing track "Sky (Coda)". I believe the even shorter opening "Overture" originates from this material as well. There has probably been some further remixing. I take it that Küsi eneselt (again remastered by Grünberg in 2004) presents the material as it was originally conceived. The sound is somewhat clearer and brighter, though that may just be the different mastering. Some very good music here, though, no matter which version you're listening to.

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    1. Thanks Kai for the extra detail on this release!

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