October 25, 2020

Scandinavian rock bands have come to the fore over the last decade or so but it wasn’t always like that. Much of the music created in the 1970s in that part of the world remains a mystery to most of us. Take Norway – can you name one band from Norway in that decade? Congratulations if you can but for most of us it would be a struggle. This re-release of the 1978 album from Oslo-born band Ruphus is therefore a welcome opportunity to see some of what was going on ‘up north’ in that period.

The band was formed in 1970, releasing an excellent hard rock debut album with strong progressive overtimes entitled New Born Day in 1973. The progressive elements grew even stronger in the Yes-influenced Ranshart from 1974. Two albums followed which saw the band veer towards a jazz-rock fusion sound.

Remember the days when bands used to smile cheerfully for a photoshoot?

1978’s Flying Colours was the band’s fifth effort and eased up a little on the jazz influences, adding a little more rock and funk, and generally creating an enjoyably varied listening experience. Opener Foodlover’s Diet has an infectious funky beat and a highly syncopated little riff – something Glen Hughes in a mellow mood might have come up with. The track also highlights the vocals of Sylvi Lillegaard which are powerfully delivered – seemingly like a Norwegian Janis Joplin to me. The title track is also a fine effort, which apart from some vocalising by Lillegaard is basically a six minute jam by the band highlighting the superb musicianship from Kjell Larsen on guitars, Jan Simonsen on keyboards, Asle Nilsen on bass and Thor Bendiksen on drums. As in most jazz-influenced music, bass and drums are crucial and you can hear the telling contributions from Nilsen and Bendiksen throughout this album. The album closes with a ten-minute track, Moody Moments, split into three parts. The first part is a short acoustic piece by Larsen, leading to a vocal section where Lillegaard’s entry sounds uncannily like Jon Anderson(!), before a lengthy jam concludes the album.

Fans of Soft Machine and progressive jazz rock will appreciate this album but I enjoyed it a great deal myself despite not being a fan of that genre. The mix of musical influences and the superb musicianship on display is more than enough to keep one interested. This is definitely worth checking out to get an insight into what the Norwegian scene offered during the 1970s decade.

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