Pekka Pohjola is a unique artist, whose music is appreciated
by connoisseurs all over the world. He is not underrated.
Joe Public might not know him, but most people who have had a taste of his music,
rate him as one of the major composers and musicians in popular music. He writes
slowly, so new albums are rare and far apart. It has been more than five years
since his latest studio album. Meanwhile his music has reached new generations
of music lovers. You do not have to be a fan of progressive rock, fusion or
jazz rock to appreciate his majestic melody lines. Even an artist like DJ Shadow
from a totally different genre of music has sampled his stuff.
Pekka Pohjola (born 1952) is without doubt one of the greatest electric bass
players in Europe. He studied classical piano and violin at the Sibelius Academy
in Helsinki, all the while allowing his natural instincts to lead him to a career
in rock 'n' roll. After a stint with The Boys, a pioneering group often compared
to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Pekka joined Wigwam in 1970, staying for four
glorious years. Wigwam was one of the most influential Finnish bands in the
Seventies, and apart from being quite succesful in Scandinavia they later became
a cult band in England even before being signed by Virgin Records.
After leaving Wigwam Pekka did a lot of studio work and played a for a short
time with the Jukka Tolonen Band and Made In Sweden. In 1977 Pekka formed The
Group, recording their eponymous album in the same year. But most importantly,
Pekka recorded his first critically acclaimed solo album, the delicious Pihkasilmä
Kaarnakorva, during his Wigwam days and his second (Harakka Bialoipokku, internationally
known as B The Magpie) and third (The Mathematician's Air Display) albums were
internationally released by Virgin Records. The latter was produced by Mike
Oldfield, who also played on the record.
Among the many other musicians that have admired Pekka's talents is Frank Zappa.
Pekka's fourth solo album Visitation was released in 1979 and it was another
big critical success. In 1980 The Group became PEKKA POHJOLA GROUP and they
released the album Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme (The Dragon of
Kätkävaara Mountain). The band toured extensively on the Continent
and Scandinavia in the early Eighties with different line-ups.
Somewhere along the line the word Group was also dropped from the band's name,
so that they became known collectively as PEKKA POHJOLA. Urban Tango (1982)
was the first album released on his own Pohjola Records label, operated by Rockadillo.
There followed some work with various television film music projects, one of
them forming the basis for his album Jokamies, released in Finland in 1983.
It was released in the USA and Germany under the title Everyman in early 1984.
The album was an overnight success on progressive radio stations across North
Space Waltz followed in 1985 and Flight Of The Angel in 1986, adding more converts
to the legion of his loyal followers. However, in the late eighties Pekka got
dissillusioned with the rock scene and disappeared for a couple of years to
compose his first symphony. His Sinfonia no 1 with AVANTI! orchestra was premiered
live in 1989 and was released on CD in 1990.
Pekka spent two years working on Changing Waters, which marked his majestic
return to the recording scene as well as to the live circuit. His new band for
the Changing Waters sessions featured Finnish top musicians Seppo Kantonen (keyboards),
Markku Kanerva (guitar) and Anssi Nykänen (drums), who became his regular
band. The CD was released in Finland in November 1992 and in Scandinavia, Germany
and Switzerland in the Spring of 1993. In 1993 Pekka Pohjola played the band's
first American shows in New York and Austin.
In November 1994 the band played three shows in Tokyo, where Pekka has a strong
and loyal cult following. The shows were recorded for a Live in Japan CD which
was released by Japanese label Marquee / Belle Antique in May 1995. In April
1995 Pekka Pohjola played in Barcelona and Madrid in Spain.
In November 1995 a double-CD Heavy Jazz - Live in Helsinki and Tokyo was released
in Finland. The release date for Japan is January 1996. The CD was mainly recorded
in April in Helsinki by Finnish Broadcasting Company's 24-track mobile, but
two tracks are 8-track digital recordings from Tokyo in 1994. Heavy Jazz was
mixed at the Finnish National Opera studio in Helsinki.
In late September 1997 new studio album, called Pewit, was finally released
after five years since Changing Waters came out.
In May 2001 Pekka Pohjola released Views, his first solo album in quite some
time. Compared to his hard hitting rocked-out albums of the '80s, the sound
on Views could be considered a toning down of the rock-solid guitar-based Pohjola
sound boldly witnessed on '80s classics like Urban Tango and Space Waltz. Instead,
the sophisticated harmonies on Views focuses on Pohjola's innate skills as a
jazz and pop-classical composer-arranger. A number of musicians help take Pohjola's
symphonic sound to the next level including long time Pohjola group members,
keyboardist Seppo Kantonen and guitarist Markku Kanerva. With it's heavy accent
on strings and brass arrangements, Views takes a good look back to Pohjola's
trend-setting second album, released on Virgin in England back in '75 with the
title B The Magpie. In fact the only song to feature a guitar here is a really
different-sounding, Zappa-inspired track entitled "The Red Porsche".
The first pop vocal track featured on a Pohjola disc since the early '80s, the
song features a few hot vocalists singing the original lyrics (in english) taken
from a poem written by Charles Bukowski.
Views makes for some pleasant listening indeed. It might not be the album you
expected from Pekka (well, what is?), but the music is (still) so good, you
just can't help but enjoy it.