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October 7, 2017
A-Ha ~ MTV Unplugged - Summer Solstice
Released 6 October, 2017
One of the must buy albums for summer jazz and Eighties fans alike. Summer Solstice is a beautiful arrangement and performance of Norwegian trio A-Ha's new and well loved discography, with many 'fantastiske' surprises.
Many Eighties pop fans don't realise that the Norwegian trio have been creating music 35 years now with only a few small breaks. A-Ha are frequently cited as being the most underrated band on earth. They are absolutely huge in Germany, Brazil and Argentina.
For those who have not listened to A-Ha since Take On Me days, they've matured radically and toured everywhere a million times since then. Pål Waaktaar now Paul Waaktaar-Savoy is considered by his peers as one of the world's best songwriters.
This review covers the songs performed at A-ha's intimate June 2017 concert on the island of Giske, well north of urban Oslo at Midsommer. The special event gave the band an opportunity to incorporate sophisticated elements not available or considered 30 years ago.
There are countless surprises. Generously, these musicians invited next generation Scandinavian talent and a couple of esteemed British musical peers to perform alongside them. There's interesting folkie or operatic interpretations with string and horn sections and vintage acoustic instruments, producing sounds not often heard in electronic obsessed Eighties pop. Their subtle self affacing humour creates several fun moments.
The entire two hour show is filled with delightful contrasts.
I've Been Losing You is a duet with an Iowan singer, Lissie Maurus, whose country voice complements Morten's measured tones. Magne's piano begins and ends with slightly operatic Japanese influences, meeting country atmosphere in the middle.
The Sun Always Shines On Me, this time features a young Norwegian, Ingrid Helene Håvik, whose 2014 album Silent Treatment won her the national 2014 Spellemannprisen music composer award.
A Break In The Clouds, with its 'slow sunny day near the hay bales, on your back' feel, almost summons A-Ha's original prog rock roots here and there. The song does exactly what the title says - takes the listener to a temporary reverie.
Foot Of The Mountain, always a stunning beauty in acoustic form, rolls out pounding heartbeat bass, staccato piano and strings, all evoking images of swift natural movement or perhaps, a heartbeat urgently heading for the hills.
One of the real standouts is This Alone is Love, with its moody strings, mournful lyrics and intense rhythm, it could well be the Ultimate Scandinavian Song. Perfect lyrics, perfect rhythm, perfect mood that begs a Norsk version sometime. Full credit goes to the full team of musicians especially violinists and the saxophone. ScandiNordic hereby throws out a musical challenge out to some of the Norsk electronica and hip hop set to try this tune as well. Kom igjen, Oslo Records!
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"Sox Of the Fox" from pre A-Ha days is a pure delight. It's not the prog rock one expects, given it goes back to the band's pre UK history; the audience instead receives a sultry, almost Arabesque mini opera. The story behind this song is fascinating; it is part of a bundle of songs and lyrics rescued by A-Ha's manager and their biggest fan.
Echo and The Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch joins in on "Scoundrel Days" and a beautiful, rollicking version of "The Killing Moon", an appropriate nod to both bands' poetic Eighties roots. The always amazing Alison Moyet lends her renowned and very Brit-French class to a high funk jazz rendition of Summer Moved On.
We're not in a sweaty Kansas stadium now, Toto ... this is midtsommer Scandinavia, when folks sit out on their rooftops till very late enjoying wine, long days and Northern Lights. The music is therefore rearranged suitably, to match the gentle optimism of the season.
Jazz and classical influences transform intense tunes Living Daylights (with its perennially sexy bassline and umistakable bridge) and guitar thumper Manhattan Skyline. Take On Me is radically and beautifully different. You'll Like It. Nei ! YOU'LL LOVE IT.
The quality of the instruments and clarity of amazing vocals invite the listener to pay close attention to the superb musicianship throughout the album. This is timeless listening.
A-Ha deliver well beyond the easy tunes and create a very special moment in time that will be long appreciated. This special event is a most spectacular result.
"TAKK" FOR READING! Comment or view links below.
This article first appeared on ScandiShop.Online now SCANDINORDIC.com. Please request permission to reproduce. Contact Sales@Scandinordic.com. Takk!
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LINKS These open in a new window.
- Check out our music review of Chris Lie, Norwegian RnB/ hip hop artist
- Planning to stream? BUY only Official music and streams! Support musicians so they can create more music for you. Streaming provides next to NO income for smaller artists. If they sell their music on their own website, buy or download there first. Read this article about streaming income.
- Official A-Ha.Com Background Article about the performance
- Some music techie stats about Morten Harket's baritenor voice and particular high and low notes
- Interesting factoid: I've Been Losing You is featured in the 2011 Joachim Trier film, August 31st.