It's a New Years Eve. Since we're living times of ominious signs in economics, it might be appropriate to listen this song :-). Kivikasvotwas a vocal group that was formed in 1965 while the members were all serving in the Finnish Army. It consisted of Ismo Sajakorpi, Ilkka Hemming, Matti "Fredi" Siitonen ja Georg Dolivo. It was not primarily a recording group, but a group of entertainers that could sing in harmony. They had very succesful TV Show in the beginning of 70's. All individual members have established solo careers, especially Fredi, who has many times been presented in Finnpicks (see for example this entry). The quartet recorded "Tuhon partaalla" (On the brink of disaster) in 1965. The original is the well-known "Eve Of Destruction" sung by Barry McGuire on the crest of the 60's folk- and protest movement. Barry had been in the singing group New Christy Minstrels and co-wrote their first and biggest hit single: "Green, Green." He left the group in 1965 and continued as a solo folk rock singer. His one and only big hit was "Eve of Destruction" that went to #1 on charts. According to McGuire, it was recorded in one take on a Thursday morning and then he got a call from the record company at 7:00 the next Monday morning, telling him to turn on the radio - his song was playing.
Merja Rantamäki is known for her personal singing voice described as "gypsy vibrato". Her first recording and her big breakthrough in 1976 was "Mä mistä löytäisin sen laulun" (Where would I find that song). The end of the the 70's was her prime time with 4 succesful albums under her belt. In the beginning of 80's Merja abandoned her singing career and devoted to family life. The original song was called "A Gde Mne Vzjat Takuju Pesnju" (Where do I take this song ) and was recorded by Russian Olga Voronec in the 60's. Olga was a famous mezzo-soprano performing mainly Russian folk songs. In 1956 at the International Folk Festival in France, the Russian folk song "Kalinka" performed by Olga enjoyed such success that the singer was renamed as "Olga-Kalinka". Her voice ranging from delicate pianissimo to powerful forte contributed to her big success in Soviet Union.
From the end of the 60's through the beginning of the 80's was the era of left-wing song movement in Finland. It had its roots in political theatre in the 60's and the program groups of the radical youth movement of the university students. One of the later emblems of the era was Arja Saijonmaa and her "Ystävän laulu" (Song about a friend). Although the lyrics (written by Juha Vainio) of the song are nothing more than simple story of how a true friend behaves, the song has been labeled as "political". Arja Saijonmaa recorded the song in 1983 and it became one of her greatest hits. Arja was already an established entertainer at the time having recorded with Mikis Theodorakis and making other international appearences. She later made her biggest breakthrough in Sweden. The original song is of Russian origin and called "Pesnya o druge" (Song about friend). It was written and performed by legendary Russian troubadour Vladimir Vysotski. Vysotski sang simple ballads about love. war, peace and everyday Soviet life. However in Soviet Union he was considered as "forbidden singer", and thus his recordings are often made with elementary equipment. The quality of sound is not very good as you can hear yourself. But the feeling of utmost sincerity is there ...
This time another old Finnpick artist Vieno Kekkonen (see previous entry). Her 1957 recording of "Rakkauden kiertokulku" (The circulation of love) has well stood the test of time and has later been versioned for example by Finnish legend Rauli "Badding" Somerjoki (of whom we will be hearing more in future Finnpicks). The original song is a rare 1954 recording of Teresa Brewer, an American pop and jazz singer who was one of the most popular female singers of the 1950s.
Well - I'm back from the holidays. And it's time to present those old finnpicks again. Let's get the wheel slowly turning with our old friend Danny and his recording from the year 1966, "Hiljainen kitara" (Silent guitar). Danny had a remarkable ability to pick up songs that weren't hits in Finland (or anywhere else for that matter) and make fine and tasteful cover versions of them. This is one of those songs. The original "Gringo's Guitar" was done by the famous crooner Perry Como on his 1965 Nashville country album. The album was produced by Chet Atkins, and I guess it is he that plays the Gringo's guitar on the record. The song was composed by Cindy Walker. She was a renowned country artist in her own right, but I don't know if she never recorded this beautiful eerie western ballad herself.
Let's enjoy of some summer feelings in the middle of darkest winter. This song makes me always think happy thoughts. Ossi Ahlapuro and Ritva Oksanen recorded "Maria Isabel" in 1970. It was the A-side of the only single they did together. Both Ossi and Ritva were actors, but both also cut several records, primarily in the 70's. Ossi can be called "voice actor". He has given his voice to several animated movie characters and he has often been heard in radio productions. Ritva is an esteemed all-round actor with many appraised performances especially in TV Dramas. The original "Maria Isabel" was THE summer hit in Spain in 1969. It was performed by the group Los Payos, a trio from Sevilla. The song was their big breakthrough and became an anthem in the Spanish discotheques in the tourist resorts, and many tourists bought the single as a souvenir. What was unique in the sound of Los Payos was the combining of flamenco guitar with the normal acoustic pop guitar and spicing it up with flute.
Here's the pair:
p.s. I will now leave for holiday, so no Finnpicks for 2 weeks ...
Marion Rung , or just Marion, (see previous entry) has been among the leading ladies of Finnish pop music for over 40 years. She started her career in the beginning og 60's and is still recording and performing actively. She recorded "Kylähäät" (Village wedding) in 1976. The lyrics (done by famous lyricist Juha Vainio) tell a story about really wild wedding in some unnamed village. Marion recorded also a German version of this song as "Der Bauer und sein Weibchen". The lyrics in Finnish version are quite different compered to the original song "Campesino". It modestly tells about a peasant who happens to see a lady bathing in the river and then cannot forget this sight. The Spanish lyrics were written by the performer of the song Georgie Dann. Georgie is a French singer who primarily made his career in Spain in the 70's. As this song "Campesino" is composed by an Italian songwriter Franco Bracardi, it truly is an international effort. It was released in 1975 and was a summer hit in Spain.
Jouko & Kosti (see previous entry) recorded "Sisäinen kauneus" (Inner beauty) in 1971. It was b-side of a single and didn't get much attention at the time. But there's something in the song that calls for repeated listening. It grows on you - perhaps there's some "inner beauty" in it, too. The tune is composed by famous songwriters Alber Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, and performed originally by Irishman Joe Dolan (see earlier entry), who has recorded several songs written by Hammond -Hazlewood team. It was released as a single but was not one of Joe's biggest hits. However, the song is very well worth to listen to, and perhaps to listen to again and again ...
For some reason contry & western songs are not so widely covered in Finland. Which is odd, becouse there's a basic Finnish mood in many country songs; wailing and sadness presented with down-to-earth lyrics and hummable melodies. Often with a strong story line. Here's one great country cover song with a sad story inside it. Eero, Jussi & the Boys (see previous entry) recorded "Tummanpunainen" (Dark red) in 1966. It was released as a single and fared very well, probaly aided by the fact that another "story song" "Balladi kanuunasta (Ballad of a canon) was on the other side of the record. This story about a boy and a girl, fast red car, and sheriff (girl's father) was first told in American country ballad called "Candy Apple Red". It was recorded in 1964 by Bill Anderson and George Hamilton IV, both popular country artists in USA, but less known in Finland. I don't know which of the gentleman cut the definite first version but here I represent the Anderson version. He's been named "Whispering Bill", and when you listen to this song you understand why. BTW, "Candy apple red" is the name code used by manufacturing companies to define a shade of red similar to the red caramelized sugar coating on candied apples. So now you know what color the car was ...
Updated 19.1.2009: I have added the George Hamilton IV version.
Arto Sotavalta was only 14 years old when he fronted the group Rattle Sound Five and won second prize in Finnish Battle of the Bands. More success came with the group Rogues in 1966–1969. (This group included future Finnish guitar legend Jukka Tolonen). The first hit for Arto was this song "Löysin rantein" (literally "with limp wrists", a finnish idiom for "take it easy", not to confuse with the homosexual meanings it has in English language world today) recorded in 1967. The original song was Royal Guardsmen's (see yesterdays entry) 3rd and first non-Snoopy single. It was not nearly as successful as the two preceding Snoopy -singles and reached only number 46 in the charts. But for some reason it was picked by the Finns and made to relatively bigger hit here.
In the aftermath of Independence Day and after seeing the war movie "Tuntematon sotilas" (Unknown soldier) for the umpteenth time. this song might well fit in. Pirkka-Pekka Petelius (see previous entry) recorded "Ganjalasta Kajahtaa" (Big noise from Ganjala) in 1993. I guess it must be one of those RUI -records (Recorded Under Influece). Otherwise I cannot understand the parallels between Finnish Marshall of War Mannerheim and Ethopian Emperor Haile Selassie, and references to drugs (Ganja). But perhaps this great reggae version called for those kind of ingredients. BTW, Pirkka-Pekka played one of those unknown soldiers in a later adaption of the above-mentioned movie. The original is this time coming from USA. Royal Guardsmen had a huge hit with "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" in 1966. It's a novelty song about the imaginary World War I antics of Charlie Brown's pet beagle in the Charles Schulz' comic strip Peanuts. The Royal Guardsmen were a rock band from Florida the band adopted their Anglophile name during the British Invasion of the Beatles and others. They achieved their fame with this song, their first single. Snoopy, the Red Baron, and aircraft became a recurring theme in their later songs. Royal Guardsmen are currently experiencing a renewal and have recorded a new Snoopy song, "Snoopy vs. Osama"!
p.s. as requested - I've added the Kontra's version.
As this is the Independence Day of Finland, and the 91st birthday of Finland, it's time for congratulations. Robin (real name Esa Simonen) was a gym teacher but also pop singer. He sometimes combined both by performing while standing on his head. He recorded "Mua onnitelkaa" (Congratulate me) in 1968, gaining moderate success with it. The original was the English entry in that years Eurovision Song Contest "Congratulations" presented by Cliff Richard.
Danny (see previous entry) recorded "Maantieltä taloon" (From the road to the house) in 1972 It was quite a big hit at the time and you could hear the song all over the place. I guess Danny was covering the internationally known Chicory Tip version, but the original came fron Germany. And again the man behind it was Giorgio Moroder. He composed the song and the original lyrics in German for "Nachts scheint die Sonne" (The sun shines at nights) were done by the artist who performed it - Michael Holm. Michael is a well-known German singer, musician, songwriter and producer. Although he is generally known as a "Schlager" singer, he also created a band called Cusco that has succeeded in reaching a well-merited position in the alternative music with a distinctive style based on the folk roots of South America.
Enough with that soft stuff! Here's an entry that some consider to be the first Finnish Punk Record. Antti "Andy" Einiö recorded "Farmer John" in 1964. Antti was not a singer (and perhaps you can hear it on the record), but music business man and TV music program host. This was his first and only (well, amost) try in the pop singing. He cut a couple of other rock'n roll songs, but a career as a pop star wasn't his ambition. Antti has especially been known as a promoter, and has frequently given Finns the first opportunity to see the big world stars performing live. In his early years Andy was also an active sportsman, winning Finnish Championships both in hockey and bandy. The original "Farmer John" was delivered with more subdued fashion by American rock'n roll duo Don & Dewey in 1959. Don was Don Bowman (later better known as "Sugarcane" Harris) and Dewey was Dewey Terry. Although Don and Dewey did not have any hits of their own, several of the songs that they wrote and/or recorded would appear on the charts later, performed by other artists. Dewey penned "Farmer John", and it became a hit for the group The Premiers in 1964. Antti Einiö most probably covered Premiers' version.
One more dramatic song about love and eyes and faces done by Seija Simola. "Rakkaus kasvoista kasvoihin" (Love face to face) was on the other side of "Sulle silmäni annan" -single 1969. In fact both songs were recorded on the same day - 10.02.1969. It must have been a good day for Seija,. It was a good day for Finnish pop music, anyway. The original songa again was of Italian origin. "Gli Occhi Dell'Amore" (Eyes of love) was a minor hit single for Patti Pravo (see also this entry) in 1968. Patti is known for her contralto voice and has made a long successful gareer in Italy. She's still performing and doing tours today.
We continue this romantic spree with Seija Simola (see previous entry). She recorded "Sulle silmäni annan" (I'll give my eyes to you) in 1969. The song has become a classic in dramatic pop. It is considered to be one of Seija's finest moments. The original tune once more originated from Italy. It was composed by Vittorio Ferri for his daughter Gabriella to sing. Gabriella Ferri co-wrote the lyrics to "Ti regalo gli occhi miei" (I give you my eyes) She had broke onto the Rome singing scene in 1965 by singing popular Roman songs. During her career, she also performed Neapolitan and Latin American pieces. During the 1970s, she starred on several TV shows, but by the 1990s, she had largely left the stage. Gabriella died in 2004 after falling from a third-floor balcony, but her songs live everafter.
After the disco thumping we will move into more romantic mood. Tapani Kansa released "Sulle" (For you) as a single in 1977. It was medium-sized hit for him and the song has become a regular part of his repertoire. The original song "Il Etait Une Fois Nous Deux" (Once there were us two), was done into an European-wide hit by famous singer Joe Dassin in 1976. It was composed by Dassin's - and our - old friend Salvatore "Toto" Cutugno, and also recorded by Cutugno's group Albatros as "Monja Monja". Joe Dassin was born in USA but emigrated later to Europe. His father was the movie director Jules Dassin. And probably partly becouse of his famous father, he secured his first recording contract in the 60's. The song "Les Champs-Élysées" was his first international hit and "Taka Takata" 1972 made him world star.