Alrune Rod - Sonet Arene 1969 - 72 [Boxset]

Boxset/Compilation, released in 2002

 Review by Sean Trane
4 stars! This "compilation" of AR's full works under the Sonet label is their first three albums on two discs with their very first single (non- albums tracks) as an added bonus. Please see the separate album reviews I wrote to get an idea as to the album's respective contents. While it is easily understandable that the debut's artwork gets the booklet cover, I find it a little sad that the two other album's artwork where reduced to small insets on the front cover, forgetting part of them as well. Otherwise, the also features a bunch of b&w pictures of the band in concert.

I'll concentrate mainly on the two non-album single tracks featured as bonus in this release, as this 45 RPM was issued prior to their debut album. Pigen Pa Stranden is a strange track written by an outsider, but borrowing heavily on Procol's Whiter Shade Of Pale, but faziling to capture its magic. The flipside is not much more in line with the group's works, Tael Aldrig I Morgen Med is sounding like an early Vdgg track (Aerosol Grey Machine-type) with an electric fuzzed-out guitar, but somehow, it sounds more like it's their own track.

Nowadays, your best chance to hear early Alrune Rod albums is through this good compilation, and its 3 on 2 deal should make it affordable. While AR's career is only a footnote in Continental Europe's prog history, the group was an important part of its country's rock scene. Recommended, even if the essential aspects will depend on the proghead's priorities and his musical inclinations.
ALRUNE ROD 1969: (Psychedelic/Space Rock)
Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Eponymous debut album from this quintessential Danish group Alrune Rod (Mandrake Root), which was highly touted in the underground scene for their disregard to commercial aspects of the music business. Indeed their heavy psych-prog, sung in Danish (apparently a first), sounds like a darker Vanilla Fudge or Floyd (between Saucerful and Atom Heart) was full of lengthy tracks with elongated solos, dark brooding vocals and multi-movement tracks. Graced with a very sexy psychedelic gatefold artwork, the album has gained a cult status in its homeland and the vinyl is fetching considerable price.

From the very first notes of the opening eponymous track (10-mins long), it is clear that this album is not wedding dancing party music, and should you find a woman willing to make out to it, get a grip on her and marry her! ;o)p) And if the AR track was not enough, wait till you get a load of the following 10-min Natskyggevej (yeah, bless you too! ;o), which is definitely even deeper and sombre with the ever-present organ. Even if sombre, the ambiances are actually often beautiful and sometimes solemn, but also menacing and spellbinding. Closing the A-side is the short and unusual Hvor Skalwhatchymacallit with some acoustic guitars and congas. Bassist Roden's voice can be an acquired taste, especially on tracks were vocals take a more upfront role.

The flipside only contains two more epics, starting with the 12-min 3-phase Bjergsangen which sounds much like its cousins, searing guitar lines, good base work and enthralling drum playing, but the middle section is a bit awkward and add to the feeling that the music also has an anaemic side to it. Ziegler's organ sounds like a cross of Banton meeting Jon Lord through Kaye or Wright, but fails to take the lead from Giese's fuzzed-out guitar lines. Closing the album is the 13-min+ Rejsen Hejm (Pardon my Danish) is the most dramatic of the album, and its dynamics are adding a bit of a third dimension to the album.

AR's debut album is not a really easy listen, especially given that the album is rather long, (approaching the 50 minutes), but should ravish organ-driven hard rock with a psych edge! Although likely to please most progheads, I'd warn those liking very complex symphonic rock (ala Yes or ELP), that they might not find what they're looking usually for in this group. Very close to being essential hippie icon, and to file next to Vanillage Fudge.
HEJ DU 1970: (Psychedelic/Space Rock)
Review by Sean Trane
4 stars If AR's debut was a dark and un-commercial album, wait 'til you get a load of Hej Du with its three tracks only (we are in '70, well before CTTE or other landmarks), and multi-movement pieces. Sporting a naïve childlike artwork, fans usually regard this album as the group's definitive statement, and I must say that it does make quite an impression on me, still more than 10 years after discovering it. Actually the group will experience their first line-up change during the recording of this album, with original drummer From leaving the stool to Karsten Host.

Starting with the distorted guitars of Du Taler Sumthinalongthisline (You Talk And Say), the album gives a shot in the anthill of your certainties, but the track is actually fairly weak as the over-powering vocals are not exactly well thought out. The following 15-min+ title track is quite an improvement, as it is reminiscent of the dynamics of the closer Hjem of the debut album. Indeed, the organ and guitar are clashing wildly while Host's drumming is at times breathtaking.

The sidelong 8-movement almost-22min suite Perlesoen is clearly the album's centerpiece (even if it stands as its last track ;o), with its interesting mixture of dark organ-based progressive (ala Uriah Heep), psychedelic music (early Pink Floyd), and space rock (early Hawkwind) and bits of soul music (reworked ala Vanilla Fudge), with loads of riffing guitars and wild drumming. Even having some flute parts in one movement, this epic is truly progressive with each chapter developing its own mood, but adding to the whole structure. One of the assets of this track is that a second drummer Klaus From helps out, giving more depth to it. Just past the halfway mark, as the track stops for umpteenth time, the bass picks up with the searing guitar, soon joined by the drums and organs to build a lengthy crescendo, then suddenly, bass and guitar break away some more, before eventually dying out. As soon as gone, an organ line is to be heard lazily followed by another, then almost whispering vocals (at first anyway) with Appice-like drums, the whole thing ending in chaos!

Although marginally better than their eponymous debut album, Hej Du is one of Denmark's most definitive albums in its genre (if you except the vocally ambitious but ultimately poor opening track), and only topped progressively (but in a very different genre) by Secret Oyster's outstanding jazz-rock of Sea Son. Highly recommended piece of somber hippie rock especially to most of those symphonic progheads claiming psych rock is not part of "prog".
ALRUNE ROCK 1971: (Psychedelic/Space Rock)
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars With their third album AR made some concessions to commercial issues, even releasing an English-sung variant of the album, but shorter writing songs (no longer than 8 mins) where vocals take on a much more important and upfront role. With a comparatively bland (but wiser commercially) artwork featuring a bucolic landscape with a farmhouse, there still only six tracks on the album, but the mood is definitely set on more concise songs, allowing much less interplay than on the two previous albums. The group will again have line-up changes with Ziegler leaving, not really being replaced by another keyboardist, but by a second (rhythm) guitarist Ole Poulsen (who will co-write on all tracks) and a bunch of guest musicians to fill Ziegler's shoes!

Starting on fairly strong Om At, sounding a bit like an average Spirit track, partly because of Giese's guitar tone resembling Randy California's, the album is a bit of a pot-pourri, as the next track, a rather dumb-sounding ballad overstaying its welcome. The two- part JegTaenker is definitely more reminiscent of the group's previous two albums, but much more in its intro than in the latter parts, which can sound symphonic with the addition of a flute on a piano background, but ends in a fishtail fade-out.

On the flipside, Rock Sister features some sax parts, but the songwriting is weak and uninspired, not being helped much by some awful vocals that most amateur bands would avoid. Easily the group's first three album's weakest track! Fortunately the follow-up track Ikke Forstyrre is much more promising, sounding like Quicksilver Messenger Service's debut album, Giese's guitars is sounding a bit like Cipollina's superb twangy wahwah guitar throughout much of the album. This track and Om At are the two highlights and just about save the album from sinking. Closing the album is a short and insignificant track, not bringing much more to the album.

On the whole, the album is a much livelier, happier collection of songs, (some of which are fairly good), but it is clear that AR lost a good deal of its soul in this metamorphosis. Significantly, electric and acoustic guitar are more upfront on this album at the expense of the keyboards, and Roden's vocals are simply too weak to endure a whole album, especially for the sake of the listener's ear.

This would prove to be their last album for the Sonet label as the group would create its own label Mandragora (but distributed by Sonet, if memory serves) and release three more albums in so many years. In the meantime, their third album is much less essential affair, but most progheads will not escape it, since early AZR works are on the Sonet Arene compilation, which seems to be the handiest and most easily available AR record around.
Disc 1
1- Alrune Rod (10:00)
2- Natskyggevej (9:55)
3- Hvor Skal Jeg Se Solen Stå Op (3:12)
4- Bjergsangen (11:57)
Fase1: Kom Og Tag Min Hånd
Fase2: Du Er Så Sød
Fase3: Når Yderst Er Inderst
5- Rejsen Hjem (13:23)
HEJ DU 1970:
6- Du Taler Og Sir' (7.51)
7- Hej Du (15.11)

Disc 2

1- Perlesøen (21.51)
Prelude / Nu / Prøv / ? / Invitation / Neden/Under / Ny Dag / Finale
2- Om At (7:39)
3- Kender Du Det (6:07)
4- Jeg Tænker Så Tit pt 1&2 (7:08)
5- Rock Søster (7:32)
6- Ikke Forstyrre (8:00)
7- I Din Nabos Lys (2:00)

NON ALBUM single tracks:
8- Tæl Aldrig
9- Imorgen Med

Line-up / Musicians

Giese / guitar & vocals
Kurt Ziegler 'Pastor' / organ, piano
Claus From / drums
Leif Roden / vocals, bass

 >Alrune Rod - Sonet Arene 1969 - 72 [Boxset]< 

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