Week of February 17, 2008

Junipher Greene

Bent Åserud - guitars, keyboards, vocals, flute
Geir Bøhren - -drums, lead vocals, sax, clarinet
Freddy Dahl - -guitars, lead vocals
Helge Grøslie - organ, lead vocals
Øyvind Vilbo - bass, vocals
Arve Sakariassen - bass
Lars Hesla - keyboards
Johnny Bøgeberg - bass

Friendship - 1971 Sonet SLP 1413/14; CD: Sonet (KSCD 4), Universal Music AS, 2003
Communication - 1973 ONLPS1
Best Of - 1975 On
Rewind (1969-1978) - 1981 Hammer HLP 4001

This Oslo group did what The Mothers Of Invention had done in 1966 and Magma had done in 1970: they started their recording career (in 1971) with a double album! Junipher Greene were the first Norwegian group to release a double album, although among the Scandinavians they were preceded by Burnin' Red Ivanhoe's “M144” (dating from 1969). The album “Friendship” is an ambitious effort and a milestone in Scandinavian (if not European) progressive rock, bridging the hippie idealism of the sixties to the growing instrumental aspirations of the seventies. Junipher Greene started performing under this name in 1967 and the content of “Friendship” spanned several years. Many of the songs on the first album of the set echo the slow rock of The Beatles and Pretty Things circa 1969/70 with vocals treated with Leslie effects (as favoured by John Lennon) and clever guitar riffing. "Try To Understand" embraced the sentiments of "Come Together" and the young generation's movement. It's the excellent songwriting that lifts “Friendship” above many of its rivals. Still many parts of it proved they had learned from contemporary Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd. The more 'progressive' parts (full of electric guitars, organ and flute) are most notable on the set’s second disc's "Friendship Suite" - a masterwork of progressive rock lasting for over 25 minutes.

Freddy Dahl left Junipher Greene soon after the album was released. Demoralized by an exhaustive tour in Poland, Helge Grøslie also left the band. He would later play with Titanic for some years.

The remaining trio nonetheless decided to carry on. Their rather laboured efforts resulted in "Communication" (1973). The joy and enthusiasm of “Friendship” had now gone and the two albums offer a striking illustration of how the hippie dream turned sour (as it did for thousands of people). Rarely have I heard such a bad-spirited, patchy album. You are invited to take part in a self-indulgent search for artistic fulfilment by musicians short of both studio time and money. They almost succeeded on the 12-minute title track, but the remaining tracks are sleepy, rural progressive folk-rock numbers highlighting their crumbling motivation. None of the three members had strong voices for lead vocals and even worse was their mischievous treatment of the English language.

Rewind” (1981) contained, apart from a remix of "Take The Road Across The Bridge" and the 1973 single "Ugha Mugha Sunshine Boy", previously unissued tracks (two from 1969 and ten from the period 1976 to 1978). This material sounds more dated today than their earlier output and is of limited interest. Bøhren and Åserud kept the group moniker for various new incarnations in the 80s. These bore little resemblance to the original group. Since then, they have built up a strong reputation as the supreme creators of movie soundtracks in Norway. Surprisingly, they now detest their early work and it's unlikely that “Communication” will ever be officially re-released.

Taken from Scented Gardens of the Mind - A guide to the Golden Era of Progressive Rock (1968-1980) in more than 20 European Countries, by Dag Erik Asbjørnsen, Borderline Productions, ISBN 1-899855-12-2

Back to Alex's Home Page