Carl Hakansson

Candles Glow

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In the realm of the hardcore record collector, there are those who trawl obsessively through eBay LP listings for search terms like "loner," "downer," and "private press." These buzzwords have come to represent the records that were pressed in tiny quantities decades ago by hermetic singer/songwriters, whose melancholy musings were only ever heard by as many people as there were copies of the album, and they often become high-priced collector's items. Within that world, Carl Hakansson's 1979 album, Candles Glow, is a wet dream come true. Unfortunately, it also bears a rather tragic -- if touching -- back-story. In the late ‘70s, Hakansson was a semi-pro twentysomething troubadour who was pursuing a career in academia but brought in some extra dough playing club gigs around his native New England. Sadly, after being married for less than a year, Hakansson's wife was killed in a car accident. As a tribute, Hakansson -- with the assistance of a group of friends who contributed their time for free -- put together Candles Glow, a collection of songs written as an elegy to his late wife and a remembrance of their relationship. As one might expect, given the logistics, the album has a bit of a lo-fi feel, but many of the tracks have relatively ambitious full-band arrangements. There are, of course, a fair number of hushed, introspective tunes that find Hakansson in acoustic balladeer mode, but a number of cuts sport full-on rock settings, with thick planks of fuzzy, post-psychedelic guitar adding a Neil Young & Crazy Horse touch to the proceedings. The contrast between these two sonic extremes helps to keep Candles Glow from the monochromatic feeling that plagues many other private-press singer/songwriter outings of the ‘60s and ‘70s. And Hakansson's light, agreeable vocal tone and consistently tuneful compositions give the record an unflagging accessibility regardless of the sound quality or even the dark subtext.

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