Various Artists

Love Records Anthology 1967-1976

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From the late 1960s through the mid-'70s, the Love label was -- on the evidence of this CD compilation, at least -- Finland's most notable independent record company. Though it did not solely release Finnish rock music, that's the focus of this 16-track compilation. It includes cuts by more than a dozen Finnish acts, most of them leaning in a progressive rock direction. As Finland has a small population and this is a small sampling of its rock output from the era, it might be too much to expect this to unveil a major scene overlooked by the rest of the Western world, and much of it is derivative of rock trends in the period from English-speaking countries, especially British progressive rock. It's true, too, that the most notable artists -- Blues Section and Wigwam, the latter of whom were the only act here to make an impact (if a mild one) in the U.K. and U.S. -- benefited from the presence of expatriate British rock singer Jim Pembroke. Nonetheless, this is an impressively diverse and worthwhile compilation, some (but by no means all) of the bands tending toward the bluesier and more wistfully serious sides of prog rock. Pembroke is heavily represented by three 1967-1968 tracks from his pre-Wigwam outfit Blues Section -- which, as their name indicates, drew from late-'60s blues-rock and psychedelia -- and Wigwam's 1969 non-LP debut single "Must Be the Devil."

Those are the selections that might most impress fans of British freakbeat and psychedelia, but most of the cuts by the more obscure performers have their appeal. Atlantic Ocean's "Take a Look Around You" is rather pop-friendly prog; Pekka Streng and Tabula Rasa are, like some other artists here, informed by pensive folk; and Juice Leskinen & Coitus Int. (their actual name) slightly recall the playfulness of early British Canterbury groups, with a Finnish bent when the accordion kicks in. On the more experimental side, there's J O Mallander's instrumental of backward tapes and saxophone; Piirpauke's doomy fusion; and M. A. Numminen's "Joulupukki Puree Ja Lyo," which sounds more like goofy Finnish folk than rock. You might have to be a prog rock completist for this anthology to incite you to search for full albums by these performers. But as a survey of much of the early Finnish prog rock scene for the more casually curious, it's smartly selected and well sequenced, and more various-artists compilations from the Love vaults would be welcome.

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