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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 126 - 01/03/07

Sivert Høyem & the Volunteers
Exiles
EMI

That excellent voice -- but is that enough?

I remember the first time I saw and heard Sivert. It was in 1998 and I was at Rockefeller, Oslo, to see Heather Nova and her band play live. There was this support band I never had heard about, Madrugada. They had already played some songs before I arrived to the scene, and they sounded great - very U.S. style rock and roll, and I still remember that great voice of the vocalist. Thinking of which state in USA they came from, suddenly the singer talked northern Norwegian!!! I was caught by surprise. Madrugada, a Norwegian band.

In 2000 came their debut album, Industrial Silence. This was a great debut filled with very melodic songs, Americana/US guitar rock. The main songwriter and the voice in the front, was Sivert Høyem. Together with Morten Harket (A-ha) and Paal Flaata (Midnight Choir), Sivert has a world class and distinct voice. You recognize it when you hear it.

Since then, there has been five Madrugada albums and one solo (which I don't know) for Sivert, before the release of Exiles.

It starts grand with "Love, Leave Me Alone", widescreen Americana, the voice, guitars and the feeling. Among the best songs Sivert ever have composed. I have played it a lot on high volume. "January 3rd" is a mid-tempo song before the ballad "Don't Pass Me By" (oh, Ringo - you're the one with this song title!). Then comes the title track "Exiles" - an eight minute epic song. "Arcadians", again a ballad - which is ok, but nothing more. "Into the Sea" is forgettable, before the very radio friendly "Just a Little Closer Now". The last three songs - "Horseshoes", "Black Cross" and "I've Been Meaning To Sing You The Song" - are rather "grey" - not being bad and yet, not something to remember or bringing a need to play again.

Where does this leave me? Here are three songs which are among the best ever written and sung by Sivert; "Love, Leave Me Alone", "Exiles" and "Just a Little Closer Now". Some music journalists think this album is different from his work in Madrugada. I think not. Most of the songs on Exiles could have been on CDs with Madrugada. You might get more into it, if you like a mix of the voices and songs of Johnny Cash, Steve Wynn, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Michael Stipe. I can hear their voices and influence in Sivert's songs, but Exiles got too many forgettable songs to call this a great album. If you already are a fan, you will like it. If you are new and want to check Sivert out, you'd better start with Madrugada and the album Industrial Silence. Happy New Music Year in 2007!

BTW: the Volunteers are: Lars Ivar Borg, Fredrik Viklund, Mikael Lindquist and Børge Fjordheim.

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