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coverpic flag Norway - Full Moon 238 - 01/24/16

Needlepoint
Aimless Mary
BJK Music

Needlepoint is the baby of guitarist and vocalist Bjørn Klakegg, known from numerous jazz constellations and session man on several AOR-oriented releases in Norway. Steady and sturdy bass player Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen (of BigBang and The National Bank, last heard with Møster! and Elephant9) has been involved since the jazzy and instrumental debut album The Woods Are Not What They Seem in 2010. Experienced session keyboard player David Wallumrød joined for the second Outside The Screen (2012), closer to what we're dealing with now, but with some hilarious improvised, I guess, jazz excursions. Drummer Olaf Olsen (also BigBang) is the newcomer on the third and new one, the best so far, if you ask me.

With Aimless Mary, Bjørn takes us back to his days as a teenager in the 1970s and leans on progressive rock with tendencies towards jazzier terrain in some of the instrumental passages. Well, that's of course customary when we deal with prog-rock. Most of the songs are quite calm, though not laid-back. Bjørn's voice is calm, too, without any vibrato or other gestures. It sometimes reminds me of Richard Sinclair's (Caravan, Hatfield And The North) or Andy Latimer's (Camel) way of singing and suits the songs very well. Some of the keyboard (especially the electric piano) and guitar playing and melody lines bring memories of the quick intonation of the great and late Gentle Giant, but without the neck-breaking breaks. Anyhow, not the worst progressive prog-rock orchestras to be compared with. On the contrary, if you ask me.

The title track starts as a sad little melodic pop gem, close to a ballad, Bjørn's vocals only accompanied by exquisite guitar and electric piano playing close to Gentle Giant before the song slowly gains some more power in the instrumental part with a blistering guitar solo. The same goes for "Why" to some extent, with a bit quirky keyboards underneath and another great guitar solo. The Hammond excesses thereafter is a bit too much for me, though. Too much traditional slightly distorted Hammond sound of the r'n'b-standard from the 1960s and a bit table music alike melody. It's my only minor objection of the contents of the album. The other balladry tracks have more traces of jazz, but not a lot. "Half Awake" is the favourite among them with some great curling guitar and a cool/groovy instrumental part, even a bit funky with drums and organ at the fore! The highest highlight is when the band really takes off in a great instrumental and half-instrumental section with floating guitars and keyboards over a quick pulsating rhythm in the otherwise pretty and neat "Soaring". It can match the best to come out of the German kosmisches kraut or the space excursions of the great but still not late Gong of their heydays in the 1970s. Soaring, indeed!

There's only one thing that seems amateurish with Aimless Mary, the album's front cover drawing. I wish they had gone for an illustration inspired by something else than the lyrics about poor Mary, at home after her daily route walking from bar to bar...

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