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Finn Coren
Spring - The Blake Project, Part 1 & 2
Bard Records

Finn Coren is a serious artist.

You can see that from the pictures of him on the cover of this CD. Hearing this album only strengthens that impression, and - note which musicians are participating. Then of course, Finn Coren is the only Norwegian musician who has the courage to do a project like this; putting contemporary (rock) music to William Blake's poetry.

This is Coren's third LP (his first release was a single - My Life Is My Art (!) - in 1987), and apart from one track on a Rock Furore (Norwegian magazine - editor's note) CD four years ago, this is his first output since 1990's Love's Loneliness by A Full Moon In March. This isn't the first time Coren puts music to poetry, as he partly did that on his first solo LP, The Echoing Green (1989) while A Full Moon In March was "Coren and Trøst (Trond Tornes) on William Butler Yeats".

I have always regarded Finn Coren as a true visionary, a man with the belief and guts to make music that stands out from what most Norwegian contemporaries manage. Listening to his previous records still gives me pleasure, but I can now hear that those records are not as faultless as I once considered them to be. Spring - The Blake Project proves Coren's talent, and I am glad to say he has matured considerably (as have I as a listener, I guess). As usual, he collaborates with producer Ulf W. Ø. Holand and guitarist Nils-Arne Øvergård, and I feel that their strong partnership is one of the main reasons for this record's artistical success. Some of the music was written as long ago as 1983 (does anyone remember Hambi And The Dance?), but Coren regarded himself not experienced enough to record them at that time. But here it is, Spring - The Blake Project, recorded in the 1990's with some lyrics more than 200 years old:

I was a little bit scared the first time I heard the record; the opening track immediately got me thinking of Songs From The Wood (!) by Jethro Tull (!!) - what is Finn Coren up to? But already on the next song, The Garden Of Love, I knew he was on the right track, and that this was going to be a good record. Spring, with it's acoustic guitars, cello and mello(w)tron (aah!!!) is a typical Coren song, a ballad as soft as you can get it, so beautiful it nearly hurts. One of his best songs ever. The Voice Of The Ancient Bard brings memories of Cat Stevens (...), or rather, Roy Harper on a good day, an acoustic song with impeccable Fender Rhodes by Jon Willy Rydningen. More electric piano follows on Holy Thursday Two, this time a jumping Wurlitzer which nearly makes me wanna dance. This song closes part 1, Spring, and as this album contains more than 70 minutes of music, I prefer to take a break here (I recommend a quick spin of one of the two EP's by Bronson Comet Lighter in this intermission).

The opening title track of part two, Silent Melancholy, is Coren again as we have learned to know him from earlier. Some people with no sense of history would scream Suede!, but I will calm them down and tell them that this is a tune Coren could have recorded already on his first album. Many of the songs which follows, show him as an adult, sophisticated artist with a lot on offer. I must add that the quality of the songs on the second part of the album is higher, so I feel that this is the better of the two parts.

I prefer the more relaxed moments on the album (check To Tirzah with it's divine trumpet), and I feel that Coren has a problem with the up-tempo rockier songs (they are in minority). Gone is the Bowie hang-up that overshadowed some of his earlier work, here he has found a more distinct personal style. Spring - The Blake Project is a long record (yes, I know this is 2 records on 1 CD) that needs time to grow on you, and a record that I will come back to many, many times. It is certainly one of the albums that will be on my Best of 1997-list. I wonder what he would come up with if someone told him to write a song for Robert Wyatt? I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be a new Shipbuilding. He can be that good. In the meantime, what about releasing material from the rumoured 2-3 albums recorded between 1990 and 1996?

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You may also want to check out our Finn Coren articles/reviews: I draumar fær du : Dikt Av Olav H. Hauge, Lovecloud, På jorden et sted : Utvalgte nordiske dikt.

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