3 out of 5 Stars!
In the early ’70s, Finland’s obscure yet legendary Wigwam released several “must have” albums for Prog-Rock fans—Fairport (1971), Being (1974), and Nuclear Nightclub (1975)—then altered its sound to include a bit more Pop Rock into the mixture of styles, no doubt seeking a wider audience.
For the most part, the experiment worked marginally well, at least for some fans, and 1977’s Dark Album (the band’s seventh and final album before disappearing until the ’90s) falls into this “for the most part” category.
The music on offer here is a hybrid, coming somewhere between commercial AOR/Pop Rock material (the album opener “Oh Marlene!” or “Helsinki Nights” and “The Silver Jubilee,” for example) and Prog-Rock, with many of the hybrid tracks (“The Item is the Totem,” “Horace’s Aborted Rip-Off Scheme,” “The Vegetable Rumble,” and “Cheap Evening Return”) being occasionally reminiscent of groups such as Kayak, City Boy, Supertramp, and other more Art Rock acts that successfully balanced the two genres, only with gruffer vocals and no reliance on the vocal harmony gymnastics that instantly identified the aforementioned bands.
Although Dark Album is not my favorite within Wigwam’s catalogue of releases—I prefer the earlier Prog-Rock platters—it’s fairly intriguing and enjoyable nevertheless.
And one final note (hint) to Prog fans: If investigating this release for purchase, seek out the version with the two bonus tracks (“Grass for Blades” and “Daemon Duncetan’s Request”) and you’ll find even more to enjoy.
Why these two more Prog-oriented/keyboard-featured tracks were left off the original release is just one of those annoying music-history mysteries…well, probably not such a mystery, since everyone knows that pushing a band to become “more commercial” to greedy, insatiable record company executives always means “more sales to line their greedy, insatiable pockets.” 🙂