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October 7, 2017
A-Ha ~ MTV Unplugged - Summer Solstice
Released 6 October, 2017
One of the must buy albums for summer jazz and Eighties fans alike. Summer Solstice is the most sublime arrangement and performance of Norwegian trio A-Ha's discography to date.
A-Ha are frequently cited as being the most underrated band on earth. They are absolutely huge in Europe, Brazil and Argentina.
For those who have not listened to A-Ha since Take On Me days, they've matured radically across the 30 years they've been performing since then.
This intimate June 2017 concert, set on the island of Giske well north of urban Oslo at Midsommer, gave the band an opportunity to incorporate sophisticated elements not available or considered 30 years ago.
There are countless surprises, most notably the horn section. Generously, they include next generation Scandinavian talent and a couple of esteemed British musical peers to perform alongside them. There's interesting folkie or operatic interpretations with string and horn sections and vintage acoustic instruments, producing sounds not often heard in electronic obsessed Eighties pop. Their subtle self affacing humour also creates several fun moments.
The entire two hour show and its 21 tunes is filled with delightful contrasts.
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I've Been Losing You is a duet with an Iowan singer, Lissie Maurus, whose country voice complements Morten's measured tones. Magne's piano begins and ends with slightly operatic Japanese influences, meeting country atmosphere in the middle.
The Sun Always Shines On Me is another duet, this time with a young Norwegian, Ingrid Helene Håvik, whose 2014 album Silent Treatment won her the national 2014 Spellemannprisen music composer award.
Foot Of The Mountain, always a stunning beauty in acoustic form, rolls out pounding heartbeat bass, staccato piano and strings, all evoking images of swift natural movement.
One of the real standouts is This Alone is Love, with its moody strings, mournful lyrics and intense rhythm, it could well be the Ultimate Scandinavian Song. Perfect lyrics, perfect rhythm, perfect mood that begs a Norsk version sometime. Full credit goes to the full team of musicians especially violinists and the saxophone. Scandishop hereby throws out a challenge out to some of the Norsk electronica and hip hop set to try this tune as well.
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"Sox Of the Fox" from pre A-Ha days is a huge surprise. It's not the prog-rock one expects, given the band's pre UK history; the audience instead receives a sultry, almost Arabesque mini opera.
Echo and The Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch joins in on "Scoundrel Days" and a beautiful, rollicking version of "The Killing Moon", an appropriate nod to both bands' poetic Eighties roots. The always amazing Alison Moyet lends her renowned and very Brit-French class to a high funk jazz rendition of Summer Moved On.
A-Ha spent months planning the transformation of classic pop into sultry tunes with stringed instruments and slow breathy vocals.
We're not in a sweaty Kansas stadium now, Toto ... this is midtsommer Scandinavia, when folks sit out on their rooftops till very late enjoying wine, long days and Northern Lights. The music is therefore rearranged suitably, to match the gentle optimism of the season. (btw, Argentine wine is VERY popular in Oslo restaurants. Perhaps it travels well).
Jazz and classical influences transform intense tunes Living Daylights (with its perennially sexy bassline and umistakable bridge) and guitar thumper Manhattan Skyline. Take On Me is radically and beautifully different. You'll Like It.
The quality of the instruments and clarity of amazing vocals invite the listener to pay close attention to the superb musicianship throughout the album. This is timeless listening.
A-Ha deliver well beyond the easy tunes and create a very special moment in time that will be long appreciated. This special event is a most spectacular result.
See links below for where to download or purchase.
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LINKS These open in a new window.
- Check out our music review of Chris Lie, Norwegian RnB/ hip hop artist
- Planning to stream? BUY THE ALBUM instead! Support musicians so they can create more music for you. Streaming provides next to NO income for most artists. Read this article.
- Official A-Ha.Com Background Article about the performance
- Some music techie stats about Morten Harket's baritenor voice and particular high and low notes
- Interesting factoid: I've Been Losing You is featured in the 2011 Joachim Trier film, August 31st.