Apollo

Apollo was a Finnish psych-rock band that released a self-titled album on Blue Master in 1970. Percussionist Edward Vesala became a prominent ECM recording artist.

Members: Edward Vesala (drums, percussion, flute, vocals), Harri Saksala (vocals, accordion, harmonica), Eero Lupari (guitar, vocals), Heimo Holopainen (bass, vocals)


Background

Apollo formed in 1969 when jazz drummer Martti “Edward” Vesala teamed with three members of Finnish pop-rockers Topmost: singer Harri Saksala, guitarist/singer Eero Lupari, and bassist Heimo “Holle” Holopainen.

Vesala played on 1966–68 singles by comedian M.A. Numminen and singer Arto Vilkko. With saxophonist Eero Koivistoinen, he cut the 1967 JATP jazz single “Jappa” (b/w “O.K. Song” / “Spanish Lady & Lovable Miss P”).

Topmost issued multiple 1966–68 singles on assorted labels (RCA Victor, Columbia, Polydor) and a 1967 self-titled album on Parlophone. In 1969, Saksala interacted with Vesala on the Finnlevy release Nykysuomalaista – Contemporary Finnish, a split-album between Soulset and the Edward Vesala Jazz Band.

Apollo gained notoriety for its wild live act. For one photo shoot, the members shed their clothes and posed in body paint.


The Album

Apollo released their self-titled album on Blue Master in 1970. It features 10 originals, six composed by Saksala with arrangements by Vesala: “Symboli,” “Lohduton Uni,” “Ajatuksia,” “Hideki Tojo 1884-1948,” “Laulu Ystävälle Varjojen Maassa,” and “Pakoon Maailmaa.” Lupari contributed “Lupari” and “Valolta Suojattu Sydän.” Vesala wrote “Trimalcion” and the three-part “Labyrintti.”

Musically, Apollo houses fussy psych rockers (“Symboli,” “Ajatuksia,” “Hideko Tojo”), freeform percussive experiments (“Labyrintti,” “Trimalcio”), and ballads in the melodramatic Euro tradition (“Pakoon Maailmaa,” “Hyva,” “Lohduton Uni”). In most places, the three styles enmesh due to the constant presence of oblique rhythms, sonorous vocals, and effects-laden sounds.  

  • “Laulu Ystavalle” (3:47): Psych ballad. Misty, frosty fade-in: backward symbols, light staccato guitar figure, beaconing organ. Verse: rhythm-less, sustained vowels, matted percussion. Chorus: violin, wordless vocal line, swelling organ.
  • “Pakoon Maailmaa” (2:56): Ballad (chanson). Slide guitar, faint organ, chimes. Enunciated, operatic baritone. Slide notes back and forth over mirroring organ and bossa-like rhythmic backdrop.
  • “Symboli” (2:41): Mid-tempo psych rocker. Fuzzy, jerky guitar figure (in B), tripping rhythmic figure, guttural elongated vowels. Harmonica outro.
  • “Hyva” (4:33): Mid-tempo ballad. Violin theme. Descending, chromatic, unison progression under melodic vocals and striking violin. Bare flute solo (no backing).
  • “Hideko Tojo (1884–1948)” (2:40): Mid-tempo psych rocker. Fuzzy low-end lead, tom-roaming heavy beats. Remote, declamatory vocals, soaring refrain.
  • “Lohduton Uni” (5:08): Epic ballad. Fluttering string fade-in, bare backdrop. Quiet verse: faint organ/guitar, sparse percussion, gentle vocal. Swelling, open-cadence chorus (in Gmaj7-Cmaj7). Ascending bridge: shivery strings, rising (vaguely distorted) chords. Crescendo. Repeat.

Apollo was produced by Erkki Hyvönen at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki. In addition to drums and backing vocals, Vesala handles gong, tabla, bongos, vibraphone, and onas-flute. Saksala plays accordion, harmonica, and “wool socks.” Organist Jukka Gustavson (Wigwam) and Soulset saxophonist Paroni Paakkunainen play on select passages.

Original copies come in a gatefold sleeve that depicts seagulls in flight with a captive, rope-tied woman. The inner-spread features printed lyrics and another image of the female, anguished and held captive by a group of miniature people.

“Pakoon Maailmaa” was issued as a single, backed with the non-album “Ohjelmoitu Ihminen.”


Later Activity

Vesala played on Paakkunainen’s 1971 release Plastic Maailma. During 1973/74, he played on albums by keyboardist Esa Helasvuo, saxist Juhani Aaltonen, Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko, and the Eero Koivistoinen Music Society (Wahoo!). His first solo album, I’m Here, appeared on Blue Master Special in 1973. He also partook in the 1974 experimental album Ode to Marylin, released on Scandia.

Saksala joined Kalevala and played on their 1972 debut album People No Names. During the mid-’70s, he played on albums by Hector, Pen Lee, and Punainen Lanka. In 1979, he released Vaellan Vaellan, his first of many solo albums.

Lupari played on 1973/74 titles by Kirka, Mikko Alatalo, Tuulikki Eloranta, and Penniteatteri. His solo album, Uniystävä, appeared in 1975 on Hi-Hat. He then teamed with ex-Tasavallan Presidentti singer Eero Raittinen in Rotox, which issued the 1976 album Etsikko.

Holopainen cut an album with comedy rockers Hullujussi and partook in multiple projects by Hector, including the singer’s 1977 one-off HEC.

Apollo was first reissued on CD in 2002 by Warner Music Finland Oy. The following decade, it was repressed on vinyl by Mayfair Music (Germany, 2012) and Svart Records (Finland, 2014).


Discography:

  • Apollo (1970)

Sources:

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