Saluki ‘Saluki’ LP (Round 2) 4/5

The breadth of influence provided by jazz is far fetching with the jazz-fusion world providing numerous opportunities for many creative musicians. Europe in the 1970s and early 1980s was a particular fertile environment and period which lead to a great deal of musical experimentation, and it’s here that we have the official reissue of Norwegian group Saluki and their self titled debut and only album, recorded in 1976 but released a year later in assumedly very limited numbers on the Oslo-based Compendium Records label.

Compendium has a very interesting history, in that, it began as a distributor of UK releases in Norway, then into an Oslo record store and later as a jazz-fusion influenced independent record label. In its original years of activity from 1974 to 1977 they had a catalogue of only 10 releases, including local girl Karin Krog and her collaboration with Archie Shep titled ‘Hi Fly’ in 1976, Oslo jazz-fusion outfit Vanessa with the in-demand ‘Black and White’ in 1977 and a more experimental album by Charles Austin and Joe Gallivan titled ‎’Peace On Earth’, also in 1977, which features choral vocals by UK Vibe darling Carmen Lundy, for what must be one of Carmen’s first ever recordings.

Saluki consisted of Freddy Dahl on vocals and guitar, Peter Berg Nilsen on saxophone, Kjell Rønningen on keyboards including some uncredited Hammond work, Sverre Beyer on electric bass and Bjørn Jenssen on drums and percussion. Supplementary saxophone by Erik Balke, trumpet by Petter Katraas and piano by Even Stormoen are augmented with vocals by the band and additional female vocalists Radka Toneff and Sylvi Lillegaard, both revered in Norway.

The album consists of eight jazz-rock, prog rock styled compositions, all written by or including members of the band, with opening track ‘Come Down’, a loose funky workout with its Clavinet keyboard licks, brash vocal lines and short jam-like solos, which do possess an AWB quality. ‘Autumn’ with its piano intro, builds to a sax duet before the male vocals emerge. The second half becomes a little more ‘proggy’ but still maintaining some jazz sensibilities.
‘The Awakening’ is probably best identified as being funky rock and again is reminiscent of Average White Band – an obvious reference point but a valid one here nonetheless. ‘Love To The Sun’ utilises a live recording of waves rolling onto a beach within the first three minutes before some heavy synth strings emerge and the rhythms change into an almost afro beat pattern, before it then deviates into a more chugging straight drum groove. The vocals are initially more blue-eyed soul than rock-n-roll, but later they lose their soulfulness.

‘Uranus In Cancer’ uses flange guitar processing before a sample ready drum groove appears at the halfway point of this 6-minute track. Saxophone parts are also present to ‘jazzify’ the piece, but the final third probably moves too close to prog rock for many jazz palettes. The short (1’51”) ‘Fantasy Suns’ is pretty forgetful but ‘Hidden Path III’, a fusion instrumental, with the keyboards playing the majority of the top lines and the guitar performing back up duties includes some decent saxophone and synth solos and is a solid 10 minute throwdown for the band with some great bass playing from Sverre Beyer. The uptempo ‘Take The Road Across The Bridge’ features some useful Hammond organ action to support the robust groove and brisk solos, with all band members contributing equally.

This Saluki debut is perhaps the most desirable releases from the Compendium label and has become a collectors piece of the progressive Norwegian jazz-rock scene with prices of the original vinyl fetching between £50-£100. The band spit up the same year as the album release, although many of the band members went on to continue their musical careers with other projects. At times, the guitar and vocal styling can veer a little too close to rock than jazz for my tastes, but it stops at becoming a full-out cape fest, but if you appreciate 1970s jazz-rock or jazz-fusion, then this vinyl only reissue via Norway’s Round 2 will appeal.

Damian Wilkes