Tuesday, 1 November 2016

ORIENTAL SUNSHINE - DEDICATED TO THE BIRD WE LOVE (Round 2 Records Deluxe LP).

It took a while for the 60s European folk scene to turn on a get properly psychedelicized. Whereas in the U.S. bands had for years been mixing together British Rock ‘n’ Roll with L.S.D, Dylan and the great American Country/Folk tradition, moving from the beatnik coffee houses to the ball rooms and underground clubs, with the Byrds being no doubt the most groundbreaking Folk Rock band before their Gram Parsons led sharp turn towards cosmic Country music. Back in Europe, Donovan and the astonishing Incredible String Band where well ahead of curve when the British Folk scene was a more conservative affair with real ale and hand rolled ciggies still yet to be replaced by sugar lumps and spliffs. Although legendary Folk guitarists Davy Graham and Bert Jansch were experimenting with esoteric Eastern tunings and Folk/Jazz supergroup Pentangle were challenging the popular conceptions of the genre, only UFO regulars Fairport Convention with their Dylan obsession and a polite English take on Jefferson Airplane were seemingly the only other band with Folk roots that were vaguely psychedelic at the time. It was not until the cusp of the 1970s that psychedelia inspired Acid Folk LPs started to appear on a regular basis with a whole bunch of great records from the UK Psych Folk scene plus some weird and wonderful albums from mainland Europe that mixed together disparate influences taken from India and the Middle East, traditional Folk music, Prog Rock, contemporary singer/songwriters and all points in between still being released into the early part of the decade.

Inspired by The Beatles and British and American Folk music/Psychedelic Rock, including amongst others Jefferson Airplane, The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell as well as the music of Ravi Shanker and Eastern religions/philosophies, Norwegian duo Nina Johansen (vocals, guitar) and Rune Walle (vocals, guitar, sitar) started writing and performing together towards the end of the 60s. The line up of Oriental Sunshine was completed by the addition of their friend Satnam Singh (flute, tablas, sarod, vocals) and this trio recorded what is now considered one of the best Acid Folk long players from the end of the 60s. Released in 1970, Oriental Sunshine’s only album Dedicated To The Bird We Love was greeted with only fleeting interest outside their homeland but the enduring mix of earnest acoustic Folk, Jazzy arrangements and authentic Indian vibes has stood the test of time………………..it’s gentle laid back grooves and hazy stoned ambience still sound fresh over 45 years since it’s original pressing. Although it has been released on CD as recently as 2006 by Sunbeam Records, Dedicated to the Bird We Love gets it’s first vinyl release since the the 1991 re-issue (now long out of print) by the tiny Norwegian Prog/Psych label Pan Records. Dedicated to rediscovering, restoring and reissuing the Norwegian classic albums on vinyl, both the obscure and the well known, Round 2 Records present a deluxe pressing of this long out of print rarity, with remastered audio, exclusive poster and liner notes by Richard Morton Jack from Flashback magazine.  This truly is a one off, and a key, unique record in Norway’s Psych history.

Dedicated to the Bird We Love features dreamy expanses of melancholy with quietly introspective female vocals, buzzing sitars and tabla, with more than a hint of World Jazz and Psychedelic effervescence. It’s a peaceful and mysteriously intense experience with eleven tracks of the finest quality. Joined on some songs by accomplished Norwegian Jazz musicians Espen Rud, Sture Janson, and Helge Grøslie, Oriental Sunshine mixed the dexterity of 60s Psych/Jazz with a more minimal Indian classical/European Folk hybrid……..As one of the original reviews quoted in the sleeve notes proclaim  “Thanks to Satnam Singh, this album has a tone and colour that originates far from Norway’s mountains and valleys. He might remain modestly in the background, but his playing makes the record what it is. The group’s craftsmanship and artistry is excellent, a statement instantly confirmed by the first cut, ‘Across Your’ Life “. It’s a beautiful record, ripe for rediscovery, which features some wonderful songs mainly written by Nina Johansen which include the languid collision of East meets West  on the track ‘Can Anybody Tell?’ and the absolutely brilliant ‘My Way To Be Hurt’ where acoustic guitars twist and coil around each other as subtle double bass and drums glide beneath Johansen’s pretty voice. Elsewhere there are glorious ballads such as ‘Unless’ and ‘Visions’ and a song in Hindi by Satnam, ‘Where You Went (Tum Kahan Gaye)’. All eleven songs are short and perfectly formed, expressing a powerful emotional and spiritual yearning beneath their superficial sweetness. Splitting up before the album was released, this was to be Oriental Sunshine’s sole LP and no music has been produced by the group since. Johansen and Singh drifted away from the music business while Walle, heading in a more Country/Folk/Psychedelic Rock direction, eventually became a member of Country rockers The Ozark Mountain Daredevils for a few years at the end of decade. Their legacy, Dedicated To The Bird We Love, is an album that has lost none of it’s wonder after all these years………………….fans of late 60s American Psych Folk and the more somber early 70s British singer/song writers will need to give this record a listen.

Released in a limited run of 200 copies, the Round 2 deluxe reissue of Oriental Sunshine’s 1970 debut is due to hit the racks at all the best vinyl emporiums on 2nd December. Available to pre-order now from the Round 2 web store and the usual on line stockists.



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