(All Album Reviews by Reginod)
It will be impossible for me to do even a partially impartial review for Wigwam.
In the last year or so this band has swept me away emotionally like no other before, except Yes and possibly Zappa, Tangerine Dream and Genesis. Lofty company for sure, but I sincerely think that highly of Wigwam, apparently well-known within their native Finland, but criminally ignored by both the prog and larger rock communities outside that country.
Perhaps Wigwam has never been "sufficiently progressive" for serious consideration by many prog aficionados. Several non-prog influences (here I would cite The Band, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones as well as the Beatles) are apparent in the singularly quirky songwriting of vocalist/lyricist/pianist Jim Pembroke (a British expatriate), and his tendency toward what their unofficial website refers to as "deep pop" might turn prospective proggers away.
Then again, others might not care for the heavily jazz-and-blues influenced art rock compositions/meditations of keyboardist/vocalist Jukka Gustavson. It could be argued that sometimes he went over the top in his politically/religiously-inspired vocal ebullience.
Nonetheless, Wigwam were unique from the beginning, precisely because of the apparently peaceful dichotomy which existed in the band between Pembroke's songwriting and Gustavson's composing. This dichotomy was evident, both musically and in the sequencing of the material, on the band's first offering Hard 'N' Horny.
The album's first side belongs to Gustavson, and he immediately established the pattern that his work would take over the course of his tenure with the band. After a brief experimental blurb to begin the album, Gustavson takes the helm with "Pidän sinusta", an easily swinging, blues-soaked organ workout reminiscent of Jimmy Smith. The remainder of the first side is similarly dominated by Gustavson, with his keyboards guiding the listener through the disparate realms of psych/jazz/avant art rock with equal facility.
In total contrast, side two belongs to Pembroke in a sadly forgotten, side-long, conceptual psych piece concerning a character simply named Henry. The songs are segued together in a fashion similar to that of the Moody Blues albums of the same period, although the production is not nearly as lush. Still, there is an ethereal quality to the suite (as well as the entire album) which becomes more apparent after repeated listenings.
Hard 'N' Horny is unique also in the sense that it was the only Wigwam album featuring the guitar of Nikke Nikamo and the bass work of Mats Huldén; both were gone by the recording of the band's second album, Tombstone Valentine. Nikamo would be replaced by Jukka Tolonen (who never officially joined Wigwam), and Huldén was replaced by the brilliant Pekka Pohjola.
From there, the early 70's incarnation of Wigwam commenced producing some of progressive rock's finest (and again, mysteriously unacknowledged) albums, culminating in 1974's Being. However, Hard 'N' Horny stands on its own quite well and deserves much better than to be drowned out and forgotten in the ever-expanding ocean of progressive music.