(All Album Reviews by Reginod)
Released in 1970, Wigwam's second album Tombstone Valentine stands apart from the rest of the group's output. Featuring contributions from several individuals, it comes off as more of a "mixed bag" than their other albums, with the focus primarily in favor of shorter, blues-rock or folk influenced songs.
While containing numerous impressive displays from guitarist and unofficial "member" Jukka Tolonen, Tombstone Valentine also introduced to the world the prodigious talents of bassist/composer Pekka Pohjola. It should also be noted that Tombstone Valentine contains no side-long or suite-like progressive "meditations" from keyboard virtuoso Jukka Gustavson, although he did contribute three excellent cuts. Gustavson's complex, religious and politically oriented musical ideas would wield a much greater influence on the bands next album, 1971's Fairyport. Consequently, Tombstone Valentine is less of an all-around prog extravaganza than its successors, but it is overflowing with excellent material that showed a band searching for a chemistry to adequately support the vast talents of the individual members.
To lead the album off, vocalist/songwriter Jim Pembroke contributed the bittersweet folk/prog title cut, which ambles along with a rhythm reminiscent of The Band's "The Weight". Augmented by accordion and banjo (from Kalevi Nyqvist and Heikki Laurila, respectively), it sets an adequate tone for the rest of the album. The second cut "In Gratitude" was written and sung by keyboardist/vocalist Jukka Gustavson, but it features some bluesy fret-burning from Tolonen and startlingly nimble bass by Pohjola. It almost reminds me of the Allman Brothers, but Gustavson's ascending-descending chord progressions keep the tune from being rooted too firmly in simple blues-based rock.
"Dance Of The Anthropoids", contributed not by any Wigwam member but by electronic musician Erkki Kurenniemen, served as an effectively schizoid intro to one of the band's most memorable and unique pieces, the Pembroke-Pohjola collaboration "Frederick And Bill". Again, Tolonen and Pohjola spar with each other in a delicious display of virtuosic fretplay. Pembroke's melancholy "Wishful Thinker" concludes the album's first side at the pace of a slow waltz; it reminds this reviewer of some of the more languid moments from the classic Rolling Stones albums of the late 60's.
Side two begins with another quirky folk-prog workout, the moderately paced "Autograph"; it gives way to one of the album's more unique cuts, Pohjola's instrumental "1936 Lost In The Snow". An elegant and succinct melodic statement, it stands apart from the rest of the album and teases the listener with a taste of what was to come in Pohjola's long, prolific solo career.
Another wistful Pembroke cut, "Let The World Ramble On", is followed by Gustavson's progressive avant/jazz rock instrumental "For America". Starting out in a swinging 7/8 time signature, the piece soon takes on a more straightforward rhythmic approach. Aside from Gustavson's chordal excursions, Tolonen reappears for a brief solo, and Pohjola takes an extended stroll throughout.
Complete with partially veiled references to (I presume) the Vietnam conflict, "Captain Supernatural" is probably this album's closest thing to a true psych piece, containing a shadowy quote from "Ghost Riders In The Sky". It is followed by Gustavson's haunting and simply titled "End", and together the two fashion an appropriate conclusion to the music.
Tombstone Valentine is another curiously under-appreciated album from one of progressive rock's greatest treasures. The uninitiated would be doing themselves a great musical favor to seek this one out.