The South London suburb of Croydon has been much maligned over the years, but when jazz-fancying Danish prog-rockers Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe based the concept for their fourth album about it, vowing to ‘tell the story of Rowena, who sets out on a journey to the mysterious country Kaske from her kitchen in Croydon’ they perhaps assumed it was a rather more glamorous spot.
‘From her window, you can see Big Ben’ they sing on opening track 2nd Floor Croydon, before the backing vocal acknowledges, ‘Of course, it’s not the right Big Ben’. This taste for tall tales, tongue-in-cheek concepts and liberal use of flute immediately recalls Jethro Tull when you first listen to this newly reissued set, but then things settle into an altogether trippier style, resembling a more accessible Scandinavian answer to their Teutonic neighbours Can.
There’s certainly a hypnotic, Kraut-y quality to the primitive, organic groove of Kaske-Vous Karsemose, and that’s married with some sublimely meandering melodies and leader Karsten Vogel’s dizzying soprano sax on Oblong Serenade.
All About All is a poppy, pastoral delight based around a lovely descending chord progression that recalls Caravan’s jauntier moments. Then Cucumber-Porcupine takes an insistent two-note riff and turns it into a la-la singalong that is nonetheless sprayed with Vogel’s barking, squawking brass.
This is a fine place to start in rediscovering one of the era’s lost European gems./o:p