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Five Fifteen — Psychedelic Chorus Rock for the Whole Family
(Blastic Heaven BHR 33217, 2021, CD / LP)

Crazy World — The Return of the Clown
(Presence Records PRECD-033, 2012, CD / 2LP)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2024-05-07

Psychedelic Chorus Rock for the Whole Family Cover artThe Return of the Clown Cover art

Something that will remain burned in my mind for the rest of eternity is the spectacle of Five Fifteen lead singer Mika Jarvinen climbing the walls stage right at Baja Prog, sporting compound fly-eye glasses looking out on the audience while Nik Turner played his sax and the rest of the band carried on from the stage. I don’t even remember what year that was, probably around 2000, or who played before or after, but I’m sure anyone else who witnessed that event won’t forget it anytime soon. Those were great days, driving hard rock with great vocals, psychedelic spacerock from on high, and progressive sounds to boot. At that point the band had about four or five solid albums, but they just sort of faded from the scene. A few years later I got a promo from Jarvinen, he was now in a band called Crazy World, something of a Finnish hard-prog supergroup featuring a number of veteran musicians, while Five Fifteen was apparently on hiatus. Well, I’m certainly happy to report that with Psychedelic Chorus Rock for the Whole Family, Five Fifteen is back in fine form, with the vocal frontline from their early years restored — that’s Mika Jarvinen and Maikki Liuski, and even though most of the other players have changed over the years, that psychedelic spacerock spirit the band launched with so many years ago is still intact and ready for another spin on your turntable. The seven-piece band now includes the two aforementioned vocalists (Jarvinen supports on guitar, Liuski on percussion), guitarist Timo Gren, guitarist Mark Tuomela, drummer Hannes Pirilä, bassist Mikko Määttä, and keyboardist Kasper Mortenson, all supporting with backing vocals. The band mixes it up with harder edgy tunes, some softer numbers, acoustic based tunes and more, always showcasing their best assets. Some standouts include “When We Wrote Our Masterpiece,” opener “The Joy of Organ Music,” the acoustic based “Art for Art’s Sake” (no, not the 10cc song), and the overt rocker “Viktor Didin’t Mind That Sally Knows.” The band seems to be comfortable working in just about any setting across the album’s eleven cuts, with every player taking their rightful turn in the spotlight. Welcome back!

So whatever became of Crazy World, Jarvinen’s other “supergroup” band? Following their eponymous debut in 2005, they released a second album The Return of the Clown some nine years later, a rock opera of sorts. The lineup remains the same, with bassist Lauri Porra, drummer Anssi Nykänen, guitarist / pianist Timo Kämäräinen, and esteemed keyboardist Esa Kotilainen (Hammond B3, Moog, and Mellotron), with Jarvinen on lead vocals and harmonica. Here there is a more direct rock presence, though numerous tasty embellishments abound, mostly via Kotilainen’s array of keyboards and Kämäräinen’s flashy guitar wizardry. Throughout, the rhythm section is rock solid. The ten-plus minute opener “Every Good Wish All to You” pretty much puts it all out there right up front, though the clown themed tunes are yet to come. Some of the standouts include the title track, the gritty “The Clown In A Swing,” and the hard driving “Clown’s Gotta Go” opening with an amazing drum solo and a manic vocal performance by Jarvinen, with a superb performance by the rest of the band as the piece morphs from edgy and aggressive to introspective and back again. “Mrs Politician” has plenty to say with its lyrics, but it’s another powerful rocker with plenty of changes and prog cred. All taken, The Return of the Clown has a much harder edged sound, though the singing and playing certainly lives up to the band’s supergroup status, and it definitely surpasses their earlier effort; it’s a classic waiting to be discovered.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases, 2012 releases

Related artist(s): Crazy World, Five Fifteen

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