Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Haakon Ellingsen — Cloudberry Tales
(Ellingsongs no#, 2022, LP)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-11-18
Travel back with me, won’t you, several decades to the mid-90s. The Norwegian band The Last James, featuring Lars Pedersen and Haakon Ellingsen – both multi-instrumentalists, had just released their third and final album, Kindergarten, a brilliant blend of psychedelic pop that might rival anything released by The Beatles or The Beach Boys in the 1966-68 time frame. These guys were just kids at the time, and like often happens, they parted ways and Ellingsen eventually went on to a solo career, begun in earnest with his 2001 release Minstrel. 21 years and ten albums on, he has released another album of brilliant songcraft, one that calls to mind a folkier pop sound with only gentle hints of psychedelia, certainly a more updated sound than what we heard all those years ago, but equally creative and all-consuming. For this endeavor, Ellingsen makes use of a wide range of somewhat exotic instrumentation: bouzouki, charango, oud, ukulele, Portuguese guitar, Indian harmonium, tabla, as well as the regular stuff like drums, electric guitar, 12-string guitar, keys, and more. The twelve songs are mostly of a gentler style, built up over numerous layers of complex arrangements, and executed to perfection with longtime producer Kyrre Fritzner assisting. The album launches with “Cloudberry Wine,” which, like all of subsequent tracks, features Ellingsen’s vocals and harmonies, often reminiscent a bit of the Kinks’ Ray Davies, and unlike many of his earlier albums, the lyrics are all in English. Moving on we come to the folky melancholy of “Tomorrow’s Never Far Away,” truly one that will get stuck in your mind for days. “In a Dream” is a beautiful slab of jangly folk-pop with electric guitar and mandolin competing. Mostly in the two to four minute range, the songs here all evince a warm simplicity that brings a smile to your heart. A sequence of several songs seem to deal with separation, “If I Could Sing,” “So True,” and “Loneliness,” with the beautiful “Janine” seeming to be the culmination. “That Donovan Song” offers a hint into Ellingsen’s world of influences. Cloudberry Tales features so many great songs, each one growing on the listener's familiarity with every repeat listen.
Related artist(s): Haakon Ellingsen
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