Terje Rypdal is one of the most respected jazz-rock guitarists to ever come out of Norway, and these two recordings (finally released on CD) are considered among his best work. Recorded in 1974 and 1975 respectively, Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away and Odyssey are prime examples of experimental jazz-fusion, with lots of references to progressive rock as well. Fans of guitarists such as John McLoughlin, Robert Fripp, Jeff Beck, or Larry Coryell will find much to like on these two CD's.
Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away kicks off with the haunting french horn and ominous Mellotron of "Silver Bird is Heading for the Sun", a Mahavishnu Orchestra influenced track that has some ripping, distorted guitar leads from Rypdal, complemented by manic drums and electric piano. Instantly you will be reminded of Birds of Fire era Mahavishnu, thanks to the rapid-fire intensity of Rypdal's guitar blasts. This 13-minute gem segues into "The Hunt", a jazzier number that shows Jon Christensen's french horn as the lead instrument, before giving way to metallic guitar chords and waves of spooky Mellotron from keyboard player Pete Knutsen. The last tune is the 17-minute epic for guitar and orchestra, "Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away" featuring guitars, strings, oboe and clarinet. To say this is a masterpiece of progressive rock meets classical is an understatement. What a majestic, yet moody way to end a CD!
Odyssey has a very similar feel, but Rypdal is more in command of the songs and they are therefore a tad more guitar oriented in spots. Here I was reminded of John McLaughlin's solo albums just previous to and post Mahavishnu Orchestra. "Darkness Falls" is a dark piece, with yearning trombone and sustained guitar leads that just cry out to the heavens, while the string-ensemble, organ, and sax of "Midnite" adds an atmospheric tone that brings to mind vintage herbie Hancock. A great number is "Adagio", a long atmospheric work with swirling organ effects, string ensemble, melodic sax, and a blistering vibrato guitar solo. Rypdal chooses to play with more emotion this time around and slows things up a bit, but the results are no less striking. On "Better off Without You", the guitarist lays down some ominous power chords while drummer Svein Christiansen flails away at his kit and Brynjulf Hovensjo interjects some spooky organ. The band kicks it into high gear with the grinding dirge of "Over Birkerot", which leads to the 11-minute journey of "Fare Well", and rounds out with the gorgeous french horn/guitar swing of "Ballade."
Terje Rypdal is a name that should become more familar to listeners of classic fusion and progressive rock now that ECM has released most of his early material on CD. These two are classics people-check 'em out!