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SBB - 2008 - "Roskilde 1978"

(72:29, Metal Mind Records)

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Walking Around the Stormy Bay 7:34
2.  Going Away 13:56
3.  Deszcz Kroplisty 9:01
4.  Ze Slowem Biegne Do Ciebie 20:57
5.  Follow My Dream / Wiosenne Chimery 21:01


Jozef Skrzek  vocals; keyboards
Apostolis Antymos  guitars; drums
Jerzy Piotrowski  drums 

Prolusion. SBB is a legendary Polish act with a score of fine studio and live releases behind them. 30 years after the event, fans of the band as well as those who were present at the concert in question will most likely be very pleased with the release of this CD, "Roskilde 1978", as SBB's performance at the Danish Roskilde rock festival was a historic event, for many reasons.

Analysis. The backdrop for this live CD is a rather intriguing one. Due to an agreement with a German company, SBB from Poland was given the opportunity to travel out from behind the Iron Curtain and into the West in 1977 and 1978 for extensive touring, performing in smaller clubs as well as larger rock festivals. The members of the band thrived in this atmosphere and the quality of the concerts in general and the performances in particular was steadily increasing as time moved on, even if practical difficulties did present obstacles on occasion, crossing the border in particular. And for the event at Roskilde this almost led to a cancellation; only a feat of creativity that basically led to guitarist and drummer Apostolis being smuggled into Germany saw to it that this gig became reality for the band. The concert itself presented another challenge. Prior to SBB, Bob Marley had performed, one of the main attractions of the festival and an artist exploring vastly different musical landscapes. For a progressive rock band from Poland to follow a vastly popular act playing reggae, it took a great deal of professionalism to be able to motivate itself for what most would have predicted to be scores of people leaving the concert area as the act they had come to see had finished, which was what started happening too, as the Danish announcer introduced a band from Poland, the first band ever from this country to perform at Roskilde. "Prepare for something extraordinary", the presenter tells the crowd, "they will perform two songs". And as the liner notes to the CD tells the story, quite a few people in the crowd start walking towards their tents, but stopped when the first notes from Walking around the Stormy Bay came from the stage. And eventually most of the crowd decided to witness the concert. And a great live performance it was, now available for anyone to enjoy. The sound is great, perhaps not quite up to the standard we're used to these days, but for a recording made in 1978 this is pretty much top of the line, with a well balanced mix and a rich, detailed capturing of the instrumental performances. The vocals are probably the only weak element, not due to the performance itself but due to the instruments overpowering them. Skrzek is the dominating musician; apart from celebrating his birthday on stage, which may have inspired him to give an even better performance than usual, his keyboards are dominating traits on all songs. Floating layers of synths are constant features, lush and mellow themes explored, evolving to majestic segments and moving on to calmer waters again; music with ebb and flow and quite a few dramatic moments to boot. Skrzek improvises quite a bit with spacey sound effects on several tunes as one example of artistic virtuosity to be found on this recording. The input from Antymos and Piotrowski doesn't lack any quality either, but at least for me this concert seems to have been Skrzek's playground first and foremost. Antymos and Piotrowski get their spot in the limelight when performing the song Deszcz Kroplisty, an intriguing and inventive drum solo making up most of this composition for this particular event. Followers of SBB unfamiliar with this concert will probably find it interesting to note that this set was somewhat shortened compared to their ordinary concerts, and besides the improvisational aspects of a live event which results in each concert becoming a unique event in itself, the rearrangements made for this concert makes this recording a unique part of the band's live history too. There's not much to note on the negative side regarding this production. The vocals tend to get somewhat drowned in the mix, and the final track Follow My Dream doesn't really hit the mark until the halfway point, which I presume is where the composition Wiosenne Chimery starts. Apart from that this is an enjoyable and fascinating concert that should please many followers of progressive rock.

Conclusion. The recordings made of SBB's concert at Roskilde in 1978 are of good quality, very good when taking into account the equipment available for taping such events thirty years ago. As the Danish announcer says at the end, "This was a delightful experience". Fans of SBB as well as the audience present at this concert in 1978 can safely be assured of this being a quality release well worth buying, and anyone curious about this act in general and their live performances in particular is well advised to get hold of this album. A very strong release, and one highly recommended.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 15, 2009
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Metal Mind Records


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