Tasavallan Presidentti CD version out now!

Tasavallan Presidentti (President of the Republic) was founded in the summer of 1969 by five young and skilful players. The eldest one, saxophonist and flutist Juhani Aaltonen (12.12.1935) was known from Soulset and as a jazz musician while Bassist Måns Groundstroem (23.4.1949) and vocalist Frank Robson (27.4.1946) had gained reputation and re- cording experience in Blues Section. Guitarist Jukka Tolonen (16.4.1952) and drummer Vesa Aaltonen (7.3.1950) were known from Eero Raittinen's Help. Tasavallan Presidentti soon became Finland’s fore- most rock-group.

In October 1969 the group recorded their self-titled debut album for Love Records (LRLP 9). It was re- leased in December at the same time with their first single, Time Alone With You / Obsolete Machine (LRS 1026). Both were produced by one of the three label owners, Otto Donner. Juhani Aaltonen decided to leave the band in early 1970 and was soon replaced by another virtuoso saxophonist/flutist Pekka Pöyry (10.12.1939 - 4.8.1980). The first Tasavallan Presidentti recording featuring Pöyry was the single Solitary / Deep Thinker (LRS 1045) which was recorded in Spring 1970.

Producer Bob Azzam heard the band playing live in N-klubi in Helsinki. He got attracted to these talented and young musicians and asked them to sign a one record deal with Swedish EMI. Otto Donner who had signed the band to Love Records saw this as an important opportunity to Tasavallan Presidentti and was only happy to let these guys go abroad. He even lent his residence for the band to rehearse in. (That’s where the cover pictures are taken).

The recording took place in Metronome studios in Stockholm. Bob Azzam wanted to hire the best studio and the most competent engineer to record with. Born in 1944, Michael B. Tretow was already a top class professional. Later in The Seventies he became famous as a sound engineer of all the recordings by Abba. Band’s road manager Olli Könönen was also present in the studio.

It took one week to record this strong collection of well-constructed and immensely inventive pop and Progrock gems.

Introduction is a strong opener. Also a vocal version on gigs but they decided to record it as an instrumental because the first track on their first record was also an instrumental.

Deep Thinker was recorded as a single for Love Records the same year, but this version is better sounding. Måns Groundstroem and Vesa Aaltonen create a solid and relaxed foundation with consummate ease.

I Love You Teddy Bear is a beautiful and melodic ballad. This version is a remake of a song from the group’s debut album. Bob Azzam was especially fas- cinated by this one and insisted on recording it again. The arrangement is practically the same as on the debut album. For some reason the new version is one verse shorter though.

Struggling For Freedom represents the heavier side of the band. The story tells about the age old struggle of the young and the memories of the older folk.

Tis Me Tis You has a magnificent riff and the song is short and very effective. Jukka Tolonen plays both acoustic and electric guitars in an enthralling way.

Weather Brightly is real heavy especially Pekka Pöyry’s strong double tenor riffs. Here Pöyry, always a subtle soloist, offers also one of his most memorable tenor solos.

Sinking is the longest one on this album. It begins with an Eastern feel and develops delightfully by all the five musicians. Flute and guitar solos double beautifully. Very tasteful use of instruments. With its acoustic instrumentation, Sinking reminds of Pekka Streng´s album “Magneettimiehen kuolema”which was recorded with Tasavallan Presidentti quite soon after this second LP.

I'm Going Home Once Again, another touching ballad, begins with a serene flute intro. Composer of this song, Måns Groundstroem, was not too happy with the arrangement and would have wanted to leave this one out from the album. Fortunately he did not get his wish and the song remained on the album.

Tell Me More is composed by the whole band. Especially notable is the solo riff which was written by Pöyry.

After a few line up changes Tasavallan Presidentti recorded two more albums before splitting up in 1974. Reforming in mid 1990´s with the original line up the band now sounds probably better than ever.

Juha Nikulainen, March 2002

"On The Rocky Road - A Retrospective" double album out now!

2000 marks the thirty-fifth year in the career of guitarist Jukka Tolonen. This On The Rocky Road retrospective collection aims to provide an overview as well as to highlight some of Jukka's best works.

Three things must be considered when examining Jukka's music and professional life. Firstly, there's the wide scope of his versatility. Throughout the years, Jukka has performed and recorded music of many styles and genres, often simultaneously! Rock, pop, jazz, classical, funk, blues, boogie, reggae, worldly fusions and more. As a solo performer, in duos and trios, with bands, big bands, acoustic and electric, Jukka has covered a lot of ground and he's done it all with the ease of a highly gifted professional.

Secondly, it's the combination of his astounding technical skills as a player and his melodic /compositional abilities. Together, these two elements form a powerful force that many other guitarists could only hope to match.

Thirdly, Jukka's approach to playing, his motivation and attitude, has always been that of true devotion, one of all consuming passion. During the first decade of his career, with all the praise and adulation that was bestowed upon him, Jukka might have accepted the role of "Guitar God". Instead he chose a more unassuming path, one that would lead him to many challenging adventures but would also take him through some lean times.

His first venture into the big time was as guitarist for the successful progressive jazz/blues/rock fusion band Tasavallan Presidentti, who recorded four classic albums in their six year existence. Simultaneously, Jukka worked as the unofficial guitarist for the legendary Wigwam, appearing on two of their albums. Through this exposure, Jukka built a solid reputation for himself as a distinctive and electrifying player. But it was his first four brilliant and highly imaginative solo albums, where Jukka broke through to a new level of musicianship and public acclaim, earning legions of devoted fans, blowing Finnish and Swedish audiences away on stage and on record. Even today, those four albums, Tolonen!, Summer Games, The Hook and Hysterica are considered classics in the world of progressive jazz/rock fusion. During the years of their release, Jukka's stature among musicians and fans alike became immense and he was as revered at home as Clapton, Beck and Page were in their land. His fame traveled abroad as well, albeit on more of a cult level, throughout Europe and even USA, where no less than four Tolonen albums were released to underground critical raves. The mid seventies saw the formation of the Jukka Tolonen Band, a new line-up featuring another distinguished guitarist, Sweden's Coste Apetrea (ex Samla/Zamla), American drummer Bill Carson and a slight veering off into more jazz and funk territory. They released two excellent Love albums: Passenger to Paramaribo and the live album Montreux Boogie, including all new live material. A third JTB album followed, continuing in a jazz mode, featuring keyboardist Joachim Kuhn. Jukka finished off the decade with the magnificent solo acoustic album, Mountain Stream.

The early eighties found Jukka with a slightly changed profile, starting off with the High Flyin' album, containing the stand out tracks "Punta Arabi" and "Nitchevo". The high points in this period were the classic acoustic guitar duet recordings with Sweden's Coste Apetrea, Touch Wood and Blue Rain, both brilliant works of exceptional skill, melody and sensitivity. Jukka's 1982 reggae album, In A This Year Time, was an interesting excursion and his rock vocal album Radio Romance featured some catchy numbers and his usual electrifying guitarisms. Jukka's following as a live performer remained strong, particularly in Finland and Sweden, and he continued to be active on stage, in several line-ups including Bill's Boogie Band with Swedish vocalist/percussionist Bill Öhrström. One highlight, which unfortunately very few people were able to experience, was Jukka's role in Jim Pembroke's short lived project, Filthy Rich also featuring Finnforest guitarist Pekka Tegelman. Jukka returned to finish off the eighties in spectacular form when he joined legendary world fusion pioneers, Piirpauke, for one marvelous album Zerenade in 1989.

During the nineties, Jukka has been working in more of a rock format, with Jukka Tolonen Trio releases Last Mohican in '94 and Big Time in '96. While musically these albums are a bit more conventional than his work of the seventies and eighties, the music is skillfully executed and reaffirms the enduring fact that Jukka's "chops" are as well honed as ever. The decade concludes with Jukka returning to the Piirpauke fold for a new album set for a 2000 release.

Throughout the peaks and valleys of Jukka's career, one thing remains true to this day. No matter which of his groups is on stage, regardless of the format in which he is presented, when Jukka Tolonen sets his fingers to the strings, audiences, listeners, he and his band members, all come alive. The atmosphere is electrified, the energy from the sound and sight of his playing exhilarates and transforms everyone present. This is the key to Jukka's everlasting continuity and success, as the stunning guitar player he will always be.

Text: Phillip Page