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ALT006 (LP / Digital)

Widely regarded as a milestone in Swedish hard-rock history, Råg I Ryggen is the homonymous debut album released by six youngsters from Stockholm back in 1975. It was recorded in just two sessions in February that year at the EMI studio in Skärmarbrink, one of the most modern 16-channel studios available in Sweden in that period. The sessions clocked around 16 hours in total, with barely any time left for overdubs. Clearly influenced by bands like Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and even Yes or Jethro Tull, the sounds contained here will appeal to hard-rock, heavy psych and progressive fans alike.

The band’s origins can be traced back to when classmates Björn Aggemyr (bass) and Björn “Nysse” Nystrom (future Magnus Uggla and Strix Q guitarist) began to jam together when they were just 12 years old. Christer Sjöborg soon joined them on keys and, once Peter Sandberg stepped in to replace a previous drummer, they named themselves Goda Vänner & Musik (Good Friends & Music). At this stage the teenagers mainly played covers of British bands like Uriah Heep or Deep Purple and were eager to perform in front of an audience. When finally an opportunity came up to perform before their classmates, they were joined by Björn’s older brother (Jan Aggemyr), who conveniently had a driver’s license and also took on additional guitar duties, starting to shape the band’s signature sound. Inspired by the tag line of a certain brand of crisp bread (the packaging of Wasabröd contained the words “ger råg i ryggen”, an idiom that similarly to “eating one’s wheaties” in English conveys the idea of gaining strength and courage… guts, that is), the band finally settled on Råg I Ryggen as their name shortly prior to their live debut.

A casual night encounter between Peter Sandberg and Kjell Gradin, an older man who happened to run a record label, led to an invitation to record some tracks first at a studio in Sundbyberg and due to unsatisfactory results – it seems the recordings turned out distorted – he later booked some time at the above-mentioned EMI studio. Somewhere between eight and ten thousand copies of the album were pressed and EMI took up on the distribution it in Sweden, although not abroad.

This was 1974 and, although the band members were only between 15 and 20 years old at the time, it is worth mentioning that by then they had managed to amass a more than respectable array of instruments that would have made envious many a professional band of their era: Gibson guitars, Rickenbacker bass, a Hammond A100 with matching 150 watts Leslie speakers, a Rogers drum kit and a range of analog synths that included a MiniMoog, among other gear.

Later in the year, Jonas Warnerbring (son of famous performer Östen Warnerbring, who several times represented Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest in the sixties) left the band Nederlaget to join Råg I Ryggen. With a new vocalist on board the band now put the focus on their own material while also developing a more progressive sound. They played more or less regularly mainly around Stockholm and built up a reputation for playing extremely loud and energetic gigs, usually divided into two sets of around 45 minutes. Most of the time they were the only band on the bill although they did once share stage with Swedish blues-rock act Nature.

In spite of the little commercial success obtained by the album after its release, Rondo still believed in the potential of the band and agreed to let them record further material for a second album. Unfortunately, growing musical differences and the obligations of adult life took a toll on the band and both Peter and Jonas soon left the project. They were replaced by other musicians and the band kept on playing live for some time but after a few months the group finally dismantled. A live recording with poor sound quality remains the sole document left from this last line-up and so one is only left to wonder what a second album might have sounded like after such a promising first delivery. Speculations aside, Råg I Ryggen nowadays stands as one of the most celebrated albums of the Scandinavian 70’s.

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