“Tvær Í Takinu” Compilation

tvaeritakinuThe Reykjavik flea market, like flea markets everywhere, is a hit-or-miss affair.  There are a couple of regular full time used music sellers, but there are also random boxes of CD and vinyl scattered among the stalls.  I’ve done well there in the past, but this year only came away with a few mediocre odds and ends.  One of which was a $3 copy of Tvær Í Takinu, a 1984 comp of various well known Icelandic performers.  Sure it wasn’t in great shape.  But hey, I’d heard of most of the artists, so why not.

Turns out this is actually the second record of a two record set.  Volume 1 was all non-Icelandic acts like UB-40 and Culture Club, while Volume 2 was all the Icelandic stuff.  I’m not sure if the lady had Volume 1 somewhere in that box too… though if she did, I probably wouldn’t have assumed it was part of this and would have passed it by.  Doh!  Such is life.

Now supposedly this set is kind of rare, something to do with it being pulled due to the failure to secure rights to the Megas song “Fatlað Fól.”  I of course have no idea how true this is, or how someone online arrived at the estimate that maybe 500 copies of this exist.  But whatever.  Still an interesting story.

A lot of bands and artists I’ve previously written about here are among the 12 performers on Tvær Í Takinu:

Bubbi MorthensMegasBjörk, BaraflokkurinnEgóGrýlurnarÞú Og Ég… they’re all here, making this a pretty solid compilation.  The songs are pretty poppy overall, much of it in that 80s schmaultzy way, but it’s still decent.  If nothing else, it’s a nice cross section of the most important popular musicians in Iceland during the period, so if you can find a cheap copy, pick it up.  And hey, if you find a copy of Volume 1, let me know!

Þú Og Ég – “Sprengisandur”

I didn’t particularly care for this album when I first listened to it last night.

For some reason when I played it again this morning, I liked it.

I blame disco.  Or at least my preconceptions and prejudices regarding disco.

It has, of course, been fashionable for decades to say things like “I hate disco,” “disco sucks,” or “death before disco,” but was it all really so terrible?  Admittedly I was just a kid when disco had its brief heyday, and certainly it gained a reputation for trendiness, polyester, and cocaine, while also developing some questionable dance moves.  But you know what?  Some people had a good time listening to it, and when you go to your office Christmas party the one thing guaranteed to get people onto the dance floor after a few drinks is “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.  In the immortal words of Sir Mix-A-Lot, you can say that I’m a lier but you know I’m right…

In 1980 Þú Og Ég put out a disco record in Iceland called Sprengisandur, and I picked up a copy while in Reykjavik a few weeks ago.  I more or less knew what I was getting into – i.e. that this was Icelandic disco, though didn’t know exactly what that meant.  Was there a big disco scene in Reykjavik in 1980?  I don’t know.  I can imagine it though, given how much Icelanders love to party and have a good time.  Those long dark winter nights beg for a disco ball.

I don’t have a lot of listening experiences to compare Sprengisandur to, though with both male and female vocals ABBA is certainly an easy one.  As is Olivia Newton-John for some of the more female dominated songs.  What seems to differentiate it from the more mainstream disco (stuff I’ve actually heard) is in the production.  While ABBA and the Bee Gees and Olivia are clean and almost perfect sounding to the point of near sterility, Sprengisandur sounds more like a real group making music the best they can with what they have, which probably did not include a mega fancy state-of-the-art studio and a briefcase full of cash.  I think on my first listen that might have been what threw me off – I was expecting something polished, but instead I got something real.  Fortunately I gave it a second listen.

Sprengisandur is a decent album.  It has some disco, some pop, and even a ballad or two.    Nothing to go crazy over, but good music made by people who were obviously making an effort.