Blue Swede – Working In The Coal Mine
from album “Hooked On A Feeling”, 1973, EMI ST-11286
produced by Bengt Palmers
original LP sleeve (front/back)
As you might have noticed, I have created a new label exclusively for this post, named Obscure Czech-In. That wasn’t without a reason because the other secondary label of this entry, Half Czech-In, is pure speculation on my part. To explain: I’ve found Hooked On A Feeling last year in a second hand record store (coincidentally it was in Prague, but that doesn’t matter here) and at first I thought, “well, yet another cheap one hit wonder from the seventies, nothing of interest for me.” On the second sight, however, there were three things that caught my attention: 1) the group had a “built-in” horn section (often a good sign), 2) they covered an Allen Toussaint song (they had taste!), and finally 3) the guy who’s credited to play clavinet and organ had a surprisingly Czechoslovak-sounding name – Ladislav Balaz [sic]. Well, to make a short story shorter, in the end I bought the record but except for a few tracks I was rather disappointed when I heard it at home. In the meantime I sold it again already.
Blue Swede were better known as Björn Skifs & Blåblus in their home country Sweden. Their international breakthrough came with a cover of B. J. Thomas’ hit Hooked On A Feeling, the title track of this album, which climbed up to no. 1 on the U.S. pop charts in 1974. The group’s style was kind of on the edge between early 70s pop and soulful brass-rock. At times they sounded almost like Chicago, for example, but still more on the pop side of things. The musicians who participated on this recording were, apart from Skifs, Jan Guldbäck (dr), Bo Liljedahl (b), Mikael Areklew (g), Tommy Berglund (tp), Hinke Ekestubbe (ts) and on keyboards the aforementioned Baláž (as the name should be spelled correctly in Czech or in Slovak).
Really, I surfed the word wild web for many long hours but I coudn’t find any other trace of a keyboarder named Ladislav Baláž except that he was playing on this particular record; I don’t think that he could be this guy, though. And interestingly enough, I can’t even hear much keyboards on this particular track either, unless it’s a clavinet and not a guitar in the centre of the stereo panorama when the verse is playing. Nevermind, whatever, Working In The Coal Mine is still my personal highlight of the album, despite the “Czech connection” perhaps being only a mirage. And besides that, I’m definitely a fool for any Allen Toussaint song. Hence this is the first of only two opportunities known to me to post a Toussaint cover on this very blog in the first place…