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Album Review: The Per Gessle Archives – A Lifetime of Songwriting (Box Set)

5 min read

Per Gessle is one of music’s most established and iconic hitmakers. Over the course of his almost 40 years in music, the musician has written hundreds of songs that have been spread over numerous projects including his first successful band, Gyllene Tider, who he continues to record and tour with after almost 4 decades, a very fruitful solo journey that has produced albums in both English and Swedish and of course an internationally successful career as one half of pop duo Roxette alongside equally iconic vocalist, Marie Fredriksson.

The Per Gessle ArchivesThe work of Gessle is enormous and the majority of songs that have been produced for all of the projects that he has been involved in have been written solely by the hand of Gessle himself. Having led such a prosperous life creating countless hits and memories for a fanbase that is both loyal and widespread and ahead of a world tour with Roxette which begins on October 28th in Russia and will take the pair around the globe until 2016, it seems only right that the songwriting achievements of this pop culture and pop music great is celebrated. This has now been achieved with the release of The Per Gessle Archives: A Lifetime of Songwriting.

Those who frequently visit the pages of Renowned For Sound will know that I am a very big fan of Roxette and the work of its members. The neighbourhood will also now know this fact about me after the high-pitched schoolgirl squeal that found its way out of my somewhat rugged frame this week as the good ole’ UPS man arrived with a weighty package of Per Gessle goodies that I had pre-ordered a couple of months ago.

It’s sort of hard to know where to start with a release like this one because of the sheer volume of recordings that the songwriter has offered us within the box set. For fans of Roxette, Per Gessle and Gyllene Tider, the Per Gessle Archives is like a brimming treasure chest of music. Within the glossy gold box that the material is presented within is 10 discs consisting of demos recorded throughout the musicians 40 years as a songwriter. In addition to the CD’s which contain 164 tracks between them is a gorgeously packaged vinyl record which contains 12 additional Roxette demo recordings, including hits from Have A Nice Day (Crush On You, Anyone, Staring At The Ground), Room Service (Fool, The Centre of the Heart), an incredible version of Dangerous and several of the bands unreleased gems like (I Could Never) Give You Up and Come Back (Before You Leave).

The Roxette demos were always going to be the key feature of this collection for me and as a fan of hearing how the duo’s hits became the classics that we have become familiar with over the decades, its incredibly fascinating to listen to some of the big hits in such raw, stripped back and almost vulnerable forms. Tracks like The Look which we know as being a bolshy, guitar-layered pop-rocker is unclothed on the Roxette Demos Volume 3 to a pale acoustic state; very unlike the track that would become one of the bands signature rockers but every bit as goose-bump inducing. The same can be said about tracks like Fading Like A Flower, Listen To Your Heart and It Must Have Been Love which all sit within the box set in much more simple and instrumentally minimalistic forms. While a raw quality is evident on most if the songs within the collection, some still retain a very similar quality to what would be the end product. Joyride and Spending My Time, songs that were miraculously written on the same day back in the early nineties by Gessle sound close to their released versions, albeit with the use of keys in place of acoustic guitar for the latter.

The Per Gessle Archives Insert

While I enjoy hearing the tracks that have made Roxette such a pop juggernaut, it’s the unreleased numbers from the bands career that made me smile like a Cheshire cat, as Gessle would say. One of my favourite Roxette tracks, I Don’t Want To Get Hurt is showcased on the Roxette Demos Volume 4 and the bands Have A Nice Day release is given a nod with exceptional recordings of some of my favourites from the record including Anyone, Salvation, Crush on You, You Can’t Put Your Arms Around What’s Already Gone and Stars.

Some of the bands best B-sides are also given some of the limelight within the box set including Crazy About You, The Sweet Hello The Sad Goodbye and It Hurts taking up some memorable spots in the collection around the bands iconic catalogue of chart toppers and album favourites.

In addition to all of the Roxette numbers that make up The Per Gessle Archives, we are also treated to demos from the musicians solo career. Two of Gessle’s later Swedish language solo successes are given an individual spotlight with separate discs being dedicated to tracks from the stars 2003 hit record Mazarin and 2007’s En Händig Man.

The remaining discs with the Per Gessle Archives are catagorized as Demo’s and Other Fun Stuff and contain a variety of the musicians solo Swedish material, various Roxette B-sides and unreleased songs, demos from his Son of a Plumber release of 2005 and a sweet acoustic version of Always Breaking My Heart which Gessle wrote for pop princess Belinda Carlisle for the singers 1996 album, A Woman and a Man.

One of the fascinating highlights of Per Gessles recordings within this collection is the dates for each demo is listed and this gives the collection an additional nostalgic vibe. We are easily able to trace back through the musicians career, to the day, of the creation of some of the pop worlds most treasured hits.

This is the sort of release that fans of any artist wish they would get from the bands they adore but so few are lucky enough to receive. The collection boasts a phenomenal number of songs and serves Gessle and fans as well as everyone who has worked with the musician over the years on these songs an exquisite and nostalgic retrospective over 40 lucrative years of music from one of the true icons of pop music.

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