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Fanfare 5 stars: Lovely classical guitar arrangements of songs by Danish rock/pop icon Kim Larsen

May 8, 2021

Ken Meltzer

“Ta’ Mig Med” (Take Me Along) is a line from the hit song Joanna by the Danish rock/pop icon Kim Larsen (1945-2018). It is also the title of a collection of Larsen songs arranged for classical guitar, performed by Jesper Sivebaek, and released on the Our Recordings label. In the 1970s, Larsen rose to prominence as part of the Danish rock band Gasolin’. After the group broke up in 1978, Larsen moved to New York, hoping to establish himself as an international artist. By Larsen’s own account, that effort was a failure. Larsen returned to Denmark, where he pursued a solo career, as well as performing with bands that bore his name (Kim Larsen and Bellami, Kim Larsen and Kjukken). At a time when British and American musicians dominated the rock and pop fields, Larsen gave Denmark its own identity and pride of place. When Kim Larsen died of prostate cancer in 2018 at the age of 72, he was revered as one of Denmark’s true musical luminaries and icons. In his liner notes, Jesper Sivebaek cites Andrés Segovia and Kim Larsen (both of whom he saw in concert) as “(my) two musical heroes.” Sivebaek decided to arrange several of Larsen’s melodies for classical guitar. In addition to those, “Ta’ Mig Med” includes arrangements by Daniel Murray (Der Er En Sang) and Asger Agerskov Buur (Kom Igen, Som Et Strejf Af En Dråbe). Like many of his era, Larsen was inspired and influenced by the Beatles. And the spirit of the McCartney/Lennon songbook is evident in Larsen’s lovely and beguiling melodies. Like so many Beatles songs, once you’ve heard a Larsen melody, it’s very likely to stay with you (and not in a horrid “earworm” kind of way).

Just as many McCartney/Lennon songs have fared well in various kinds of instrumental arrangements, so Larsen’s songs thrive in these settings for classical guitar. With YouTube acting as an invaluable resource, I compared each of Larsen’s original songs with the transcriptions performed by Sivebaek. Larsen’s melodies, always paramount, are interwoven with many other influences, both classical and popular. Jesper Sivebaek’s stated affection for Larsen and his music is quite clear throughout this recital. The guitarist plays the melodies with the utmost respect and love, striking an ideal balance between the roles of vocalist and virtuoso guitarist. I found this recital enchanting from start to close, and the inspiration to listen to many of Larsen’s own versions of his songs; both fulfilling experiences. The recorded sound is lovely, reproducing the artist in a warm and detailed acoustic. In addition to Sivebaek’s commentary, Erik Jensen provides welcome insights into Larsen’s career and influence. Sivebaek relates that he has played the Larsen arrangements in his classical “concerts in Spain, Italy, Finland and China, and the subsequent response has been quite overwhelming. The audience take to them spontaneously.” Granted this is a genre that has been an integral part of my musical life, but I believe this is a disc that will give a diverse range of music lovers much pleasure. Highly recommended.

Ken Meltzer
5 stars: Lovely classical guitar arrangements of songs by Danish rock/pop icon Kim Larsen

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