sabato 30 novembre 2013

"I CHING" (Zbigniew Hołdys + various artists, 1984)

Largely recorded during the Polish martial law, with armed soldiers controlling the studios, this album is the photography of one of the harshest moments in the history of the nation. Despite that, it contains some courageous lyrics, mostly written by Bogdan Olewicz, which subtlely criticized the regime.

The project was directed by Perfect's Zbigniew Hołdys (composer and singer in most of the tracks), with the help of some great local musicians, such as Wojciech Morawski (drums on twelve tracks out of fourteen), Wojciech Waglewski from Osjan (mandolin on "Wojna chudych z grubymi", lead vocals on "Ja płonę", lead guitar in nine tracks), and Andrzej Nowicki (treated piano on "Nie będzie nas", bass guitar in eight tracks). Two songs are written and sung by blues-rock legend Martyna Jakubowicz.

The musical content is really eclectic, ranging from atmospheric new wave songs ("Heksagram sześćdziesiąty piąty") to frantic punk rhythms ("Nie będzie nas"), from folk music ("Różne rozmowy z życiem") to hard rock ("Człowiek mafii"). Last but not least, here you can find "Wojna chudych z grubymi", an anti-war poem and a wonderful piece of music (try to image Police with a virtuoso mandolin player in place of Andy Summers). 

"I Ching" did not receive any support from local radio or television, but it was still able to sell 50.000 copies in the year of its release, opening the way to the supergroup Morawski Waglewski Nowicki Hołdys, and subsequently to the long lived art-rock formation Voo Voo.

Tracklist:
1. Heksagram sześćdziesiąty piąty (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
2. Miss Propagandiss (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys Joanna Posmyk)
3. Dyktator (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
4. Nie będzie nas (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
5. Ja płonę (vocals: Wojciech Waglewski)
6. Wojna chudych z grubymi (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
7. Gazeta (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
8. Człowiek mafii (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
9. Różne rozmowy z życiem (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
10. Super Ego (vocals: Zbigniew Hołdys)
11. Milo (sung in chorus on Wojciech Waglewski's fictitious lyrics)
12. Słuchaj Man (vocals: Martyna Jakubowicz)
13. Kołysanka dla misiaków (vocals: Martyna Jakubowicz)
14. I Ching (instrumental, composed by Zbigniew Hołdys)

p.s. If you are a Polish reader and you want to try, please post a translation of "Wojna chudych z grubymi" in the comments section. I used Google Translate to understand the meaning of the song, but there are lots of grammar mistakes :)

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giovedì 21 novembre 2013

TIME - "TIME" (1972)

After a couple of years spent as Korni grupa's vocalist, Dado Topić started his own project, Time.

This debut album saw historic producer Vladimir Mihaljek (Smak and Bijelo dugme among his protegees) helping a line-up of expert musicians, such as Vedran Božić (guitar), 
Tihomir Asanović (organ), and Brane Živković (piano, flute).

The album was not a big success at the time, due to a first edition of 500 copies only, but it was soon reissued and never went out of print. Today considered one of the biggest classics of Yugoslavian rock, you can find it in every poll or list on this topic.
In their 32 minutes of duration the five tracks show a perfectly synchronized band divided between frantic funk-rock songs ("Istina mašina") and languid, atmospheric ballads ("Pjesma no. 3"), sometimes merging these two souls ("Kralj alkohol").
"Za koji život treba da se rodim" is the most celebrated title, ten epic minutes where you can find guitar-driven jams, hypnotic piano patterns, wild flute solos, and that tragic electric organ crescendo just before the grand finale.
The only song I don't like is "Hegedupa upa", as it sounds like a stupid imitation of Cream or Jimi Hendrix, but the rest of the album is quite simply among the finest examples of non-British progressive rock.

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mercoledì 13 novembre 2013

YANKA DYAGILEVA - "PRODANO!" (1989)

Original title: Продано!
Artist: Янка Дягилева

Yanka Dyagileva had a short career, consisting in five classic albums recorded between 1987 and 1989. Today regarded as an icon of the Siberian underground scene of the 80s, she died in May 1991. It was probably a suicide, although some rumours about an alleged murder started circulating. The only sure thing is that she was found lifeless in a river, when she was only 24.

Distributed at the time on some illegal copies, all her works contain pretty much the same songs, but the arrangements are radically different. "Ne polozheno!" (1987) was the debut album, built around the sound of two guitars and some percussion. Then came "Deklassirovannym ehlementam" (1988), recorded with a post-punk sound and a canonical rhythm section.

"Prodano!" is the third record. I consider it her magnum opus, as it contains 19 songs. Some of these were included on the first two albums, others would have been part of the further two albums, each one in a different version.
"Prodano!" is the album where the melodic talent is most evident, with her powerful, tormented voice shining above some wildly strummed guitars and nothing more. 
It is also her first record with a decent sound qualityAlthough the production is not the work of a professional, it's still an improvement on the low fidelity of her previous efforts. A monument to folk music and poetry, both pagan and anarchical, this is just the right introduction to a wonderful talent gone too soon.

Her discography was reissued in the 90s by Yegor Letov, along with some posthumous material.

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(The song starts at 0'30'')

domenica 10 novembre 2013

CZESŁAW NIEMEN - "DZIWNY JEST TEN ŚWIAT" + "NIEMEN & AKWARELE" (1967)

After some years spent releasing singles and EPs, Niemen finally recorded his debut album, soon imposing himself as the most popular Polish singer. It sold 160.000 copies in one year, while the title-track and "Wspomnienie" dominated radio and TV airplay. Today they are both regarded as absolute classics.

The album starts with "Gdzie to jest", a fuzzy beat song, but it quickly shows Niemen's versatility with "Nigdy się nie dowiesz", a mix of blues and Renaissance music. "Wspomnienie" is a delicate jazz-pop song, inspired by a poem written by Julian Tuwim in 1921, while the title-track is a surprisingly powerful soul-rock with bombastic arrangements, and the tragic "Chciałbym cofnąć czas" kinda reminds of the Walker Brothers vocal performances. Very popular at the time, but slightly forgotten today, "Pamiętam ten dzień" will earn your appreciation with a Spanish-sounding brass section. 

Tracks 1-12: the original album, released in 1967. 
Tracks 13-15: released in that same year as part of the "Niemen & Akwarele" EP.
(Both the album and the EP featured the band Akwarele on instruments. A special mention for Marian Zimiński, keyboardist, and Tomasz Butowtt, drummer).


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A few records I have re-uploaded on request:

venerdì 1 novembre 2013

CZESŁAW NIEMEN - "ENIGMATIC" (1970)

Niemen, who died in January 2004 at the age of 64, is still one of the symbols of Polish music. At the peak of his career, between 1964 and 1975, he sold over two million records in his homeland, and he did it without ever compromising his intentions by making cheesy pop music.
On the contrary, he explored a mix of music styles, always trying to not repeat himself and to surprise his listeners. During his golden age, he went through Polish and Russian traditional music, soul, jazz-rock, progressive, psychedelia and baroque pop.

Recorded in 1969 and released one year later, "Enigmatic" is his most celebrated album. The glorious opening track, "Bema pamięci żałobny rapsod", starts like a gregorian chant, with a majestic choir and a striking church organ, only to suddenly mutate into a soul-rock epic after over 7 minutes. Guided by a surprisingly proto-trip hop rhythm section and Niemen's powerful, scratching voice, it hits the 16 minutes mark.

The other three tracks are shorter, but still powerful, filled with bluesy guitar solos, Hammond organ, jazz saxophones, and passionate female backing vocals, provided by legendary Polish vocal group Alibabki.

At the time, "Enigmatic" was combined with a movie, which showed Niemen and his band performing their music. The album sales surpassed the 125.000 copies mark in one year.


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