19 September 2009

Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, part 1

It’s been a long time in the making… Almost two years, to be precise. So, in case you were already wondering what the author of this blog has been doing during the past twelve months, here it is:

On October 5, 2009, Vampisoul Records is releasing the first two compilations conceived, researched, selected, compiled, documented, designed and laid out by yours truly

Ne! The soul of Marta Kubišová
Vampisoul VAMPI 114 (2LP) + VAMPI CD 114 (CD digipak)
The soul of Marta Kubisova
Tracks: Tak dej se k nám a projdem svět, Svlíkám lásku [sample], Já tu s tváří neměnnou, Bílý stůl, Tvůj krém tvůj nůž tvůj růženec (You Came You Saw You Conquered), Kdo ti radu dá, Tajga blues ’69, Hare Krišna (Hare Krishna), Chci právo trubky mít, Legendy, Já cestu k tobě najdu si, Tys bejval mámin hodnej syn, Ne, Jakoby nic, Nepiš dál, Ten zlej páv, Modrej vřes, Zlý dlouhý půst, Ten druhý v nás, Balada o kornetovi a dívce, Na co tě mám, Vrba, Pojďte pejskové, Nejsi sám kdo doufá (Face It Girl It’s Over), Červencové ráno.
Featuring Marta Kubišová with the Golden Kids Orchestra, Mefisto, Waldemar Matuška and others. Twenty of these songs are being reissued on vinyl for the first time.
From our promo material: “Marta Kubišová was the most popular Czechoslovak female singer of the late 1960s, heading for an international career but banned by the communist regime until 1989. Compiled from the Supraphon archives, this 1966–1970 selection focuses on her roughest songs, with plenty of fuzz guitars and funky beats, punchy horns and razor-sharp organs underlying her deep and soulful voice.”

The funky way of Emil Viklický
Vampisoul VAMPI 115 (2LP) + VAMPI CD 115 (CD digipak)
The funky way of Emil Viklicky
Tracks: Trochu funky (The Funky Way), Týden (Week), Ještě jednou slunce (Once Again Sun), Květen (Maytime), Kam s tím blues (Chega de Saudade), 70. východní (East 70th Street), Boston, Zelený satén (Green Satin), Hromovka (Thunderhouse) [sample], Země plná lásky (A Land Full Of Love) [sample], Zase zapomněli zavřít okno (They’ve Left The Window Open Again), Siesta, Jumbo Jet, Ráno (Part 1 Kash Edit) (Morning).
Featuring Viklický/Frisell/Driscoll/Johnson, Karel Velebný’s SHQ, Eva Svobodová, Energit, Emil Viklický Studio Big Band. All tracks are being reissued on vinyl for the first time, SHQ and Eva Svobodová also for the first time on CD. Four tracks by Emil’s big band are even previously unreleased!
From our promo material: “Emil Viklický is one of the most renowned Czech jazz musicians and composers. This focused-on-funk selection was recorded between 1975 and 1987 in Czechoslovak studios. Be it with the legendary SHQ or with Energit, accompanying Eva Svobodová, conducting a tight studio big band or collaborating with fellow Berklee College students Frisell/Driscoll/Johnson, Emil knows how to funk up his keys all the way through.”

All tracks have been carefully digitally remastered from 24-bit transfers of the original analog master tapes by fellow blogger and “anti-loudness-warrior” Ian Shepherd.

The records should be available in good record stores near you. In case you should have difficulties to obtain them, be it on vinyl or CD, please let me know.

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31 August 2008

Mercy Mercy Mercy

Marie Rottrová & Flamingo – Nechci (Mercy Mercy Mercy) [sample]
from album “Marie Rottrová”, 1972, Supraphon 1131268
arranged by Rudolf Březina, produced by František Řebíček
Marie Rottrová & Flamingo – I’ve Had Enough (Mercy Mercy Mercy) [sample]
from album “Rhythm & Romance”, 1977, Supraphon/Artia 1132303
arranged by Rudolf Březina, produced by Miloš Zapletal

Rottrova 1972 Rhythm And Romance
original 1972 and 1977 LP covers

It’s been quite a long time since my last article, dear reader, so welcome back. This post is actually sort of a reader request: Magda, the charming young owner of the cute Happy Feet Records store in Prague asked for these tracks, so here we go…

Mercy Mercy Mercy was not only one of the biggest hits for Cannonball Adderley, but also one of Joe Zawinul’s – Adderley’s keyboarder then – “signature” compositions. Besides of being one of the most popular and instantly recognizable jazz hits of all times anyway. The 1966 original was an instrumental tune, but due to its soul-jazz feeling it’s been actually predestined for release as a vocal number. Of course, Marie Rottrová wasn’t by far the first one to sing it. Nancy Wilson probably had one of the first versions on her 1967 album Just For Now with lyrics by Gail & Vincent Levy – a slow and super cool rendition, by the way, worth to check out on its own! Marlena Shaw and Madeline Bell sang it, too. Even the Everly Brothers, the Creation or the Buckinghams did. And Eddie Jefferson vocalized it in his very special own way on Body And Soul in 1968. (See allmusic.com for a long list…)

However, Flamingo’s saxman Rudolf Březina re-arranged Mercy Mercy Mercy to a hot cooking uptempo pop-soul number, driven by Jiří Urbánek’s funky bass line, while Pavel Vrba wrote the original Czech lyrics Nechci (I Don’t Want). The tune first appeared on Rottrová’s “solo” album in 1972 – which has been introduced on Funky Czech-In almost two years ago, so please refer to that article for more details.

For Flamingo’s second export album Rhythm & Romance in 1977, the original instrumental basic track has been slightly remixed and new English vocals were overdubbed; both enhancements were not necessarily for better, if you ask me, but there they are. The words of I’ve Had Enough roughly follow Vrba’s Czech original. They were penned by Joy Turner, possibly the only Czechoslovakia-based pop lyricist in the 1970s who was officially allowed to write in English, albeit usually only for the Supraphon/Artia export albums.

Neither version has been reissued on CD yet, so czech out your usual vinyl sources. Rhythm & Romance never even officially retailed in Czechoslovakia, thus you will rather likely find a copy of the LP in Germany, Poland, Hungary or Russia. (I got mine from Poland, if I remember correctly.) It’s sort of a “Best of Rottrová 1972–1976” album: except for two chansons in Czech, it contains English versions of her popular tunes, including the funky classic Ring Of Light (Kruh světla), Urbánek’s pre-acid-jazz masterpiece Time Is A Rogue (Modré oči mládí), or the complete vocal version of Quasimodo’s Dream (originally split into parts 1 & 2 on the Plameňáci 75 album). There are also unique cover versions of Nutbush City Limits and I’m On Fire, which are different recordings than the better known 7" versions with Czech lyrics, Pan Muž and Expres Mléčné dráhy respectively.

P.S. Apropos Czech vinyl sources: I have a couple of the Rottrová pop/chanson singles for sale right now, including some ballads known from the Rhythm & Romance LP, as well as the super funky album Flamingo/Plameňáci 75 in excellent condition! Please visit shop.loukash.com.

P.P.S. Stay tuned to this blog, there will likely be very exciting news later this year! We’re working pretty hard on “some thing”…

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04 June 2008

The best disco in town

Bezinky & Pražské smyčce – Žiješ v éře diskoték (The Best Disco In Town) [sample]
from compilation “Disco klub”, 1978, Panton 110717
conducted by Jiří Hrábek

Disco klub
original compilation cover

What was valid thirty years ago still seems to be valid today – we’re living in a disco era. And this week I have the pleasure to present you literally the best disco in town:

Saturday, June 7, 23:00 h
Kuppel Basel
Czech Oldies Party with DJ Lou Kash

The opportunity for this event should be pretty obvious. So… if you (unlike me) are interested in this, the chances are that you might find yourself in Basel this Saturday. And since you already are reading this blog, it’s very likely that you will then appreciate our little party, too.
See you in the Kuppel!

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30 April 2008


The Matadors – Shotgun [sample]
from album “The Matadors”, 1968, Supraphon 0130493/1130493 (mono/stereo), Supraphon/Artia SUA13992/SUAST53992 (mono/stereo), reissued 1995 on CD Bonton 710244-2
produced by Jaromír Tůma

matadors 1 matadors 2
original LP sleeve, export reissue sleeve

Between 1966 and 1968 the Matadors belonged to the best beat groups in Czechoslovakia. At that time their enormous popularity might have been threatened only by the equally experienced “veterans” Olympic. (By comparing the former with the latter, think e.g. the never ending “Stones vs. Beatles” dispute…) So it was no coincidence that the Matadors were the second rock band after Olympic to have a full long player recorded and released by Supraphon in 1968. And it’s no coincidence either that their only album still belongs to the most sought-after items from former Czechoslovakia among vinyl collectors worldwide, being an undisputed classic of the so called freak-beat or psych-beat genre.

The band was mainly influenced by british R&B acts like Them, Pretty Things, Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Heartbreakers Bluesbreakers or even the Kinks and the Who. But like many other Czech groups around 1967 and 1968, also the Matadors couldn’t resist the infectious grooves from the omnipresent soul craze all over the world. Moreover since they were frequently playing abroad, particularly doing a Switzerland night club tour through the winter 1967/1968, where they were often asked to play popular dance tracks from the charts.

In this context it’s not surprising that the album song Shotgun nicely fits into this blog’s scope. Unlike Junior Walker’s proto-funk original however, the Matadors’ version speeds up the tempo quite a bit and adds a trace of a Hendrix-like rock feeling due to heavy use of wah-wah guitar; lead guitarist Radim Hladík (1946) was the Czechoslovak pioneer in using the wah-wah pedal to such an extent, that he supposedly even invented the now commonly used Czech word for that device: kvákadlo. And also lead singer Viktor Sodoma (1945) must have been in a good shape on this recording date. His English phrasing is precise and he doesn’t shout as “over-the-top” as on some other Matadors tracks.

The overall production quality of the whole album is rather bad though. The “old school” Supraphon recording engineers of the 1960s didn’t have a clue how to put this kind of music to tape, not to speak of the poor vinyl mastering. Especially Otto Bezloja’s (1945–2001) bass guitar and Tony Black’s (1946) drums suffer from the thin sound. And if there ever was Jan “Farmer” Obermeyer’s (1944) Matador organ on this very track, it’s nowhere to be heard now. (To illustrate these issues, one of the popular anecdotes is, that on an earlier recoding date an engineer supposedly thought that Hladík’s amplifier was broken after he switched on his overdrive pedal for the first time…)

The full Matadors story has been excellently documented in Aleš Opekar’s authorized biography book The Matadors – Beatová aristokracie z Prahy (Oftis 2007, ISBN 978-80-86845-91-3). While the book is written in Czech language only, it contains not only lots of photos and commonly understandable biographical data, but also a bonus CD with previously unreleased live recordings from 1966! (Hey, remember my interlude from last October…?) So if you are a serious collector of Czechoslovak oldies, this book belongs to your collection even if you don’t understand a word Czech. But as I’ve already noted last year, don’t expect any hi-fi quality – it is a historical document.

Speaking of the Matadors story: last year in June I’ve coincidentally discovered that the English Wikipedia already has an article about The Matadors. Originally it was so full of errors then that I’ve decided to clean it up as well as to add some less known facts about the band. At that time I’ve already read Aleš’s nearly completed manuscript, so my informations were first hand. Hence I won’t repeat what I’ve already put together in a more or less serious form elsewhere (although the Wikipedia article isn’t complete yet). But for regular readers of Funky Czech-In it will be of interest when I point out the connections between other Czech groups and artists previously posted here, like Flamengo, Vladimír Mišík or Komety.

The Matadors album has been reissued in 1995 on CD, which also contains all tracks but one released on seven inches and Supraphon samplers between 1966 and 1968. It’s out of print but it still pops up for sale here and there on the web. There’s also a Korean CD reissue available, but as I’ve been told by Jan Obermayer recently, it’s quite likely a bootleg, as are most of the other releases on various low budget samplers in the past 10–15 years all over the world. Still, some Matadors tracks appeared every now and then on some of the protagonists’ official Best Of compilations, like Sodoma’s or Mišík’s.

The export version of the vinyl LP was pressed by Supraphon/Artia way into the late 1970s, so it should be still around in quite sufficient quantity. In other words: don’t believe a record dealer who wants to sell you an overpriced Matadors copy in the black export sleeve, praising it as the “original pressing”. They are not! That applies also to the old Czech reissues in a half-generic Supraphon sleeve with overprinted text. The true rarity is solely the original Czech issue with the colored logotype – particularly the stereo edition – provided it’s in top condition. Because being likely a popular record to be played at way too many wild parties then, most are probably not in the best shape these days anymore. Anyway, don’t get fooled. ;)

There are chances that an official reissue of the complete Matadors recordings will be available within the next few years (to express it rather pessimistically) relatively soon. In any case you will find out about it here first. Simply stay tuned to the RSS feed.

matadors 2008
Ex-Matadors Vladimír Mišík, Jan F. Obermayer and Radim Hladík with Lou Kash at the backstage of the Lucerna Music Bar, March 31, 2008, right after one of their annual reunion gigs. (photo: Aleš Opekar)

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28 March 2008

Interlude: Jasná páka 2008

Jasná páka, later known as Hudba Praha, was not exactly a funk or soul group. In fact, not at all except for a few traces of reggae at times. But in the eighties they were one of my favorite Czech new wave groups nonetheless, thus I was actually quite pleased when I’ve heard they still occasionally perform these days. One of these occasions was the public vernissage of the exhibition Nová vlna se starým obsahem (“The New Wave with an old content”) which took place last Wednesday at the Popmuseum Prague. Coincidentally I just arrived in Prague the very same day, so I’ve only dropped my luggage at our flat and headed over to the Břevnov quarter to attend the gig (as well as to meet fellow researchers from Popmuseum, of course).

Pal vocuď hajzle (Fuck Off You Bugger) was one of their biggest (underground) hits from the early 1980s and likely one of the causes for their later ban. Michal Ambrož, the guy with the “blue” head and a Telecaster guitar, and the drummer David Koller are the original members. I’m not sure about the lead guitar player, I’ve forgot to ask about him. The original bass player Ivan Wünsch passed away in 1999 though. A special note deserves the special guest of the group, former member of the cult band Z kopce from Brno, Petr Váša. He’s the guy with the red T-shirt and long curly hair (no, it’s not a fancy wig…)

Click the image to play the movie:

Jasná páka live at the Popmuseum on March 26, 2008 (photo/movie © loukash.com)

Technical note: For the first time on Funky Czech-In I’m presenting video content here. No low-res YouTube “flish-flash” though, but more the real thing, albeit recorded only with my tiny photo camera. If you can’t see it, get the latest QuickTime.

Regarding the topic “Czech New Wave in the eighties” in general, you might also want to check out my Pražský výběr article from January 2008 for some more background info.

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