Marie Rottrová & Flamingo – Kruh světla
from album “Marie Rottrová”, 1972, Supraphon 1131268
arranged by Richard Kovalčík, produced by František Řebíček
original 1972 LP sleeve (front/back)
Marie Rottrová, born 1941 in Ostrava, started to sing with the beat group Samuel in the mid 1960s. Then she joined the soul group Majestic and since 1969 she worked professionally with its successor Flamingo – not to be confused with the famous beat/prog group from Prague called Flamengo. Flamingo recorded a couple of soul and R&B singles, their first long play album came out in 1970. It was one of the very few pure soul albums ever recorded in Czechoslovakia. Actually there were two Flamingo debut albums if you also count the very popular export edition This Is Our Soul which contains basically the same tracks but sung in English. Rottrová soon started to record as a solo artist as well. Nice is e.g. the up-tempo duet with superstar Karel Gott Mít pouhej tejden (Having Only A Week), a 1971 cover version of Good Morning Freedom, turning it into one of the better songs that Gott recorded in the 1970s. (Although it needs to be noted that Gott’s Czech repertoire – especially the 1960s beat stuff – was always of much higher quality than his German schlager crap.)
Flamingo, who were later forced to change their name to the Czech equivalent Plameňáci, was a very tight combo with its own horn section. Some members were at the same time the nucleus of the Czechoslovak Radio Ostrava Orchestra which was recording with various other local pop artists like Pavel Novák. The group was originally lead by trumpet player Richard Kovalčík who was also responsible for most of the arrangements. After his death in 1975 the keyboardist Vladimír Figar took over the leadership. Other longtime members were bass player Jiří Urbánek, Rudolf Březina on tenor sax, Jan Hasník on guitar and the “funky drummer” Radek Dominik. Despite further personal changes, Flamingo/Plameňáci remained Marie Rottrová’s main backing group until Vladimír Figar’s death in 1989.
Kruh světla (The Ring Of Light) is the dramatical opener from Rottrová’s first solo album which has been recorded while Flamingo’s second lead singer, Petr Němec, had to serve his two years in the Czechoslovak army. The song was written by Karel Svoboda with Michael Prostějovský’s lyrics. Yes, that Karel Svoboda who wrote Lady Carneval and Biene Maja for Karel Gott as well as probably hundreds of other maddening “normalized” Czech pop and schlager songs, including the title melody from the famous Xmas fairy-tale movie Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Three Hazelnuts For Cinderella). But that doesn’t mean that Svoboda didn’t have any flair for some funk here and there; watch out for some more Svoboda penned disco grooves in the Funky Czech-In pipeline.
The rest of the album sounds a lot softer, but there’s also a funky cover version of Zawinul’s Mercy Mercy Mercy with Czech lyrics, called Nechci (I Don’t Want). This album sort of sketches the path that Rottrová was about to take for her future career, being a soul influenced pop singer with class. Compared to other Czechoslovak top entertainers of that era, Rottrová was one of the few who were able to maintain a very high standard without actually selling out to the apathetic real-socialistic TV-consuming masses. Even some of her later ballads still sound very tasteful after thirty years. In other words, this entry won’t be her or Flamingo’s only appearance on this blog.
I don’t know Marie Rottrová’s records after 1983, but she keeps on recording and performing actively.
If you’re interested, I have five of her 7″ singles from the seventies for sale
(items no. 479, 843, 1070, 1193 and 1219). On cdmusic.cz you can also buy some CDs, search there for “rottrova”.