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Funky Czech-In

An introduction to Czech and Slovak pop music from the sixties, seventies and eighties with a touch of funk, soul, disco and jazz.

Mercy Mercy Mercy

2008-08-31

Marie Rottrová & Flamingo – Nechci (Mercy Mercy Mercy)
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)
from album “Rhythm & Romance”, 1977, Supraphon/Artia 1132303
arranged by Rudolf Březina, produced by Miloš Zapletal

rottrova 1 rottrova 2
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 Happyfeet 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. Apart from 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”…


P.P.P.S. 2016-02-17
*) As I have learned directly from the Supraphon licensing office in the meantime, both versions of the track have been disapproved by the original publisher and won’t be generally available for reissue due to licensing restrictions. Nonetheless, the Czech version is included in the massive CD/DVD box set Co mám, to dám, and oddly enough, the English version is still available for purchase via supraphonline.cz.

The best disco in town

2008-06-04

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

disko 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!

Shotgun

2008-04-30

The Matadors – Shotgun
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 [is now] 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.

Misik, Obermajer, Hladik, Machata

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)

Recent posts

2017-02-12: In The Game Preserve
2016-02-17: Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7
2009-09-19: Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, part 1
2008-08-31: Mercy Mercy Mercy
2008-06-04: The best disco in town

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Disclaimer

The audio samples are presented as a “specimen” to encourage readers to buy the artists’ albums. Many of the tracks presented herein are available for purchase in MP3 or FLAC format at supraphonline.cz.

Copyright

All written content is © 2006– by Lukáš Machata (Lou Kash). Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. If you’d like to use portions of my articles, please contact me first.