Karel Černoch – Tržnice světa
from album “Letiště”, 1975, Panton 110506
original album sleeve (front/back, © Petr Sís)
Quite a lot of Czech musicians passed away this year. Among others: the drummers Jan Antonín Pacák (1941) and Anatolij Kohout (1946), the composer Karel Svoboda (1938) the bass player Pavel Pešta (1948) or one of the pioneers of Czech rock’n’roll, Petr Kaplan (1940). And yesterday the Czech pop music scene has lost one of its most competent vocalists: Karel Černoch (1943) who died of colon cancer.
Karel Černoch began singing in the 1960s with various rock’n’roll and beat groups in Prague. Among international collectors he will be likely best remembered for his 1967–1968 recordings with Juventus: Ona se brání, 18 minut, Procitnutí or Zrcadlo. However, after 1970s his music output became rather inconsistent, i.e. not bound to any particular genre. He was travelling between soul, cheesy bubble-gum pop or country&western music, the latter becoming his passion from the 1980s on.
Still, at least for some parts of his discography you can truly state that nomen est omen: “černoch” means in Czech literally “black man”. And indeed, he was likely one of the very few vocalists in the world who was able to cover Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (with Czech lyrics known as Věc koupená) so close to the original and yet without giving up a single bit of his personal style, nearly as he would have written this masterpiece himself. Of course, I will introduce that track in a future Funky Czech-In article along with more details to Černoch’s biography in general and this album in particular. Personally I reckon Letiště (The Airport) among the best Czechoslovak pop albums of the 20th century – apart from being one of the most soulful anyway – including the superb cover design by film maker Petr Sís.
Tržnice světa (The Emporium Of The World) is one of my other favorites from Letiště, penned by Černoch with imaginative lyrics from his longtime co-writer and former producer Pavel Žák. What seamingly begins as a singer/songwriter ballad, after one minute the song turns into a funky bossa nova driven by lively drums with loads of latin percussions, jazzy Fender Rhodes harmonies and with a typical Černoch scat solo towards the end. And what makes the track quite unique even in international context are the traces of rapping all along; keep in mind that around 1975 rap and hip hop was still four years away! The backing group was once again the ubiquitous Dance/Jazz Orchestra Of Czechoslovak Radio (TOČR/JOČR), probably with Karel Růžička on keyboards, Petr Kořínek on bass and Josef Vejvoda on drums. It’s not unlikely that Černoch himself played the acoustic rhythm guitar.
P.S. As an irony of fate: although my wife and me are not into celebrating christmas at all, last Monday I thought anyway that we could listen to a couple of “beat carols” and so I spinned two or three 45s on the turntable, all recorded in the late 1960s by Karel Černoch…