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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.

On and on (The chicken, part 2)

2007-02-16

Flamengo – Stále dál
from album “Kuře v hodinkách”, 1972, Supraphon 0131287 (mono) or 1131287 (stereo) and 101287-1311 (reissue 1990); also on CD “Kuře v hodinkách”, 1972/1998, Bonton 4910532; SP “Kuře v hodinkách”, 1972, Supraphon 0431453; CD compilation “Paní v černém (singly 1967-1972)”, 2003, Supraphon SU5496-2311
produced by Hynek Žalčík

Flamengo_KureVHodinkach_a_128 Flamengo_KureVHodinkach_RIa_128
original 1972 LP sleeve & 1990 LP/CD reissue sleeve

“… stále dál, stále dál, stále dál. Slepeckou holí mám spočítaný jak dlouhý je mý bytí, který je mi jednou daný.”

“… on and on, on and on, on and on. With a blindman’s white stick I’ve added up how long will my being last that I’ve been given.”

Every time I hear this chorus I shiver all over. Ever since I’ve heard the song for the first time some seventeen years ago. So I was quite surprised to read that even the old sound engineer who originally recorded it also feels the same way after 35 years. Anyway, here we go with the part 2 of the Flamengo story:

The basic idea behind the album Kuře v hodinkách (The Chicken In The Wrist-Watch) was to bring progressive contemporary Czech rock music to the public. While it may sound as a simple matter of fact to you today, it wasn’t an easy task in communist Czechoslovakia of the early 1970s; read my introduction for more background. The young Supraphon producer Hynek Žalčík (1949-2005) came with the nearly “subversive” idea to ask the poet Josef Kainar (1917-1971) to write the lyrics for the album. The “Kainar plan” was based on Kainar’s communist party membership, although he was definitely not very popular anymore by his conservative and “normalized” party comrades. But at that time he also was the chairman of the Czechoslovak Writers Association and a widely respected writer who also used to write blues songs. That aside, one year earlier they have already successfully collaborated on the Michal Prokop & Framus Five jazz-rock suite Město Er. So that trick helped Žalčík once again to convince the responsible Supraphon bureaucrats to release a rock album played by a bunch of untamed long-haired freaks who would have been de facto and de jure (i.e. according to communist jurisdiction) considered potential enemies of the state. The compromise was that the record was originally sold solely to the members of the “Czechoslovak Hi-Fi Club” in a total edition of only a few thousand copies. A political decision of course: Flamengo would have sold easily tens if not even hundreds of thousands copies over the years to all the other rock-hungry long-haired freaks out there. But any attempts for an official re-edition have been rejected by the authorities until 1989. Only two tracks (Já a dým, Kuře v hodinkách) re-appeared on the scarce Josef Kainar tribute compilation Obelisk in the late seventies; again thanks to Žalčík’s tireless effort.

Stále dál (On And On) is the only track from Kuře v hodinkách that isn’t sung by Vladimír Mišík. Instead, it’s the voice of organist Ivan Khunt and it’s the last of only three Flamengo songs they ever recorded with him as the lead singer. Apart from the short instrumental intro track it’s also the album’s only song without Kainar’s lyrics since Kainar passed away in November 1971. The words then came from producer and occasional lyricist Žalčík, the composition was the work of the “triple K” Khunt, Kubík and Kulhánek. Yet this song is a bomb and then some.

Due to the increasing communist oppression on rock groups in general, Flamengo eventually disbanded before the album has been finally released in 1973. The nucleus of the group along with Žalčík helped to record Dežo Ursiny’s debut album Provisorium and they established the first issue of Energit (see this post). Khunt and Šedivý exiled soon thereafter which made any reissue of Kuře v hodinkách or any other record with their participation practically impossible. Guitarist Fořt started to work with the group of former jazz musicians Strýci (a.k.a. Šest strýců) for Helena Vondráčková, joined the Karel Gott orchestra and led his own session studio band Labyrint. It was also Labyrint with Kubík’s and Kulhánek’s participation who re-recorded Rám příštích obrazů and Doky vlaky hlad a boty for the C&K Vocal fantastic debut album Generace (Generation). Kubík and Kulhánek worked as session musicians here or there, in the mid seventies they co-founded the jazz-rock supergroup Bohemia. Kubík escaped to the West in the 80s, while Kulhánek eventually joined Mišík’s Etc group. Mišík courageously kept on keeping on, on and on.

Nowadays there’s a restaurant in Prague named after the album “Kuře v hodinkách“. On their nicely designed web site there’s a photo gallery with lots of pictures from Czech rock history. Czech it out.

Vinyl should be available on eBay or on Gemm (some sellers still confuse Flamengo with Flamingo though). Some of the records are incredibely rare so don’t get shocked by the prices. But even the “über-rare” single Každou chvíli happens to be seen every now and then (although usually it’s definitely way over my budget). Fortunately, the songs I’ve presented are available not only on the remastered edition of Kuře v hodinkách, but also on the ultimate Flamengo “singlology” Paní v černém (The Lady In Black – Singles 1967-1972). If you dig prog-rock, get the former. If it’s fuzz guitars that makes your underpants wet, get the latter. If you just love music and you’d like show some respect for the involved musicians and producers and their exceptional work, get ’em all. On and on.

P.S. Kuře v hodinkách is one of the three albums that I would take with me on a desert island. Just for the record, the other two are Frank Zappa’s Over-Nite Sensation as well as Mothership Connection by Parliament. On those three records every single note makes me feel good. (Oh, and if I had any chance to take a fourth one with me, it would be SAHB Stories by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band… :))

P.P.S. Tell me about your three desert island albums in the comments –>

Every while (The chicken, part 1)

2007-02-09

Flamengo – Každou chvíli
from CD compilation “Paní v černém (singly 1967-1972)”, 2003, Supraphon SU5496-2311; originally from SP “Každou chvíli”, 1971, Supraphon 0431214; also a bonus track on CD “Kuře v hodinkách”, 1972/1998, Bonton 4910532
produced by Hynek Žalčík

Flamengo_PaniVCernem_a_128
CD compilation booklet

Vladimír Mišík, one of my most favorite singers, has already got an entry on Funky Czech-In where I have promised to bring him back with a Flamengo post. Well, this band is just too important for the Czech music history in order to squeeze its story into a short single weblog post, so here’s part one. Oh, and keep in mind: Flamengo is NOT Flamingo!

Flamengo’s biggest problem probably was the frequent exchange of their lead singers. Not that any of them guys were not good enough. Actually the opposite is true, each one was a personality on his or her own. It just didn’t really help to build up the group’s profile over the years. Thus, among the group members since 1966 were Viktor Sodoma (who left for the Matadors in 1967), Karel Kahovec (originally a Matador himself), Petr Novák (earlier and then again later with George & Beatovens), the former early sixties teenage idol Pavel Sedláček, the English lady Joan Duggan (who later joined Jazz Q along with the original Flamengo guitarist František Francl), the organist Ivan Khunt, for a very short time and unfortunately undocumented on records even the ex-Framus Five Michal Prokop and finally since 1971 Mišík, who himself already passed through the Matadors, George & Beatovens (as their lead guitarist for a couple of months!) and who had just been fired from Matadors’ follow-up Blue Effect.

Similarly complicated would be the attempt to describe Flamengo’s musical range. The early beat songs by Petr Novák already sound much like Petr Novák on his later G&B records. Kahovec on the other hand had his unique voice and song-writing style, too. But by 1968 the Czech scene became “infected” with R&B and soul and Flamengo again returned to playing a lot of cover versions, now even real funk by James Brown (coming soon on this channel, stay tuned). Then with the arrival of Khunt and Duggan in 1969 they focused on dark blues-rock. And the final phase nicely fits into the progressive rock drawer. So there you have the dilemma: one name, five different bands…

Supraphon released as many as 16 Flamengo songs on 7″ sides; some songs appeared on SPs with another artist on the flip side – a usual praxis in the sixties. It was however the final line-up that was going to make history when they recorded their only full album in 1971-1972, the masterpiece Kuře v hodinkách (The Chicken In The Wrist-Watch), the undisputed monument of Czechoslovak popular music. Flamengo’s legendary last edition consisted of Mišík, Ivan Khunt (1947-2002), the composer and arranger Jan Kubík on saxes and flutes, the virtuoso bass player Vladimír Kulhánek, one of the best Czech rock drummers of his generation, the ex-Primitives Group Jaroslav Erno Šedivý as well as the last remaining original member, Pavel Fořt, who switched from bass back to lead guitar in 1970.

Každou chvíli (Every While) as well as the similarly sounding b-side Týden v elektrickém městě (A Week In The Electric City) both predate the album sessions by only a few months. You can already clearly identify the “trademarked” super-compact and funky sound that determines the later LP. Mišík’s singing has also grown up since his departure from Blue Effect (as captured on the psychedelic album Meditace). This is already the voice that was going to have a huge impact on a whole new generation of young rock music fans as well as future musicians, myself included.

And then there’s the drums. One of the sound engineers in the Supraphon studio Dejvice was Petr Kocfelda. He has been recently asked in an interview (in Czech, part 1, part 2) how they actually managed to achieve such a steady drum sound and what compressor or limiter effects were they using then. “None,” he replied. The drummer Erno Šedivý obviously used to hit the skins so hard that they only had to adjust the mic inputs to the peak level which then remained pretty constant throughout the sessions. As a matter of fact, at that time the recording studio in Prague-Dejvice was still using a relatively old 4-track Studer machine along with a custom built tube mixing console which made the producers, engineers and especially the service technicians as much a part of the creative process as the musicians themselves. (Er, can the GarageBand generation still follow me what I’m talking about…? ;))

To be continued…

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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.