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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.

Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, part 1

2009-09-19

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

The soul of Marta Kubisova

Vampisoul VAMPI 114 (2LP) + VAMPI CD 114 (CD digipak)

Tracks:  Tak dej se k nám a projdem svět, Svlíkám lásku, 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

Funky way of Emil Viklicky

Vampisoul VAMPI 115 (2LP) + VAMPI CD 115 (CD digipak)

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), Země plná lásky (A Land Full Of Love), 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.

Taiga blues

2007-05-11

Marta Kubišová & The Golden Kids Orchestra – Tajga-Blues ’69
from 7 inch single, 1969, Supraphon 0430646 (mono); also on CD “Tajga blues (Singly 5)”, 2000, Bonton 4988602 (stereo version)
produced by Bohuslav Ondráček, conducted by Josef Vobruba

KubisovaM_ZpevackaSupraphonu_aSP_128
original SP sleeve (actually a generic “Kubišová” sleeve with additional track imprint on the back)

I admit it right away: I’ve been watching the semi-finale of the Eurovision Song Contest yesterday. Actually my wife did, that is. But I’ve seen it too. It’s been the first time that Czechs participated on this silly contest, and since we’re living in Switzerland, we’ve voted like crazy for the Czech representative, the hard rock group Kabát. Not that their song would mean anything special to us, but I’ve met those guys a couple of times personally as they are good friends of some good friends of mine from the city of Teplice. Thus I can say that they are really nice guys and actually also great musicians – something that you can’t say of many of the other contest participants. Anyway, if you don’t know the semi-finale results yet, you’ll surely find out soon if it’s really of any importance to you. Just as a side note: judging from the results, the Czech Republic obviously doesn’t belong to the Eastern Europe anymore (which it never did in geographic sense anyway). And that’s actually good news… ;)

Well then, what’s left for us – let’s have the Taiga blues today. Do I need to say more about Marta Kubišová than I already did in my very first music post last year? Tajga blues ’69, written by producer Bohuslav Ondráček (1932-1998) with lyrics from the Golden Kids bass player Zdeněk Rytíř, is yet again a bitter reflection of the Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia in late summer of 1968. And it is yet another proof what talent has been put to ice for long twenty years while Marta was prohibited from performing and recording by the communist regime.

The Tajga blues (Singly 5) double CD is an excellent compilation of the last 1969/1970 single sides by Marta Kubišová before she’d been banned. It also includes some unreleased material as well as a bunch of beautiful Moravian folk songs recorded clandestinely in 1978 with singer/songwriter Jaroslav Hutka in Prague. Ten out of five stars!

Join us and we’ll travel the world

2006-09-11

Marta Kubišová – Tak dej se k nám a projdem svět
from album “Songy a balady”, 1969, Supraphon 1130855 and 100587-1311
also on Golden Kids album “Micro-Magic-Circus”, 1969, Supraphon, reissued 1997, Bonton 710505-2
The Golden Kids Orchestra conducted by Josef Vobruba, produced by Bohuslav Ondráček and Vladimír Popelka

KubisovaMarta_SongyABalady_a_128 KubisovaM_SongyABalady_LPRI_128 GoldenKids_MicroMagicCircus_aCD_128
the original 1969 LP, the 1990 LP/CD reissue sleeve and the Golden Kids LP/CD sleeve

Let’s start the Funky Czech-In blog with the probably best known funky Czech song, the soulful Tak dej se k nám a projdem svět (Join Us And We’ll Travel The World). It’s the song that makes Marta Kubišová’s first – and for twenty years her only – solo album appear on so many funk collectors’ want lists. Marta Kubišová, born 1942, was probably the most popular Czech female pop singer between 1965 and 1970.

Written by the guitarist Otakar Petřina with lyrics from bass player Zdeněk Rytíř, the song literally kicks off with a funky drum break, most likely played by Petr Hejduk. Soon thereafter we’ll get all pop ingredients that were “in” in late 1968 when the track was recorded: a funky bass line, a fuzzy guitar, a swirling organ, a swinging punchy horn section (probably played by members of the Czechoslovak Radio Prague Dance/Jazz Orchestra – TOČR/JOČR) and on top of it Marta’s deep and urgent voice, indirectly reflecting the cheerless situation of the country occupied by Soviet tanks, while offering the listener a glimpse of hope.

The album itself is slightly uneven as it contains some “fillers” which sound like being intended for the German schlager market, after all Kubišová always was a pop singer in the first place. However, the majority of the songs are simply great, although not necessarily funky. The album begins with a solid cover of Beatles’ Hey Jude, which basically follows the original version except that it’s sung in Czech just like the rest of the record. Another climax of the album is the intense psychedelic sitar folk song Balada o kornetovi a dívce (The Ballad Of The Cornette And The Girl). I own the 1990 LP reissue which obviously omits Zlý dlouhý půst (Bad Long Fasting) and Kdo ti radu dá (Who Gives You An Advice) (a song I have never heard yet) in favor of a re-arranged version of her biggest hit Modlitba pro Martu (A Prayer For Marta) and another Petřina/Rytíř-penned up-tempo soul-beat protest song Ne (No). It’s likely that those two crucial songs had to be removed from the early 1970 pressing due to their political message; that used to happen quite often in that part of the world. However, I’m not sure if they were ever included on the original issue at all. Whatever, according to a recent online interview with Marta, Tak dej se k nám as well as Ne were her favorite songs from the album, while the single-only Tajga-Blues ’69 is obviously her favorite song ever. (I might feature Tajga-Blues in a future post as it’s quite a funky psychedelic beat song.)

At the time when Songy a balady has been recorded and released, Kubišová was also a member of the Golden Kids, a vocal trio with Helena Vondráčková and Václav Neckář who were then already pop stars with their own solo albums, too. (Neckář was even starring in the main role in the 1968 Oscar winning movie Ostře sledované vlaky (Closely Watched Trains) directed by Jiří Menzel.) The Golden Kids were extremely popular in 1969 and they also performed in West Germany and in France. Many songs from Songy a balady were actually a part of the Golden Kids live show and both Vondráčková and Neckář sang background vocals on Marta’s album. So watch out for a Golden Kids, a Neckář and a Vondráčková Funky Czech-In post, too.

In 1969 Kubišová’s future was looking very bright, she had signed a record contract with Polydor and a couple of her and Golden Kids singles were already released in West Germany. But obviously she went “too far” with her political engagement. In 1970 Marta’s voice has been silenced by the “normalizator” Husák’s regime and all records with her name on the label had to disappear from Czech record stores. You can read more details on a Marta Kubišová fan site in English, including a detailed although not complete discography and a lot of other trivia. Unlike Vondráčková and Neckář, she was not allowed to record or perform in public for almost 20 years, until her appearance at a huge demonstration against the communist regime in November 1989 where she sang the Czechoslovak national anthem and her “signature” song, the ballad Modlitba pro Martu (A Prayer For Marta) [external audio link]. I can remember that while I was listening to her performance live on the Czech AM radio that I had tears in my eyes. And this particular song still moves me, despite the “cheesy” organ sound on the album version (but hey, the original 1968 single version with the Václav Hybš orchestra sounds even cheesier). It’s the message that counts.

Marta Kubišová still – or rather: again – performs and records today, all of her recordings are available on CDs. Unlike the original, the 1990 vinyl reissue of Songy a balady isn’t very hard to find in online auctions or in second hand record shops in Prague. If you’re interested, I have four [one] of her 7″ singles from the sixties for sale (items no. 284, 963, 1068 and 1194). On cdmusic.cz you can also buy some CDs, search there for “kubisova”.

Recent posts

2017-07-08: In memoriam Dr. Gui, the funky drummer
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

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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.