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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.

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…

The best woman of our days

2006-10-16

Vladimír Mišík & Etc… – Nejlepší ženská našich dnů
from album “Etc… 2”, 1980, Supraphon 11132558
produced by Hynek Žalčík & Jan Spálený

MisikVladimir_Etc2_a_128
original LP sleeve

If anybody deserves the title Living Legend of Czech Rock, Vladimír Mišík has to be the one, which is an undisputed fact, I guess. He’s been right there out in front from the very beginning: Matadors, George & Beatovens, Blue Effect and of course Flamengo. Flamengo disbanded shortly after their epochal album Kuře v hodinkách (The Chicken In The Wrist-Watch) has been recorded in 1972; this period will be covered in a future Funky Czech-In post. While many of his former fellow rockers either emigrated to the West or decided to splash about in shallow socialistic pop muzak in order to make some living, Mišík stayed true to his passion all the way through, even in times when “rock” certainly was a bad word in the land behind Brezhnev‘s Iron Curtain. After a short intermezzo with Luboš Andršt’s Energit, around 1975 he formed a rock group with the symptomatic name Etc. Although the line-up changed accordingly often, the group sound remained surprisingly compact as Mišík’s first solo album from 1976 proves. That was not only due to his characteristic singing in a bluesy manner, but also thanks to his long-time band mate, the virtuoso violinist, composer and arranger Jan Hrubý. Other musicians involved over the years are the who-is-who in Czech rock anyway: Pavel Fořt, Vladimír Padrůněk, Anatoli Kohout, Jiří Jelínek, František Francl, later also Petr Skoumal, Stanislav Kubeš or the ex-Flamengo bassist Vladimír Kulhánek. The album Etc…2 was recorded in 1979 with Petr Pokorný on guitar, Jiří Veselý on bass, the drummer Jiří Šustera and Jan Kolář on keyboards and oboe, besides the aforementioned Hrubý.

Nejlepší ženská našich dnů (The Best Woman Of Our Days) opens the album with a simple and bright slavic folk rock theme. (This is not unusual for Mišík at all; in times when the communist authorities used to push hard on the group, cancelling their regular gigs, Mišík & co. often performed “unplugged” in small clubs with a mixture of blues and folk songs.) But after this short intro Mišík introduces us to the “best woman of our days”. And obviously, that lady wants to party! Well, it’s 1979 and the Etc… crew delivers her the latest get-down soundtrack, laying down about two minutes of a tight funk rock groove that might please even a hard core P-Funk aficionado. In the second part of the song each musician presents his individual skills to the lady in a breathtaking series of short mini-solos – and I do mean solos – before all guys join forces again for the final section, taking the tune back where it originally started. Not surprisingly, the song was co-written by the virtuoso bass player Veselý. The ironical lyrics came from writer and translator Michal Staša.

The other eight songs of the album oscillate between the typical Mišík singer/songwriter folk like his biggest hit Variace na renesanční téma (A Variation On A Renaissance Theme), the sarcastic cajun blues Sladké je žít (It’s Sweet To Be Alive) and the dismal high-speed jazzrock Na okraji (On The Edge) which was written by their former guitarist Jiří Jelínek, also a member of the legendary Mahagon who died tragically in 1977, aged mere 23.

Okay, I may be surely biased because I’m listening to this album since the early eighties, but Etc…2 doesn’t have a single weak point. I admit though that it may help if you understand the Czech language to fully appreciate it. But even then, this record is so full of high class musicianship that it can be compared to the mighty Kuře v hodinkách, which again is actually a Mišík album, too… So, when I initially said “Living Legend”, I surely mean it, and not just because nowadays Vladimír Mišík knows only one opponent that can sometimes keep him from entering a stage and singing his ass off: his long-standing asthma. Obviously his illness has been quite bad recently, so unfortunatelly Mišík had to cancel most of his summer gigs this year.

The rest of the Mišík story will be told another time while I’ll introduce you to Flamengo. In the meantime, “turn up the lights, the best woman of our days comes inside, the day turns into night, the night turns into day, should I trust my eyes or my dreams?” And now, buy it already (try [also] eBay or Gemm for vinyl), will ya?! This record is timeless.

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.