Issue 15 8/2000
FolkWorld CD Reviews
Mikis Theodorakis and others "Mauthausen trilogy"
Label: Pläne Records; 88840; 2000
During the Second World War the poet Lacovos Kambanellis was a prisoner in Camp Mauthausen. In 1965 he wrote four poems about this period and asked the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis to put them to music. The poems are now world-famous as the Mauthausen trilogy. Thanks to Maria Farantouri the trilogy has become very popular. The recordings on this cd date from 1995 and 1999. The four poems are sung in three different languages (Greek, Hebrew and English) by Farantouri, Elinoar Moav Veniadis and Nadia Weinberg respectively. You might think that it's boring to listen to the same songs over and over again, with only the languages varying, but that is not the case. The Hebrew version has a very classical approach and has a completely different atmosphere than the English one, which is influenced by jazz, or the Greek one, which is very close to the original Farantouri recordings. The Hebrew part of the cd surprised me most. Veniadis makes me want to cry. She gives such a power to the songs that I can feel the poems in every part of my body. The same applies to Farantouri when she is singing in her low voice, which is the opposite of Veniadis' voice. The English version is nice because, as you understand the lyrics, you get a notion of what the songs are about - but that's all. Weinberg turns them into popular tunes, sung well technically but with little emotion. If you don't own the Mauthausen trilogy, this cd is a must. It is one of the most important 20th century compositions and should be in every cd collection.
Talking Water "western winds on celtic shores"
Label: Biber Records; 76681; 2000
"Talking Water" is a new group that plays folk music with Celtic influences. From the very beginning it's clear that Clannad has influenced this group very strongly. The vocals, the sound of the synthesizer - it has all been done before and, unfortunately for Talking Water, much better by Clannad. The album starts out well; Kerstin Blodig has a good voice and the song On my way sounds popular but it also makes me curious what the rest of the cd will be like. The second song, Kestrel, shatters my hopes; this is muzak with too many electronic sounds and the music just goes on and on like a quiet sea. Unfortunately, it doesn't get much better after Kestrel. This is folk music for my grandparents, who do not want to be disturbed in their daily routine and would just love the sweet, friendly sound of "Talking Water".
Gay and Terry Woods "Tenderhooks"
Label: Cooking Vinyl; 2000
More and more we discover the hidden treasures of the folk revival of the seventies. Gay and Terry Woods are among these hidden treasures. They were members of the first Steeleye Span line-up and Terry also joined the Pogues for a while. Gay joined Steeleye again for their last album Horkstow Grange. The two of them recorded one album as the Woodsband and four more as Gay and Terry Woods. When I listen to Tenderhooks again (which I have known for many years and is in my vinyl collection) I get mixed feelings. I love the ballads Gay sings; Piece of summer and especially The reward are great songs with a sound that comes close to the best folkrock songs of that period. The same goes for the up-tempo song I won't believe it, with backing vocals from Kate McGarrigle. However, it is all a bit on the safe side. This is definitely not progressive music, just good solid folk and, as such, it certainly deserves this cd release.
Bagad Brieg "Gogo Droch"
Label: Coop Breizh; CD899; 2000
In France there are several orchestras that are called "Bagad" and play dance music. Recently, I saw one of these groups perform and it was a great concert. The musicians knew how to make you dance and created a big show around the music. The problem with cd's is that they do not catch the atmosphere of these concerts. At home the songs sound very much alike and after half an hour the sound of the Bombardes becomes quite irritating. It's the same with Gogo Droch by Bagad Brieg. I've heard it all before and, although these are good musicians, it has been done much better by others. Their approach is too traditional and, in my opinion, they should experiment more with their music in order to make their cd's more interesting and pleasanter to listen to at home as well. This cd will obviously bring back memories of a great live concert but that simply is not enough.
New Tango Orchesta "part II"
Label: imogena; 085; 2000
I think tango music is one of the most difficult styles to play. In the last six months I heard about ten new tango cd's and only hardly ever did they persuade me to sit down and listen and they seldom impressed me. Most of these cd's are saloon tango music, played with a smile on a Sunday afternoon. The New Tango Orchestra is definitely one of the best I heard during this period. Their first cd was very successful, so part two is a logical next step. They play tango music with fire. I love the start of the song "Mission", with a rough piano and a crying violin. I also hear another sound and I just can't work out what instrument that is. The second part is also very intense; Per Storby plays the bandoneon with much feeling. However, what I didn't like in this song and in a few others is the transition between the parts. It's too sudden and breaks the song into different parts while it should sound as one composition. All in all this is a strong cd with some intriguing moments. My favourite musician on this cd is Livet Nord, playing the violin; his violin gives the music something special.
Knut Hamre, Ase Teigland and Frank Rolland "Hastabo Slattar"
Label: Heilo/Grappa; hcd7157; 2000
The revival of the hardingfele in Scandinavian folk music is amazing. Ten years ago this instrument, which is a kind of violin, was practically unknown outside the Scandinavian countries. Nowadays people like Annbjørg Lien have contributed greatly to the popularity of this instrument. On their cd Håstabø slåttar Knut Hamre, Åse Teigland and Frank Rolland all play traditional songs on the hardingfele. They play purely traditional music as it was played many years ago, not like Lien who mixes it with modern music. I like this cd because it gives you the chance to hear the typical sound of this instrument very well. The three musicians play the songs very lightly and they create a relaxing atmosphere. To be honest, after five songs I could not keep them apart anymore; they all sound a bit alike to me, but, nevertheless, I enjoyed this friendly cd.
Jeff Talmadge "The spinning of the world"
Label: Bozart records; 1003; 2000
The first time I heard The spinning of the world it reminded me of something. After a few days I knew what it was, the older records of Ian Matthews (Before the extra I). When I started to read the booklet and the additional information, guess what I read?: Iain Matthews is doing the backing vocals to some of the songs. The cd has a strong start. "Message in a bottle" is a song that confronts a man with his self-pity after his girlfriend has left him. The title song has a happier sound but again, it's the woman who leaves the man and Talmadge sings very cynically about how this hurts a man. I just love the last two lines of this song. What can I say about the rest of the songs? Either Talmadge himself has often been deserted by a woman or he has had to cheer up many of his friends after they had been left by their partners. I enjoyed this cd a great deal; the songs are written with humour and he sometimes makes strong statements. One way or another he always makes me reflect on myself and I think: "I'm not like that! Am I?"
Lluis Llach "Nou" and "Camp del Barca"
Label: Pläne Records; Nou: 88832, Camp del Barca: 8835; 2000
Lluis Llach comes from Catalonia. His music is full off the rich culture of this area and has a strong political commitment. He had to live in France during part of the seventies because the Franco regime in Spain forbade his music. He released two cd's at the same time. One is a live recording from 1985 when 115.000 people visited his concert in Camp del Barca in Barcelona. It's impressive to hear how he gives people faith and hope. The songs are about freedom, "We don't believe in borders…we will be free from the chains of power", and love and friendship. I think he belongs to the same category as Theodorakis, Livanelli etc. They use the power of the music to bring people together. His other cd is a new studio recording called Nou; with nine new songs, poetic lyrics and a less political sound than his older work. It sounds more like the music of a man who looks back on what happened with some melancholy and is ready to go on with his life. He creates a unique atmosphere and I can understand why he is so important to many people, not only because of his lyrics but also because of his performance, his charisma. It was a pleasure to become acquainted with his music!
Pedenn "Chants et musiques sacres de Bretagne"
Label: Keltia Musique; 109; 2000
Anne Auffret has a high, innocent voice. The perfect voice to create a holy sacred atmosphere. Together with Jean Baron (bombarde and ocarina) and Michel Ghesquiere (organ) she forms the group Pedenn and they bring sacred songs and music from Bretagne. She also plays the harp, as in "O na hir eo an noz", and this is a nice change from the songs that are accompanied by the bombarde and the organ. This song is followed by "Hui e hur honfianz", which starts with a great organ part; full and impressive. The organ makes you feel small in a cold world, while the songs with the harp give hope and peace. Enough variation to keep listening with concentration from the first to the last song. Though this is not a cd I am going to play every week, the music touches me and I'm sure that I will listen to it more often, especially in the quieter moments. In another review I wrote how irritating a bombarde can get after a while, but on this album you hear how this great instrument should be used. It adds something to the music and is made use of moderately and in harmony with the voice and the other instruments.
Dave Greenslade "Longbridge"
Label: hard yacka records; 1012; 1998
Dave Greenslade is a popular singer-songwriter from Australia. He sings contemporary songs with traditional influences. On the cd Longbridge we find songs from his hand sung by him self, his group Lewins Rail and a few other artists. It's a beautiful album with a wide variation of songs. Because he asked the help of a wide range of other artists, the music never gets boring. "Ireland", performed by Lewins Rail, is a somewhat mystical song with strong vocals of Jenni Lush and Greenslade. Together with the other Lewins Rail songs it has its own typical sound. Lifeline, performed by Quintessence has a part that strongly reminds me of the McGarrigle sisters. This is a collection of special songs written by a very talented songwriter. This must be his chance to become well-known outside Australia, his music deserves it!
mail to hard yacka records
Pekel "oost west thuis best"
Label: pan; 179; 1999
There are not many active Dutch folkgroups at the moment. The best-known group, playing traditional Dutch music, is Pekel. They sing songs about the sea, about women and about food. They have a great live act and are able to create a very good atmosphere. Their last cd is called: Oost west, thuis best and it gives a clear picture of a Pekel concert. The cd has some very strong moments, the instrumental parts are well done and I just love their version of "Groeneland straatjes" with the somewhat high-pitched voice of Ineke Moorthaemer. She gives this song extra power. If you are interested in hearing Dutch folkmusic, then this cd is worth a try. Although their choice of material is a bit conservative and you shouldn't expect stunning musical arrangements, it's good solid folk! Except for the last song, the Dutch national anthem: I prefer the Dutch national soccer team to sing this!
Gwenaël Kerleo "Chemin de Brume"
Label: Coop Breizh; GK03; 2000; Playing time: 46.56 min
A young and pretty Breton woman playing the Celtic harp. "Chemin de Brume" is already the second album of Gwenaël, and it shows a lot of musical maturity. Subtly joined by four musicians on guitar, percussion (Congas, Tablas etc.), saxophone and chromatic accordion, the young harpist plays sensible, enchanting quiet tunes. Beautiful soundscapes are created, with the guest musicians adding sometimes innovative and atmospheric elements to the harp sounds. All tunes are composed by the harpist herself, deeply rooted in Celtic music, but yet at times with a jazzy flavour. She also has a beautiful voice, which she only uses for atmospheric soundscapes.
A sensible album of Celtic harp music, perfect for quiet hours of day dreaming.
Gwenaël Kerleo's homepage
Kaikai "Das Kalte Herz"
Label: Trend Records; TCD-0200061; 2000; Playing time: 68.28 min
Music from the German Blackforest - a region surely best known for its famous cherry gateau. And Kaikai's music is similarly delicious as the gateau, and by far not as heavy...
The album "Das Kalte Herz" tells with its music the Blackforest fairy tale "The cold heart", written by Wilhelm Hauff in the early 19th century. The music is written by Kaikai's Jochen Eßrich, and reflects diverse moods and scenery. The central musicians are the five of Kaikai, a band founded back in the eighties, featuring Accordion/Synthesizer, Celtic Harp, two Guitars and Bass. For this recording, they have invited ten more talented musicians on fiddle, whistle/uilleann pipes/bassoon, organ, hammered dulcimer, flutes, cello, bagpipes/hurdy gurdy etc. The album gives a wide range of different sounds, mainly based in the German medieval folk ideom with influences from both other music styles and other traditions.
This album invites you to join the charcoal-burner of the fairy tale on his journey, to dances, to the fairy in the wood, to his old mother, to change his heart against a cold heart, to visit the gamblers in an inn etc. The music changes always between quiet atmospheric and happy fast tunes; and the big range of traditional instruments makes this an exciting and varied album. The only criticism might be at times the usage of the sythesizer which would not have been necessary.
Kaikai are definitely one of the few bands in the German folk scene really worth to look out for.
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