Monday, December 21, 2015

Phoenix - 1972 - Cei Ce Ne-Au Dat Nume

Cei Ce Ne-Au Dat Nume

01. Preludiu - A oilor (4:25)
02. Primavara - Introducere (1:03)
03. Primavara -Paparuga (2:35)
04. Vara (4:22)
05. Toamna (4:31)
06. Iarna - Introducere (1:15)
07. Iarna - Jocul Caprelor (1:35)
08. Nunta (4:19)
09. Negru Voda - Balada (14:56)
10. Pseudo - Morgana (6:47)

- Nicolae Covaci / Guitar, fluier, double-six, percussion, vocals
- Mircea Baniciu / Vocals, acustic guitar, percussion
- Iosif Kappl / Bass, vocals, violin, blockflote, percussion
- Costin Petrescu / Drums
- Valeriu Sepi / Percussion

The year is 1972, Prog had already grown in Europe and USA, but in Eastern Europe the Soviet satellite governments had a certain dislike for Rock which was seen as a tool the North American Capitalists used to corrupt the mind of the young proletarians, so they were some years behind the UK and most of the Western hemisphere, but in some countries a few musicians and bands managed to keep updated with the new currents and even went further, like PHOENIX from Romania, who blended Heavy Psyche with some of the rich ethnic elements of their country.

One can trace Phoenix's foundations all the way to the early 60's when they had a local hit, recorded 2 EPs a few radio sessions and scored a movie soundtrack (Canary And blizzard). By the time of their first full album's release (the present in 72), Phoenix had a heavy-psych rock sound, derived from local folk sounds, and the material was selections of a rock opera (those who have a name), the group was a sort of heavy folk rock group, because they'd no choice they were also asked to change their names, because of a religious connotation), a move dictated by the Ceaucescu dictature, but they kept a bit of that garage sound.

To quote the liner notes: "They began by doing covers of BEATLES songs, but soon had to change their style since the Romanian communist regime disliked any form of western culture.The regime suggested that all rock oriented bands look for inspiration within the Romanian culture.These restrictions made the band's leader Nicolae Covaci search within the Romanian folklore, which gave them a unique sound".This was the first LP to be recorded in Romania by a Romanian band. The music here is very much Progressive Rock with an ethnic flavour. My first listen didn't go too well, but subsequent spins have really changed my mind completely about this gem. I think what bothered me initially was the Romanian vocals, particularly on track four which is still my least favourite. This has since grown on me to the point where I think these guys are incredible.

The album seems to be divided in two parts, the first being 18-minutes Ciclul Anotimpurilor, looking to be the first side of the album. It starts with the Preludia movement, first with a lone fuzzy guitar (much like a bagpipes lament), then on a crescendo of a single note, underlined by guitar arpeggios and some oboe in the very background that eventually disappears into a beautiful short electric guitar solo. The Primavara movement is a much more upbeat thing, with its second part Paparuga turning frankly folk, but the bass is outstanding. Further on down the album, after a wordy Vara (with a bass solo) and blues-charging Toamna (with another superb electric guitar solo) and Iarna (made from two short weird pieces).

Whether the Nunta part of the record was its flipside (it is probably likely) but it's made only of three songs, the first being the eponymous rocker. Then follows a very rocky 15-mins Negru Voda with plenty of rock guitars, but tends to be more of jam in the long run, even if the violin periodically brings the track to its start. The closing Pseudo Morgana is probably the album's best track, despite its repetitive nature, it shows how superb drummer Petrescu and percussionist Sepi were working well together, while the guitars complete each other in heavenly duets.

One of the versions of this album has a truckload of bonus tracks, coming mostly from previous years (60's) including some covers and garage bands, all of them coming from a Remember Phoenix compilation. While these tracks are interesting (well some anyway), they don't really add much to the album per se, and some might even prove soooooo teeny-bopper that its presence on this good folk prog album is a bit of a mistake. Otherwise, this debut album is almost as worthy as Cantofabule (their third), but a little bluesier, although we shall retain their unique blend of folk and outright rock.

I took less than one minute to decide that I love it.

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