Monday, December 21, 2015

Phoenix - 1975 - Cantafabule


01. Invocatie (10:13)
02. Norocul Inorogului (3:19)
03. Scara Scarabeului (2:20)
04. Definul, Dulce Dulful Nostru (5:49)
05. Uciderea Balaurului (4:35)
06. Stima Casei (2:21)
07. Pasarea Calandrinon (5:50)
08. Filip Si Cerbul (4:30)
09. Vasiliscul Si Aspida (3:55)
10. Sirena (3:45)
11. Pasarea Roc..k And Roll (5:32)
12. Canticlu A Cucuveaualiei (7:07)
13. Zoomahia (6:04)
14. Phoenix (3:44)

- Nicolae Covaci / lead guitar, vocals, acoustic guitar, double six, blockflote
- Iosif Kappl / bass, vocals, violin, blockflote
- Mircea Baniciu / vocals, guitar
- Ovidiu Lipan / drums, bongos, tympani, gong, chimes, tambourine
- Gunter Reininger / piano, electric piano, synthesizer, celesta, electronic organ

 The true name of this album is Cantafabule, as is written on the cover of the remastered album and not Cantofabule, as on the orginal cover which was wrongly spelled by those who printed the cover. (If you ever lived in a Communist country, like I did, this will not even surprise you)

How can you not like this band ? They are so charming and unique in my opinion. I always think of SBB from Poland when I think of PHOENIX because neither had the freedom to do what they wanted to because of their communist governments. This Romanian band started out in the sixties as a Rock & Roll band but because of government interference they were forced to intigrate traditional Folk music into their sound, and ironically it was for the better. While they are listed under Folk, your going to hear more Rock from this amazing band. Like SBB these guys can flat out play. Great vocals and bass playing especially, but the drumming, keyboards and guitar are exceptional too.

The original double album was a concept based on some traditional Romanian themes based on adaptation of poets Seban Foarta and Andrei Ujica and inspired on a Dimitri Bolintineanu book  called Istoria Ieroglifa (speaking of a "bestiaire" of fantastic mythical creatures), this almost 70 min-long piece is indeed one of the best thing to come from the old Dacian province. If I speak of Dacia (relating it to the Roman Empire times instead of Valachia or Moldavia-Bessarabia), it is because the general feel relates a bit to Italian prog (this is greatly due to the similarity of both languages), but the Timisoara (in Transylvania where the revolt started) group developed a very ambitious project that mixed some medieval folk with hard rock fronted by a fuzzed-out guitar.

The two-parts lengthy opening track Invocatie gives out right away the main dimension of their music, a fairly hard prog dominated by a fuzz-guitar, where all musicians hold their own. Surprising how modern for the day they sounded apparently having a moog synth. During this track, the group moves to different moods and passages including a "folk" one and there is a harpsichord thrown in there too and the track is a very captivating intro. Moving from the Harpsichord/flute piece Unicorn (sung in Old French) to the mediocre beat-rock of the sacred beetle (Scarabeului), the albums moves quickly to another highlight about dolphins (Delfinul), where the group shows the extent of their considerable talent in this folky ballad. Going through the dragon (semi-hard rocking), the snake (with a terrible sounding violin), a special kind of bird (Calandrinon) that's supposed to accompany you into the underworld (another highlight in my book with superb bass work), the moose and the mongoose, the siren and a few other mythical creatures, the group continues tirelessly (even if you do, partly due to the length and the repetition of tracks that hammer on the same nail and the Romanian singing) until another pure psych-beat-RnR (track 11, a bit of a filler really) breaks the cycle of prog/folk tracks alternating.

The album gets back on track with the splendid Cintic-Lu (hawk) track which definitely seals the fate of the concept as excellent (just short of brilliant), followed by another fabulous Zoomahia (starting with the same electronic sounds that you found on the start of the album, but much longer and sounding like Gong) and the album closing on their fetish Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

Overall this album holds very few flaws (given its communist era background), few fillers and a bunch of superb if in-habitual prog folk tracks, which makes this album a masterpiece of its own. Clearly this album should get the honours from a full remastering and mini-Lp treatment, as it stands in the top 10 of the ex-soviet block.



  2. Great post, one little correction: Istoria Ieroglifica was written by Dimitrie Cantemir (in 1705), not Dimitrie Bolintineanu...