Friday 23 December 2011

Rainsongs and Painsongs - pt.5

Rainsongs and Painsongs is the new edition of YHO which can be downloaded as a pdf here, free for all. It is at heart a celebration of Julie Tippetts' work, very much inspired by her collaboration with Martin Archer on Tales of FiNiN which is undoubtedly the most rewarding record of recent times.
One of the great pop revelations for me was finding a copy of the Streetnoise LP by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity in a charity shop for next to nothing. This was in the late '80s. There is so much to love about that LP, but Julie's soul-punch of a song, Czechoslovakia, is the one that gets me every time. Written in response to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and the crushing of the Prague Spring it is a perfect snapshot of a moment.
In recent years I have become increasingly fascinated by the pop music made in the old eastern Europe, and hate suggestions that this is simply dabbling in exoticism. That's an insulting notion. If you like music you will get excited about inspiring sounds wherever and whenever you find them.
Among my favourite examples of Czech pop from the Communist era are recordings by Hana and Petr Ulrychova with the group Atlantis. They feature in the Czech pop special, The Road That Leads Nowhere, with Don't You Break It Again, which displays a definite debt to Julie, Brian and the Trinity. This film captures something of the excitement and optimism of the Prague Spring. Of course things got more difficult after the Soviet invasion, but the creativity was not stifled.
Fish around on YouTube and you will find plenty of examples of great work by Hana and Petr. Best of all is the Odyssea LP they made as Atlantis in 1970. This was a wonderful mix of psychedelia, soul, folk sounds, jazz and ornate orchestral arrangements. The orchestration came from the great Gustav Brom who has a bit of a reputation for some of his '70s big band work among beat-seekers and lovers of all things funky.
The excessively-sensitive authorities suppressed the Odyssea LP and it didn't get an official release until 1999. Ironically we are not much further forward now, and it takes a certain resourcefulness to find the LP but all efforts to do so are richly rewarded when you find tracks as stunningly beautiful as Ticho and Za vodou, za horou ...

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