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coverpic flag Czech Republic - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 27 - 01/02/99

Vera Bílá & Kale
Kale Kaloré
Last Call Records

It's been three years since Vera Bílá & Kale recorded Rom-Pop, a breakthrough album full of Romany life - the very essence of Gypsy existence permeating every track. Songs of yearning and sorrow alternating with devil-may-care dances, all supported by pop arrangements of drums, bass, piano, saxes, and naturally, layered acoustic guitars.

So what has changed in three years? Not much, I'm afraid. The good news is, the intonation of the ensemble singing has generally improved. But other than that, there is no progression here. The new album sounds like a collection of out-takes from the old one, sans the pop rhythm section.

For instance Lol'i Ruze (Red Rose) sounds like an alternate take to Ima vera il'om (I Pledged Already) from the firsts album and Baron romane ohavore (Children Are Growing Up) from "Kale Kaloré" sounds just like Mul'as mange miri daj (My Mother Passed Away). Helena is very similar to Mamo, merav... (I'm Dying, Mom...) etc. Essentially identical arrangements don't help to distinguish between the cuts, either. (Most of the fast numbers consist of acoustic guitars in a minor key, a walking electric bass and the whole ensemble singing the choruses. The slow tunes generally have a more jazzy feel, with open 6th and 7th chords.) I was also turned off by the way some of songs - Aven savore (Let's Go) in particular - were mixed.

But to be fair, these are not conservatory-trained musicians. Vera Bílá & Kale are simply Romany people expressing their feelings through music. It's just unfortunate many of these themes - love, separation and the relations between Gypsies and 'Whites' - were already explored (and almost identically) in Rom-Pop.

I did like the tight singing between Miss Bílá and Desiderius Duzba on Baro D'ives (A Long Journey) and Emil Pupa Miko's Na kamav (I Don't Want). Miss Bílá's double-tracked vocal on Pro kalo gadoro (The Black Shirt) made for a welcome change and Rat'aha me peske phirav (I Walk in the Evenings) is a nice, potentially powerful tune. It just needs remixed backup vocals for a better balance and a less mechanical bass line to match Desiderius Duzba's lead vocal and great guitar solo.

Generally though since the last album, while the harmony singing has improved, the song-writing and arranging didn't change much. And that is a shame, because Vera Bílá & Kale definitely deserve a wider audience.

Copyright © 1999 Ivan Sever e-mail address

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