Czech Republic - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 5 - 03/24/97
At about the same time in what was then Czechoslovakia, two female
teenage pop singers became very popular - the blond and bubbly Helena
Vondrackova and the dark and pouty Marta Kubisova. Because of her
anti-communist activism, hard living and the changes in the musical
taste of her audience, Marta's career was unfortunately cut short.
Helena managed more or less successfully to avoid controversy through
the 70's, but the next decade found her searching for new directions.
Supraphon's re-release of Paprsky shows an interesting attempt to
launch a new musical style for Vondrackova's light, airy and sunny pop
singing style by combining it with the jazz-rock funkiness of
keyboardist, arranger and composer Martin Kratochvil. Fresh from his
studies at Berklee College of Music, Kratochvil has just uncovered a new
direction for himself. He was boiling over with musical ideas, spouting
one Chick Corea/Steve Wonder-like groove after another. He'd written
nine cuts for this album, he was the band leader and he has arranged every
The lead-in title track turns out promisingly to be a little jazz number
with Helena's excellent vocal performance alternating with an intricate
arrangement for a small choir. It leads directly into a more
conventional ballad Hledac ztraceneho casu (The Seeker Of Lost Time),
but after the funky Kruhy na vode (Rings On The Water) and the
less convincing Klusem (Trotting), Helena's voice runs into trouble
on Valerie. She simply doesn't have the range or the depth to do
justice to that song.
The next two tunes are straight pop efforts penned by Helena's younger
brother, and then two more jazz/funk tunes by Kratochvil. While
Vondrackova performs these songs correctly, her interpretation remain
unconvincing. However following a rather weak vocal opening, Ta treti
jsem ja (The Third One Is Me), settles into a tropical minor groove
featuring percussions and Helena's quite passable scat singing.
Straight-ahead pop tunes (the second one Vsechno bych vzala zpet
(I'd Take Back Everything), finds Vondrackova in a welcomed low and dark
register), lead into the dreamy Kam zmizel muj maly namornik (When Did
My Little Sailor Go), which closes the album.
Paprsky proved to be a turning point for both artists. Soon after
its original release date, Kratochvil has embraced a more acoustic new
age jazz idiom in a duo or a trio setting. Vondrackova's career however
never really took off and since then, she has quietly entered semi-retirement.
So go ahead, czech it out!
Copyright © 1997 Ivan Sever