Wydawnictwo 21 Record Label Feature
Wydawnictwo 21 is a small Polish record label that has only been in existence, I believe, for a couple of years. Up to now the company has concentrated on releasing (or re-releasing) material from yesteryear, which has long been deleted and/or had a limited original release. The company is operated by music enthusiast Witold Rokoszewski and covers a diverse and interesting range of music from ‘60’s material through to the present day. Wydawnictwo 21 also sell Polish and East European CDs and Vinyl (they have nearly 1000 titles of East European rock, jazz and folk records). The company website is presently in the process of being constructed but alternative contact details can be found at the foot of this page.
Poland, like other Eastern Bloc countries as was, has until the last decade had to contend with many constraints yet the Poles have always kept their sense of identity and individuality and that is reflected in their music. In recent years they have given us Collage and Quidam among other bands if proof were needed that they have their finger on the button as far as the current prog music scene is concerned. But this is nothing new; unlike other east European countries where the music is running some ten years behind the times, Polish musicians have always been in tune with the rest of the world as far as music is concerned and far from being copyists have developed their own take on things.
From the Fridge is the debut album from Colt, a young Polish trio consisting of Radoslaw Kopec (guitar, bass, keys and vocals), Adam Romaniszyn (drums/percussion) and Artur Malinowski (bass), plus special guest Joanna Jaworz-Dutka (flute).
The From The Fridge jewel case insert has a banner at the top that reads “Hardrock Trip Into The Progressive 70’s”, and it lives up to the claim. There is even a cover of Atomic Rooster’s SLY in the form of I Want Your Love So Bad which epitomises the flavour of this album. The funny thing is that it sounds so fresh and while 70’s rock freaks will feel very much at home with the sound, the compositions are undoubtedly original and fresh. The track, Chosen One, seems a little muddled at the start but after a minute or so develops into a terrific song helped by Joanna’s flute which introduces a slight change in the other instrumentation to create an almost Tull feel (not quite, but almost). Drop is a sub-two minute instrumental that reminds me of a tune I was attempting to compose a few years back, plucking notes from a basic chord structure on an acoustic guitar.
Although most of the tracks are more hard rock than prog, the 13˝-minute epic title track From The Fridge will leave the prog fan sated. It has elements of 70’s Tull and Camel with a modern edge.
This album is both diverse and complex, the former being fairly obvious on first listening but the latter taking further plays to fully appreciate. As a teenager in the 70’s (OK, the first half of the 70’s you pedantic lot!) growing up with the likes of Atomic Rooster, Jethro Tull etc., the feel this album conveys hits the right note with me. I wonder if they realise that Colt 45, the characterless beer (allegedly), is more likely to be kept in a fridge than the classic revolver after which it is named? Maybe it’s a touch of irony on their part.
Remember Tony McPhee and his band The Groundhogs? They had some good albums back in the 70’s especially the classic prog album Split? Well, Tony still tours and has, now and again, resurrected Groundhogs (I think the last Groundhog release was in 1996) but he usually does solo gigs these days. In 1993, Tony suffered a stroke and that, we thought, would be the end of his music career yet he fought back and in 1994 was, metaphorically speaking, up and running again.
In 1994, Tony was invited to Poland to perform an acoustic gig and this CD captures the moment. Due to the nature of recording no post-gig mixing was possible so on the plus side we get to hear what the audience heard but on the minus side, the recording is not always perfect (but it is still very good).
Tony McPhee is first and foremost a blues man so don’t expect to hear Cherry Red on this album! What you will find is some classic acoustic blues songs written by a variety of people including the legend John Lee Hooker (the track Dimpless). Tony also performs a couple of his own compositions, namely Garden and Mistreated plus his own arrangement of Groundhog Blues.
Although it is largely a solo performance, also making an appearance are Krzysztof Opalski on harmonica and Romuald Poplonyk on kazoo and the Grand Finale on the album is actually accredited to all three of them (it is only a very short track and is more of a curtain call).
The recording is pretty good and is bound to appeal to blues fans and for Tony McPhee followers it has to be a collector’s piece.
Jozef Skrzek formed the prog outfit SBB in 1971 (initially called the Silesian Blues Band, but later shortened to SBB to stand for ‘Search, Breakup and Build’) after coming to fame as bassist in the Polish blues band Breakout. Early SBB material can be described as experimental progressive jazz/rock and was pretty much cutting edge in the early 70’s. Although he has played bass, Jozef is a classically trained pianist so it comes as no surprise that Koncert Swietokrzyski (The Holy Cross Concert) features the maestro on keyboards (or to be exact, vocal, great pipe organ, polymoog, minimoog, micromoog, sony six).
This album was recorded live at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw in 1983. Jozef states (from the sleeve notes):
"In 1983 I played an unusual concert after the holy mass for our country at The Holy Cross Church in Warsaw. During the Solidarity's revolution I was playing my music at churches. The combination of classical pipe organ sound with synthesisers was my discovery in those days.
My personal performance of that concert allowed me to start the musical journey through cult, unusual, magic and sacral places."
He indicates that he felt it was necessary to ‘play his music in places where people felt safe’, reflecting yet another period in Poland’s recent (last 150 years) history when things were in a state of flux. The concert was also a tribute to composer and pianist, Chopin which perhaps all goes to explain the sombreness of album or at least the first track which takes on a Chopin quality. Unfortunately for the non-Polish speaking community, the lyrics are in Jozef’s native tongue but this is understandable as the concert WAS for the people of Poland. From the classical style of the first piece, Jozef turns to his moog synths and track 2 has an air of Jean Michelle Jarre in sombre mood. The third track starts with a soft heartbeat effect which steadily increases in intensity when, at its peak, a sustained chord comes into play or I should say two interchangeable chords come into play. Halfway through the piece, heartbeat still in operation, Jozef enters an experimental improv phase albeit in a relaxing mesmerising way finishing with a flourish of church organ. The fourth track has a slow mid-era Genesis feel about it. The penultimate track, the shortest at under four minutes sounds to me like a hymn, but as I do not understand Polish (no, really, even with a name such as mine!) this is just conjecture on my part. What I do know is the final track is about Freedom. Helpfully titled Freedom, the lyrics for this one are also in English. Freedom has the element of hope about it and is a much brighter, relatively speaking, than the rest of the album yet equally as pensive.
The Holy Cross Concert is modern classical, which exudes peace and calm in a world of the unknown. There are no rousing riffs and no complex beats, just a good piece of music to listen to whilst exploring your inner thoughts.
Niebiesko-Czarni (Blue and Black) was one of Poland’s first beat bands and forty years on they are still going I understand (I could be wrong but I think they went on to become a big name on the internal rock circuit in the 70’s). The became so big in their home country they were known to some as the Polish Beatles but back in the sixties, life was hard for the Polish musician. There were no independent record companies – everything had to go through the state controlled record company. If that wasn’t bad enough, all music, particularly lyrics, had to pass censorship and anything but Polish lyrics was frowned upon (in fact anything to do with westernised popular music was frowned upon!). Consequently, if you were lucky you could get an EP released but it usually took a year to get through the system. Distribution outside the Eastern Bloc was more or less non-existent. However, bands got around the system by performing covers of well-known bands from The Beatles to Jimi Hendrix in student bars and underground establishments thus avoiding the secret police.
Without doubt, unofficial recordings were made and Live ’68 is bound to be one such recording and an excellent one it is too considering both the year and the situation. The line-up in ’68 consisted of eight musicians including a male and female vocalist, two sax players, guitar, bass, organ and percussion.
Four of the tracks are the band’s own compositions and are very bluesy and highly professional (the opening track is repeated at the end). The remaining eight tracks are covers of songs by well-known artistes of the period. The two Jimi Hendrix numbers, Purple Haze and Can You See Me have to be heard to be believed (the performance is worthy of Woodstock or the Isle of Wight festivals). Three Otis Redding songs are covered; the infamous Land Of 1000 Dances (twice), Respect, and When Something Is Wrong With My Baby. The Beatles have not been forgotten either in the form of the classic Lennon and McCartney songs, OBLADI-OBLADA (made famous by The Marmalade) and a superb version of With A Little Help From My Friends (which of course was also covered and made famous by Joe Cocker).
As a decrepit old fogey I remember the original recordings (I was about nine years old at the time) and I am consequently surprised just how good Niebiesko-Czarni’s versions are. Although my feet are invariably to be found firmly in the prog rock camp I have to concede that this is a terrific album. I wonder if they went on to produce any prog albums? If you know the answer, email me at the usual address or post the information in the Guestbook.
RECORD LABEL CONTACT DETAILS
PO Box 1, 05-118 Legionowo 6
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