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siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars STROMBOLI is an Italian island off the coast of Sicily but it's also a type of turnover filled with various Italian cheeses (typically mozzarella), however today we will be discussing another STROMBOLI and that is the progressive art rock band from Prague, Czech Republic that was originally founded by Michal Pavl'ček in 1985 as a live jazz-rock trio for the Prague Jazz Festival and consisted of guitarist Michal Pavl'ček, bass guitarist Vladim'r Guma Kulh'nek and drummer Klaudius Kry'p'n. Previously Pavl'ček was blacklisted by the repressive government of Czechoslovakia with his first band Prazsky Vyber (Prague Selection) and its liberal criticism of political affairs. Despite it being so, countless illegal cassette copies circulated the land and Pavl'ček attracted an audience. As far as the name STROMBOLI goes, it was actually inspired by Pavl'ček's witnessing of the volcano on the island of the same name.

STROMBOLI's debut is a double album and an eclectic mix to say the least and basically summarizes the years 1985-86 with seven live performances and nine studio tracks. This album features Michael Koc'b (singing), Iva Bittov' (violin) and both Pavlek's sons Jan and Michal mlad'' (singing). Four pieces were translated by Josef Hir'al for the text of Christiane Morgenstern's poem, followed by two other texts by Zuzana Michnov', Josef Novotn' and Vil'm Čok. It hosts the various styles of jazz-rock fusion, space rock, new wave and even heavy metal.

Often it seems more like a compilation of different artists and given the various lineup changes, it for all intents and purposes actually is with only Pavl'ček serving as the common denominator. The live tracks that constitute the first half of the album showcase Pavl'ček's unique jazz-fusion guitar playing style with the unusual vocals of B'ra Basikov' with poems by Christian Morgenstern set to music, and the remaining quarter is a mixture of rock songs sung by various singers. The rest of the album includes many other various singers. So the lineup varies substantially from track to track and this is more like a collection of tracks thrown together for the sake of a debut.

The jazz-rock elements are really only present on the live recordings which take place in a guitar dominated fashion complemented by female vocals. The studio tracks are more diverse and range from Oingo Boingo styled new wave without the horn section but with the Danny Elfman vocal eccentricities. There are moments of Pink Floyd inspired space rock and even tracks that capture the 80s heavy metal scene with galloping distorted guitar riffs. While this sounds like a mess, somehow it is all tamed by the excellent vocal performances that rein in the disparate roles of the guitar, bass and keyboards. The progressive elements come in the form of time signatures and jazz related elements but not ubiquitously throughout the album which has many new wave styled tracks.

STROMBOLI ultimately sounds a bit like some of the female vocal led Cirque du Soleil music with less of the French influences. The lyrics are in the Czech language so it comes off with a Slavic flair on the tracks with female vocals and a bit like a more metalized Oingo Boingo on many others. There are many other subtle styles that give this album a rather unique overall presentation. Despite being a double album, this one is quite a pleasant listen. STROMBOLI would release another album 'Shutdown' in 1989 and fall silent until 2014's 'Flat Lux.' Michal Pavl'ček would carry on with a solo career and collaborate with other artists. This is one of those strange anomalies from behind the Eastern frontiers before the wall came down and a testament to how creatively the Eastern European nations were at adopting Western music.

Report this review (#2054579)
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2018 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. It was an interesting week spinning this double album as often as I could. STROMBOLI sounds Italian but they are from the Czech Republic and like many bands in Communist East Europe they were harassed by their government. Makes me think of Poland's SBB and sadly so many others. The recording comes across as a compilation album with it being part live and part studio and covering a two year period mainly with a four piece of vocals, guitar, bass and drums with a lot of guests. The female singer is soprano and all vocals are in their native language. We do get male vocals as well from band leader Michal Pavlicek. Actually the first three tracks on here are from his trio called MICHAL PAVLICEK & SPOI. They were renamed STROMBOLI in 1986.

My rating is because I am impressed with the instrumental work but to be honest I just can't get into so much of this. I am hard on double albums because I'm all about consistent records and this really goes into some questionable territories starting with track 12 and the drum machine and the three tracks that follow that leave me groaning a lot. Hey it was the eighties I'm not surprised. The guitar tone is metallic and not to my liking, it reminds me of the guitar in the band GARDEN WALL speaking of Italian. The female singer is best with her wordless melodies more than her sing words in my opinion. Oh and there's synth guitar which is a tough listen. On the other hand the closer is the one track I'd hold up as a song to check out and it's my favourite.

Clearly this band was about live performances and the visual shows they'd put on while on stage. You got your money's worth lets put it that way. An impressive collection of songs that are hard for me to enjoy. When it comes to the Czech Republic give me BLUE EFFECT, JAZZ Q PRAHA, ENERGIT, IMPULS, HOKR and more, still this band could perform with the best of them.

Report this review (#2634156)
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2021 | Review Permalink

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