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Phoenix - Cantafabule CD (album) cover



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5 stars One of the most intriguing, most musical and... obviously... best albums in the Rock music history! Cantafabule (1975) is the latest album before most of the group members run away (1977) from the more and more opressing regime (only Mircea Baniciu - Lead Vocal + Guitar - stayed). Starting with "Invocatie" and ending with "Pasarea Phoenix" this is a concept album, where themes and ideas have a common thread. Outstanding vocals, great guitar solos (Nicolae Covaci - in the Jimmy Page league), rare bass (Josef Kappl - as, maybe, only Chris Square comes close), precise, though imaginative drums (Ovidiu Lipan Tandarica - worth listening with close attention if you enjoy Bill Brufford), sensitive also powerful moog-synthesizer (Gunther Reninger - unique in his interpretations - see "Zoomahia") and the enthusiastic, warm and manly voice, combined with the acustic guitar harmony (Mircea Baniciu - fantastic "front stage man" having the show exploding on all their concerts).... Inspired from Romanian ancient music, but evolved into a true prog rock opera, the whole album shines from one end to the other. Every piece is well refined, detailed, and executed with outstanding musical precision and artistic sensitivity. This album is definately a must in every Prog Rock collection. I put this album on the same shelf with King Crimson's "Red", Jethro Tull's "Aqualung", Genesis' "Foxtrot", Gentle Giant's "Octopus", Yes' "Close to the Edge", Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", Led Zeppellin's "Houses of the Holly".
Report this review (#36397)
Posted Monday, June 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The true name of this album is Cantafabule, as is wrote on the cover of the remastered album and not Cantofabule, as on the orginal cover which was wrong wrote by those who print the cover. Indeed, the best album! It is not a shame to put this album near Jethro Tull's "Songs From The Wood" and otehrs.
Report this review (#39701)
Posted Monday, July 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars this is considered the best album ever released by a romanian band and it certainly is. more than that, it is one of the few romanian albums that can stand up there near the folk prog masterpieces. although it is almost 70 minutes long, it has very few weak moments. the song-writing is great, and so is the musicianship. the lyrics are also very good, written by the romanian poets serban foarta and andrei ujica, and are mainly about mythological creatures. they were inspired by a book by dimitrie bolintineanu, 'istoria ieroglifica'.despite these qualities, the album has some weak points, like the relative dated production or some filler songs (pasarea roc...k and roll, scara scarabeului).but as a whole, 'cantofabule' remains a masterpiece of the romanian rock music and a great album of progressive rock.
Report this review (#48415)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a great album ! The words should be translated somehow into English, because the music is really fantastic. Invocatie is an introductory piece but of such a complexity, including a poem said, with music in background, that makes you really think:] "Fie sa renasca numai cel ce har Are de-a renaste Curatit prin jar Din cenusa-i proprie di sin propriu-i scrum Astazi, ca si maine Pururi si acum" Meaning, as I tried to translate it: "To be reborn only the one that has the mistic talent Has to reborn From his own ashes and dead fire Today, the same as tomorrow For ever and right now" This first long piece could stand together with Shine on you ... Second track goes into the ancient French language about the Unicorn story Third track is the Luck of the Beetle, the only close to rock and roll style giving a fresh breath relief and preparing for the next. The fourth track is about the dolphin, our good friend, and it is a unique song going between balad and progressive-folk Fifth track is deeply inspired from the ancient romanian and european stories about killing the dragon a progressive-hard rock gem Sixth track is a short sweet song, full of athmosphere stating the surprising friend of the yard snake Seventh song is the Calandrinon bird which is the one watching you on your death bed.. great great song Eighth song is another hard rock progressive piece dynamic as the fight between the prince Filip and the moose Nineth song is a great sophisticated piece as the characters in it the mangusta and the viper in their challenge with each other Tenth song is a sweet and bitter love song, like a cry for love of a mermaid The eleventh song is the rock and roll bird and it is coming like a relief after several heavy progressive-folk pieces The twelvth song is maybe the masterpiece of this masterpiece album; it is sung in Macedo-romanian dialect and it is about the final song of the hawk, which is said to announce the death of somebody loved... incredible song The thirteenth song is a mastery of synthsizer and electronic instrumental and comes quite before the end of this unblievable double album.. it means the war of the beasts The last song is the hymn of the Phoenix bird which is known to revive from its own ashes, fantastic piece of music full of sensitivity and making you wish that this great album didn't end. I cannot say only that this is rare music, sensitive and full of energy in the same time. The instruments and voices are crafted to perfection. This group rocks !
Report this review (#56586)
Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Amazing album for many generations to come.

The Cantafabule double album opens with a long piece called Invocatie, where all characters that will accompany us throughout the following journey are presented. Highly imaginative idea of combining music and poetry in a simultaneous dialog.

From here on we are taken into the misterious world of allegory and fable. Flawless musicianship and inspired lyrics, working perfectly together please the ear, mind and soul.

As somebody before mentioned, there is not a weak point on this album, even though it plays to around 70 min.

If you like Harmonium and Jethro Tull (in 70's), you will love this album. If you like ELP and Tangerine Dream, you will find samples of Synthesizer of high sensitivity.

Even though fairly unknown outside of the former "Iron Courtain", Cantafabule still is a masterpiece of the progrock genre.

Highly recommended !


Report this review (#88411)
Posted Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

Still not sure whether this album is called Cantofabule (fabulous song) or Cant Of A Bule (as the disc label being called so) or as my Romanian stepsister said Cantafabule, but the track listing is correct. The artwork being similar but monochromic red and carrying the cat # Fanny 100, it is most likely a bootleg, but this was the only way to get to listen (outside the PA's samples) to a full album. This sextet's third album is maybe the best appreciated by progheads, but apparently the last one before the fled the Ceaucescu regime.

The original double album was a concept based on some traditional Romanian themes based on adaptation of poets Seban Foarta and Andrei Ujica and inspired on a Dimitri Bolintineanu book called Istoria Ieroglifa (speaking of a "bestiaire" of fantastic mythical creatures), this almost 70 min-long piece is indeed one of the best thing to come from the old Dacian province. If I speak of Dacia (relating it to the Roman Empire times instead of Valachia or Moldavia-Bessarabia), it is because the general feel relates a bit to Italian prog (this is greatly due to the similarity of both languages), but the Timisoara (in Transylvania where the revolt started) group developed a very ambitious project that mixed some medieval folk with hard rock fronted by a fuzzed-out guitar.

The two-parts lengthy opening track Invocatie gives out right away the main dimension of their music, a fairly hard prog dominated by a fuzz-guitar, where all musicians hold their own. Surprising how modern for the day they sounded apparently having a moog synth. During this track, the group moves to different moods and passages including a "folk" one and there is a harpsichord thrown in there too and the track is a very captivating intro. Moving from the Harpsichord/flute piece Unicorn (sung in Old French) to the mediocre beat-rock of the sacred beetle (Scarabeului), the albums moves quickly to another highlight about dolphins (Delfinul), where the group shows the extent of their considerable talent in this folky ballad. Going through the dragon (semi-hard rocking), the snake (with a terrible sounding violin), a special kind of bird (Calandrinon) that's supposed to accompany you into the underworld (another highlight in my book with superb bass work), the moose and the mongoose, the siren and a few other mythical creatures, the group continues tirelessly (even if you do, partly due to the length and the repetition of tracks that hammer on the same nail and the Romanian singing) until another pure psych-beat-RnR (track 11, a bit of a filler really) breaks the cycle of prog/folk tracks alternating.

The album gets back on track with the splendid Cintic-Lu (hawk) track which definitely seals the fate of the concept as excellent (just short of brilliant), followed by another fabulous Zoomahia (starting with the same electronic sounds that you found on the start of the album, but much longer and sounding like Gong) and the album closing on their fetish Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

Overall this album holds very few flaws (given its communist era background), few fillers and a bunch of superb if inhabitual prog folk tracks, which makes this album a masterpiece of its own. Clearly this album should get the honours from a full remastering and mini-Lp treatment, as it stands in the top 10 of the ex-soviet block.

Report this review (#120647)
Posted Thursday, May 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Excellent double album by Phoenix, one of the best rock groups in Central Europe. Their history goes back to the 60's when they were playing rock and rock&roll. Beginning with :Cei ce ne-au dat nume though, their music became more sophisticated.

Even though inspired from Romanian ancient folklore, their best 3 albums: Cei ce ne-au dat nume, Mugur de fluier and Cantafabule are trully prog-folk, sometimes more folk, sometimes more prog.

I wouldn't go through all the songs of this album, but aside Scara Scarabeului all of them are musical gems. The album is following a cohesive theme, even though each piece (song) has its own style and inspiration.

I listen to this album today with the same excitement as I did in 1975, when it first came out. If you like Jethro Tull, or Gentle Giant you would love this group and album. Five stars !! no doubt about it. Highly recommended !

Report this review (#168908)
Posted Monday, April 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars A few months ago my good friend Szolt Enyedi, keyboardist of the Transylvanian band YESTERDAYS, sent me a full collection of his favorite Romanian artists, among this collection I found Cantofabule (A play of words between Song and fable) by the relatively unknown Romanian band PHOENIX........What a finding!

It's no secret I have developed certain fascination for the Eastern Europe Prog scenario, specially for those albums that contain strong ethnic references, Cantofabule is not the exception, the album is based in a Dimitri Bolintineanu book called Istoria Ieroglifa, a compilation and history of fantastic creatures,

The album starts with Invocatie and it's weird keyboard intro, somehow reminiscent of a Keith Emerson nightmare, but after a couple of minutes, the change is simply radical, while the bass keeps making a strange sound, guitar, keyboards and vocals join to create a haunting but vibrant track, constantly the song enters into in crescendo passages which cerate a sense of suspense, but with great skills they manage to keep the song under control.

As if this wasn't enough the second part of the song starts Medieval but suddenly returns to the strength of the first half, but now the time and mood changes are simply breathtaking, from a strong and fast narration, to a gentle acoustic passage enhanced by an excellent choral work, fantastic opener, 10:16 minutes of pure Prog

Norocul Inorogului is a Medieval track in Troubadouresque style, the dissonant voices complement each other with great skills, it's really sad I can't understand a word. In the meanwhile a soft harpsichord sound and sweet flute enhance the medieval experience, not a masterpiece as the previous track, but the way they create the atmosphere is just perfect.

Scara Scarabeului begins absolutely different to all the previous, with a vocal introduction that takes us back to the late 60's with the spirit of the Psychedelic perfectly recreated, only two minutes but they prove how versatile a band can be.

Definul, Dulce Dulful Nostru is much more dramatic, the soft keyboard interplays with the bass and percussion to create a dark, almost haunting atmosphere that leads to an interesting vocal passage reminiscent of TRIUMVIRAT in a few moments, but too original and strange to be consider a strong influence. The Moog performance is really interesting, because Gunter Reininger avoids falling into the excesses which are so common when using this instrument, but the best part is the closing section where the band attacks the listener with everything they have, the album keeps getting better.

Now the band turns towards Baroque with the Uciderea Balaurului, but almost instantly PHOENIX starts to Rock in the style of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, its evident they have a strong attachment to the late 60's but always keeping the ethnic references present, the Psyche keyboard work is breathtaking, another fantastic song.

Stima Casei presents us another medieval recreation where the almost Gregorian (Despite the music) vocals are enhanced by flute and acoustic guitar plus an interesting and very elaborate percussion.

Pasarea Calandrinon begins with a strong and very dramatic piano solo that doesn't prepare us for the elaborate Rock track that comes next, with a certain FOCUS reminiscence but again too subtle to be noticed if you are not worried about making a detailed review, the guitar solo by Mircea Baniciu is typical of the late 60's, giving an interesting mood to the track. The unexpected finale is too complex and surprising to be described.

Now it's turn for some sort of Symphonic Hard Rock with Filip Si Cerbul, another track that reminds me a lot of GRAND FUNK with some keyboard fugues and excellent vocal work, strong and full of energy.

Vasiliscul Si Aspida is another Medieval track with that folk flavor of Romania, even though it gets much more complex and elaborate after a couple minutes, the mysterious mood created by the interplay between guitar, keyboards and vocals makes them stay in unknown territory. Radical changes and distorted vocals plus frantic guitar and Psychedelic organ sections complete the track.

Sirena is probably the hardest and less Prog oriented track, but still they manage to keep the interest of the listener with the excellent keyboards and works as a preparation for Pasarea Roc..k And Roll, another Hard song, but in this case with weird effects and strong vocals.

Canticlu A Cucuveaualiei is one of the best songs of the album, this track has about everything, a strange keyboard intro with oriental flavor, good vocal work as usual and a hard Rock sound full of radical changes,. excellent material.

Zoomahia explores uncharted territory for PHOENIX, now they get very close to Space rock with a very strong PINK FLOYD influence, mainly from Dark Side of the Moon, the changes are perfectly linked one to the other by the competent work of Ovidiu Lipanin the percussion, a bit strange with lots of jamming and dissonant vocals, a very advanced song for a Folk band from Romania in 1975.

The album ends with Phoenix, a soft and melodic track that fulfills it's duty of relaxing the listener after the incredibly bizarre Zoomahia and even when calmed and melodic, so well elaborate that places the cherry on the top of this cake named Cantofabule.

It's interesting how you can listen Progressive Rock for decades and still be surprised by bands of the early mid 70's you never imagined were doing such an outstanding work.

Just a warning, even when the band is considered in Prog Folk, don't expect to stay inside the boundaries of one genre, because this guys explore a lot of different sounds and influences, which makes the album richer.

No less than 4 stars for a very solid album.

Report this review (#189531)
Posted Sunday, November 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars How can you not like this band ? They are so charming and unique in my opinion. I always think of SBB from Poland when I think of PHOENIX because neither had the freedom to do what they wanted to because of their communist governments. This Romanian band started out in the sixties as a Rock & Roll band but because of government interference they were forced to intigrate traditional Folk music into their sound, and ironically it was for the better. While they are listed under Folk, your going to hear more Rock from this amazing band. Like SBB these guys can flat out play. Great vocals and bass playing especially, but the drumming, keyboards and guitar are exceptional too.

"Invocatie" opens with these experimental sounds and noises. It doesn't really kick in until before 2 minutes with vocals.This is dark and fairly heavy. Yes i'm impressed. It changes briefly after 4 minutes as it picks up with celeste. It then settles with spoken words. It kicks back in at 7 minutes. I like how it ends. Good tune ! "Norocul Inorogului" is the most traditional sounding and my least favourite. "Scara Scarabeului" has a 60's flavour to it. Strummed guitar,bass and vocals stand out. "Delfinul, Dulce Dulful Nostru" is a return to form with a darker sound with bass to open. Guitar, drums then vocals join in. It settles some 4 1/2 minutes in with tasteful guitar. It's heavier 5 minutes in. Nice. Great sound here as it blends into "Ucideria Balaurului". It picks up speed with some great guitar and bass as drums pound. Organ before 3 minutes. "Stima Casei" features percussion, bass, guitar and flute as vocals join in. Intricate sounds here. "Pasarea Calandrinon" opens with piano. It kicks in before a minute, vocals follow.The guitar 2 1/2 minutes in sounds great. Piano and violin end it. Excellent song.

"Filip Si Cerbul" has some killer guitar and the drums, bass and vocals are outstanding as well. I like it ! "Vasiliscul Si Aspida" opens with flute and percussion as vocals join in.The flute is replaced by some ripping guitar and drums.Vocal melodies join in then vocals as the drums pound. Great sound. "Sirena" opens with raw guitar then it settles with vocals, synths and drums to a laid back mood with acoustic guitar. Contrasts continue. "Pasarea Roc...K And Roll" has this experimental intro then drums and guitar take over before 1 1/2 minutes. Vocals follow and I like the guitar solo 3 1/2 minutes in. "Cintic-Lu A Cucuveaua-Lliei" opens with music box-like sounds before guitar and bass take over. Drums join in the vocals. Amazing sound ! Love this track. It's melancholic yet uplifting. "Zoomahia" opens with spacey synths which is very FLOYD-like. It changes after 1 1/2 minutes as drums lead the way. Vocals are distant a minute later. The guitar starts to light it up. It's spacey again late. "Phoenix" is laid back with a dreamy sound and nice bass lines.Vocals join in. It kicks in before 3 minutes to end it. Nice.

This is a double album which i'm usually hard on, but this is a solid 4 stars in my opinion.

Report this review (#238488)
Posted Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars In my opinion, Romanian band Phoenix's Cantofabule is far closer to psychedelic rock than progressive folk, although it certainly contains elements of the latter. In fact, I would be most comfortable comparing it to proto-prog bands like The Who or Jefferson Airplane, since much of this album consists of pithy rock tunes interspersed with folksy excursions.

"Invocatie" Various electronic noises open the lengthy first song. When it gets going, it has a commanding presence with deep vocals and bass-dominated music. It is followed by a spoken-word acoustic section that ushers in an eerie chorus of vocals and a whiny synthesizer lead.

"Norocul Inorogului" This is a pleasant, almost hymn-like traditional-sounding song with thick vocal harmonies and sweet instrumentation featuring keyboard and flute.

"Scara Scarabeului" A short, happy tune, this is more like a late 1960s pop rock song.

"Definul, Dulce Dulful Nostru" Without a doubt, the band that springs to mind as I listen to this song is Eloy- straightforward psychedelic rock enriched by enchanting keyboards.

"Uciderea Balaurului" The highlights of this upbeat rocker are the two solos during the second half, one electrifying guitar solo and one wild organ workout.

"Stima Casei" Another short, upbeat song, this is closer to more traditional progressive folk like Jethro Tull.

"Pasarea Calandrinon" After a delicate piano introduction, the band launches into another heavy rocker. The piano and violin affair at the end is a bit of an avant-garde non sequitur.

"Filip Si Cerbul" Grainy guitar and a thudding bass introduce solid vocals for yet another decent heavy rock song, this one with a fluid, almost symphonic refrain.

"Vasiliscul Si Aspida" Voices join a solo flute on its melodic journey before the gritty guitar jumps in to begin some heavy psychedelic music. The middle bit is for all intents and purposes a "mini-song" rather than a bridge. I particularly like the soaring vocals and bass work.

"Sirena" Blending psychedelic and folk music, this piece incorporates acoustic guitar, light melodies, coarse electric guitar riffs, spacey synthesizer, and almost tribal percussion.

"Pasarea Roc...k And Roll" Loud and awful synthesizer experimentation, sounding like alarms and extraterrestrial insects make for a difficult-to-listen-to introduction. The rock music on this one is pretty standard business, and the periodic shouting of "Hey!" gives it the feel of a sports anthem.

"Canticlu A Cucuveaualiei" After a light introduction, the band comes in, this time accompanied by some creative guitar goings-on in the backdrop.

"Zoomahia" More experimental electronics, this time with frightening vocals, create a terrible introduction, but this time the track isn't saved by a good song proper: There's a mishmash of noises coming from the various instruments- a dissonant muddiness.

"Phoenix" The final song is a pretty and relaxing one, with competence and restraint shown from all members. At its conclusion, the piece hearkens back to the end of the first one.

Report this review (#287020)
Posted Friday, June 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Third album of Romanian early progressive band Phoenix is without doubt most complex and mature from all their early discography. If their debut was not very organic mix of slightly psychedelic bluesy early prog with strong Romanian folklore elements (and I still really like that raw sound!), and their second album was ambitious (but a bit boring) semi-acoustic folk-opera, this third album is full bodied progressive rock album.

You can find there plenty of different influences - from baroque to Deep Purple-like Hammond attacks to spacey/psychedelic Pink Floydish moments. Romanian folklore is less dominated, but presents in many places. Melodic and often a bit melancholic. Plenty of real rocky guitar, and really balanced mix of all components.

My first impression of that album was a bit mixed - I was afraid of too much of symphonic influences in that music ( and I prefer it more raw and bluesy). But with every next listening this album grew up in me. In fact, it is the work which could be placed in the Hall of Fame of Eastern European progressive , besides of best SBB albums.


Report this review (#287577)
Posted Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars First of all, I have to give a big thank you to for giving me an opportunity to hear this Romanian band's three albums from the 1970s. So far I've listened to this one the most because it has analog synths on it and I'm a sucker for analog synths. It seems almost every rock band on Earth was at least experimenting with synthesizers at the time, even bands from Communist countries. Being a rock band in a Communist country was not fun and it almost amazes me how many rock bands from eastern Europe there were in the 1970s. There is a folk influence here but it does not dominate. I'm no expert in Romanian folk music, but I'm going to assume it has more in common with Italian folk than Balkan folk, due to linguistics/history.

"Invocatie" starts with insect like synth noises. More overdubbed spacey synths join in. Then the band does start/stop symphonic rock. Switches to a rockin' groove with vocals now. Great harmony vocals during a 'chorus' like section. All of a sudden a gong gets hit, the music stops and then it goes into a short folky section. I like the drumming and altered vocals in the middle, followed by some bell sounds, acoustic guitar and a spoken word section. Some pounding drums and "ahh" harmony vocals in the background later. Then a synth solo. Later reprises the start/stop symphonic section and continues the main part of the song. Some good drumming near the end. At the very end is some funky blues-rock with harmony vocals. Terrific song.

"Norocul Inorogului" is a folky song. Not sure what Romanian folk music sounds like, but I assume something similar to this. Good singing and nice bass synth. You hear some kind of traditional wind instruments in this song. "Scara Scarabeului" is a very commercial sounding early 70s style rock song. Good but not very proggy. "Definul, Dulce Dulful Nostru" starts with some electric harpsichord, cymbals and bass fills. A guitar riff drags the drums into the mix. Then a great mix of band, synth and harmony vocals. Some good drumming in this song. Cool guitar solo which is some kind of classical/blues hybrid. Great dramatic organ to end it.

That song segues into "Uciderea Balaurului" which is more of a typical 1970s hard rock song. Sounds like some clavinet here. "Stima Casei" begins almost funky with the bongos and the bass but quickly switches to a folk song. Good mandolin(?) playing and flute. "Pasarea Calandrinon" opens with classical piano. Goes into some great hard rock then folk-rock. The two sections alternate. Nice intricate playing before a great guitar solo. Switches to a new groove near the end. The music stops and then some jazzy piano and folky violin. I like the sadistic laugh at the end.

"Filip Si Cerbul" is another great hard rocker with some cool synth. I like the almost surf style drumming and '50s rock'n'roll guitar playing at the end. "Vasiliscul Si Aspida" starts out as a folk song with some whispered vocals. Then it turns hard rock with great drumming and harmony vocals. Some acoustic guitar later. At one point the vocals sound like they were recorded through a megaphone. The music stops and then some foot stomping and folk singing to end it. "Sirena" is more of a ballad. Good synth. Hard rocking chorus.

"Pasarea Roc..k And Roll" starts with really cool spacey synth that slowly transforms into an air-raid siren sound. Then gets almost Hawkwind sounding with punk-like shouts of "hey!" Changes to a more commercial rock song. "Canticlu A Cucuveaualiei" is a song you can listen to on PA. Begins with some music box before the band comes in on an almost Zeppelin vibe. The band grooves when the vocals enter. Some backwards guitar. Great bass playing at one point. "Zoomahia" is a highlight. Opens with spacey synth sounds and echoed whispering. The bass guitar starts to play the sequencer rhythm and then the whole band comes in. Almost sounds Canterbury. Some Gong like chanting in the middle.

I love the part starting 4:44-pure awesomeness. Another sequencer pattern leads the band. Instruments kind of float around in a Gong like way at the end. "Phoenix" is the last song. Electric harpsichord, bass fills and wah-wah guitar arpeggios are joined by drums and vocals. Nice synth. Ends with a faster version of the funky blues-rock riff at the end of "Invocatie" fading the song out. This double-album has some great artwork. The sound and production is pretty good. What stands out for me the most is the amazing synthesizer work here. None of it I would consider cheesy or dated. Instead a lot of it is spacey and experimental (for the time). I'm going to give their two previous albums more attention, but this one gets 4 stars.

Report this review (#435084)
Posted Monday, April 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Working synthesisers into their explorations of traditional Romanian folk, Cantofabule finds Phoenix continuing to try their best to slip subversive ideas past their country's censors. In this case, the album's concept, which revolves around fantastical fables about various animals, gave them a means to create allegorical stories hinting at their distaste for the regime which went over the censor's heads. The album is hampered - at least in the edition I own - by rather uninspired production, and the double album length is probably excessive considering the material on offer. Not personally to my taste, though those interested in a fusion of prog folk and the occasional bit of hypnotic, pulsing Krautrock might find something to enjoy here.
Report this review (#539148)
Posted Saturday, October 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Today as Tomorrow, Forever and Now

In graduate school at the turn of the millennium, a fellow student from Romania and I were chatting about music and it's influence and importance to student populations; for inspiration, for entertainment, maybe for protest. He turned me on to Phoenix with some rare (in the US) CDs he brought back from his trip home and let me discover what the underground Romanian student population was inspired by in the 70s, 80s and on.

Banned from performing in Romania in 1972 and finally relocated to Amsterdam to avoid further persecution in the iron curtain-clad country, Phoenix was the voice for the youth, those seeking freedom from the existing regime, at the risk of imprisonment or worse. They've sold millions in Romania, but remain tragically obscure elsewhere. Their songs combine equal parts hard rock and fuzzed-out guitar lines with Transylvania gypsy folk music influence that often have these guys labeled as 'Folk-Prog'.

However, it's really much more than that. There are some melodic and stripped back moments, but they do rock loudly and with an incessant metaliic fuzz that is rattling, as in "Invocație" (Invocation). Not to mention the dark melancholic mood that is put forth throughout. There is often a pounding drum rhythm that is intricate and tribal; and I don't mean in an American indian way, but rather in it's force and feel. A soundtrack to Romanian cavalry riding hard across the country perhaps, or more likely the tribal Dacia empire that existed before the Romans conquered the area (and made it forever Romania). Cantafabule (Cantofabule) is Phoenix's third LP, released in 1975 on the Electrecord label in Romania, and is their pinnacle achievement.

Not only does it establish the popular music / rock integration with traditional Romanian music, Zamfir and his panpipes don't count, but it also combined elements of a proto-metal sound, like a distant ancestor of Doom Metal, with the folk and progressive tendencies. In the background of 'Definul' a zapped-out synthesizer sound bubbles along under chanting deep guttural vocals. "Filip și Cerbul" has a mind-blowing metal-like riff anchoring the beginning of the second LP. And this is a true double LP, unlike the contemporary tradition of spreading out one LP worth of material over two. There's almost 70 minutes of music in this grand suite, and this allows them to really stretch out and weave a surreal image of this fantasy world with many different layers.

The idea for Cantafabule came from a fourteenth-century Bestiary, an illustrated anthology of beasts popular from the middle ages on. Thus the songs are vignettes from the animal world, such as "Scarab Scale", "Slaying of The Dragon", and appropriately, "Phoenix", whose last line provides the title to this review.

"We thought at first to some magical formula spirits delight. A kind of invocation. These animal spirits are called symbolic and they start to appear, at first the smallest and most innocent, such as scarab and unicorn, then rest, dolphin and dangerous. At one time, all recorded within a sort of conflict, Zoomahia, and everything ends suggesting the beginning of a new cycle of existence to a higher level through a hymn dedicated to Phoenix, the symbol of rebirth and eternal existence." - Andrew Ujica

Original pressings are 2 LPs in a gatefold cover with truly great psychedelic artwork by Lili and Valeriu Sepi, and are notoriously hard to find in excellent condition since the Romanian covers were very thin and fragile. The only official reissue on LP was in 1992 and the 2 LPs were packaged in separate covers that featured the cover art in yellow and blue tones rather than the grey and red original. Original LP labels were white with red, and the reissues black with silver.

Report this review (#1043464)
Posted Tuesday, September 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars With a lyrically cohesive concept based on Romanian folklore, PHOENIX's landmark release is unfortunately not as consistent musically. When it works, it rivals the best folk, psychedelic, and heavy prog acts of the 1970s, but when it doesn't, it's simply another display of testosterone fueled beat rock, which happens to be sung in Romanian.

Luckily, the best moments are the most progressive and/or folky, with the longest being especially sound. On "Invocatie" and "Canticlu", the platter tilts dramatically and emphatically rather than pelvically. While these tracks succeed far more in defining than borrowing a style, I do hear some OMEGA and ELOY, the latter especially in the keyboards, and in the excellent "Delfinul, Dulci Dulful" some reference to BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST's "After the Day" are clear.

On the more folk oriented pieces like "Norocul" and "Stima Casei", the German band OUGENWEIDE comes to mind, whereas some of the more driving pieces recall Basque acts like LISKER and MAGDALENA. Unfortunately, several weaker standard hard rock tracks hinder the flow, particularly "Pasarea Rock n Roll", while "Zoomahia" vies for the spacey Krautrock mantle and winds up 6 feet under. Just too much heavy riffing here, some of it infesting even the better tracks like a mantra abandoned.

While "Cantofabule" possesses qualities that would appeal to an expansive spectrum of prog listeners, I'm not sure how many will be wholly enamoured with it. Still, it's a disk of historic value that is worth your attention, and you might well find some favourites arising from its scorched grooves.

Report this review (#1068180)
Posted Monday, October 28, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Legends of communist-era Romania, Phoenix were the country's premier rock group during the 1970's, shifting millions of records, regularly performing to packed-out stadiums of screaming teenagers, and constantly finding themselves under surveillance from the government's shifty cultural bureau. Formed in Timisoara during the late-sixties, the group would produce three studio albums of varying quality after signing a contract with the state record label Electrecord, before issuing this extraordinary double-sided slice of fantasy-laden prog-rock during the summer of 1975. Heavily-influenced by Romanain history and folklore after the then-government of Ceacescu decreed that all Romanian artists must look 'inward' for their inspiration, ignoring the vagaries of the corrupt West and taking their ideas direct from the history and mythology of the motherland, 'Cantafabule' meshes elements of prog-rock, folk, fantasy, hard-rock and symphonic grandeur to create a dense storybook of an album filled with contrasting styles and textures. Of course, not everyone was happy with the 'looking inward' deal, but the reality was that group's like Phoenix had little choice. Admirably, they took it all in their stride, and subsequently produced the defining album of their career, a remarkable feat considering that the stipulations introduced by the government were designed to restrict the creative ability and appeal of groups like Phoenix, whom the state eyed with both suspicion and contempt. Even in the cold grey days of communism rock and roll was still sticking it to the man! Since it's release, 'Cantafabule'' has gone on to enjoy something of a legendary reputation amongst progheads, with original Electrecord pressings fetching upwards of 750 on the collector's circuit. But be warned: 'Cantafabule' comes with a legendary reputation, but you must remember that it was recorded in Romania. In 1975. The sound quality is ropey, the special effects are occasional laughable(especially he outmoded synth pulses on the album's opening cut) and it is a very, very, very long album. The best stylistic touchstone would probably be the likes of Alphataurus, SBB or French outfit Artcane, but the truth is that for just this album, Phoenix did manage to establish a strange sound all of their own. Certainly unique, this is a dark and complex album that needs to be heard to be truly (dis)believed. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2015
Report this review (#1476412)
Posted Thursday, October 15, 2015 | Review Permalink

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