Various ‘Czech Up! Vol 1. Chain of Fools. 1966-1978’ 2LP/CD (Vampi Soul) 3/5

czech-up-vol1Psychedelic pop flavours are the order of the day on this well researched and value for money compilation of Czech music spanning the mid-1960s through to the late 1970s. Despite the existence, or perhaps because of the existence of the Iron Curtain, young Czechs were listening in to the newly emerging rock and soul sounds from Britain and the United Kingdom and attempting to reproduce them, with varying degrees of success and twenty five songs provides a useful overview of the Czech music scene.
This is illustrated by a singularly psychedelic approach to Aretha’s epic, ‘Chain of fools’, by group Komety, formed at the end of the 1950s. Motown was clearly a major influence on the youth and even Stevie Wonder was ripe for covering as on the brassy, pop-inflected treatment of ‘Uptight, everything is alright’, by Karel Cernoch in Czech. A percussive reading of disco comes in the form of group Discolobos and their 1978 offering, ‘Kyvaldo’ that features chessy synths and even cheesier female vocals. This could almost be an Eastern bloc pastiche on decadent and hedonistic Western disco!
Previously, a whole compilation was devoted to the music of Emil Viklicky, but here the examples chosen are more varied. Some of the sounds, it has to be said, are utterly bizarre, no more so than the jazzy intro to ‘Lesin Vila’ that then morphs into a brass band with psychedelia by Petr Spaleny. On the positive side, being part of the Iron Curtain meant that unusual cultural exchanges were possible and this included Czech groups participating in the ‘World Festival of Youth’ in Havana, Cuba, in 1978. From this, the funky drum beats of group Bezinky and ‘Jademe Dal’ stands out for the whirling synths and clavinet. This is actually surprisingly funky in a not dissimilar Kraftwerk vein.

This compilation will, perhaps, appeal most of all to a left-field pop fan. The music has been licensed from Czech label Supraphon, better known for their classical music product. Who knows what jazz gems they might have in the archives. As ever with Vampi Soul productions, excellent and incisive inner sleeve details, and in this case individual song notes that help shed greater light on the musicians concerned.

Tim Stenhouse