“Pokušaj”: Nutty, Anthemic

Thanks to my neighbor and good friend, Paul – who hails from the UK – I have had the opportunity to take in the annual spectacle known as the Eurovision Song Contest, something I’ve read about for years in British music publications.  Most of the offerings, unfortunately, are fairly forgettable, but I will always have a fond spot in my heart for Bosnia & Herzegovina’s contribution to the 2008 contest — “Pokušaj” by the artist, Laka:

“Pokušaj”     Laka     2008

Especially within Eurovision’s vapid, escapist context, I found myself taken with the song’s peculiar hat trick of combining several teaspoons of nutty flavor with big fistfuls of soaring pop anthem – one of the few distinctive pieces of songcraft offered that year, in my humble opinion.

And yet I found myself to be the only one in the room who was genuinely excited by this song and the group’s exuberant performance.  I recall sending this video clip to a few of my more musically-inclined friends shortly after the event only to face universal derision.  Am I the odd man out here?  Sally Field asks that you please like the tune.

Laka would produce an official video for this song – the fourth Zero to 180 item tagged as Eastern European Pop.

“Jackson”: Public’s Help Sought in Identifying Artist

As soon as I picked up this album and felt the lightweight textured paper, I knew right away that this record was from outside the “West” – in this case, Romania:

C & W Greatest Hits

Much of this album is a mystery since there are practically no credits, but I’m guessing it came out in the mid-to-late 70s.

Check out the song selections – and Johnny Cash’s looming shadow:

Side 1

1. “Give My Love to Rose” (Johnny Cash from his Sun catalog);  2. “Oh Susanna”;            3. “Frank[y] and Johnny” (song made famous by Johnny Cash but actually over 100 years old);  4. “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain”; 5. “Jackson” (Johnny Cash yet again)

Side 2

6. “She’s Gone”;  7. “Sunday Morning Coming [to] Down” (also made famous by Cash);   8. “My Old Kentucky Home”;  9. “Willow Tree”;  10. “Red River Valley”;  11. “Paper Roses”

It says “greatest hits,” so it gives the appearance of being a compilation of various artists.  But then you listen to it and find out there is but one artist.

Unnamed.

I find that very funny.

Anyway, “Jackson” – Johnny & June Carter Cash’s big declaration of love from 1967 – is easily the coolest thing on this album:

Jackson – Romanian All-Stars

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Jackson” by Artist Unknown.]

Could this possibly be another musical prank from Jonathan King?

Maryla Rodowicz: Hippy Dippy Pop from Poland

Debated whether to buy this album for a buck, since I know next to nothing about Polish pop music, but ultimately I was swayed by the clothing and hairstyles, which needed no translation:

Maryla Rodowicz-b

Would you be stunned to learn that this album was released in 1969?  There are some surprisingly contemporary sounds amongst these songs – fascinating to see which elements of Western culture were able to penetrate “the Iron Curtain” at that time.

Yes, this group is named for the singer on the front cover:

Maryla Rodowicz-a

How interesting to find that this album predates the extensive list of Maryla’s recordings on Wikipedia that begins in 1970 and continues through 2011.  I found one track in particular, “Za Gorami” (“Over the Hills”), to be rather evocative of its time:

Maryla Rodowicz – Za Gorami

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Za Gorami” by Maryla Rodowicz.]