Review Summary: Gypsies, Tramps, And Goran Bregovic:
The album cover pretty much sums up the experience of ‘Champagne For Gypsies’, exhausting.
Goran Bregović is a Balkan legend. He is the region’s leading film composer as well as making his own extremely popular albums and covering classic songs of the region. I missed seeing him when he came through my area and I am regretting it now that my ears are flooded with this, his latest album.
Apparently these “Gypsies” had too much champagne for the album starts like a mild night at a club with ‘Presidente’ and quickly slips into drunken reverie and never let’s up. It is hard to describe music one is not accustomed to, sung in a language one does not speak. Sometimes it sounds like a Jewish wedding party on speed other times it sounds like a tiny circus car driving in circles only to stop and have 20 drunk clowns pop out. Not to mention the occasional dip in the pool of the British ska revival of the early 80s. Or maybe British ska owes something to the Balkans.
‘Be That Man’ sounds like Balkan hip-hop with a heavy dose of Cake mixed into the stew. ‘Ciribiribela Ciribiribela’ is a reggae-mariachi fusion cocktail made with Balkan ingredients and ‘Bella Ciao’ is a particularly wild track that, true to Gypsy form, starts slow then builds into an polka riot of horns and chanting calling to mind The Toys ‘Nellie The Elephant’, which had similar wind ups ensued by chaos. Even I was chanting along ‘Bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao! Ciao! Ciao! Ciao!”
This particular outing Goran enlists the help of splendid cast of characters; The Gypsy Kings, Gypsy singing icon Florin Salam, Swiss vocal chameleon Stephan Eicher, Irish newcomer Selina O'Leary, and Gogol Bordello a Gypsy punk band from Manhattan. All of them are backed by Goran’s ribald Wedding and Funeral Orchestra.
Gogol Bordello can be heard on ‘Be That Man’ and ‘Quantum Utopia’, the latter of which may have some listeners scratching their heads and wondering, “How does one dance to this “party” music?” Well those people have never danced to The Beat, or The Clash who had similar frenzied punk/ska leanings in a lot of their songs, though Goran enlists more accordion than either of those bands. And some tracks like ‘Balkaneros’ fuse tencho-beats with flamenco guitar and the sandpapery vocals of The Gypsy Kings (also featured on the first track) for a sound that could fill any dance club floor.
The title track, hitting last on the album, sounds like an Eastern Block version of ‘Buttons’ by The Pussycat Dolls only better and more fun because all the sexiness is subtler and hidden under the horns.
This album NEVER slows down maintaining a consistency of tone throughout. And that tone is, “We’re here to party, somebody get me a drink!” It is pure party pandemonium from beginning to end. I can imagine that those not used to the rhythms and instrumentation of Eastern Europe may get nauseous (aka my friends) but for those who like the world music scene, this is the Balkan version of a Bahian Carnival and it will wear you out in the same way. I also HIGHLY recommend this album to anyone wanting to explore and experiment and expand their musical mind and collection. It is quietly addicting, even if it is loud, for as I write this I am listening to it again and wishing I was in a bar with a beer and a swath of people bouncing and screaming along to a raucous band, the same way I did when I saw The Beat for the first time.
Be That Man