Bonzo. Ei saa mitte vaiki olla. Tulsa records TULCD02, 2008.
The coldest month of the year is also the one during which Estonians perhaps show the most emotion. During February we mark the signing of the Tartu Peace Treaty and our Independence on a serious and grateful note and on a lighter note Shrovetide with sledding and other gleeful frolics.
Estonians best emote in song, and hence this latest recording, by Estonia’s answer to Tom Waits, Bonzo, deserves a listen during these frigid days, seeing as this CD covers some of the best-loved and famous patriotic themed songs of our people.
Bonzo is the nom de music of Rakvere actor Andrus Albrecht. His voice, like the rest of him is large and scruffy. The singer was told years ago that he would never fit into a chorus, as his unique voice is a soloist’s one. Hence, the choice to record well-known songs written for choirs, as well as patriotic ones on his own makes wonderful sense – no need to follow the choir director’s lead. As Bonzo notes in his liner notes, purists should not be upset when he stretches some notes or phrases out – that is just his own artistic, soloist’s vision.
The singer is well aware of the power and emotion contained in the 14 cuts recorded here – ranging from light-hearted nostalgia - “Meil aiaäärne tänavas” - to the gravitas of “Hoia, Jumal, Eestit”, “Mu isamaa on minu arm”, “Sind surmani” and “Eesti lipp”. The accompanying booklet contains all lyrics as well as interesting historical information about the composers and photographs. Thus a complete package.
Musically one could draw comparisons with Leon Redbone (come to think of it, Bonzo sounds at times like Waits meets Redbone). Lap and pedal steel, marimbaphone, trombone and harmonium are but some of the non-standard instruments, a Redbone trademark, backing the singer here. As always Bonzo has mustered an all-star backing cast for his gravelly voice.
Older listeners may find these interpretations perhaps hard to listen at first. But let Bonzo have the final word: “the 14 songs found on the platter are beautiful and unite the senses.” They are depicted as they evolved according to his own individual vision. Even those with a tin ear, who never could sing in a choir because their sharps came out flat, this is an album that gives encouragement to sing along with the massed choir at the next Vabariigi aastapäevaaktus. The only grumble is that at only 36 minutes of playing time this CD is a bit too short. But then again, it might be like an aktusekõne – most times, shorter is better.
This recommended CD can be purchased over the internet at one of numerous e-stores; the slender one suggests www.lasering.ee for their reliability and service.
Patriotism sung large