Translated and adapted by Vlad Borlea
I consider this album to be the first LP worthy of notice in the history of Romanian folk - rock releases. Partially refusing the idea that we are in a cultural outskirt where local values have completely replaced the universal ones, I will relate the subject to what has happened and what is happening in the whole world regarding this matter. The most important question (given the context) is if the album and the band stand out on a world scale. Not playing in English is a serious impediment for any band, when talking about receptiveness from a wider audience. Furthermore, lack of publicity or of objective "happy" events (peace movements, great festivals etc.) can cause a band to remain unknown, whatever value it might have. In our analysis, we will ignore these factors and only consider the music itself.Translations:
Up to 1967, every LP was built on the principle of the "greatest hits". The only connection between the songs was that they were put together in a more or less arbitrary order. The cover used to represent an exterior aspect, usually connected only to the commercial side. Along with the release of Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, things started to change. Covers of albums by Pink Floyd, Yes, Renaissance (and the list goes on) have a deeper connection to the content, being important for the general view on the conception, the image (and for popularisation, of course) etc. In the same period, certain bands and musicians were trying out their skills in creating projects of a higher complexity. So appeared the first rock operas (Tommy by The Who) or collaborations with renowned orchestras (Moody Blues - London Festival Orchestra). Rock music becomes one of the base elements in avant-garde manifestations.
The original cover of "Cei ce ne-au dat nume" (by Valeriu Sepi) is, in the beginning of the '70s, aligned (artistically and as a finite product), as one of the best ever to be made in Romania. The songs, complex and stilistically varied, along with Phoenix's original concerts settle the band in the (non-commercial) artistic drift of the time. Exploration of the folklore was back then a pioneering activity.
The LP, consisting of four titles, has a coherent architecture, characterised by conception and interpretation suited to the artistic intentions. "Ciclul anotimpurilor" (1) is a true rock poem in which, on the background of traditional local themes, we find passages which indicate a high degree of instrumental skills. The vocals, the guitar, the bass and the percussion form a unitary ensemble in a progressive language, the band's coordinates being quite different from the folk-rock direction, well represented in the world at that time. This suite is part of a longer live show. The prelude "A oilor" (1a) creates atmosphere, essential for what is to come next, musically speaking. The connection with "Primavara" (1c) is made through a short song with alert rhythm, "Jocul timpului" (1b). "Vara" (1d) and "Iarna" (1e) lyrics were written by Victor Circu, with whom the band had worked before and would work again on the "Mugur de fluier" album. "Primavara" (just like "Negru-Voda") lyrics were folk-inspired. "Jocul caprelor" (1f), instrumental, ends the cycle, also making a connection with "Nunta" (2), a high point of the LP, arranged in a hard rock manner, which ends the first side. "Negru-Voda" is approached in a jazz-rock manner. The bass solo, the violin's interventions and the percussion make this unique in Phoenix's creation. The last song on the album, "Pseudo-Morgana" (4) is characterised by a musical arrangement of great refinement. Through this first LP, Nicolae Covaci - guitar, blockflote, vocals, Mircea Baniciu - vocals, guitar, Iosif Kappl - bass, vocals, violin, Costin Petrescu, Valeriu Sepi - percussion offer an undoubtable proof of their value, opening new horizons in Romanian rock music (where they were known) and, at the same time, raising the banner.
"Cei ce ne-au dat nume" - "Those who named us"
"Ciclul anotimpurilor" - "The seasons' cycle"
"A oilor" - "Of the sheep"
"Jocul timpului" - "Time's game/dance"
"Primavara" - "Spring"
"Vara" - "Summer"
"Iarna" - "Winter"