As a young devourer of all things musical, I was fortunate that my family had friends in Latvia who would send us many of the latest recordings. One of my favorite releases was Mikrofons 81, which covered the best songs of 1980, including “Dāvāja Māriņa” by Raimonds Pauls, “Princesīte” by Kaspars Dimiters and “Zelta dziesma” by Ivars Vāgners, among many others.
One song that was a favorite of mine was “Tik un tā” by Uldis Stabulnieks. The song is the title track of a recently released compilation of Stabulnieks’ work, the fifth in MICREC’s series, “Latviešu populārās mūzikas izlase.”
Though a mellow song, “Tik un tā” stayed with you due to its simple melody sung by Stabulnieks, as well as the lyrics by Māra Zālīte, which were borderline patriotic (with words like “Mums viņa ir visskaistākā, tik un tā,” or, “Just the same, to us she (Latvia) is the most beautiful”)—still a bit of a no-no in 1980.
According to the Latvian music magazine Mūzikas Saule, “Tik un tā” was the most popular song of 1980 and should have been awarded first prize, instead of that year’s winner, “Dāvāja Māriņa.” Tough call for me, as “Dāvāja Māriņa” is just about my favorite Pauls song. I can see how it could be close. Besides, a rigged election in Soviet Latvia? Say it ain’t so!
Because most of the songs from that era have not been available on compact disc, and I don’t go that frequently into my vinyl archives, “Tik un tā” faded from memory as the years went by. But upon hearing that MICREC had released a comprehensive collection of Stabulnieks’ best works on a CD simply titled Tik un tā, I picked it up on a trip to Latvia.
Prior to buying the CD, I only knew the title track. I had no idea what to expect from a full CD (70-plus minutes) of 25 songs by Stabulnieks. I am glad I bought it, because it is full of original and catchy songs.
Stabulnieks composed all of the music on this album and he sings on almost all the songs. The bulk of the songs on this CD were taken from his two LP records, Tik un tā (1985) and Svētki daudzskaitlī (1986).
An unexpected but very pleasant surprise was learning that “Tik un tā” was not the only song I knew by Stabulnieks. A song that was a favorite of mine in my pre-teen days, but since then had been forgotten, is “Solījums.” I had originally heard this song on the Mikrofons 82 record, but I had not known that it was performed by Stabulnieks. The song again shows his ability to write an appropriately beautiful melody to match beautiful lyrics, this time by P. Zirnītis. Though it is a simple love song, the words are quite moving.
The variety of styles contained on this CD also shows Stabulnieks’ versatility. Whether it is the Middle Eastern-tinged “Alibeka” (written for the Leļļu teātris), or the folksongy “Dziesmiņa par buciņu” (from the theatre production Aug buciņš, lauž radziņus), or the satirical “Dziesmiņa par diplomātiju,” or the comedic “Ananās” (from the musical comedy Svētki daudzskaitlī), Stabulnieks is adept at writing the appropriate music to fit the lyrics and the mood.
The variety of styles on the CD does detract from the flow a bit. I’ve also never been a fan of overly liberal use of strings in pop songs, but where the strings are used in Stabulnieks’ songs, they are tastefully done.
Some of the songs also have a Raimonds Pauls influence, mainly due to some of the lyrics being written by frequent Pauls collaborator J. Pēters, as well as Margarita Vilcāne and Ojārs Grīnbergs showing up to sing on “Margarita” and “Zirgu tirgus.”
The booklet that comes along with the CD reprints the original liner notes that came with the Tik un tā vinyl record, as well as a new write-up by Gunārs Freidenfelds, both of which provide for some interesting reading about a composer for whom information is not that readily available. Unfortunately, no lyrics are included, but there are a few pictures.
MICREC deserves great thanks for reminding all of us what a great composer and talent Stabulnieks is. This CD hopefully will raise his profile to a loftier perch, where he so clearly deserves to be.
Tik un tā
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