One of the veteran and most well-known groups of the Latvian rock scene are Jumprava, who have been recording and releasing albums since the 1980s—and creating many recognizable Latvian hits along the way. Popular songs include “Baltā” and “Peldētajs,” which achieved first place in the Mikrofons song competitions in 1990 and 1991, respectively. And the recently released retrospective album Labāko dziesmu izlase is a hit as well, selling many copies and introducing and re-introducing many to the songs of Jumprava.
To be honest, I have not heard much of Jumprava’s work and am not very knowledgeable of their history. I know that they have released many albums over the course of their career, but the only album besides this one that I am familiar with is the 1998 release Laika atšķirību romance (which was a great album, by the way). But listening to Labāko dziesmu izlase I realized how many of their songs I was familiar with. Not only had I heard the aforementioned “Baltā” and “Peldētajs,” but I had heard the song “Lietus” from the Mikrofons 89 collection, as well as the song “Ziemeļmeita,” which can be found on the obscure Melodiju stafete Nr. 8 record, released in 1988.
This is not the only Jumprava collection available; a compact disc of their earlier work, Jumprava 88/90 has also been released. The song selection on Labāko dziesmu izlase and Jumprava 88/90 are very similar, as there are eight songs that are the same between the two collections (actually, two of the songs from the 88/90 collection have been remixed for the Labāko album.)
The best way to describe Jumprava’s music is “keyboard rock,” as the dominant instrument in almost all of the songs on this album is the keyboard. That’s fine, but it would be nice to hear more guitar sometimes! Regardless, the selection of songs show a Latvian group at the peak of its songwriting ability.
The collection also borrows heavily from the 1998 release Laika atšķirību romance, as there are five songs from that album—which is not at all a bad thing! One of my favorite Jumprava songs is “Pastorāle”, with a great keyboard intro, a very catchy chorus and the haunting voice of Marija Grauba that closes out the track. Other favorites from Laika atšķirību romance are “Ēna” and “Jaganatha,” both of which reappear on the latest release. “Jaganatha” features an Indian feel and, like “Ēna” and “Lēna upe,” is based in part on the work of Nataradža.
One of the questionable inclusions from Laika atšķirību romance is “Auto.” Besides not being a particularly good song, it includes yet another example of why some Latvian groups should avoid writing lyrics in English: “This is my servant and this is my car, I want to drink and I drive to the bar.”
The older songs withstand the test of time well. The quirky hit “Peldētajs,” details the story of someone who swims the crawl stroke on his back from Ventspils to the island of Visby (a rather long distance!). This song references the movie Peldētajs, apparently the same as the 1981 Soviet film Plovets by director Irakli Kvirikadze.
“Lietus” is another great song, written at a time when the movement for Latvia’s independence was getting louder and stronger. It appeared on the Mikrofons 89 collection, on which practically every song was about the topic of freedom, renewal and unity. The singer’s sentences about what pains him are written in chalk on the street, but are washed away by the unending rain.
The two newly remixed songs, “Šeit lejā” and “Vēl jāgaida” are nothing special. I have not heard the original version, so I cannot compare them, but the remixing has not added much to the song.
Thankfully the packaging contains the lyrics to all the songs (although the printed lyrics are not in the exact order as they appear on the CD, which is slightly annoying), but not much else. It identifies the band members on the front cover, but doesn’t specify what instruments they play. It would also be nice to know when the song was recorded, as well as what album it originally appeared on, but those are just minor complaints.
Overall, it is a great CD, both for those who are unfamiliar with the work of Jumprava and need a good introduction to them, as well as to those who are familiar with their work, as it collects all of their best songs onto one CD.
Labāko dziesmu izlase
Platforma Records, 1999
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