Labvēlīgais Tips tells a tale on latest CD

Svīres tango

Many people attending the 2003 Latvian Song Festival in Rīga noted that the Youth Concert was one of the highlights. Many of Latvia’s youth choirs joined together to sing both recent and not-so-recent popular songs arranged for choir voices. However, one glaring omission I noted in the repertoire was the complete absence of any songs by Latvian group Labvēlīgais Tips. How could that be? One of the country’s most popular groups was completely ignored. Miscarriage of justice, I say. Was there truly no room for “Alumīnijas cūka,” “Omnibuss” or “Džins ar toniku” in the concert?

Much to my surprise, during this year’s song festival Labvēlīgais Tips will get a whole performance of its own as part of one of the shows. On July 8, the band (along with other groups, not to mention 2,300 dancers) will play at a dance performance. The group has recorded an album particularly for this event, 2007’s Svīres tango. Remarkably, this is the band’s ninth studio album—and 12th overall—since 1995. No other major group in Latvia has been as prolific.

Topping the band’s 2006 album, Naukšēnu disko, would be difficult. It was an album I thought to be just about the best stuff Labvēlīgais Tips had ever done. Wisely, the group decidedly to vary things slightly in its songwriting and performance, and the resulting album yet again proves why this long-running band is so consistently good at what it does.

The 2007 lineup includes Andris Freidenfelds (vocals), Normunds Jakušonoks (keyboards, vocals), Ģirts Lūsis (guitar), Ainis Zavackis (drums), Pēteris Liepiņš (bass), Artūrs Kutepovs (guitar), Kaspars Tīmanis (trombone) and Oskars Ozoliņš (trumpet, replacing the recently departed Andrejs Ābelīte).

Svīres tango is slightly unusual in that it is a “concept” album. From beginning to end, the album tells a story about a young man who, tired of life in the countryside of Latvia, comes to the big city (Rīga) looking for work and adventure. He runs into a bit of trouble in the capital, meets some questionable characters and, in the end, realizes that—as always—“there’s no place like home.”

The story begins on a train—documented in the Latin-tinged song “Pa sliedēm”—as the young man, yearning for life beyond the countryside, heads to Rīga looking for fortune.  In the march-like “Nevienam es tās Rīgas neatdošu,” he is much impressed by the city, though there is much to be wary of, but still he doesn’t want to trade life in Riga for anything. Of course, he needs to find a job, a theme addressed in “Kurš neko nedara,” which features lead vocals by Jakušonoks. (Jakušonoks, who also sings lead on “Jaunekļa sirds,” joined Tīmanis as part of the sextet, which represented Latvia in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest with the Italian song “Questa notte.”)

There is also a students’ drinking song, “Mīļumiņ, nāc padzert ūdentiņ,’” and, of course, this water also has malt, hops and yeast along with it. As in most every other big city, there are other temptations to distract the young hero, such as the ladies sung about in “Jaunekļa sirds” and the “Naktstauriņu pilsēta,” sung from the perspective of the ladies themselves.

Pop singer Ance Krauze is featured on the title track, “Svīres tango,” as well as the song “Pavediens,” where she reminds the young man that true happiness awaits him at home.

The only real criticism of the album is that it is very short, just barely over 30 minutes. I know some consumers grumble about having to pay full price for a shorter-than-usual album, but if the quality is good (like Svīres tango) I don’t mind so much. The liner notes could be better, though: no lyrics, no photos, not much of anything really besides the song listing and the group members.

Labvēlīgais Tips is on a roll, releasing yet another album of catchy songs full of subtle (and not so subtle) humor. To dismiss the band as being jokesters would be to miss the bigger picture of what the band is all about. Svīres tango features the band showing a slightly more serious side, but still staying true to its whimsical and satirical roots. I, for one, will be picking up tickets to the show on July 8 as soon as they are available.


Svīres tango

Labvēlīgais Tips

MICREC,  2007

MRCD 362

Where to buy

Purchase Svīres tango from BalticShop.

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Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

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