Marija Naumova’s latest compact disc, Nesauciet sev līdzi, is a collection of 10 songs that somehow doesn’t measure up to her earlier recordings. Individually, the songs are gentle on the ear, but the album seems to lack the direction I’ve come to expect from a performer known for her transformations.
On the CD cover, we see that Naumova’s physical appearance has changed once more. Perhaps this is what led me to expect a musical transformation as well. Gone is the shoulder-length hair, now cropped closer than ever before. But inside, Naumova hasn’t taken the same kind of risks.
A press release described the album as a “peaceful, acoustic, chill-out” effort. At times, it is just that, but songs such as “Dūmains vakars”—presented from the vantage point of someone who seems at the crossroads of a relationship—may leave the careful listener more agitated than relaxed.
Naumova, already a rising stage and recording star as the new millenium began, got a big boost in 2002 when her Latin-inspired “I Wanna” won the Eurovision Song Contest. She has recorded several albums in different languages, but her best, in my opinion, remains her 2001 French collection, Ma voix, ma voie. Lately, Naumova has been busy with stage performances and concerts, which may explain why her newest recording appears two years after her last album.
Fans who admire Naumova’s linguistic range won’t be disappointed by Nesauciet sev līdzi. (Naumova, an ethnic Russian, speaks five languages.) The 10 songs include five in Latvian, three in French and one each in English and in Portuguese. Lyrics for seven new songs were written by Jean-Michel Galopin, Astra Skrābane, the U.S.-born James Werts of Estonia and the Latvian writer Māra Zālīte. Music for the new material was composed by Andrejs Jevsjukovs, Sergejs Manukjans and Ivars Musts—as well as by Naumova herself.
The album begins with “Pilsētas skice,” a study of a moment’s daydream. The song, with lyrics by Skrābane and music by Naumova, attempts to set the tone for the rest of the album: light jazz transporting a story of happenstance.
On the second track, “Des pas,” Galopin took Latvian composer Aleksandrs Kublinskis’ classic “Noktirne” and put French text to it, replacing lyrics originally written by A. Brežģis. (A number of Latvian artists have recorded the Latvian version, for example, Nicol on her 2003 release Melns un balts.)
“Tikai,” a love song with lyrics by Zālīte, is a musically upbeat track that sounds out of place on this album and may remind some listeners of material from Naumova’s 2002 release, Noslēpumi.
On the seventh track, Naumova does right by Jacques Revaux and Claude François, who in 1967 wrote “Comme d’habitude,” better known in the English-speaking world as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Her rendition is nice, but it lacks the power and conviction of Sinatra’s anthem.
The track I’ve listened to most is “Saldējums.” It’s a tune about a broken heart: “Saldējums manā glāzē, balts kā ķiršu krūms. Raugos es kā lēni izkūst, glāzē saldējums” (Ice cream in my glass, white like a cherry bush. I watch how slowly melts, the ice cream in the glass). A line from the song also gives the album its name.
On the last track, “Ó Gente de Minha Terra,” Naumova expands her linguistic offerings by singing in the fado style of Portugal. The song, penned by Amália Rodrigues and Tiago Machado, probably is little known in North America, but has had success in Europe for the young Portuguese fado singer Mariza.
Perhaps it is the diversity of languages, as well as some of the lyrics and musical shifts, that leaves me with the sense that Nesauciet sev līdzi doesn’t hold together as well as Naumova’s earlier albums. But she’s a professional. I trust that her next effort will be more cohesive and that we won’t have to wait another two years for it.
Nesauciet sev līdzi
Baltic Records Group, 2004
BRG CD 203
On the Web
The official Web site for Marija Naumova, or Marie N as she is known in some markets. EN LV RU
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