Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: 17 Hippies – El Dorado

To name your band 17 Hippies is at worst straight-up hubris – or else this sprawling, playful 13-piece German group have obviously never heard of adventurous California art-rock cult artists 17 Pygmies. And titling their latest album El Dorado is pretty much the equivalent of calling it Darkside of the Moon. So much for names and titles – this is a fun collection of quirky, imaginative, mostly Balkan-flavored songs and instrumentals. The band clearly has a good time messing around with various world music genres – as excellent as the musicianship is, it’s quickly apparent that much of what they do isn’t to be taken seriously. It’s party music in the best sense of the word.

The album opens with a slinky Levantine dance rolling along on a banjo groove with a lyric whose silliness transcends any language barrier. The second cut is sad; the third is a joke; the fourth, La Zona Drom (The Gypsy Area) welds Lebanese slink to a swaying, stately gypsy dance beat with a big clarinet crescendo. The next one features mandolin, horns and a muted trumpet solo like something quiet from the Gogol Bordello songbook.

Sung in French, Solitaire is a brooding after-hours lament, followed by a blithe German-language acoustic pop song, a children’s number, then an uproariously successful blend of bluegrass and dark Eastern European folk with a delicious string chart. They wind it up with a big Balkan brass band number spiced with banjo that builds to a haunting crescendo with the strings going full tilt. Memo to the head hippie – next time you’re planning on covering an English-language drinking song, you might want to do something other than a number that gradeschool kids sing on long bus rides. 17 Hippies play le Poisson Rouge on Sept 1 at 7 with Rob Curto’s Forro for All.

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August 31, 2009 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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