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Comment: Ecm Records, 2008. Music CD Retail Edition. The disk condition is Fine. The jewel case condition is Fine. Brand new CD still sealed in factory plastic wrap. Cardboard sleeve is has a cut across the bar code. Jewel case is not cut.
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Songs of an Other Import

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, September 9, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

This third ECM album by Greek singer Savina Yannatou and the exciting band Primavera en Salonico sails through traditional songs from Armenia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Southern Italy as well as Greece, and adds a 16th century hymn from the Yiddish tradition. Arrangements, primarily by Kostas Vomvolos, find the points that unite the traditions, while Savina locates areas where experimental vocal technique can overlap with the idiosyncrasies of folk singing. A magical recording, with achingly beautiful melodies, and spirited improvising erupting out of the arrangements.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 9, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Imports
  • ASIN: B001BOZ1PI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,566 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
What can you say about this voice? Tender, caressing, sometimes almost fading to nothing, then swelling to great power, it is a magnificent instrument under the control of a singer with immense feeling. Savina Yannatou is a huge star who sings in several Mediterranean languages but seldom in English, something which may make her inaccessible to some US listeners; but for those prepared for new experiences, she is a whole paradise waiting to be discovered. I urge all lovers of the human voice to give this stellar singer a listen.
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Format: Audio CD
Too often the term world music has a negative connotation, like jazz fusion had. The difference is, I feel, one of integration as contrasted with fusion- the sticking together of disparate parts. The strength of Songs Of An Other that the "otherness" here is actually a unity: of sound, of interplay, and universal sentiments.

Songs Of An Other contains folks songs from Serbia, Armenia, Macedonia, Greece, and Jewish Ashkenazy music. There are also compositions and/or improvisations credited to the band based on Greek tradition. Instruments include oud, accordion, ney, double-bass, violin, viola, guitar, unnamed percussion instruments, and qanun (Wikipedia says the "kanun is a descendant of the old Egyptian harp, and is related to the psaltery, dulcimer and zither"). Yet this doesn't sound like a hodgepodge nor a travelog. "Smilj Smiljana" is a Serbian lament for an uncertain love, but it could just as easily be a Child ballad. Each lyric is a tiny jewel, like a Schubert lied.

Yannatou has a tremolo which, in ECM's typical echo, resonates as if under a stone arch in a monastery. There is much use of breath, and vocal calls, sea-gull like sounds which one associates with the works of both Kate Bush and Shelley Hirsch. Sample, if you can, track 5: "O Yannis kai o drakos," which relates the tale of Yannis in a battle of wills with a dragon, Yannatou's haunting voice like a violin or bird call, at other times growling. Other songs use gutteral utterances and ghostlike, non-stereotypical throat-singing which at first sounds like an arco-bass, or is it indeed one of the instruments? Totally breathtaking.
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Savina Yannatou has a lovely voice, and anyone interested in beautiful music should hear Savina Yannatou Sings Manos Hadjidakis if you can find it (it must be brought back into production - it is simply too good to remain obscure). That album took me a few listens to get used to, but now it has ascended in my estimation: it is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard. Hadjidakis' songs are not naively romantic, but neither are they anything like avante-garde.

So although I thought I didn't have any expectations for this album, I was repeatedly startled, track after track. The intermittent conservative bass anchors the music in the jazz tradition, but bouyed by Yannatou's lovely vocals the rest of the music soars far beyond anything widely marketable as world or folk music. At times it sounds something like the most beautiful epileptic fit ever recorded, at times something like a psychedelic remix of southeastern European folk music, and at times like Native American inspired new age music played fast-forward. I want to say it's something like Conception Vessel meets Osvaldo Golijov: Ayre.

Besides all that, there is the occasional Tuvan throat singing, and accoustic instruments that sometimes sound conspicuously hand-made and sometimes like a cheap synthesizer keyboard from the mid-1980s. It is simply all over the place: each track offers something distinct, and there is no way to predict what you will hear next.
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Having previously focused on tunes across the Mediterranean, Greek singer Savina Yannatou now turns to the region of Salonico [Thessalonica/Thessaloniki], Greece, but this capital city of Greek Macedonia borders the Balkans and is a large, cosmopolitan hub. Thus, besides our hearing traditional Greek songs, the album presents music from Armenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Khazakhstan, and Italy and an Ashkenazi Jewish song. The instruments accordingly are accordion, qanun zither, oud, guitar, violin and viola, nay flute, double bass, and percussion; they are played by the group Primavera en Salonico. IMPORTANT: This 2007/2008 ECM album is the forerunner of the 2015 ECM album with the same musicians who also feature Songs from Thessaloniki. Synopses of the songs are included in the package notes along with photographs of the musicians. Now that these preliminary details can be put aside, how is the music itself? Yannatou has a passionate voice but too often produces distracting vocal noises for effect. The folk dances, lullabys, romances, and religious tunes are beautiful, however. The arrangements are gentle and sparse but clever and atmospheric, particularly through bell and drum percussion against the tinkling qanun, in Dunie-au, and percussive pizzicato of strings, voice acrobatics, and dronelike accordion, in O Yannis kai o drakos. The Jewish tune has the characteristic minor blues sound and is taken slowly and quietly. Even the Italian waltz is subdued with melancholy (as everyone leaves the valley to harvest olives before winter snows). Thus, despite variation in rhythm and feeling, there is a sameness in tone, of low energy and a weary sadness, among the tracks. This album is in stark contrast to Yannatou's Mediterranea. Perhaps the forthcoming second album of Thessalonikian tunes will be more uplifting.
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