Honestly, I was somewhat disappointed by this CD. This was probably because I have strongly defined conceptions of what gypsy and romanian music should sound like, and Vera Bila & Kale failed to live up to those expectations. While they're a well-respected group, if a nomination for the Czech equivalent of a Grammy Award is an indication of merit and not just sales, I think that a far better bet for someone interested in authentic traditional romanian gypsy music would be any release by such gypsy groups as Fanfare Ciocilina, Muzikas or Taraf de Haidouks.
Having just dismissed this CD as essentially worthless I am going to suggest that this may not be entirely the case. Ms. Bila has an adequate voice. She is not, as the liner notes claim, "...the Ella Fitzgerald of gypsy music," but her voice is expressive and not unpleasant. If I were in the proper mood I could listen to this disc and not have any problem with it. The band is good at what they do. I just wish they could have done a little more.
The problem lies partly in the choice of the material. This is as much (if not more so) the fault of the producer as it is the fault of the band itself. The Latin, Spanish (Flamenco) and jazz-pop influences tend to dominate the disc. That'd be okay if you were, for instance, an artist like Django Reinhardt or Paco de Lucia. When, however, you start to tread ground walked by such lightweights as Ricky Martin your work starts to suffer.
By Bruce Pollack
Jan 1, 1999