Malý princ – a Tribute to Oldřich Veselý

18 June 2020, 2:00

Malý princ – a Tribute to Oldřich Veselý

Oldřich Veselý, a Brno-based singer, composer and keyboard player, died in January 2018. In February 2019, the 10th Brno Beatfest, dedicated to his memory, took place in the Semilasso music hall. And a year later, a CD recording of this concert was released under the title Malý princ [The Little Prince], complemented by several bonus items.

Roman Dragoun & His Angels, Miloš Makovský & Neopak, Lešek Semelka & SLS, Synkopy 61, Folk Team and Martin Kudlička appeared at the Brno Beatfest in 2019. The album Malý princ features all of the above with the exception of Lešek Semelka, Veselý's fellow player from the group M. Efekt; in fact, Semelka did not appear with any original composition written by the commemorated Brno composer and singer. In spite of that, the selection of songs that were eventually selected for the album recapitulates Veselý's entire creative career from the early recordings of the group Synkopy called Marťan [A Martian] and Casanova (at the end of the 1960s, Veselý collaborated with the group as a composer) through the original arrangement of the folk song Ej, padá, padá rosenka [Hey, Dew Is Falling, Falling] from the repertoire of the group M. Efekt, or songs of Synkopy from the time when Veselý was their frontman (Toulka je oblá, Krůpěj, Blues pro můj den [The Ramble Is Curved, A Dew Drop, A Blues for My Day]) as far as the equally strong late works, represented here by the songs Malý princ [The Little Prince] and Na sever [To the North]. Actually, every song here is a little jewel. Everything is eventually complemented by bonus items recorded when Oldřich Veselý was still alive, at the 2nd and 3rd Brno Beatfest – two versions of his first big hit Válka je vůl [War is a Beast] and one of his most famous songs, Černý racek [The Black Seagull], which Roman Dragoun sings on the album with the Beat Band Brno.

Veselý was not only one of the best Moravian rock composers, but he was also an excellent vocalist. It is therefore more than difficult to produce a remake of any of his hits. It was relatively easier for the group Synkopy with songs he "only" composed. The songs Marťan, Casanova and Suita pro J. S. Bacha [A Suite for J. S. Bach] performed by the formation headed by the vocalist Michal Polák may have lost a little of their original glamour, but on the other hand it is a wonder to see those how those already somewhat ageing men still sing so well. Roman Dragoun's singing qualities cannot be doubted either. His expression, distinguishable on first listening, may have shifted Veselý's songs slightly, but the enchantment of the songs has not disappeared even in this live recording. And while Dragoun managed the spectacular Malý princ perfectly, Blues pro můj den is luckily saved by an arrangement with the highlighted winds (saxophone and trumpet) in the more fatigued passages.

Borek Nedorost behind the microphone in the band Neopak, obviously does not reach the qualities of Olin Veselý, but he also deals with the almost unattainable Rosenka with honour. By the way, the guitar parts in this piece were played by Daniel Polák, while the master guitarist Miloš Makovský (formerly Veselý's fellow player from the artrock group Synkopy) provided the bass part. The following song Toulka je oblá is already featured with Makovský's guitar and especially with a significant keyboard contribution by Borek Nedorost.

Another strong epic song, Na sever, dedicated to the memory of the adventurous American aviator Steve Fossett, was sung by Ivan Huvar, the author of its lyrics, as a member of the group Folk Team. Even in this case, the goal is not to match Oldřich Veselý in singing. Folk Team remade the song in their own way, in the style of folk rock, which progresses from an acoustic passage to big beat with well-audible keyboards (Borek Nedorost again). Without that being the actual objective, Folk Team managed in the end to record one of the best songs on the album. The recording from February 2019 is then concluded with a solo piece by Martin Kudlička, interesting in that he recorded the song Blues pro můj den from the album of Synkopy entitled  Zrcadla [Mirrors] from 1986 (the group had a pair of synthesiser players in its line-up at the time) only with a guitar and a looper. An interesting feature here is the combination of powerful – sometimes even exaggerated – rock singing and the sound of an acoustic guitar.

Thanks to the older bonus recordings, the listener can compare the rock version of Veselý's very first  authorial single Válka je vůl rendered by Synkopy 61 with a slightly ironic and actually very nice reggae version of the same song performed by Zdeněk Kluka. Of all the songs included on the album, this one has gone the furthest from the original, and although it may not be the purest in terms of sound and interpretation, it is an example of what cover versions should be like if possible: they should take the essence from the original, but go somewhere else with it.

However, the album Malý princ generally has no ambition to be original, but to pay a compliment, a tribute and to provide a reminder. And just as his colleagues and friends on the stage of Semilasso commemorated the best of Olin Veselý's works, the album is a reminder of this concert and, of course, also a commemoration of Veselý's personality. It is good that such a recording has been released.

Malý princ – pocta Oldřichu Veselému, FT Records 2020, FT Records 2020, 13 tracks, total playing time: 54:28

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