Hot & Spicy
Thank You For The Music (B.Andersson / B.Ulvaeus) [4:31]
Blue Suede Shoes (C.Perkins) [2:19]
Still Loving You (K.Meine, R.Schenker) [3:20]
Something Stupid (C.Parks) [2:51]
No Woman No Cry (V.Ford) [4:07]
Wandrin’ Star (F.Loewe / A.Lerner) [4:11]
Crossroads (R.Johnson) [3:30]
Mantrappenzeller (Mantra: Trad. – Appenzeller: Trad.) [6:23]
White Wedding (B.Idol) [2:54]
Cucurucucu Paloma (T.Mendez-Soza) [4:48]
Caravan (D.Ellington / J.Tizol / I.Mills) [3:27]
A Hard Day’s Night (J.Lennon / P.McCartney) [3:18]
Cabaret (J.Kander / F.Ebb) [4:01]
Chili con Cello (Emil Bekir (cello, milk-foamer, vocals), Fany Kammerlander (cello, vocals, fake horse-riding), Tobias Melle (cello, vocals), Michael Weiss (cello, vocals), Thomas Wollenweber (cello, vocals) and Ruth Kirchner (vocals, percussion, fake trumpet, fake whicker))
rec. Megaphon Studio München, 2011.
Texts are not included.
Chili con Cello is an ensemble of five cellos (known separately as Cello Mafia) plus the voice of Ruth Kirchner, who apparently plays the role of the red hot chili. The cellists do some singing as well. The program is cabaret-style, ranging from ballads to boogie-woogie and from reggae to mantras. When I first saw the list, I was really hooked: what a set, my Krishna! Broadway and The Scorpions, Ellington and Idol, Sinatra and The Beatles! And all done by a cello band! I looked forward to a dream-disk. My expectations were met – but only partially.
The cello sound can be so varied but all all-cello ensembles produce rich and diverse textures. Unlike albums such as the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic, where the voice, if present, is secondary to the cello sound, here the accent and the emphasis is on the voice, and so the voice is the most important part of the performance. The voice of Ruth Kirchner is not strong or especially distinctive. It blends well with the cellos and has certain cello qualities itself. It’s a tad dry and has a metallic, bronze tone. It sounds like an additional cello - one that can utter words. I realize that a more rich and creamy voice would not blend so well into one performing entity; still, I’d probably enjoy the result better. Also, she has a childish, doll-like quality – not quite a Vanessa Paradis, but taking a step in that direction.
The arrangements are quite diverse, with plenty of good surprises. Some songs transform in front of our eyes. Scorpions’ eternal Still Loving You suddenly turns into a fiery tango sung in Spanish. A Hard Day’s Night starts very far from the Beatles’ rowdy shaking: this one is whimsy and feline, closer in mood to songs like Why Don’t You Do Right or I Wanna Be Loved By You. It’s almost voluptuous, and I was expecting a boo-boo-bee-doo any moment. Another sudden metamorphosis – and we end up in the fast tempo; it is not the Beatles’ style yet, but fast striding jazz.
There is a lot of chili in the sharp and spicy singing in Cucurucucu Paloma. Blue Suede Shoes is done quite elegantly, with excellent drive. Perhaps the most representative song is Robert Johnson’s Crossroads: rhythmic, somewhat aggressive blues, where Kirchner’s voice goes raw and rough. Something Stupid is sung by one of the men - can’t say more precisely – no info in the booklet - who closely follows Sinatra. Matrappenzeller is a combination of a static, horizontal mantra and bouncy yodeling. Kirchner is a bit annoying, but I can’t deny that the result is attention-grabbing. The same holds true for Wandrin’ Star: I did not like the way Kirchner growls and wheezes her way through this, but I understand that she creates this effect on purpose. I have to admit that she is quite successful at it, and the song has the right atmosphere.
Kirchner does not sound as mean and as spoilt as Billy Idol in White Wedding but the outcome lacks the Idol impact. Perhaps there is just not enough weight to the voice. This lightness turns into an alluring seductiveness in The Caravan, which turns out to be quite enthralling. Kirchner’s voice would be a perfect fit for Cabaret – but for the existence of Liza Minelli. The arrangers do well to make the song different – for example, by turning all the middle section into a hot, loud whisper in German. Still, this is not a song that can all be whispered. The comparison with Minelli in the loud parts is inevitable and unfavorable. I wonder why none of Kurt Weill’s songs were included. They would suit the cabaret style of the program, and I am sure that Kirchner’s voice would be perfect there. Overall, the singer sounds better in the numbers that don’t call for a big voice.
The five cellos provide a colorful background for the vocal and help to switch the styles as if they were TV channels. The recording is a bit dry and not especially deep but it is clear. There is no liner note. All in all, you can enjoy this disc, when in a particular mood, but I’d advise that you listen to samples before purchase. I know some people who are quite allergic to this kind of voice. What is undeniable, though, is that the album is 100% interesting.
Oleg Ledeniov
100% interesting but some people may be allergic to this kind of voice.