Big Earl Sellar wrote this review.
There seems to be a renewed interest in music from Eastern Europe, judging by the sheer volume of releases in the last six months. One To Remember is from an American trio playing in the Balkan tradition. Sviraj, built around fiddle, upright bass and bugarija (similar to a guitar), perform a fairly traditional take on this music, with some pleasant results.
Although these players are two generations removed from the area, they play with a vitality and an eagerness, almost a fierceness, that is often lacking is recordings from Europe. Joined by additional Yugoslav musicians, the music is extremely gripping. The violinist Raczar Lopatic is a particularly fine musician: his burning work on “Bekrija” is wonderful. Although there is no real new ground broken here, the music presented is beautifully arranged and played, completely devoid of the “background music,” pedestrian performances that mar many discs from the region.
But, alas, I am a critic and I must criticize. This disc is a live recording of a particularly fine performance in November 2000: it is superbly recorded for a live disc (although the bass could be louder). The problem is, as a double disc set, it is far too drawn out. So, by the time the high points come around, like “Niska Banja,” or “Zorice, Zoro Moja,” the songs turn into a blur. The disc never sounds forced or dull, but long-winded. Add to this the inclusion of spoken asides that really don’t work in this format (and go on for two or three minutes at a pop), and what could have been a mind-blowing disc becomes only pleasant. After all, only the truly converted would want to hear almost two hours of any kind of music in one sitting.
The second, shorter disc is an “enhanced” CD. As usual, I couldn’t get the html coding to work, but there doesn’t seem to be a tremendous amount of gripping information in the files. Also included are three movies taken from the concert: the audio quality on them is identical to the discs, and the video is amazingly sharp. This disc also includes a brilliant idea I’ve never seen before: the lyrics (and translation) are provided in PDF format, an idea that other artists should incorporate immediately for ease of use for the listener. The problem with all of this is that the average listener will use these resources a couple of times at most, and they use up (dare I say fill up?) a lot of disc space that, in this case, would be better off not existing.
I sound harsh, but give me an hour to select tracks and I could come up with a single 72 minute disc that would accomplish more than these two disc manage to do. It may have been One To Remember, but memories are often best in highlights. One thing I will say: definitely check out Sviraj if they play near you. Fantastic music, with less than fantastic presentation.