Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Finnish tango CD's

Here as promised/threatened are my comments on Finnish tango CDs. I can’t find an internet source for these, though one must exist. The best place to get them is Stockmanns, the big department store in Helsinki. The staff there are extremely helpful, and most speak perfect English. They will find records for you, and comment on each one.
I think it is worth exploring the subtleties of Finnish tango. It doesn’t have the explicit sexuality of Argentine tango at its best, but neither is it ever bland and boring. At least there are some new and unfamiliar tunes.
Tangomarkkinat 10 (MTVCD-117) has the finalists from the 1997 competition. Twelve tracks, male and female singers alternating. All good, the best being the dramatic and heartrending Kohtalon tango by Sirpa Jokinen and Hurmio by Hannu Kasttilakoski .This is the British tango Ecstasy by “Jose Belmonte” (real name Philip Green) now rarely heard in this country but immensely popular in Finland. I heard it many times on the radio, and Liisa says it is one of her favourites.
Tangomarkkinat 11 (MTVCD-221) is of course from 1998. I strongly recommend this one. The best track is Katri Aapalahti’s Sydän tuuliajolla with her delicious husky voice sounding like a young Dietrich. Also Kesän huumaa, with Piritta Venho rolling the sensuous Finnish vowels round her tongue as if they were chocolate; and the triumphant Suudelmia ja shampanjaa by Mervi Ruohtula.
I couldn’t get Tangomarkkinat 12, and Stockmanns said it was no longer available. The most noticeable thing about Tangomarkkinat 13 (Media CD 169) is that it is a bright pink, like Barbie’s dress or a stick of Southend rock. Appropriate, as Mira Kunnasluoto’s Tähdenlento, which won her the 2000 competition, has a very sugary interpretation. So does her other track, Rakkauden yö. Not that I’m saying anything against them: they’re very, well, sweet. Just remember to brush your teeth after listening to them.
Rakkauden yö was not identified in the sleeve notes as a foreign tango, as were 4 others, and the composer has a Finnish-sounding name; but I still thought I had heard the tune before. I played it to Ted Conway, who has taught ballroom in Southend for 40 years, but it didn’t sound familiar to him.
Mira has a solo album, entitled simply Mira Kunnasluoto (Media CD 164) with 12 tracks, only 3 of which are tangos. Two of them are the ones on Tangomarkkinat 13, but the other one, Särkyneen sydämen tango, has electric guitars and outlandish harmonies and it is worth buying the CD for this alone. Furthermore, in place of sleeve notes there are 8 pictures of the delectable Mira, all much more modern and sexy than her official portrait.
Tangomarkkinat 14 (Media CD 171) brings us up to date with the 2001 finalists. Good but not outstanding. Best tracks are Ilta Santa Cruzissa (better known over here as Summer Evening in Santa Cruz) by Annika Eklund, and another Mira Kunnasluoto contribution, Ensi yönä. There is also another version of Hurmio, by a heavenly choir.
Tango Parhaat 2 (MTVCD 109) is a compilation of tangos originally recorded between 1988 and 1996. Outstanding is Kultaiset korvarenkaat, by Arja Koriseva. A really beautiful dreamy tango which I had only heard once before, at Seinäjoki, so I was surprised to see it was a British tune called Golden Earrings. Ted Conway says he remembers it from a 1930s film about gypsies. Also Kohtalon tango by Eija Kantola, but her version has a little-girl pout; not as good as Sirpa Jokinen’s anguish. There is the very dramatic and ballroomy Rakastan rakastan rakastan by Marita Taavitsainen; a suave Satumaa by Rainer Friman; and yet another version of Hurmio, this one by Mika Pohjonen. Twenty tracks in all: all good. Strongly recommended.
Tango parhaat 3 (Media CD 157) is another good one. 20 excellent tracks recorded between 1989 and 1999. Particularly outstanding are the romantic Sinun kanssasi tähtisilmä by Arja Koriseva; Tango nuoruudesta by Terhi Jokila and the pensive and mournful Valoa Ikkunassa by Kirsi Ranto.
Arja Koriseva is a very popular lady and there were quite a few solo CDs in Stockmanns. Most have few or no tangos, but an all-tango one is Tango illusion (Columbia 4584162), recorded 1996. There are 8 pages of sleeve notes, pictures of Arja in a sexy black dress, and the address of her fan club. All the tangos are lush and dreamily romantic, including a very different version of Kohtalon tango, the lyrical Hiljainen kylätie and Samminut nuotio, and Tuhon nietä kuljen, which is the old Sinatra favourite I’m a Fool to Want You.


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