Discovering Oi Va Voi was, for me, one of those happy little accidents which happens from time to time – you just have to be listening to the right radio station at the right time, and the right song comes on. But there’s also something other than just chance at play – because Oi Va Voi are also very, very good. Their third – and frustratingly most recent – album Travelling the Face of the Globe is now exactly five years old, so let’s give it a listen…
First up is Waiting, characteristically brilliant. It’s full of Eastern European instrumentation and a quite fantastic – and strangely appropriate – vocal from Bridgette Amofah, who delivers the vocals on most of the album. The second track is I Know What You Are, perhaps a little less exciting than the first, but still entirely pleasant, although the guest vocal at the half way point does lift it to another level.
Then the title track comes up, with hints of the slightly silly Yuri from their previous eponymous album (2007). It’s a celebration of broadening horizons and finding special places in exotic locations around the world, accompanied by a very lively Balkan (or possibly Ural – I’m no expert) backing track, Cuban trumpets, and plenty more confusing contradictions. And it’s utterly fantastic, too.
The largely acoustic Every Time is a lot more subdued, but is equally special – the chorus, when it turns up nearly two minutes in, is quite exceptional. And similarly S’Brent, written in 1938 in the Krakow Ghetto and delivered in Yiddish, is both beautiful and incredibly poignant.
This album does have its less exciting moments – Magic Carpet pales into insignificance alongside its neighbours, but that’s forgiveable. Dusty Road, though, is possibly my favourite song on the whole album – in mood it’s almost a sadder version of the title track, although now with added country and western influences, but there’s something incredibly catchy and inspired about the song as a whole.
But even at its lowest ebb, this is a very good album – while the later tracks Foggy Day, Wonder, and Stitches and Runs don’t quite grab me in the way the earlier ones did, they never really stop being enjoyable. You’ll still be nodding your head, or enjoying the dark atmospheric journey around Eastern Europe.
A late highlight comes in the form of the lively Long Way from Home, yet another song in the same vein as the title track. It bounces along very merrily, admittedly with a rather poignant vocal. You can practically see the Cossack dancing by the time the middle section turns up, and if that doesn’t give you goose pimples then frankly I don’t know what will.
The last track is Photographs, with a vocal from Dick Rivers which makes it sound like a dark French arthouse film in which absolutely nothing happens. It’s a rather unexpected choice of album closer, so unlike anything else which came before it, but it’s also very good indeed. A fantastic song to close a truly exceptional album.
At their third full outing, Oi Va Voi were every bit as strong as they had ever been, and with a new album supposedly on its way some time soon, there is every reason to be very excited about what their future might hold.
You can find Travelling the Face of the Globe at all major record and download stores, such as here.