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Phoenix was established in Timişoara in 1962 by a pair of schoolboys: Nicu Covaci, Florin "Moni" Bordeianu and Béla Kamocsa, under the name of Sfinţii (The Saints). In their first years they covered Western music hits In 1965 the Communist authorities demanded that the band stop performing under the name The Saints, because of the religious innuendo that the name carried. Forced to comply, the band took the name Phoenix. In 1965 they had their first big concert in Bucharest. Their performance brought a collaboration with Cornel Chiriac to record some of their songs. The first songs they recorded were "Ştiu că mă iubesti şi tu" and "Bun e vinul ghiurghiuliu". The same year also marked the beginning of their collaboration with Victor Cârcu who wrote many songs for the band. In 1968 they recorded their first EP, Vremuri, followed by Floarea stîncilor. They then started working on a rock theater play "Omul 36/80" (The Man 36/80). In 1970, Moni Bordeianu emigrated to the United States, and, for a brief period of time the band suspended its activity, also due to total censorship that followed a protesting speech held by Bordeianu in his last concert. In 1970 the band reappeared in a changed line up and started to play more blues music. But the Communist officials were not very comfortable with the Western-style music they made. Phoenix turned to Romanian folklore, pagan rituals, mystic animals and old traditions to add to their music to give it a local taint. In this same year, Phoenix started a collaboration with the Institute of Ethnography and Folklore and the Folklore section of Timişoara University on an ambitious project, a rock poem that combined traditional wooden instruments with modern sounds. During this project the band also started collaborating with Valeriu Sepi (born 1947), who eventually joined the band. The first outcome would be the 1972 LP ‘Cei ce ne-au dat nume’ (Those Who Gave Us a Name) followed two years later by ‘Mugur de fluier’. In 1973 Phoenix represented Romania at the "Golden harp" festival in Bratislava (Slovakia) and Sopot (Poland).  They started working on a concept album and rock show called ‘Meşterul Manole’. The officials eventually lost the book with all costume sketches, music and lyrics given to them for official approval. The leftovers were released as an EP called ‘Meşterul Manole, uvertură ‘. At the end of 1974 they picked up on a new conceptual idea called ‘Zoosophia’ a mystical tale of mythic animals, a title that would later change to ‘Cantofabule’. What followed were two years of almost continuous concerts and the creation of the soundtrack for the movie "Nemuritorii".

Som popular that the Securitate considered them a threat to the regime. Covaci married a Dutch woman and left the country in 1976. He returned in 1977, bringing in relief aid for those struck by the powerful earthquake on March 4. After two concerts Covaci left the country again, this time with all the band members (except Baniciu) hidden inside their Marshall speakers - a huge and risky undertaking. After arriving in Germany, Phoenix disbanded. Kappl and a few others (Erlend Krauser, Ovidiu Lipan) formed a new band, Madhouse and released a not very successful album named From The East. In 1981, Covaci co-opted Neumann and Lipan under the name Transsylvania Phoenix (since a band named Phoenix already existed) and released an LP named Transsylvania, containing two old Phoenix songs translated into English to target the Western audience and five new ones. In 1990 Phoenix made a modest comeback to Romania and spend most of the decade releasing compilations. A new album released in 2000 only featured Covaci as original member. At the end of 2005 the band released a new album, named ‘Baba Novak’.

On the web:

- There's a vague German website for the band: http://www.transsylvania-phoenix.de/

If you like this, you probably like... / european counterparts:

Kostas Tournas (Greece)

Cem Karaça (Turkey)

What do we think:

DB: Phoenix is a good example of a band where one can ask himself what would have become of them when they did not originate under a dictatorial regime and were therefore forced to be ultra-creative in what sort of albums they released. Because with all the obstacles, censors and bad equipment an album like 'Cantofabule' (originally called Cantafabule but the governement designers got the lettering wrong) still sounds amazing. Who knows what it would have been when recorded in a proper studio without any political pressure. My theory is that it would not have been made at all. This is the kind of artistic product that can only be made under pressure. And of that this band had enough. But the album excists (making even more curious what brilliant music was lost in the seventies) and if you ask any Romanian to name one classic album changes are big they name one of Phoenix.


♪♪♪ - Cei ce ne-au dat nume (Those Who Gave Us a Name) - 1972

- Mugur de fluier (Flute Bud) - 1974

♪♪♪♪♪ - Cantofabule (Cantafables) - 1975

- Transsylvania - 1981

- SymPhoenix/Timişoara, 1992

- În umbra marelui urs (In the Shadow of the Big Bear) - 2000

- Baba Novak, 2005

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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  EUROPOPMUSIC - Central Europe