17 Hippies, El Dorado (Buda Musique, 2009)

As I've mentioned here before, I have a soft spot for eclectic albums. So when I first heard the album Heimlich by the thirteen-piece German musical collective 17 Hippies, with its quirky but catchy nods to folk music from across the globe, I was predictably impressed. Now, the Hippies are back with a new album called El Dorado. The band somehow manage to build on their large list of styles they play in and languages they sing in. The results are more mixed than last time out, but if their overall approach appeals to you, you will still find it worth your while.

Like its predecessor, El Dorado follows a pattern of alternating between different singers and different styles. The biggest difference on this album is the inclusion of a couple of songs in English, including "Welcome to My World," an original song evoking late 60's folk, and a version of the school bus anthem "Six Green Bottles." While most of the remaining songs are in German, accordionist Kiki Sauer does a nice impersonation of a French chanteuse on "Solitaire". You can also hear a variant of the Greek bouzouki called a baglama figure prominently in the instrumental arrangements; the paired strings are an octave apart, like a twelve-string guitar instead of an Irish bouzouki. The band take their typical musical voyage around the world but, just as on Heimlich, the strongest tracks are Balkan in flavor. The standout tune on the disc is the penultimate track "Kaukapol," an extremely infectious adaptation of a Romanian tune done in the style of groovy, brassy 60's soundtrack soundtrack music.

That one tune might be better than anything off of Heimlich, but Heimlich was a stronger album on the whole. I felt there were points on El Dorado where 17 Hippies tried a little too hard to be different, with the result sounding a bit forced. Having said that, I think people looking for something fun and eclectic will find plenty to like on El Dorado.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott


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