Let’s face it, the darlings of Eurovision fans from the 2010 contest weren’t Lena Meyer-Landrutt winning performance with her kookily modern ‘Satellite’, and neither were Turkey’s Manga going to be long term favourites. I think that honour goes to Romania’s Paula Selling and Ovi.
Not only did it give Romania their best ever result at the Song Contest, but it was a fantastic song, performed well, and of course Paula gave most of the audience a little hint of Emma Peel to keep their interests up. But this was one of those rare musical combinations where both partners brought a lot to the table.
Sitting back with Ovidiu Cernauteanu’s debut album ‘This Gig Almost Got Me Killed’ you can see where much of the craftsmanship of ‘Playing with Fire’ came from. Released in 2009, and re-released last year, it’s a wander through some of Ovi’s favourite styles of music, showcasing great music and lyrical compositions. It’s hard to pin down exactly what Ovi likes, beyond great music.
Opening the album that many will turn to after the Romania Eurovision success, ‘Vagabond’ has the tough task to keep you listening, and it performs it well. It really does remind me of a splash of Billy Joel, with a soaring chorus and the off-kilter, almost spoken, mention of the song title.
The playing around with moods and temp continues into ‘Seven Seconds’. It plays faster that it feels it should be, as if a celestial John Peel has got the album playing at 36rpm. With a long hook phrase that keeps coming back, this is not an instantly memorable track, but on subsequent listens the familiarity starts to build up and you begin to realise that the song is creeping into your brain.
Ovi does this throughout the album, planting little lyrical landmines that have a habit of going of when you least expect them. Some of them when you’re out walking your kids to school, others when you start listening to ’Reason’. With an extended piano intro accompanied by just Ovi’s voice, this is stunning. Even when the rest of the instruments join in, the emotion in his voice carries itself to sit proudly between your ears.
And then it’s back to the seventies.
If The Commodores ever reform and need another member, I think I’ve found the man they need, as Ovi auditions for the role in the middle segment of the album. ‘Audrey’, ‘Once in a Lifetime’ and ‘Come to Nana’ reek of smooth Sunday mornings, a velvet voice, and a tiny dash of funk. I had to check this was still the same singer, such was the range on show.
To be honest the album does start to drag in this middle portion. If you’re doing the old fashioned listen in one sitting and concentrating on the music, ‘Bent out of Shape’ is where you start to think about hitting the fast forward button. If it was my call, I’d drop this track and go straight into the last double-team of ‘Tomorrow’s Headlines’ and ‘Saying Goodnight’. The former mixes up the musical styles again, and with a tiny remix could be an Ibiza Club Classic – as it is the dance-floor could easily be filled with this rhythm laced romancer.
And we come full circle back to the Billy Joel / Elton John style, with a haunting piano, a mesmerising vocal showcase, and a final flourish to finish a roller coaster of a debut album.
If you’ve picked up the reissued version, a little song called ‘Playing with Fire’ pops up now. Much as I love that song, it does feel a little bit out of place in the running order as Track 11. Drop this in the middle part of the album and you’d give it a little kick to keep the momentum going. It’s what I’ve done on my MP3 Player.
This is a great little album. It’s not perfect, and as I’ve noted one or two tracks do feel a little bit like filler, but when it takes off, it soars through the musical sky like a great eagle. There’s a great feel of personality in here as well, with Ovi really pushing himself to the foreground on every front, but being subtle about doing so. It’s not the work of someone looking for recognition, but someone confident in what they have, and are happy to share it with the world.
I’m glad he has.
This Gig Almost Got Me Killed, by Ovi, is published by daWorks and is available as a digital download from from Amazon .