RECORDINGS

last update 08 December 2010

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The Naturals 21 Hits

Chicago Polkas has again given the polka world yet another gift in the release The Naturals featuring of 21 songs from 45 rpms and a vintage LP recording from the great Chicago based group by the same name. A band that offered a style called, a "free-wheeling kind of Dixieland style polka music," by the founder of the group in 1955, the late Don Lucki. (See the PAJ interview with Don Lucki at: www.polamjournal.com-polka days

Starting with the "rippin" Lucki arrangement of "Clarinet" polka and it only gets better. "Too Young To Shave," polka "Rob Roy" polka, "Farkel Frolic" and "Rots A Ruck" polka are all instrumentals bearing that distinct Naturals' sound with full instrumentation, plenty of rim shots with solid drumming and the musicians letting you know they are loving what they are doing.

The distinctive vocals of Whitey Pawola on tunes like "Laura & Filon" waltz, "Why Me Me" polka, and "No Gonna Drink" oberek are just a few of the Naturals' vocals in this collection.

Whitey Pawola, Don Lucki, and Ed Swiderski are the only musicians credited on the CD, but the work by the band on each and every tune is dynamic and classic. You can tell these musicians had a great time recording each track as if they were in front of a huge audience instead of in a studio. You cannot play this one too loud.

A tip of the Polka kapelusz to Kevin Altenburg for his superb re-mastering of the originals. Thanks to Chet Schafer and his Chicago Polkas label for giving the polka world this product.

To the listener, the song listing with the CD has numbers 19 and 20 flip-flopped. If you don't love this CD, you may not be smarter than a 5th grader, or even be someone who appreciates polka music at its best.



Marvelous Memories of Marion

Marion, Maniu, Lush, the Golden Voice of Polkas, they all are associated with one man, one voice, one classic style. Marion Lush is no longer with us but he lives on in his music, his vocals and the newly re-released collection of material by K-C Entertainment, Marvelous Memories of Marion.

This certainly isn't the entire collection of Marion Lush but it is an excellent 30 track offering by K-C Entertainment and one that everyone in polka music should have in their collection. Lush trademark tunes like "Moonlight polka" with the grindy, simple-line, concertina work and great riffs and drive, “Na Zdrowie,” almost always the first song from the stage, “High Bounce,” “Young Years, ” and “Our Break Up” make this a memory magnet for the listener’s mind. I can't even begin to count the number of times the crowd at Litwin's Blue room sang “I Wish I was Single Again” along with the Lush verson on the jukebox and, like all Lush tunes, it “took me back” each time I listened to on this CD. Of course, many might say Lush interpreted a waltz like no other vocalist in polkas and here you’ll find “Matka,” “In the Evening,” “Play Little Gypsy,” “Our Mary” and others.

Do not pass this one by. If you were there when Maniu was on stage, there are memories here for you in these timeless songs by The Golden Voice of Polkas. Contact: www.kncentertains.com or call: 1-847-468-0112.

As a side note, the pictures on the CD cover came from my personal collection of Marion Lush photos and it was an honor to have them used on this fabulous CD.



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The Best of Dave Gawronski's Musical Magic - Dog Gone Good

It's The Best of Dave Gawronski's Musical Magic - Dog Gone Good and presents 22 tracks of fabulous polkas, waltzes and obereks. Now to say this may be the best but certainly not all of the best of this Massachusetts based group.

You can take the musician out of Buffalo but you can't take Buffalo out of the musician and Dave Gawronski is the perfect example of this. A Buffalo native, Gawronski has retained the musical teachings of those polka greats from the Nickel City

and they give his music a unique identity and style that is rich in Polish polka tradition. Any Western New York polka lover can tell a “Buffalo Bellow-Shake” from the very first listen.

From "Who'd You Like Ta Love Ya" polka, to "Marianna," to his dynamic hit "Mamo Moja Mamo," the songs on this collection bring forth a sound that is often lacking in today's polka music. It's not quite big band and not four piece combo, but definitely pure polkas played in a personal and classic way.

The obereks, "Sweet 16," "Back & Forth," prove that there is nothing better than an oberek played as it should be played. It makes you want to dance and request another oberek.

The Musical Magic sticks closer to home these days but their music travels many miles throughout polkaland and is filled with heart, warmth and musical magic.

We would be remiss to not mention the two "stars" of this CD. No it's not Arlene and Dave but Skeeter and Frosty Gawronski who are dog gone good and will win you over in the cover shot. You gotta love'm.

This one is on the Magic label and if you love polka music, polka music that is played with "polka soul," then grab The Best of Dave Gawronski's Musical Magic - Dog Gone Good today. Contact: Dave Gawronski, 144 Bondville Raod, Ludlow, MA 01056.



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Unanimously Approved

Unanimously Approved, the latest CD by Craig Ebel and DyVersaCo, gets the stamp of approval from this polka editor.

There is a personal warmth in how the band treats each track. Every instrument can be heard, as each musician contributes to the smooth style and blend of the musical package.

Minnesota seems to have cornered the market on creating listenable, danceable and enjoyable polka music without having to burst your ears with horns that are too loud, or drive with bellow shakes that take over the mix, or drown out the melody with over-pounded rhythm.

Ebel and the group are polished on every tune, offering a tremendous variety of songs ranging from Lush's "In The Evening" waltz, to a great fiddle/box/reed version of "Haystack," to the sing-along "Polka Marie." "Peanut Butter & Crackers," penned by Ebel, reflects that smooth style of concertina playing which says "Minnesota" in every note and measure. DyVersaCo is as much at ease with the Jimmy Wakely hit, "Broken Down Merry-Go-Round" as they are with Stas Bulanda's "Take Me From The City." From "Rainbow Valley" to "On Our Wedding Day," this band plays the music as if they own every note.

Craig Ebel is responsible for concertina, piano, bass and drums. Lori Ebel plays trumpet and a superb fiddle. Denny Anderson takes care of bass and Guitar. Gary Jasicki handles clarinet and tenor sax. Chuck Burak is behind the drums and percussion work.

This is a recording that everyone can enjoy, no matter what your music preference. Unanimously Approved contains 16 tracks and was recorded at Dee Zee Productions, Sturgeon Lake, MN and Engineered by Dale Zuk. IPA Polka Hall of Famer, Gary Rhamy did the mixing and mastering at Peppermint Studios. Write: Craig Ebel & DyVersaCo, P.O. Box 32757, Minneapolis, MN 55432



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The Tournament

The Tournament, the newest CD by Crusade, jousts them to the front lines of the polka field with Eddie Biegaj and the band transversing the musical world with unique variety and a solid connection to historical polka sounds.

Theresa Zapolska's "Goralu Goralu" done smoothly and warm with vocals by Eddie, daughter Krystal, and Richie Kois, is just one of the songs that hits homes on this recording. "Kolo Mego Ogrudeczka,"Szla Dzieweczka,"Hej Mamusiu Droga" and a high-energy arrangement of Wojnarowski's "Smokey Joe" also elevate this 15 track recording to a higher level. Biegaj's vocal treatment of the "Mother's Waltz" Medley" is nothing less than heart-grabbing for all of us with a Polish mother. Another one from the heart, "Krystal Rose," was penned by Andy Pawlak, features Biegaj on vocals and will make all fathers proud of their daughters.

As you would expect, Crusade also uses their lances to joust in a different musical direction with their covers of "House of the Rising Sun," Phil Collins' "That's All," and "Feel Like Makin' Love," all of which will please the full range of Crusade fans.

Crusade is Dave Pietrzak on clarinet and sax, Frankie Dramczyk on drums, Eric Hite on accordion, bass, keyboards, concertina and sax, Richie Kois on trumpet and Eddie Biegaj on accordion, concertina, percussion and vocals.

The band has dedicated the CD to the memory of Walt Solek, Bob Zielinski, Chet Zablock, Lisa Biskup and Wesoly Bolek. The music speaks for itself as does the tribute.

Tournament is as classic as the Crusades, and Crusade. It is on the Peppermint Label.



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Polish Diva's Polka Party

When the Polish Diva sings, everyone listens or should listen. On her new CD, The Polish Diva's Polka Party, Terry Palasz, aka The Polish Diva from Milwaukee, gathers eight musicians, and Toby Hanson on accordion, to create a 15 track polka music fest filled with vibrance, variety and vocals.

Palasz, a classically trainer singer, did her homework before laying down the tracks by researching the music, lyrics and history behind each song. Sounding a lot like Marisha Data on several tunes, this Polish Diva covers "Duli Duli" oberek perfectly in "Data style." "Mama Tate Bije," once recorded by Regina Kujawa, a rippin' version of "Zosia" and an excellent rendition of "Jak Szybko Mijaja Chwile" are pure gems in this collection. Yankovic's style is honored with "Who Stole the Keesha" "Silk Umbrella" and a first class arrangement of "Blue Skirt" waltz with melody and harmony vocals that will find its way into each listener's heart.

The "Milwaukee" medley contrasts perfectly with "Dominique," while "My Melody of Love," "Cuanto Le Gusta," and "In Munchen Steht Ein Hofbrauhaus," adds just the right mix to the mixture.

Included with the CD is a multi-page insert offering commentary on each song and some fabulous photos of the original performers identified with some of the tunes.

Terry Palasz is smooth, slick and superb on "The Polish Diva's Polka Party. From the music, to the vocals, to the packaging, to the backups, there is something here that drills deep into your ethnic heart, no matter what port and ship brought your relatives to this country.

For more information check out www.polishdiva.com.



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Batteries Not Included

The new CD by the Versatones, Batteries Not Included, continues to keep the Versatones at the top of the polka field with a distinctive and melodic style. Filled with plenty of accordion push, a solid beat and tight horns, this 13 track recording doesn't need the power of batteries to give fans of this Chicago musical dynasty what they crave.

From the lead track, Lynn Anderson's "Ride, Ride, Ride" to "When I Look Into Her Eyes, a tune penned by Eddie Blazonczyk, Sr., this one blends old and new, Polish and English, and solid performances by the musicians. "Chlopak," "In the Oak Grove," "Promises," "Good Old Days," and "Sweet Sixteen" also get special mention in this collection.

Eddie Blazonczyk, Jr., the man in control of this band, deserves recognition for not only his music, but for his work and determination in keeping Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones a "band in demand." Without him, there would be no versatones and that would create a large void in the body of polka music.

Joining J. R. on concertina is Dave "Nigel" Kurdziel on bass, Bobby Zima on drums, Jim Sierzega on trumpet, Steve Rodgers on accordion, Mike Stapinski on clarinet and Roger Malinowski, Jr. on piano.

Of course, Batteries Not Included is on the Bel-Aire label.



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Polish Tunes

Polish Tunes by Jimmy Kilian and Honky Chicago presents an 18 track collection of Polish songs and features Jimmy Killian and Chet Kowalkowski sharing vocals, with Kilian on "honky-Dyno" drums, Bobby Piven on solid old-style concertina, Eddie Madura on clarinet, Lenny Kapka on bass, Joe Czmiel on horn and Bini Slowiak Husain on piano.

With everything from "Adam and Eve" to "Leaving for the Front" and Kowalkowski on vocal, to "Good Spirits," to "Lancer's" to "In the Woods" oberek and more, "Polish Tunes" offers a classic Honky-Dyno Chicago sound with seasoned musicians playing them as they should be played.

Kilian's vocals and Kowalkowski's vocals alone are worth the price of admisson to this recording. Listening to "Around Midnight" oberek makes you realize that instruments and musicians can compliment each other to create a natural sound and and dynamic style to the song. "Lancers" polka has always been a favorite here and these Chi-town boys make my Polish blood flow a little faster with their rendition on this CD.

Madura's stick and Czmiel's horn are made for Honky. The drums of Kilian are upbeat yet smooth. The bass by Kapka provides the perfect bottom and the piano of Husain "fills" where it should. Piven's boxwork is truly classic and songs like "At the Tavern," "Wladziu's" oberek, and "My Kasia" polka are just a few examples of a true Chicago style touch on concertina. There is a mellow veteran-quality to the entire package as if it was "just another day" on the stage for these guys. These are schooled and seasoned musicians that perform with a musical confidence established by years of playing this music from the heart, rather than from charts.

With the musicianship on the recording and a selection of tunes that any true Polish Polka lover would want, you have it all on Polish Tunes by Jimmy Kilian and Honky Chicago. Don't hesitate. This one belongs in your Polish Polka Library.

It's on Chet Schafer's Chicago Polkas label and was recorded at Bel-Aire and Engineered and Mixed by Eddie Blazonczyk, Jr.



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The Three Tenors

Anyone and everyone that seems to want to find a new approach to polka music has either forgotten what the music is all about or doesn't care what the music is all about. "The Three Tenors Performing Polish Songs, the newest release on Chet Schafer's Chicago Polkas label, gives you Polish music as it is, was, and will alway be. With John Jaworski, Bill Gula and Stas Bulanda doing the vocals you know something magical is going to happen. Then add Bobby Piven on concertina, Bogdan Pawlikowski on violin, John Jaworski on clarinet, Jimmy Homel on drums and Jimmy "Chainsaw" Kucharski on bass and the results are beyond what anyone, truly a believer in polka music ,would expect.

With 14 tracks of Polish music that your father and his father and his father sang, this recording celebrates our music, sending it to to core of your Polish heart. It makes me think of my Grandfather and his Grandfather before him. From "Hej Kawalerowie" to "Oj Od Krakowa Jade" to Bije Woda Z Jeziora" to "Czyja Ta Dziewczyna" to "Goralu Czy ci Nie Zal," every one of the 14 songs on this recording rips into your soul. Gula, Bulanda and Jaworski blend together to create a session that comes from a village in Poland where this music had its roots. Piven on concertina is a gift that is often overlooked in today's polka world. Jimmy Homel on drums is there and keeps the beat where it is needed which is what a perfect drummer does. Jimmy "Chainsaw" Kucharski is "Mister bass Man" of Polish polka music and here he fills that with true class. Bogdan Pawlikowski's violin adds the accents and fill that make the whole muscial project a reflection of Polish musical history.

The vocals, however, take front stage on this dynamic and superb recording. Jaworski has become the definitive Polish vocalist in "modern" representation" of old country music. Bulanda's clarity of vocalization is untouched in polka recordings. Bill Gula has never forgotten the roots of our music and his devotion to this is easiily noteable here.

This fabulous, tremendous recording was done at Bel-Aire Studios and engineered and mastered by Eddie Blazonczyk, Jr. It was produced by John Jaworski and Chet Schafer and is on the Chicago Polkas label.

This one makes me want to want to sing and remember and appreciate what my polka music is all about. If you don't feel it in your heart, it's just another recording, but if it is in your heart it will reside there always.



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A Jukebox in My Mind

Bruno Mikos has been involved with polka since he could hold an accordion. From Li'l Wally to Bruno Mikos and the Harmony Stars to the Polka Music Hall of Fame, he has spread polka music like a piped piper of the industry. He is not only a solid musician and vocalist, he is a gentleman of polka music. "Thank you for being here" was his closing line to audiences no matter where he performed.

Now, through the efforts of his son, John, the polka world can hear Bruno doing vocals on A Jukebox in My Mind, a newly release CD. With the help of Kevin Adams, Jack Beachly III, John Mikos, John Pilch, Jr., Eddie Siwiec, Randy Koslosky and Rich Tokarz, we now have this collection of songs and superb medleys to make us realize why we all appreciated Bruno on stage and on recording.

“A Jukebox in My Mind,” the lead cut, is a medley that starts with "Lillian's" polka, drifts into "Green Bridge," takes you "Back to Chicago," and has everyone loving "Hot Dogs & Cabbage." The Lush Medley will also send you down the road of polka memories with Bruno and Tokarz on vocals.

John Mikos takes the listener over the polka edge with his dynamic vocal on "Other Side of the River" and "The Hillside Hop" instrumental is one that makes you glad you own this CD.

And if you lived near the Wurlitzer factory, like this writer one did, you've "gotta" love the 1946 jukebox on the CD cover and the classic vinyl look to the CD.

Grab A Jukebox in My Mind today. It's one for everyone's library, especially those that love real polka music.



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Come On Over

Professionalism goes a long way. It starts with the concept and continues through, into the selection of material, the arranging, rehearsal and production, and then the presentation and packaging. Henny & the Versa Js demonstrate this type of professionalism in every aspect of their newly released recording, "Come On Over" on the Jazzo label.

Musically, this is a tight, expertly performed, and polished product. Obviously the group spent a good deal of time thinking about what they wanted to record, long before they recorded it. Originals like "Come On Over," "Restless" and "That Crazy Heart of Mine" propel this band into today's polka world. "The Coachman," "Four Miles from Warsaw" waltz, Wojnarowski's "Why, Why?" The Naturals' "Poopsie" and "Hey Girl" add just the right blend of a Polish heritage style to the album.

"Do You Remember" (when the Fiddle played) may be the best fiddle medley ever produced, in polkas or outside of polkas and "The Happy Louie Medley" is a tribute not only to the great Happy Louie but also to the Versa Js and their musicianship. "Accordion-A-Go-Go" on fiddle is mind-bending.

It's easy to realize that Ryan Ogrodny holds much of the magic behind this entire performance, but it would be like him to point to the talent of all the others in the band. Ryan plays almost every instrument and his work on violin is phenomenal. He also plays sax, clarinet and trumpet. His vocals are rich, warm, full and dynamic.

Henry Jasiewicz is a silent giant and solid on trumpet. After the Bell Hops and Polish All Stars, he formed the Versa Js in 1972 but has been playing polka music for a half century. Butchie Jasiewicz is the man behind the drums. Quiet but powerful; he's the type of musician every band would want. Dee-Dee Ogrodny started with the Bell Hops and has never stopped since. Keyboard, bass/piano and vocals make her an important part of each Versa Js' product. Stas Ogrodny handles trumpet and vocals, began with Li'l Ronnie & the Carousels and spent time with Ray Jay's Carousels. He married into the Versa Js as the husband of Dee-Dee and, of course, they are the parents of Ryan. Frankie Gibala, a polka veteran of the Bell Hops, followed Henny to the Versa Js and now plays clarinet and sax. Randy Koslosky, an accordionist, also plays piano and does vocals with the band. His expertise on stage and off stage, writing and arranging music, made his name one of the best known in the polka field.

The 13 lucky tracks of this recording each offer something different and yet offer something the same. They are each the same in quality, first-rate musical performance and will make you want to hit the repeat button on the CD player. The different is just that, 13 different performances with individual identities.

Recorded at Wizzears Studio and Peppermint Studios, "Come On Over" was engineered by Hank Guzevich and Gary Rhamy. If this one doesn't get the Grammy, they can shut down the polka category.



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The Sounds Alive Again

After an absence of 13 years, The Sounds returned to the polka scene performing at festivals throughout the country and produced a “live” recording at the Polka Fireworks festival in July of 2003. Eagerly awaited by polka fans everywhere, this 17 track CD is now available and features a balanced mixture of Polish and English, old and new.

The “Sounds Alive Again” flows smoothly with the live feel of the recording session aided by the comments between songs and the interaction of the crowd. Some tightening and slick editing of comments created a seamless performance on the final product, making it work well for the listener, especially if you weren’t at the actual recording session.

Taking tunes from their entire book, The Sounds manage to cover all years and all styles of their specialties including “I’ll Give My Heart to You” from their first album, to their classic “Clarinet” polka, to “Young Widow,” to the new “Polka Loving Gal.”

Vince Bozzarelli singing “Andziu’s” is a show-stopper as he again proves he’s been ignored for his vocal talents over the years.

Maybe it’s the riffs, maybe the selection of songs, but the Marion Lush medley, starting with “Leaving Chicago,” is easily the “from the heart” track on this recording. The band was a little “hotter,” the beat a little stronger and the vocals coming from deeper within these classic musicians from western Pennsylvania. Check out the horn work of Joe Dipyatic in this medley.

And, if you are old enough to remember, you’ll find yourself thinking “Langners” while you listen to Stacey, Vicki and Tammy sharing the vocals on “If you Leave Me.”

With the banner statement atop the Polka Magazine section of the Polish American Journal proclaiming, “Dedicated To The Promotion And Continuance Of Polish American Music,” it should be no surprise that The Sounds have played “Music from the Heart,” and hitting the heart of this writer. For a band that has not been on stage for 13 years, there is little doubt where they came from in polka music. Polish, English, standards, classic Lush, country-flavored and vocals identifiable only with this group, these “boys” from the Pennsylvania hills will always be The Sounds, and we’re glad they came down from “Up in the Attic.”

The Sounds reunion band was Jimmy Weber, Vinnie Bozzarelli, Joe Dipyatic, Dave Morris, Ralph Sabatini and Richie Zebrowski.



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The Ampol Aires 50th Anniversary

In a world where you hear everyone say, "things are not the same," let's all be thankful for the Ampol Aires who marked a half century in music with "The Ampol Aires 50th Anniversary" recording.

For 50 years The Ampol Aires have been performing polkas with their distinctive smooth style that established the band as a legend in the polka field. The basic beat, the clarinet-horn combinations, the Kula touch on concertina and the ever present piano, create a sound that continues today.

This 50th Anniversary CD offers exactly what anyone would expect from this band. Originals like "50th Anniversary" polka and "Susanna's" polka work well with traditionals like "Kelsey's" polka and "Twilight" polka, The band flirts with modern times (relatively speaking) by doing "High Hopes" polka, a Sinatra hit. Add "Green Meadow" polka, "Lovely Lady" waltz, Gomulka's "Two Hearts" waltz and "Headache" polka and you know this recording belongs in everyone's music library.

They traveled the musical road with a map that took them from Polish to English polkas, from waltzes, to ballroom style, to their own brand of honky music. Words like longevity, durability and permanence are fitting to identity these gentlemen of polka music who have entertained audiences throughout the polka world. From 1954 the names Travers, Day, Glowacki, Zimber, Sienkowski and Barwig transformed to 2004 with Rajewski, Fornek, Kula, Gula, Pacura and Sienkowski and the magic remains and continues on stage and off. All I can say is: I can't wait for the 100th Anniversary.



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Versalicious

Thirteen may be an unlucky number for some, but for Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones it a savory, delectable musical dish that truly is, as the title indicates, "Versalicious. Upbeat and driving, the 13 tracks of this Bel-Aire CD offer a menu with everything from your Grandmother's kitchen, to the country flavor of Nashville, to the modern fast food styling of today.

Potoniec's "Cold Beer" is covered with just the right touch of Blazonczyk's musical intervention and keeps the old but adds some new. "Where Were You, a Trojak product from the early days of the Dynatones, Wojnarowski's "The General's Son," "Play Musicians" from the pen of Oberaitis, and Libera's "How To Be A Big Hit" fulfill the pierogi and kapusta Polish roots food group.

"Hey Bartender" and "Beer Pockets" are more the traditional Versatones' products with Eddie Jr. behind the composition and the band doing them up in typical EBV style.

"Take My Hand," ala Travis Tritt," "More of Your Love," "The Last Thing on My Mind," the KHH's "Jessico," and Dreamers and Believers" fill the menu page with plenty of country, some BNL, and a little Celtic. Is this your Grandfather's Versatones? No! But, it hasn't forgotten your Grandfather, his music and the roots of his music. It's a musical meal pleasing to all tastes, a treat for the musical palette and perfect for your polka diet.

Eddie Blazonczyk, Jr. is easily the hardest working boxman in the business. The "never-aging" Bobby Zima is on drums. David "Nigel" Kurdziel is Mr. bassman. Gerry Kaminski and Jimmy Sierzega handle the trumpets and John Wudtke "is" the accordion. Roger Malinkowski is on piano.

Versalicious was recorded and mixed at Bel-Aire Studios and mastered at ARS Studios and was produced by E. Blazonczyk, Jr. and Bel-Aire Enterprises.

contact Bel-Aire Enterprises 7208 S. Harlem Avenue, Bridgeview, IL 60544 (708) 594-5182 or the Versatones web site at: Versatones.com.


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Polkas in Black and White

It's classic! It's interesting! It's black and white film which is making a comeback via Kodak marketing. It's Classic! It's interesting! But, this is not film, it's the new Polkas in Black and White recording by Jerry Darlak and the Buffalo Touch.

With everything from traditional Polish standards to a definitely non-polka, non-Polish salute to Buffalo's sport's mania, there is something for everyone on this 15 track collection of The Touch. Recordings are never as good as seeing this band live on stage but any fan of these Buffalo bombadiers will love this one.

Being a purist, allow me to start with "Jailbird" and "Drunkard's Lament" done in a translated version thanks to Ray Barsukiewicz. More bands should consider this. It's a great way to present those grand old Polish polkas. "Angel Face," the Ampol-Aires hit, is covered with class and a great vocal by Ken Machelski. As a matter of fact, Machelski's vocal work is a highpoint on this recording. "Still Waltzing With You" written by former Buffalonian John Madick, now of Nashville, matches Machelski with Leah Zicari in a slick production that demonstrates true quality vocal work.

Then, honoring the late Marion Lush, Machelski does a memorable version of "Leaving Chicago" and "Pretty Flower" that will make you remember Maniu's magic with a song.

"Black and White," a Touch love story, a rippin' version of "Theresa's," the crowd-pleaser "We Like Beer," "Hotdog," and the heart-felt "Thoughts of a Father" are among those sure to become fan favorites.

These guys have fun. There is no doubt about it. Combined, they easily add up to over a quarter century of musical expertise. Darlak, Machelski, Barsukiewicz, Kurdziel, Miniszewski, Nowakowski, Tadj all bring something to this band that makes them "The Touch" of Buffalo, a band like no other. Now, with this Grammy nominated recording, they offer music in "Black and White" - interesting, classic but still filled with color.

Recorded by Wizzears studios, mixed by Hank Guzevich and Gary Rhamy, it's on the Sunshine label and puts another solid one in the pocket of this Western New York based polka record group.

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All Wound Up

There is something about a Chicago polka band that often sets them on a different level. It might be their Polish vocals, their renditions of tunes, their drive, that make you truly appreciate polka music from the Windy City.

Danny Mateja and The Downtown Sound are "All Wound Up" on their recording, of that same name, on the Bel-Aire Record label.

With 16 tracks of polka pure power this five piece group manages to do originals, traditionals, some Guca, some Libera, and even some Happy Rich.

Of course you'd expect a concetina addict to start with the concertina player and Greg Nowak is bellowing and buttoning to perfection. If you are a boxplayer, or near boxplayer, this guy has a following that would elect him "king" tomorrow.

Ray (Melvin} Rzeszutko on drums and vocals is rock solid. Fred Edelmaier keeps the bass "bottom" best and his vocal on "On Top of the Hill" introduces a voice that is rich and full. Dan (Vudu) Leudanski on trumpet "blows" it with style, while Dan Mateja on stick, sax and vocals is steady and steadfast as ever.

"Betty's" polka, "Expecting Daughter," "Bouquet of Rose," and "My Cruel Janina" are just a few here but every cut contains the Chi-Town magic.

Grab it today! You will love the Polish, the English and play this one through more than once. They are "All Wound Up" - The Downtown Sound.

It's on the Bel-Aire label, produced by Eddie, Sr. and Engineered by Eddie, Jr.

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Polish Picnic Favorites II

Steel City Brass is at home, at home, on the polka stages of Buffalo, NY. From the streets of Lackawanna to the picnic tents of a church lawn fete, to the "bandstand" of a Polish wedding, SCB remains always connected to the "Music of the Motherland" and the "old" Eastside.

With the release of their recording Polish Picnic Favorites II," on the Sunshine label, this six-piece group provides another collection of polka history and gives the public what they want - plenty of solid, traditional, dynamic and heart warming Polish polka music. It could also be called an encore to their previous CD, Polish Picnic Favorites.

Sixteen tracks of everything from "Hujaj Siupaj Dana," to "Hosa Dyna," to "Jasiu Jasiu" waltz, to "Helen" polka, gives the listener music they love, can indentify with and will play many times over.

And, for the scholars in the crowd, or for those wanting just a little bit more, the band has added a history of each tune, going into the origin of the song, who recorded it originally and other tidbits of information that make this one a "must have" for any true polka fan.

The Kohans, Mark and Kyle, are joined by those "typically Buffalo" musicians, Andy Bojczuk, Chris Gawlak, Rich Golaszewski, and Chris Stamer, to celebrate the 25th Anniversary for Steel City Brass on this CD. Over the years this band that has become the starting point for many that have left to perform on the national polka circuit. As for me, I'm glad Steel City Brass is still here, still active and still very Polish. There is nothing like Polish Picnic Favorites II and even better when it is a second edition of great Polish polka music.

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From Poland to America

Accordion man Gary Sredzienski gives everyone yet another fabulous recording project with his new 18 track CD, "from Poland to America." A dynamic musician, dedicated to the accordion, this New Hampshire based maestro travels a musical route that blends "old country village music with rural New England musical traditions" and does it with heart, spirit and feeling. He is a true master of his craft and whether it be "The Peasant Krakowiak," or "Na Wesele Witosa" or "Chopin's C# Minor Valse," he will mesmerize you, entice you and mystify you with his expertise.

Sredzienski, who has more accordions than Sturr has Grammys, makes each instrument sing with a voice of its own and his approach to each song is complex and basic at the same time. He will add modern drum work to "Wiejskie Oberki" and then invite his Father's harmonica to meld with the accordion on "Root Cellar" oberek, an original written by the elder Sredzienski.

Music to Gary Sredzienski obviously means more than just notes on paper. He not only marries the harmonica to accordion but also the fiddle, guitar, piano, upright bass, drums, and a Jew's harp. To finish the package, he gives the listener a well-composed, graphical, foldout with the album, filled with information, history, photos, family and philosophy.

On the Bellows Music label, "from Poland to America" was recorded and mixed by Jim Tierney at the Electric Cave and mastered by Jonathan Wyner at M-Works, Cambridge, MA. Contact Gary Sredzienski at: P.O. Box 361, Greenland, HN 03840 or visit his website.

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Another Day At the Office

Eddie Blazoncyk's Versatones spend just Another Day at the Office on their new recording of that same name. With a return to the true roots of the band and the music, you'll find "plenty of Polish" on this album, including the lead track, "Sing A Long," a Blazonczyk-Solek tune.

With a familiar melody, the Blazonczyk penned tune, "Step By Step" is the second track and continues this dynamic recording session which is as hot as the Versatones of old.

JR has directed this band to it's heart and Eddie Sr. is sounding strong and superb on vocals. The Eddie Nowak tune, "Going By My Sweetheart," and John Jaworski's "On The Bridge" will easily awaken your Polish heart and make you realize why you love and appreciate Polish Polkas.

But, if you're looking for those polka goose bumps, you'll get them when the Versatones kick into "Automobile" polka, wiht Eddie B's voice raising the hair on your arms and make your heart skip a polka beat.

On Bel-Aire Records and mixed at Peppermint Studios by Gary Rhamy, Eddie Blazoncyzk, Jr. and Wally Dombrowski, "Another Day at the Office" proves this band runs a tight office. The CD cover photo of the office, the recording studio fits the entire concept of this first class product.

If you don't like this, you don't like polka music. Get it today....you owe it to yourself to spend Another Day at the Office

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Mi Lenny Um

Twenty years, 28 musicians and you have a Mi Lenny Um by Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push. The impact this group has had on polka music has "pushed" them up the polka ladder and their longevity demonstrates that.

The vocals of Gomulka, an album that is 70 percent Polish vocals, the talent of each musician, has produced an excellent way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the group. Listen to this one from 1 to 12 or 12 to 1 and it gets better in both directions. "Far From Home/Post Office" to "Memories of Marion Lush" waltz medley (which will make you understand why we miss this legend), to "Unita, which is a JAM favorite, to "Girls From Chicago," to "Anielciu," you'll play'em in order and shuffled. A sleeper on this album is "At The Ball" with the Dave Raccis doing the vocal and a superb imitation of Dave Raccis. Polka Hall of Famer, Rich Tokarz, does two of his hits, "It's a Mistake" and "Just Married."

Recorded at Peppermint Studios and mixed by Gary Rhamy and Dave Zychowski it is on Push Records.

Don't pass it up, cook up some Giorgio pierogi, open a piwo and celebrate the Mi Lenny Um.

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Medleyitis

Medleyitis is infectious! If you get it you'll find it taking over your body, your mind, your dancing feet. And, you can blame Crusade because Medleyitis is the title of their latest recording.

This "two" track CD will rip into your polka soul with a 9 tune medley of Happy Louie classics and a 12 tune medley of hits from The Naturals of Chicago.

Any true student of polka music is well aware of Happy Louie's influence on this industry and his baystate style was responsible for filling ballrooms to capacity throughout his many years on stage. Crusade has reproduced the excitement, the power and the dynamic musical presence of that Happy Louie magic. Whether it be "North Shore," "Good Luck" or any of the other cuts, the blend of Crusade's power and Louie's music is unbeatable.

The Naturals, one of the most underrated bands in polka music, created a sound based on instrumentation that became identified with this Chicago based group. The unique musical styling and talent of The Naturals made a powerful impact on polka music and Crusade has put together a dozen great hits by this band. From "Live it up" to "Bottoms Up," this medley is a true tribute to this band.

Recorded and mixed at Brownwood Studios in Ohio, this one is produced by Randy Krajewski and Eddie Biegaj on Runner Records.

Join Crusade and "catch" edleyitis today. It will rock your polka world.

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The Family Christmas Album

The unmistakable signs of Christmas are many, but music is always holds a special meaning of this wonderful season. From the beautiful Koledy of our heritage, to the choirs of our churches, to the American carols of old, to the popular commercial tunes, which have stood the test of time, music has become a true symbol of this joyous season. The Good Times of Chicago have captured all these musical personalities of Christmas on their new recording, The Family Christmas Album.

This 20 track recording is a musical excursion taking the listener from the jazz combo flavors of Gillespie, to the choir of St. Michael's church, to the hot sounds of a polkasized rendition of "Here Comes Santa Claus" with some solid instrumentation, to Koledy that will warm your Polish heart.

Rock solid drums and bass hold the melodies in sync as the rich sax work blends with the horns and accordion to give each cut an importance all its own. Koledy, done with Polish and English lyrics, will have you singing along with the distinctive vocals of The Good Times.

The treatment of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," both vocally and instrumentally, should produce some good cross-over plays on non-polka radio stations. The combo tunes broader the appeal of this album to the complete musical audience.

Do Szopy, with a smooth piano intro, will fill your mind with those memories of Midnight Mass, your Grandparents and the times when growing up in a Polish family made the entire Christmas season a true heart-warming event. Use of the piano on this recording makes this instrument, often relegated to fills, a key part of this entire musical holiday.

The Good Times keep the Polka in Christmas, with some great polkas including, a superb original, "Family Christmas," a first class arrangement of the traditional "Li Li Laj," "Merry Christmas," and a rippin' polka version of "Here Comes Santa Claus" polka.

The liner notes makes it evident everyone in this musical family, spanning several generations, played a part in "The Family Christmas Album." You'll find it difficult to take this one out of the CD player. It's that good!

Recorded at Sound/Video Impression Studios in Des Plaines, IL, the mix and engineering was done by Kathy Dunaj. Cover Design and layout was done by Jenny Conway and Bill Holtane.

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Polkasonic

The Texas based, Brave Combo band moved into the polka mainstream with the release of Polkasonic, their Grammy award winning album. In the liners, Carl Finch states that polkas have had an "enormous impact" on the creation of the band and his life. With Cleveland International Records, headed by Steve Popovich, Brave Combo offers a recording that will grab the attention of those on the very inside of this almost fraternal polka musical family.

Starting with a very upbeat version of "Down at the Friendly Tavern," Brave Combo jump starts the polka heart of the listener, sending it into overdrive with this lead cut. The traditional "Red Wing" with drum/accordion intro, brings you back down to some classic sax, trumpet and accordion musical blends which fill every minute of the track. "Why, Oh Why" , the Frank Wojnarowski's hit, is performed with the Brave Combo magic -the arrangement by Finch including good cross-over English lyrics. The cover of the Joe Oberaitis "Crumbling Heart" features dynamic trumpet and woodwind work while the Finch original, "Only for Love" lets the harmonica of Jeffrey Barnes bring some warm tones into the musical overlay of this tune. Let's not forget the work of Alan Emert, Bubba Hernandez and Danny O'Brien who make this whole musical package work.

The raw purism of Brave Combo's identity is represented in "Skytrain" and "Purple Haze" polka, both of which reach deep into the core of this band and make you realize they are still connected to their roots.

However, all it takes is the riff of "Glamorous Girl" to prove to all that Brave Combo is a polka band sliding into the mainstream. Does this mean they belong on stage alongside the Versatones, Dynatones, Crusade, TBC and Chicago Push? Purchase this CD and you will easily discover the answer to that question.

"Polkasonic" is Bave Combo today, a band sliding into the polka world. Contact: Brave Combo P.O. Box 233 Denton, TX 76202 or visit their web page: Brave Combo


Tower City Drive

It's not Eastern style, it's not Chicago Style and it's definitely not Cleveland Style like you know it, but it is Tower City Drive, the newest "oldest" band from Cleveland, Ohio.

Start with a little Budzilek, mix in some Potoniec, season it with a shake of Lush, Blaz and Wally, add the fullness of two accordions and you have the TCD and their first recording, Tower City Drive. Using the catchy "TCD Opening Theme", to establish their musical philosophy, this six piece polka music association punches out 17 cuts of power on this Peppermint Studio recording. "Lazy Husband," with some nice minor key work, the forever favorite "Junior's" polka, "Katy's" polka, and "Over My Cradle" give this entire project even more of a musical punch. "Everyone Loves Bonnie" polka, written about Ed's wife Bonnie, is sure to become a hit with the stage front crowd, and "Great American Dream" tells the story of those who were the roots of this great polka music. "Cold Beer" polka, a Potoniec original, has that infectious melody that makes it a tune other bands will be adding to their book.

With veteran Ed Potoniec at the wheel, Tower City Drive is headed up the polka road fueled by the talents of John Uhrin on accordion, Dave Pietrzak on clarinet/sax, Jason Uzl on trumpet, Joe Rosinski on drums and Tom Cerveny on bass. Also featured on the recording is Randy Koslosky on piano. Engineered by Gary Rhamy, Tower City Drive, the recording is the perfect vehicle to introduce Tower City Drive, the band, to the polka world. Let them take you on a polka ride, today! Contact Ed Potoniec at 216-351-0206.

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Kick in the Brass

Once you start playing the new recording, Kick In The Brass, by The Good Times of Chicago, you may never stop. The "ring" of the accordion keyboard and rhythm of the bellow shake, the solid horns, the drive of the beat, the instrumentation and the easily identifiable vocal work, all do their part in making this a release deserving multiple plays. These musicians don't just play the songs, they feel what they play.

The accordion work of Dennis Motyka should never be ignored. He's so into the spirit of this music, it makes me almost forget the concertina. (I did say almost!) His creative, on beat, bellow shakes and accents are more than the normal rhythm fills you'd hear from other boxmen.

The melodic "I To I Owo" enters your mind and wants to stay there forever. "Good Boy" polka, is yet another Polish vocal that just works perfectly, especially with the style of the group.

Ed "Weasel" Wolinski's "Easy Does It" polka and "Flew The Coop" oberek are two songs that belong with this band but could have easily been cut by a Chicago band of 30 years ago. "Another Love Song," another from the musical pen of Wolinski offers solid trumpets, and is a great polka ballad.

Motyka has the knack of writing originals with melodies and lyrics that become familiar to the listener almost immediately. Great melodies with repeatable lyrics, have you singing along to cuts like "You're Gonna Be My Wife" polka and "Good Boy" polka. The Good Times know now to have fun with their music and "Who's Looking At Who?" polka by Motyka and Fornek is one of those tunes that could be trademarked as a Good Times' song.

The arrangement of "Early Morning" polka has polka soul and will easily take any true polka purist over the edge. Originals by this group have the riffs of Chicago from a time many years ago and the vocals are of an era when Maniu ruled the stage. Melodies make the music and The Good Times make create those melodies.

They even toss in a Buck Owens' tune, "I Knew I Was Falling For You" polka, that works and fits perfectly with the material mix of the recording.

Kick In The Brass is the seventh recording in the band's 27 year history. And, with this recording, the group has reintroduced the double trumpet/sax-clarinet sound. The Good Times band members include: John Fornek on sax,clarinet and vocals, Jim Sierzega and Ed Wolinski on trumpet, Roger Malinowski on drums and vocals, Lenny Kapka on bass and Dennis Motyka on accordion and vocals.

In a world of too many "copy cat" bands, The Goodtimes surface proud, powerful and with an identity all their own. Join them as they Kick In The Brass. Write The Good Times at: 14215 S. Hempstead, Orland Park, IL 60462.

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Thank Heaven...For Polkas

There are several names in polkas that have become synonymous with the accordion and John Jeski is at the top of that list. His expertise on the keyboard of this mainstay polka instrument is obvious, whether you see him in person or hear him on recording.

Thank Heaven... For Polkas, the latest recording by John Jeski & The John Jeski Band has hit the market. This one offers something for everyone, with a mix of old and new. From a Mamas & Papa's tune, "Dream A Little Dream," to "Flute" polka, with flute solos, to the excellent "Squeeze Box" oberek, to "Hey Cavalier" polka, this new Jeski release gives fans just about everything. "Incredible Accordion" polka demonstrates Jeski at his best, with his fingers flying across the keyboard. With nine of the nineteen songs on the CD being Jeski originals, the balance of material has been well planned.

Highlights of course include the magical work of John Jeski on accordion, and the involvement of the entire Jeski family. John's talented wife, Lorraine handles bass and vocals while their daughters, Stephanie Lynn is on flute and vocals and Erica is on vocals. Rounding out the Jeski band is John Umanetz on drums, Brian Hartley on Guitar, Kathy Zisk on sax/clarinet, Peter Pantaluk, Jr. on trumpet and Jeff Banas on trumpet.

Polish vocals, English vocals, covers of Vinton's "Roses are Red," a great "Squeeze Box" oberek, and more make this another Jeski hit. Contact JOLO records at P.O. Box 380193, East Hartford, CT or call: 860-232-4333.

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I Played Polkas

In 1998, Frank Borzymowski marked his 30th year in the polka field and to commemorate this milestone he has released his first solo album, on the Klassic label, entitled I Played Polkas. This hour-long collection of music presents a map of polka music, Borzymowski style, including his first recording, "My Krakowianka." The sixteen songs include hits by the old "Boys," some medley hits and five originals.

The "Sweetheart Medley" from several years ago, which was only on cassette, was re-recorded for this project and is a highlight of the recording. The "When I Was a Boy Medley" musically walks you through those years and includes that infamous guest vocal by Eddie Blazonczyk, Sr. as Frank wishes he could "...Sing Like Eddie B." "I Wonder Why" has Lenny Gomulka and Frank in a great vocal duel, while "Malenka Halenka" gives you multiple Franks on sax. From the contemporary sounds of "Ooh Babe," to the honky "Getting Old," to the traditional Polish Lush tune of "For the Old-Timers Medley," this definitely covers a wide range of years and music that will please all.

Larry Trojak, in a album review, written many years ago, tagged Frank as a "polka crooner" and that moniker fits more today than ever. Always demonstrating an approach that is truly his own, with a distinctive personal identity, Frank Borzymowski's vocal styling has become a trademark of his work. Of course, his work on sax can never be ignored. It was that sax work, combined with the talent of others, that created the unique sound of the original Boys.

Gathering some of the top names in polkas, Frank has brought together a backup band with names familiar to all. Dave "Nigel" Kurdziel, Robin Pegg, John Zelasko, Peter "D" Dardzinski, Joe O'Such, Randy Koslosky and Paul Fudalla join Frank in the studio to produce a truly fantastic recording. The tight instrumentation is a direct tribute to the talent of these musicians. They define polka music. Add guest vocals by Eddie Blazonczyk and Lenny Gomulka and you have a recording experience that is endless in quality, drive and excitement. This is a recording that will reach into your polka soul, grab your polka heart and give you some of those good old-fashion polka goosebumps.

I Played Polkas, by Frank Borzymowski is one that belongs in everyone's polka music library. If you are a good polka listener, identify the tracks that were recorded by Peter "D" and by Paul Fudalla. Concertina players, there is your challenge.

Listening to these two first class boxmen push those buttons on this recording is worth the price of alone.

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Where's Your Portki?

The Dynatones of Buffalo certainly need no introduction to anyone in the polka world. From the late 1960s, this band has made their mark time and time again. Now they release Where's Your Portki? (Where's Your Pants?), in the Fall of 1998, and simply power themselves to the very crest of polka music.

With pure excitement in this performance, this Buffalo dnyamo proves music from the heart is the way to make it happen. The distinctive horns, a full sound, the concertina that is forever there, the beat, the drive, the material, all together make this, in my opinion, their best album in many years.

Dave "Scrubby" Seweryniak is magical on concertina and his vocals shows why he is one of the very best. This Hall of Famer is an original Dynatone and his performances are key to the polka power of this recording and today's band.

Mark Trzepacz, the leader, knows what it takes to create, maintain, and captain The Dynatones. His vocals on "My Krakowianka," polka, "Only You" oberek and "Here We Come" make Polish polkas even more Polish in style and sound. Of course, he is the man behind the trumpet and the studio, and that is obviously two more reasons why this recording is "pure polka."

Mike Burka, a veteran of the Buffalo music scene and the Dynatones, is solid on trumpet. John Formenko's accordion and Jimmy "James" Johnson's bass add the drive and fullness, re spectively, that is as important to produce this heart-filled Dynatones' sound.

Robin Pegg, the master on the drums, may easily be the best in this polka business. He plays with an intensity and determination that has become the Dynatones.

"Blondie" polka, the great Eastern style Solek song, is covered expertly. "Scrubby's" polka, originally done on their first album, is back on this release and it is so good to hear this classic again.

"Speaking Polish," from the Polkas for Children album and from the pen of Larry Trojak, is another tune that needed to be recut, and The Dynatones were the band to do it. "Sit Down Girl," "Thank You," with lyrics that send a message, and "Town to Town," are just a few more to wet your interest.

Mixed by Gary Rhamy at Peppermint and released on Ethnic World Records, you will definitely want to add Where's Your Portki? to your music library.

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Polish Picnic Favorites

Find a place under the beer tent, grab a piwo and join Steel City Brass from Buffalo, NY in a grand, old Polish Picnic on their 1999 Ethnic World Records release, "Polish Picnic Favorites.

Polish Picnic Favorites gives you a full afternoon, 19 tracks, of good old-fashion polka music. "Too Fat" polka, "Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie," "Jaka Ta Kara," "E-I-O" polka, "Gdzie Idziesz Wojtus?," "Puka Jasiu/Oj Dana," "Whose Girl Are You" waltz? and other great familiar tunes return you to the glory days of those picnics and lawn fetes of Western New York. It was a time when bands played all day under the tent and we danced on grass, dirt, blacktop or any surface that was available.

There is little doubt, the clarinet and sax work of Kyle Kohan is a highlight of this recording. "Clarinet" polka and the Prasnyski tunes, "Spring in Poland" oberek and "Jaka Ta Kara" are just two of the cuts which demonstrate her talent, skill and devotion to Polish Polka music. Her melodies, licks, harmony and fills are the main courses around which the rest of this musical smorgasbord is set. The smorgasbord consists of Chris Gawlak on trumpet, Richie Golaszewski on accordion, Mark Kohan on Concertina, Kyle Kohan on clarinet and sax, Rick Pijanowski on drums, Chris Stamer on bass and Jimmy Johnson on piano.

The listener will find just about everything on this album, from the mellow, "Clevelandish" "Red Head" polka to Buffalo-based "Mary Ann" rhinelander. And, to round things out there is "Frosty Valley" polka which proves computer generated can have personality and individual styling.

Steel City Brass has almost a cult-like following of fans. The fans know the band. The band knows their fans. Loyal to each other, they are beyond family, beyond a casual acquaintance.

The cover is a great graphic with a collage of polka people in front of the "tent." Over 75 faces can be found enjoying the picnic with Steel City Brass. What a picnic! What a afternoon! If you don't sing-a-long with this one, you must be tone-deaf.

This is one you can play over and over and never grow tired of the songs, the sound, the styles. I'd write more, but I'm going back for my fifth time of "Polish Picnic Favorites," by the Steel City Brass.

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Sharing Our Blessings

Henny and the Versa Js, of McKeesport, Pennsylvania spread the feeling of Christmas, family and music on "Sharing Our Blessings," their 1997 holiday recording on their own JAZZO label. This 19 track CD presents a collection of holiday tunes, along with religious and other songs that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

The entire band, along with "Li'l" Ryan Ogrody, who has really physically and musically outgrown that moniker, covers an excellent cross section of songs ranging from traditional Christmas melodies to some great Polka Holiday arrangements. The intro to "Santa Must Be Polish" revives the musical spirit of those early Christmas recordings by the Versatones and illustrates the drive of this group. Ryan's work on violin, the solid right hand of Koslosky and the entire Versa Js band sound at their very best throughout the session.

The Versa Js have Henny Jasiewicz on trumpet, Butchie Jasiewicz on drums, Dee-Dee Jasiewicz Ogrodny on bass, piano and vocals, Stas Ogrodny on trumpet and vocals, Ryan Ogrodny on violin and vocals, Frank Gibala on clarinet and Randy Koslosky on accordion and vocals.

The St. Mary Czestochowa Choir of McKeesport adds their vocal beauty to this production with Stas, Dee Dee and Ryan, on several familiar and memory-filled Polish Koledy. Cicha Noc, Aniol Pasterzom Mowil, Lulajze Jezuniu and others will take you back to that Midnight Mass of your youth.

The Blessed Mother Medley, with the choir, Dorothy Barker, Dee Dee and Ryan Orgodny is a cut that will have special meaning to those of Polish heritage and certainly adds a truly meaningful quality to this recording.

This is a must-have, whether it be Christmastime or not. Contact: Henny and the Versa Js, 1706 Wesley, McKeesport, PA 15132.

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Our Polka Hero

Beyond a doubt the most influential individual in modern polka music, Eddie Blazonczyk is a "Polka Hero" to not only the fans, but also musicians throughout the industry. His tunes, style and arrangements are the most emulated by other polka bands. Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones are billed as "The Nation's Number One Polka Band," a titled they've earned over the years.

Our Polka Hero, a 23 track recording product by The Brass Connection and Executive Producer Mark Trzepacz/Ethnic World Records, pays tribute to Eddie Blazonczyk and does it with style, class and quality

The dynamic talents of Frankie Liszka and The Brass Connection are complimented by a host of guest artists, including Mike Costa, Wally Dombrowski, Lenny Gomulka, Lenny Longuski, Dee Dee Ogrodny, Ryan Ogrodny, Paul Romanowski, Dave "Scrubby" Seweryniak, Larry Trojak, Mark Trzepacz and Jimmy "Maly" Weber. Dave Raccis, Chicago Push drummer, is outstanding with his infamous Blaz vocal impression on a couple of numbers.

Musically TBC has Frank Liszka, and Steve Binkiewicz on trumpets, the kinetic Dave Walter on accordion, Matt Lewandowski on drums, Chris Yanetsky on acoustic bass and the ever-amazing Peter "D" Dardzinski on concertina. Adding their instrumental expertise to the recording were Jim Johnson on Piano and synthesizer, Lenny Gomulka on clarinet and Mark Trzepacz on "stunt" trumpets.

With over 50 Blazonczyk albums released, Our Polka Hero just scratches the surface of his many hits, but the material selection was obviously done with care, selecting favorites of fans and musicians alike. The recording of many of the vocalists was done at remote locations, with Treepaz Productions using state-of-the-art digital mastering to insert the voice tracks into the music mix. Taking eight months to produce, the recording presents clean arrangements and flawless musicianship and is already in demand throughout the market.

The listener will easily find one of his or her favorites on this compilation of Blaz greats. From the early hits like "Rocks & Stones" polka, to the instrumental "Hop In" polka, to lead John Jaworski penned "Polka Hero," this covers gamut of this Polka Hero. And, to truly complete the spectrum of hits, "Season's Greetings" polka represents the great Christmas albums recorded by Blazonczyk and the Versatones.

This one was definitely worth the wait. It's another superb job by "Mister Mixologist," Mark Trzepacz and unquestionably a masterful effort by The Brass Connection and all the guest musicians. From the music to the album graphics to the "melody of words" in the liner notes by Trzepacz, Polka Hero is a consummate tribute to Eddie Blazonczyk, everyone's "Polka Hero."

Write: Ethnic World Records, c/o Treepaz Productions, P.O. Box 306, Depew, NY 14043.

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Duty Free

It's by John Gora and Gorale, it's Duty Free, it's their brand new recording, and I'd buy it even if it wasn't duty free. Duty Free Polkas, a 16 track CD by this Canadian Troubadour and his band is a slick, high-quality product, both musically and visually.

With John Gora playing "lead" sax this group offers a slightly different instrumentation format than many other polka bands, producing a rich, dynamic flavor to their music. With Rick Malkiewicz handling trumpet and fiddle and Tommy Wanderlich able to pick able to pick up a concertina, clarinet, or sax, the band's musical mixture seems endless. Johnny Winiarz is as solid as you can get on drums, while Greggy Winiarz adds the "bottom" on bass. Mike Papuga on accordion rounds out this solid musical family.

Whether it be the traditional "Goral," the catchy "Ta Dana" polka or the obviously Wanderlich penned "Turn The Other Way," polka, this band performs each skillfully. Polish vocals, English vocals, or instrumentals like "Saxarnet" polka, Gorale plays then all and plays them well.

To compliment the great music in this package is a fabulous multi-page booklet complete with band photos, lyrics and statistics. Other polka band should take a lessons from this type of graphic insert and promotion. It is "Duty Free Polkas" and a superb gift from Canada and John Gora and Gorale. Add it to your collection, today!

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Polish Roots

You may not expect to find too many Polish musicians in Texas, but they do exist and keep the traditions alive with their music. Brian Marshall (Marszalek) is one of those musicians. This 26 year old fiddler-vocalist, determined to keep alive the Music of his Heritage, has released a new recording, Polish Roots, on the BKM record label.

As stated by Frank Motely in the liner notes on the cassette, "Texas Polish Music is probably the most under recorded and under documented Euro-Ethnic music in Texas." "In the 60s, Randy and the Rockets of Brenham, Texas recorded a few 45s as did the "Patriarch" of Texas Polish Fiddlers, Steve Okonski, of Bremond, Texas." "Bremond born Joe Kujawa, another notable fiddle,r made a few home recorded cassettes for word of mouth" sales.

Polish Roots reflects tunes learned by Brian Marshall from the older folks in Bremond, Chappel Hill and New Waverly, Texas. Brought to Texas by Polish Immigrants in the late 1880s, they have stood the test of time and remain important melodies in the music books of polka bands throughout the country.

Songs like "Martha" polka, "In the Barn" waltz and "Na Weselu" polka will be familiar to Polish polka fans. On side two, "Galicia" waltz offers a nice basic interaction between clarinet and fiddle with some solid bow bass work by Mark Rubin. Enjoying what you're doing as a musician is important in spirit of the sound and on Siwi Kon it's easy to hear, these musicians love the music and making this recording.

In studio with Marshall was Dennis Bielamowicz on rhythm guitar, another musician with Bremond roots. The accordion was handled by Mark Halata, a musician that has performed with several polka groups and best known for his work with the Rounders. Faustyn Langowski, a clarinet/saxophone player since the 1930s, returned to his Bremond roots for this recording. From Austin, Texas, Mark Rubin played upright bass on all ten cuts. Rubin is well-known for his work with the legendary Santiago Jimenez Jr. and is currently touring with the Bad Livers band. On drums was Chuck Bolin, an Ohio transplant, essentially a country/rock drummer that has adapted well to this change of style.

Polish Roots and Brian Marshall introduce Polish music in Texas to the rest of the country. It's illustrates the vast reach our heritage has throughout the entire United States. Write: Brian Marshall, 19255 Mueschke Rd, Tomball, TX 77375.


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A Child Is Born

Kevin Adams, former sideman with Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones and currently playing with the Michigan Connection, has produced a Christmas recording entitled A Child Is Born. It's the story of Christmas, with narration from the Bible, and Polish koledy. The narration, along with vocals, is done by Adams with Eddie Blazonczyk featured on three of the cuts. Kevin Adams also performed the music on all tracks.

Eddie Blazonczyk is featured on "Wesola Nowina.," " Lulajze Jezuniu.". and "Gdy Sie Chrystus Rodzi." Other cuts include "Pasterze Mili," "Aniol Pasterzom Mowil," "Dzisaij W Betlejem," "W Zlobie Lezy," and "Jezus Malusienki."

Both the cassette and CD have all the text and lyrics included. Call (216) 398-6504.


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Polish Tradition

The roots of Polish polka music come from those village tunes of Poland, songs that our Grandfathers, and Great Grandfathers sang and played on the front porch or at the kitchen table. Polish Tradition, a brand new release by Patrick and Leonard Nowak of Nebraska, offers 21 cuts that reflect the tradition and heritage of the music.

"Highlander's Farewell," "Eddie's" polka, "Willie's Wedding" polka, "In the Fields" waltz, along with 17 other great cuts, feature Patrick on fiddle and Leonard on accordion. Joining them is Ted Byczek, former drummer with Marion Lush and currently with Jerry Zahara of Chicago.

Together, these three make musical magic, filling the listener with Polish spirit and musical energy. As noted by Mark Kohan of the Steel City Brass orchestra, "lost is the art of melodic bass lines played on this recording." In a time of power polkas, this recording returns to the basic roots of melodies and the herit- age.

Patrick's excellent fiddle work blends perfectly with his Father's solid accordion playing and Byczek's steady beat. Leonard and Patrick recorded two popular albums ,"Polish Fiddler" and "Polka Revue," in the 1980s with Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones. Leonard's unique vocal styling fits superbly with these traditional songs and his Polish make your heart swell with pride. The traditions still live because of musicians and recordings like this.

Polish Tradition is available from: Leonard Nowak, 117 Ginger Cove Rd, Valley, NE 68064.


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Sneak Preview

Chuck Pendrak of Palmyra, New Jersey, has just released a new Sneak Preview Plus compact Disc on the Pen/Bar label. Featuring seven cuts, this release offers a preview of a full-length pro- ject set to be released in 1997, as well as some cuts never featured on CD before.

The "Grabber" on this one is definitely the "Accordionette" polka, with truly astounding accordion work on this accordion version of the "Clarinet" polka. This demonstration of accor- dion work will amaze the listener.

The "Classic Clarinet" polka, "Smokin' Sax, "My Love," "Everybody Dance," "Nightingale" polka and "Polka Tra La La are the other cuts on this compact disc

The talents of Pendrak, on accordion, saxophone and clarinet, are masterful musicianship. Write: Pen/Bar Records, P.O. Box 437, Palmyra, NJ 08065.

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Music, Music, Music


Music, Music, Music! It began when Stephan Weiss, a Vienna born writer who came to the US in the 30's and Bernie Baum, a 20 year old child prodigy violinist wrote the tune In 1950 Theresa Brewer put it on the charts at number one and kept it there for 17 weeks.

Now, 46 years later, Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones have revived the tune, "Blazonczykized" it and made it the title cut of their latest recording. Music, Music, Music, on the Bel-Aire label, is a mixture of excellent Polish and catchy American tunes, including five solid originals from the pen of Eddie Blazonczyk.

"Where Is My Lover" polka, has hit written all over it with the dynamic horns, accordion/concertina drive and Polish vocals that will bring up those polka goose bumps.

"Tweedlee Dee" polka, a remake of the LaVern Baker and the Glider's hit from 1955, will have you singing along the first time through. By the way, LaVern Baker was born in Chicago! "I Got Married" oberek is one you've got to love. On this cut, and throughout the recording, the accordion takes the left channel while the concertina has the right. They compliment each other, pushing, hitting the riffs and gliding through the melody, while the clarinet also musically teases the concertina.

On "Let's All Have A Goodtime" polka, Blaz flirts vocally with the accordion and concertina, making you want to hear more. Another solid Polish cut, it will definitely get extra plays by the listener.

Definitely a "bandleaders" special, "The Stars Were Shining" polka offers the expert blend of English and Polish vocals from the polka mind of Blazonczyk.

Don't ignore the sax work in the intro of "Poor Little Rich Boy" polka. It takes you back to the days of early Blaz, youthful Dynatones and the dynamic Dynasticks.

The Blazonczyk rendition of "Loose Talk," an old country standard, fits the mixture of musical stylings on this release. Following it with the "Chicago Times" polka, done "ala Lush," brings the musical dialogue back to the Polish roots, a tactic Eddie Blazonczyk has mastered over the years.

Hindered by some health problems in the past year, Eddie Blazonczyk has returned to the polka scene with a polka celebration of Music, Music, Music. When you play this one, crank up the volume and enjoy Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones, "The Nation's Number One Polka Band!" Write: Bel-Aire Records, 7208 S. Harlem Avenue, Bridgeview, IL 60455.

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From the Porch-Old Country Style

Gary Sredzienski of New Hampshire has studied and performed a wide variety of accordion musical styles but began playing Polish music at the age of eight. On his new CD, "From the Porch "Old Country Style," Sredzienski uses the piano accordion to express his musical Polish heritage.

Featuring a mixture of songs, from peasant village tunes, to songs from the cities, to house party music of the early Polish American immigrants, this recording also includes a few original compositions. The 23 tracks run the gamut of a "Goralski Medley," to "Evening Bell," a Russian waltz popular years ago with Polish Americans. "My Two Sons," an original, presents Gary's Father, Ed, on harmonica.

Several of the cuts has Gary playing "Buckshot," a noisy antique accordion from Naples, Italy, with no felts under the hammers and missing keys, "but has an excellent sound for playing this dance music in an Old Country style.

You'll also find a "Polish Bagpipe Medley," with the accordion imitating the Polish "goat head" bagpipe, "Valse In G flat Op. 70 Nr.1," a laid back folk accordion approach to Chopin, and "Kasztanka" featuring the accordion and a hammered dulcimer. "Long forgotten is a graceful folk music played with spirit from the "Old Country." On weekends people gathered together for a house party with music provided by an accordion and violin. This style of early Polish American folk music is referred to by the old-timers as "Po Starem Krajsku...meaning "from the Old Country." Those words, from the liner notes of this CD, describe the music Gary Sredzienski has attempted to capture on this dynamic recording. He has succeeded!

Although the entire recording is filled with musical gems, the cuts featuring Gary on accordion and his Father, Ed, on harmonica sparkle like flawless diamonds. As a young boy fresh into accordion lessons, I can easily recall my Grandfather, at the kitchen table, playing some of these same songs on his harmonic while I tried to accompany him. The transfer of the music, from generation to generation, conceived this collection of tunes and keeps the spirit alive. The efforts of Gary Sredzienski not only keeps the music alive, but also the heritage.

Everyone, Polish or not, can enjoy this one. It's a another "must have" for all accordion players, polka "purists," music lovers, and Poles everywhere. From the Porch "Old Country" Style is available from: Gary Sredzienski, c/o Ossian USA,118 Beck Rd, Loudon, NH 03301-1119.



Raise Your Glasses - Niech Sie Gra

With 50 years in the polka field, 2009 IPA Polka Music Hall of Fame inductee Ed Guca has played it all but always specialized in Polish music. Raise Your Glasses - Niech Sie Gra, the 15th recording by Ed Guca and the Polish Canadians offers 13 tracks with 10 Polish vocals along with 3 English vocals, two being originals.

"Niech Sie Gra," from the musical pen of Guca, kicks off the CD with solid vocals, and that familiar drive identified with this Canadian showman. A nice arrangement of "Rano Rano," is contrasted perfectly with the continental styling of "Czarne Oczy." The upbeat "Na Polskiej Zabawie" with Ed Humeniuk hot on violin is followed by Li'l Wally's classic "Night After Night." Add "Pod Mostem," "Niebieskie Oczy," "Corka," "White Table" and the original title tune, “Raise Your Glasses,” and you will start right back at the first track for a second time through.

The multi-page graphic fold-out is an added attraction and offers full bios on all the musicians, Ed Guca on sax, clarinet, Ed Humeniuk on fiddle, drums, Henry Szarota on accordion, Brian Tos on trumpet, and Joe Banel on drums. Jerzy Krzeminski, leader of the famous Polish rock band, No To Co (So What), is also featured on guitar and vocals.

Raise Your Glasses - Niech Sie Gra was recorded at Polanca Studio and mixed by Brian Tos and Ed Guca. Cover design by Weslie Guca. Visit Ed’s Myspace page, www.myspace.com/edguca.


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