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Album Review

Built on the common experience of tragedy, Tommy Sands (from Northern Ireland) and cellist Vedran Smailovic (from Sarajevo) have been performing together for a few years, culminating in this album. While the theme is tragedy and the recovery from it in both regions of discord, the focus is pretty clearly on the atrocities in Sarajevo. Smailovic is the primary composer of pieces here, though there are numbers from Sands, Pete Seeger, and various traditional and classical works as well. The tone is largely a mournful one, as one would expect, though there are notes of hope built in now and then. The album opens on "Ode to Sarajevo," a chorus piece (which includes Joan Baez); "Bembasa" is built from an old Sephardic work; and Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" closes out the opening trio. A waltz that was once played before Archduke Ferdinand's assassination in Sarajevo (opening World War I) returns the focus to Sarejevo, followed by an Albinoni piece played by Smailovic after the bread-line massacre of 1992. Seeger joins in on Music of Healing (surprisingly, not on "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"), working well in combination with Sands. Bosfor is an old Bosnian tune, "Child of 2000" was an early collaboration between the two stars of the album, and "Dilber" returns to the Bosnian theme again. The album finishes on the duo of "Buskers" (written by Sands' brother in tribute to Smailovic before any meetings) and "Laganside," an old Irish love march. The two cultures rarely combine within the structure of a single song here, but instead the styles can change from one to the other relatively seamlessly as tracks switch. The performers are all worth hearing here, and the music is properly nostalgic and heartfelt. The only dry spots involve the use of an electric cello in a couple attempts to update the music a bit for contemporary audiences. Luckily those are rather rare, and the bulk of the album is a wonderful tribute to those lost in civilian attacks and to hope for the future. This is musically excellent and culturally relevant.


Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The multi-talented Tommy Sands was born August 27, 1937, in Chicago, IL, to show-business parents. His entry into the business was no mistake, surprise, or happenstance, but genetic and inevitable. His father played piano and his mother sang. He took guitar lessons when he was eight years old and became an adequate axeman. By this time the Sands had moved to Houston, TX, where Sands got the acting bug. He moved to Los Angeles after high school and landed a job on Cliffie Stone's country & western...
Full bio

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