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Vaya Con Dios - Biography
|last update : 07-07-2006 20:40|
|Every morning, before hitting the studio to work on The Promise, the first Vaya Con Dios album in a decade, Dani Klein and producer Jean-Pol Van Ham would slog away on exercise bikes and running machines in a fitness club. Nothing odd about that, you might think. But this ritual seems decidedly surreal when you hear Dani's powerful comeback. All colour and bloom, it's a disc that evokes days in the sun - and late, late nights in places you shouldn't be - rather than the sterile surrounds of a gym.
Not that Dani and her new co-writer first met during their daily workout. They've known each other for 20 years, when Jean-Pol was a teenage punk and Dani sang with indie group Arbeid Adelt. Soon after, with AA guitarist Willy Lambregt and bass player Dirk Schoufs, who was also her partner, she put together Vaya. The trio had no grand plan. They just wanted to do something new with the music they loved and had grown up with: soul, blues, chanson, world and rock. And then there was that voice. It sounded like it belonged to a soul sister, or a woman steeped in Delta blues, not a down-to-earth brusseleir. Vibrant relief from the monotony of Eighties pop, Vaya took off like a rocket. Their debut album Vaya Con Dios and Latin-tinged hits like Just a Friend of Mine and Puerto Rico sold millions around the world.
But stardom soured. As Vaya grew bigger, so their promotional treadmill grew increasingly punishing. In the early Nineties they imploded under the strain. Willy left, Dani and Dirk split; shortly after, the bassist died. Dani was devastated but continued with Vaya, alone. She made the sleek, sensuous Times Flies and Roots & Wings albums, but recording and touring with session musicians who came and went left her feeling isolated.
In 1996, tired of the non-stop commercial pressure, Dani stepped out of the spotlight. She was lost, so it was time to find herself. Over the next few years she got to know her family and friends again; she studied psychoanalysis and philosophy. Gripped by wanderlust, she travelled the world, exploring countries that fascinated her: America, Mexico, Senegal, Morocco, India, Cape Verde and Cuba. Her love of Spain led her to buy a house in deepest Andalucia. In 1999 she and four friends formed a group called Purple Prose, recording an album of the same name - a work of quiet beauty.
Dani swore that if she made music again, it would be on her own terms and on a more human level than that offered by the multinationals: a promise to herself that she has kept with The Promise. Released on an independent label, it's a seamless mix of covers -songs that mean a lot to Dani- and new numbers co-written with Jean-Pol. Reggae numbers like Take Heed sit alongside originals like the summery title track. There's the Romany whirl of Je l'aime, je l'aime, accompanied by a gypsy orchestra; the aching languor of Ilia, sung with Angolan superstar Bonga; and the ballsy, bluesy Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City. Forty minutes of giddy verve, The Promise is an astonishing achievement.