Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 120: Wolf of Iron Jaw [Serbia 1]


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Since volumes 41 (general) and 101 (Poland) it's high time TDATS returned to eastern europe, so here we concentrate on heavy stuff that originated in the Serbian part of the former Yougoslavia. Unlike some might suspect, the Tito dictatorship did not interfere with the influence of incoming western pop music, or people's general enjoyment of popular music. Rock music flourished in Yugoslavia from the '50s onward and as you will hear in this comp, a lot of great talent emerged. The first Serbian '60s bands during the age of beat and rhythm & blues included Siluete, Elipse and Džentlmeni, all mentioned here as certain members were in some of the heavier bands coming up.

I must thank tdats fan Adam Burke, front man of Pushy and Fellwoods, and brilliant artist, for drawing a cover especially for this volume. It is inspired by the Psoglav, a werewolf-like demonic creature in Serbian mythology which bares iron teeth. Another thanks goes to the blog Jugo Rock Forever, one of the best sources of Yugoslavian rock.

TRACKS
01. S Vremena Na Vreme - Tema Za Šargiju [edit] (1975)
       from album 'S Vremena Na Vreme'
02. YU Grupa - Drveni Most (1974)
       single
03. Grupa CD - Vjeruj U Ljubav (1973)
       single
04. Džentlmeni - Veseli Svet (1968)
       from compilation 'Retrologija'
05. Zlatko Manojlović - Ko Te Sada Ljubi (1975)
       single
06. Smak - Biska 16 (1974)
       single B side
07. Tako - Druga Strana Mene [edit] (1978)
       from album 'Tako'
08. Grupa SOS - Tražim (1974)
       single
09. Korni Grupa - Neko Spava Pored Mene (1970)
       single
10. Miodrag Bata Kostić - Tvoj Put (1975)
       from album 'Kongres Rock Majstora'
11. Pop Show Grupa - Okrutna Žena (1974)
       single
12. Pop Mašina - Vreme Za Nas (1975)
       from album 'Na Izvoru Svetlosti'
13. Igra Staklenih Perli - Majestetski Kraj (1979)
       from album 'Igra Staklenih Perli'
14. Riblja Čorba - Hej, Ćale (1979)
       from album 'Kost U Grlu'
15. Dah - Majka Jugovića (1974)
       from album 'Veliki Cirkus'
16. Opus - Sam (1974)
       single
17. S Vremena Na Vreme - Tema Za Šargiju [reprise] (1975)
       from album 'S Vremena Na Vreme'

Up until the early '70s, Serbia's only rock releases were on 7 inch singles and EPs. The first full-length rock album was Korni Grupa's debut LP in the comparatively late year of 1972, they were also the first Serbian band to play hard, progressive rock, which is shown in this comp with one of the oldest tracks here, a 1970 single of theirs.

The three other bands that heralded the beginning of Serbian hard rock were Yu Grupa, Pop Mašina (Pop Machine) and Smak (Endtime). From 1973 onward they started releasing excellent albums, displaying impressive technical skill, but also plenty of soul and passion. Smak stood slightly apart in their inclusion of jazz-influenced prog sounds, but they were also satisfyingly heavy. All three took clear influence from the pioneers like Cream, Led Zep and Black Sabbath, but also had their own Balkan flavour, giving them a refreshing slant that holds them up on their own merits. Indeed, of all the smaller regions I have studied so far for TDATS, with a consequently small number of bands, I can safely say that Serbia is right up there at the top regarding the consistent quality of what music there was. Discovering these bands has been an especially enjoyable experience which, by all accounts, will be repeated when I turn to neighbouring countries like Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia for later episodes. I can't wait!

Boom festival 1972
The main music festival of Yugoslavia in the '70s was Boom Pop, which ran from 1972 to 1978. It was initially held in Tivoli Hall, Ljubljana, Slovenia. During it's seven years it moved to Croatia and ended at Novi Sad in Serbia. Of the bands included in this volume, those that appeared at Boom were; Pop Mašina (in 1973), Dah (1973), YU Grupa (1973,74 & 76), S Vremena Na Vreme (1974), Smak (1975 & 77), Tako (1977 & 78) and Riblja Čorba (1978). For almost every year, a live double-LP was released featuring performances from the fest. The 1974 edition included three songs by "Pop Selekcija Boom '74", a super group that got on stage just for that year's fest. This group included Dado Topić on vocals/bass, of Korni Grupa. The final year of Boom festival was just when punk was breaking, and so had a decidedly different flavour to those before. As you can see in this magazine article (link) the long hair and bell bottoms was giving way to the safety pins and short hair of young bands like Prljavo kazalište and Paraf.


RTB logo
There were only four record labels responsible for putting out the sixteen records appearing in this comp. The winner, with seven of them, is "Produkcija Gramofonskih Ploča Radio Televizije Beograd", or RTB for short. RTB's beginnings occurred when the state-owned Radio Belgrade bought two record presses in 1951, with the original intention of archiving pre-existing recordings. In 1952 it pressed fifteen 78rpm singles of new music under the label "Jugodisk". It became Radio-Television Belgrade in 1959 with the advent of television, and went on to become the second-largest record label in Yugoslavia. After the Yugoslavian breakup in 1993 it became Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). RTB was responsible for the first hard progressive rock records from Serbia, with Korni Grupa's early singles and debut album.


Jogoton logo c.1974
The Croatian Jugoton label is the runner up here with five of our records. This was Yugoslavia's largest label. It came into existence when the Ljubljana-based Elektroton label moved to Zagreb and became "Jugoton" in 1947, after nationalisation. By the mid-'60s it was producing 30.000 records a day. Bosnia's Indexi were one of Yugoslavia's first bands to start getting fuzzy on their Jugoton singles like Šabn-Dabn-Šabn-Du-Bajo in 1969 (youtube). The first Yugoslavian heavy progressive LP on Jugtron was the debut of the Croatian band Time in 1972 (youtube). The other two labels were RTV Slovenija, the national label of Slovenia, and Diskos, an independent Serbian label started in 1962, on Which Croatia's Had was one of the earliest progressive bands (youtube).

With the exception of Smak, every one of the bands in this volume originated in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade (natively called Beograd), although many individual members were from other countries situated in the former Yugoslavia.


The Bands

S Vremena Na Vreme opens this set with an instrumental blending folk and fuzz. I took it from their 1975 debut LP and you'll notice I also reprised it for the outro track. They were one of the pioneers of the Serbian acoustic rock scene, and one of the pioneers in incorporating folk music elements into rock music of Yugoslavia, along with Suncokret, also from Serbia. They were good friends of another band appearing here, Pop Mašina, and they would organise free shows together and play on each other's albums. S Vremena Na Vreme had two albums and many singles in the '70s.


The fuzz gives way to YU Grupa's solid riffing, and this band had a lot of great riffs over five '70s LPs and many singles, being one of the most important, long-lasting and rewarding Serb bands to dig into. They were formed in 1970 by brothers Dragi (vocals, guitar) and Žika Jelić (bass guitar), both former members of beat band Džentlmeni. They have continued to make albums and play live into the 2010s, the last live show having been in 2012 which was unfortunately cut short when Žika Jelić had an electric shock, but he's fine and the band have announced a new album this year.


Coming up next is a very obscure act called Grupa CD, so far I have only been able to listen to a couple of sides from the eight or so singles they made between 72 and 74, one of which is a light pop affair. But all is not lost, the other one is a hammond organ-powered monster as you can hear. They appear to have had an experienced lineup, with Aleksandar Cvetković and Jovan Miščević of '60s beat band Siluete, and Slobodan Todorović of Siluete and Džentlmeni. I'd love to hear some more of the singles if anyone out there can point me in the right direction!



Džentlmeni (The Gentleman) is a name that crops up in relation to members of no less than eight of the acts on this comp so I figured they deserve a spot too, even though they are from a different age in musical terms. They were a Belgrade beat band that started in 1966. I am using the first song of theirs that was ever released, "Veseli Svet", recorded at Subotica Youth Festival in 1968 and released on a 7" together with other bands from that festival. To give you some idea how important they were, there were at least nine players that passed through Džentlmeni that played in other bands mentioned in this volume, and other great bands that I plan to use later! They include Slobodan Todorović (Grupa CD), Velibor Bogdanović (Dah, Land, YU Grupa), Zlatko Manojlović (Dah, Fleš, Gordi, Land, Zlatko & His Band), Zoran Božinović (Pop Mašina, Rok Mašina), Žika Jelić (YU Grupa), Dragan Jelić (YU Grupa), Dušan Petrović (Pop Mašina), Robert Nemeček (Pop Mašina, Rok Mašina) and Branko Marušić (Dah). Phew! And there's probably some that I missed...

For the fifth track we have another alumni of Džentlmeni, guitarist Zlatko Manojlović. He was involved in other bands including VIS Fles, and Dah, which appears on here later. The track I have used is from the first of his two '70s solo singles, and in the '80s he started making solo albums. In 1975 he guested on Opus's album, who also appear here, and in 1977 he started a prog band called Gordi. I have checked them out and found the two LPs they made in the '70s to be not so great, but by all accounts Gordi is better remembered for being one of the first Serbian heavy metal bands, which they stylistically morphed into for their final albums in 81 and 82.


Smak in front of the Ružica Church in Belgrade.
 l-r Laza Ristovski, Slobodan Stojanović "Kepa", Radomir
Mihajlović, Zoran Milanović, and Boris Aranđelović.
A third of the way through now and we come to another of the most renowned Serbian bands, Smak. They originated in the fourth largest city of Serbia, Kragujevac, so are the only band on this comp not from Belgrade. What immediately hit me about their first single, 1974's "Živim ... Biska 13", is the heaviness and progressive metal-like technicality, which is largely a product of their fantastic guitarist Radomir Mihajlović Točak. Included here is the B side, entitled Biska 16. He is one of the former Yugoslavia's most celebrated rock musicians and his varied skills have lead to Smak being described as everything from blues to jazz rock to hard rock and symphonic rock.

We move on to a purely symphonic prog band called Tako, a rarity for the Serbian region at the time. Again they were very accomplished technically, and turned up the riffs a few times, like in the first part of the epic 16 minute "Druga Strana Men" on their self-titled first album. They appeared once before in TDATS on the flute volume 78. Founding member Sava Bojić (guitar, vocals) had been in an early lineup of Pop Mašina. Bassist Dušan Ćućuz was a member of the omni-present Džentlmeni, and he was part of the original Opus.




When I first encountered Grupa SOS I was knocked out by the riffs and tone that are very reminiscent of Black Sabbath. Unfortunately they only made a few singles in their six year life-span, and acted as Srđan Marjanović's backing band. Their legacy continued when in 1978 they evolved into one of Serbia's best-loved hard rock bands, Riblja Čorba, coming up soon. They were founded in '72 by Miroslav Aleksić (bass, vocals), Dragan Štulović (guitar - later in Tunel) and Stevan Stevanović (drums). By '78 only Miroslav remained, with newer members Rajko Kojić (guitar) and drummer Vicko Milatović, all of whom then became Riblja Čorba with the inclusion of former Suncokret & Rani Mraz member Bora Đorđević (vocals, acoustic guitar and songwriter).


Korni Grupa 1972 LP,
Kornelije Kovač standing furthest-back
At the half way mark now and an important band called Korni Grupa. I have taken a track from a 1970 single, which surely must be one of the heaviest things from Serbia at that early stage. As said before, Korni Groupa very obviously progressed from their original sound and made Serbia's first ever full length progressive rock album in 1972, mixing too many styles to conveniently categorise the band. There are elements of jazz, traditional folk, psych, blues, funk, hard rock and symphonic rock on there, with top notch performances all-round. The band is named after it's founder, Serbian-born Kornelije Kovač, who got his first rock exposure in Bosnia's biggest pop group, Indexi.


Korni Groupa at Eurovision
Before that point, he had already become an accomplished composer, pianist, keyboard player, producer and arranger at a startlingly young age. In 1974 Korni Grupa entered the Eurovision Song Contest which was held in Brighton, UK. They came seventh, and I think I can safely assume I won't be saying anything like that about any other bands on TDATS for a while... Kornelije moved to England in 1979 and continued with varied work in music. Whitesnake's Bernie Marsden played on his K2 LP project called "Why?" in 1980 (link).


Kongres Rock Majstora concert poster
Next up is a track from a one-off collaborative album called Kongres Rock Majstora (Congress of Rock Masters). The idea of this seems to have been to take four well-known Yugoslavian guitarists and give them one side each of a double LP. Supporting them was a host of players from their bands and many others. The four main guys were: Miodrag Bata Kostić - Serbian guitarist of Yu Grupa and Opus, Josip Boček - Croatian guitarist of Korni Grupa, Vedran Božić - Croatian guitarist of Time, and Goran Bregović. Goran was the Bosnian guitarist of Bijelo Dugme, he is now internationally famous as a composer / score writer. He entered the world of film music in 1989, and became known for his scores for Emir Kusturica's films; Time of the Gypsies, Arizona Dream and Underground. Yu Grupa's drummer Ratislav-Raša Đelmaš, and bassist Žika Jelić (also of Džentlmeni) were in the the support bands. Also bassist Bojan Hreljac and drummer Vladimir Furduj of Korni Grupa. I have used a track from Miodrag Bata Kostić's set, his four songs on side D were all top quality rockers as you can hear!


Goran Bregović - Josip Boček
With the kind help of TDATS fb group member Чика Киде, who has made some translations for us, I have found out some more facts about the record. This is what he was able to translate from some press regarding the 2009 Croatia Records reissue of Kongres Rock Majstora: "Kongres Rock Majstora” had the goal to promote the guitar masters of the era. The promotion itself included concerts and media coverage, in which the music magazine “JukeBox” was the main outlet. The reason for the appearance of those particular four players, and not other guitar masters like Radomir Mihailović-Točak from Smak, is probably because they played in bands connected to the Jugoton label. Jugoton was the largest Yugoslavian record label and owner of a widespread network of record shops, succeeded by Croatia Records in 1990.


Vedran Božić - Miodrag Bata Kostić
Goran Bregović, as the leader of Bijelo Dugme, let Željko Bebek to do the vocals, and for the song “Ima neka tajna veza” he had the support of Zagreb’s String Quartet. The album featured the instrumental song “Minijatura za moju majku”, as well as two older Bijelo Dugme songs - “I kad prodje sve pjevat ću i tad”, and “Znam za jedno tiho mjesto”. When the double LP was released, critics were not very complementary. There wasn't any significant commercial success or media coverage of the release, and shortly after the entire venture was side-lined. Vinyl collectors across the world have shown a strong interest for this album which commands 100-200 Euros today."


On to track eleven and a band that didn't record much but seem to have been around for about five years, Pop Show Grupa. The track here is a heavy, punky fuzz monster! They made two singles like this, plus the mystery single "Malaika / Sisi Tunakupenda" which appeared five years later in 1979, and seems to have a collaboration with a Belgrade-based Kenyan musician called Steven Hannington. I have not heard this third one so can only guess what it sounds like, though Discogs categorises it under "Folk, World, & Country, Funk / Soul, Pop".

The band was Miodrag Dobrić (bass), Dragan Milić (guitar) and Vladan Dokić (drums). Vladan was in Opus and later-on Rok Mašina, which was an '80s development of Pop Mašina. Both bands coming up here soon...


I consider there to be a 'big three' of heavy Serbain bands from the former half of the '70s, YU Grupa and Smak have already appeared so now it's time for the last of that trio, Pop Mašina (Pop Machine). They were formed in Belgrade in 1972 by Robert Nemeček (bass, vocals - formerly of Dogovor Iz 1804 and Džentlmeni. The other formative members on their two studio albums were Mihajlo Popović (drums) and Zoran Božinović (guitar - formerly in Džentlmeni).


Na Izvoru Svetlosti LP 1975
Their 1973 debut LP "Kiselina" (Acid), had contributions from members of S Vremena Na Vreme, Grupa SOS and acoustic band Dag. Although excelling in their heavy rock tracks like "Svemirska Prièa," the band played an equal amount of acoustic pop and folk-infused songs in a similar approach to Led Zep's album 'III'. The second and final studio album "Na Izvoru Svetlosti" (At the Spring of Light) followed suit, having a little more emphasis on the hard rock, with a great opener which is the track I have used in this comp, "Vreme za Nas". Track 2 gives you a good idea of their stage show with a live-recorded blues workout. Over-all this album is more consistent and you can hear the improved arrangements and more confident playing.


Rok Mašina, 1981
In 1976 Robert Nemeček left the band due to army obligations; up until 2011 Serbia demanded mandatory military service of 6 months for men. Other personnel changes happened and the last recording from the band was a great single in 1977. By this time they had expanded to a four-piece with two guitarists and it's a shame they did not go through with a proposed third album as the progression is evident in "Moja Pesma" (youtube). New additions were Dušan Petrović (bass - Džentlmeni), Dušan Đukić (drums - also in Dah) and Vidoje Božinović (guitar - Dah, Opus, Riblja Čorba), with Zoran Božinović remaining from before on guitar & vocals. In 1981 Robert Nemeček returned on bass and the band was reborn with a harder sound as Rok Mašina. Vladan Dokić of Pop Show Grupa entered on drums. Zoran Božinović and Vidoja Božinović remained on guitars from the previous Pop Mašina lineup.


Igra Staklenih Perli
Coming up now is a bit of a diversion, with one of the latest-recorded tracks in the comp we encounter some space rock. In searches through the Serbian '70s this is the only example of such I have come across, but as I am coming to expect from this country it is brilliant. Igra Staklenih Perli ("The Glass Bead Game" - a futuristic existential book by Herman Hesse) made a debut album in 1979 and a second, final one in 1980. This track is taken from the first, and it's an ethereal, immersive experience you can get lost in, brilliantly layering electronics and repetitive riffs in the best traditions of Hawkwind and the krautrock masters. Over that is some beautiful guitar work with a hint of Balkan folk. Bassist Draško Nikodijević and guitarist Vojkan Rakić later formed the post-punk/neo-psych White Rabbit Band and in the late 1980s moved to the USA where they continued under the name White Rabbit Cult.


Riblja Čorba 1978
On the home straight now we come to the beginnings of Serbian heavy metal and Riblja Čorba. As mentioned before, by 1978 the members of Grupa SOS; bass player Miroslav Aleksić, Rajko Kojić (guitar), drummer Vicko Milatović and Bora Đorđević (ex-Suncokret & Rani Mraz, vocals, acoustic guitar and songwriter) became Riblja Čorba (Fish Stew). I have used a track from their 1979 debut album "Kost u Grlu", which is equal parts punk and heavy metal. The band went on to acclaim and is one of Yugoslavia!s most successful bands. They have released albums as recently as 2012's "Uzbuna".



Dah 1974, Zlatko Manojlović on right
Guitarist Zlatko Manojlović returns with a band called Dah (breath) that he co-founded in 1972. By the time of their first album in 1974, Branko Gluščević was on bass, Velibor Boka Bogdanović was on drums and Zlatko was leading on guitar. Veliki Cirkus (The Big Circus) was an ambitious excursion and another of Serbia's earliest progressive rock LPs.


Dah - Veliki Cirkus LP 1974
It incorporates '60s style psych with blues, country and hard rock in a quirky and original brew, supported by Zlatko's always-brilliant guitar work. In 1975 the band moved to Belgium, where they performed under the name Land, reportedly going in a more symph/jazz direction and making an album under that name called "Cool Breeze", although I have found very little info on that record and not heard it yet. During this time they had radio success with a single called "Šošana" and played on stage with Focus. After returning to Serbia they made one more album, called "Povratak" before Zlatko had to take a break to perform military service. The band did not last much longer and after completing his service Zlatko started a new band called Gordi which switched to heavy metal in the '80s.


Opus "Veče / Sam" single 1974
We reach the end of another TDATS with a band called Opus, that have been mentioned a couple of times already. This is a great song to end on, a single that is more punchy than their LP which came out a year later. Opus started in 1973 and the original line-up included the founder and organist Miodrag Okrugić, guitar player Miodrag Kostić and bassist Dušan Ćućuz (ex-Džentlmeni), but soon they split. They were named after Okrugić's composition "Opus No. 1" which he scored during his tenure with the band Yu Grupa.


"Opus 1" LP 1975
Okrugić re-formed Opus in 1975 with bassist Slobodan Orlić, drummer Ljubomir Jerković and singer Dušan Prelević (ex Korni grupa) and soon they recorded their debut "Opus 1", done in the symphonic rock style, with a few heavy moments like track "Dolina Bisera" (youtube). It failed to draw attention of the public and the band split again. In various incarnations guitar players in this period were Ljubo Sedlar, Zoran Dasić and Vidoja Bozinović. The final line-up from the 1977 re-formation included Okrugić, Orlić, drummer Zelimir Vasić and guitar player Milan Matić, but after fruitless attempts they finally disbanded for good. In addition to their only LP album, they recorded three singles from 1974-77.

----------------------------------


If you have listened all the way to the end of these songs I think you'll agree that the former Yugoslavia has a natural aptitude for rock music and an amazing number of consistently good musicians and singers. The mind boggles at what more is out there to discover from other parts of the Balkans, but I'll most certainly be doing my best to find out!
Thanks for reading, Rich

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1 comment:

  1. It is a little further east. from Yugoslavia but, these guys from Soviet Kazakhstan were awesome.

    http://jpohl.blogspot.com/2014/09/1976.html

    ReplyDelete