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Dah - Veliki cirkus CD (album) cover

VELIKI CIRKUS

Dah

Heavy Prog


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Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Debut LP of DAH, under the title "Veliki cirkus" ("The Grand Circus"), appeared in 1974 in modest circulation at the former Yugoslav music market. Zlatko Manojlović (guitar, mandolin, vocal), Branko Glusčević (bass) and Velibor Bogdanović (drums) were keen to make a "concept" album, in line with contemporary trend of the "progressive rock". Thus, the album opens with "Prologue" and ends with "Epilogue", lyrics written by Zoran Modli (later well-known radio DJ and music promoter) pretended to have artistically "poetic" value, while the themes presented had been influenced by film and literature. Musically, DAH tries not to experiment too much but instead to follow the popular hard rock format of the time, adding occasional psychedelic effects, mainly in slower tracks. The power rock trio format, due to its limiting instrumentation - drums, bass and guitar -always provides excellent opportunity to hear both good and bad elements of a rock group. In case of DAH, solid instrumental capabilities do not always result with good songs.

"Prolog" starts silently with sounds of thunderstorm and rain, slowly building an atmosphere over an easy psychedelic bass lines. The vocal part continues into "Prohujalo s vihorom" ("Gone with the Wind"), a nice psych ballad where Manojlović sings about Scarlet O'Hara and provides some nice lead guitar licks. "Troil i Kresida" ("Troilus and Cressida") is powerful heavy rock invoking the classical Shakespearean legend. "Desetorica sa lomače" ("The Dozen at the Bonfire") and "Majka Jugovića" ("The Mother of the Jugović's", a character from the Serbian Kosovo epic mythology) follow in the similar heavy fashion where one can clearly see influences from LED ZEPPELIN or RUSH in the instrumental interplay. However, Manojlović's vocals are not very convincing in these two songs and the album here starts falling apart.

The next two songs are probably the most interesting on the album. The title track runs slowly across 7 minutes in a psychedelic jam vein. Lead guitar and bass are excellent, occasionally interspersed with sound effects of a flying airplane. Manojlović sings about "The Grand Circus" as an allegory for life of an artist and his tenor is very convincing. "Dobar vetar plava ptico" ("Good Wind, Blue Bird") is another soft-rock ballad with catchy melody and chorus that could make a hit-single. The namesake Yugoslavian/Soviet children's movie was shot in 1967 telling story of love and friendship among the youths coming from different races and nations and with a notable cameo appearance by Radmila Karaklajić, a popular Yugoslav lady singer who had successful career in the former USSR. Here DAH sings about a teenage romance between school kids.

Unfortunately, the last three tracks (including "Epilog") are disastrous and they tremendously diminish the quality of the album as a whole. Another seemingly film-inspired theme "Mozda zvoni Miss Stone" ("Perhaps Miss Stone Is Ringing") - "Miss Stone" is the title of the Macedonian movie of the late 1950s - starts nicely with mandolin and an easy rock rhythm just to be spoiled by stupid lyrics, and the senseless inclusion of two different tempos, honky-tonk/Charleston and Serbian "kolo" folk dance! The closing "Ceste budućnosti" ("Roads of the Future") must be one of the worst songs I heard in my life! An unconvincing attempt at blues rock is further destroyed by the most horrible vocals you can imagine. It sounds like one of pills and booze-induced takes during a rehearsal session!!! I wonder how Manojlović agreed to put this on to a record...? Amateurish screaming, yelling and idiotic vocal exhibitionism is unacceptable if you want to be taken seriously.

"The Grand Circus" is uneven and inconsistent album. It contains several nice (but not too essential either) tracks and a few very bad moments. Topical, conceptual approach is interesting but ultimately shows that it was underdeveloped. This is not a good album and I would not recommend it. Try instead the much better album - "Povratak"!

PERSONAL RATING: 2,5/5

P.A. RATING: 2/5

Report this review (#164853)
Posted Monday, March 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
2 stars A heavy rocking trio formed in 1972, Yugoslavian band Dah not only managed two albums in their five year existence, but managed a hit single with `Shoshana' and also got to tour with Dutch prog legends Focus. On their debut album `Veliki Cirkus' ("The Grand Circus") from 1974, the band favoured a psychedelic and acid folk mix of heavy rocking tunes with softer melodic ballads, and on the strength of the material offered here, it's the latter that were more convincing. Sadly there's not much here to offer here in the way of progressive rock elements to interest followers and collectors of that genre, even though it's full of energy and well performed.

Listening to the effective nightmarish sound collage that opens the disc with `Prologue', you'd be expecting this album to be experimental and ambitious all the way through, but this inventive beginning is sadly short lived. It soons morphs into `Prohujalo Sa Vihorom', a by-the-numbers collection of heavy rocking passages, despite moving through a few tempos and direction changes. `Troil I Kresida' and `Desetorica Sa Loace' are bouncy but utterly forgettable throwaway grooving rockers, only the roaring vocal from guitarist Zlatco Manojlovic leaves any impression in the first, some twisting electric guitar soloing on both sides of the speakers the latter.

The jangling ballad title track that opens side B is spirited but ultimately repetitive. `Dobar Vetar, Plava Ptico' could have been a promising acid folk ballad (lovely mandolin from Zlatko throughout), but a semi-comical half-spoken narration over the top and a silly forced childish psychedelic ending destroys it. `Mozda Zvoni' is a forgettable one minute novelty old-school rock-'n-roller in the same manner as E.L.P's `Are You Ready, Eddy' - urgh! Album closer has plenty of slow-burn bluesy guitar wailing, Branko Gluscevic's purring bass and pounding drums from Velibor Bogdanovic the standouts, but a screeching falsetto vocal from Zlatko is utterly excruciating and completely ruins the piece altogether.

The highlight of the album is the seven minute slinky, sexy, mellow borderline-reggae grooving ballad `Majka Jugovica', which reminds me of the same sun-kissed optimism and warmth of Guru Guru's `Tango Fango'. Smoothly sung, with chilled electric guitar solos, spontaneous drum fills and a general laid-back shuffling groove and toasty atmosphere makes this one to share with your lady. Only a splintering audio pop that slices through the speakers at the 3:33 mark lets it down, was this locked into the original recording? Anyway, this chilled number showed far more potential than the heavier tracks that make up the bulk of the album, and is worthy trying to have a listen to on it's own.

Admittedly the Eastern Time label have down a superb job with the 2013 CD reissue of `Veliki Circus' that adds an additional 9 bonus tracks, a collection of single A and B sides and live performances, so if you must own it, this would be the edition to get. But if you want to investigate the Yugoslavian prog acts from the early 70's period, bands like Korni Gruppa and Izvir should be way up the top of your list over something like this. Grupa Dah were no doubt a solid rock band, but they sure aren't too exciting for progressive rock listeners.

Two and a half stars.

Report this review (#1218867)
Posted Monday, July 21, 2014 | Review Permalink

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