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Bijelo Dugme - Bitanga I Princeza CD (album) cover


Bijelo Dugme

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4 stars After the crisis years 1977-78, when they almost broke apart, BIJELO DUGME re-vamped with the new album titled "Bitanga i princeza" (Eng. "The Bum and The Princess") in early 1979. Ipe Ivandić had been convicted for drugs abuse, so the new drummer Dragan "Điđi" Jankelić joined the band as a replacement. He had previously participated in the recording sessions for Zeljko Bebek's first solo album "Kao da smo isti", so Bebek recommended him to Bregović while looking up for Ipe's replacement. Vlado Pravdić was back in fold as keyboardist.

This album release was surrounded by numerous speculations about censorship regarding the lyrics and cover sleeve design. Executives of their record label Jugoton did not consent with several allegedly provocative lines in the lyrics. The song "Ala je glupo zaboravit njen broj" (Eng. "It's So Foolish to Forget Her Number") initially contained lines, in English roughly "what's wrong with me today/what the [%*!#] is wrong with me", while the ballad "Sve će to mila moja prekriti ruzmarin, snjegovi i sas" (Eng. "It Will All Be Covered With Rosemary, Snow and Yellow Flag, My Darling") had the line saying "...and Christ was a poor bastard..". The offensive word from the former had to be erased from the recording, while "Christ" from the latter was replaced with more neutral "He"! (This is interesting to note that the alleged atheistic, Communist-led establishment of SFR Yugoslavia was so concerned about religious feelings. Unless, of course, if religion was, in a most peculiar way, actually used as a part of the Communist agenda for certain purposes....). As for the cover, the initial idea was to have a picture of a female leg hitting a male sensitive part between legs, but ultimately Bregović had to give up and allow Jugoton's in-house designer Ivezić to come up with the undistinctive female blue eye close-up. Upon the release, Bregović was furious and attacked in his interviews both the Jugoton censors and the establishment. But to be honest, one cannot deny that this sensation perhaps helped further the commercial success of the album, which in its own right remains the last true classic rock album and probably even the best studio album in the entire catalogue of BIJELO DUGME.

"Shepherds' rock" themes were long gone and the folk particles can only be heard in "Ala je glupo..." in the form of synthesised bagpipes and Bebek's sort of yodelling. Otherwise, the album is divided between strong, concise rock songs bridging the old hard rock guitar riffs with the New Wave urban energy and upbeat on the one side and symphonic orchestral pieces on the other. Jankelić showes his enourmous drumming skills and quite original use of rototoms and other percussions, Pravdić is excellent on keyboards and provides effective and tasteful use of synths (with the help of guest Slobodan Marković), which was still a novelty at this time. "Ipak pozelim neko pismo" (Eng. "I Am Still Longing For a Letter") is played in odd time with reggae rhythm section, especially stressing powerful bass by Redzić and one of the best short guitar solos by Bregović.

Finally, "Kad zaboravis juli" (Eng. "When You Forget July") and "Sve će to mila moja..." are powerful prog rock ballads featuring orchestral, choir and brass arrangements conducted by Ranko Rihtman (ex INDEXI) and Vojkan Borisavljević. Although the latter track was often dismissed as a cheap plagiarism of fairly similar structure of Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes The Flood", and thus helped Bregović deserve unpopular tag of a "thief" and "immitator", both compositions were to become DUGME classics. Gentle lyrics (in spite of missing "Christ"), beautiful melody and acoustic guitar flageolet tones make this song ranking among the most beautiful compositions in the entire DUGME catalogue.

"Bitanga i princeza" is excellent album and due to more than few prog-related elements must be highly recommended to listen for all fans of progressive rock.


P.A. RATING: 4/5

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Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 | Review Permalink

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