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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 3,5 stars actually!

The first SMAK album from 1975 was a typical beginners' effort of the 1970s rock in ex- Yugoslavia. Lots of different ideas packed together into an album, usually badly produced and with weak concept, if any, of the band's direction. Given the band had already gained reputation during frequent live performances as a bunch of excellent musicians, here they tried to prove it, especially R. Mihajlovic as a guitar virtuoso. However, many of these solo moments on the album are rather boring and too extended, showcasing nothing but pure technical skills. On the other hand, there are two interesting moments. The opener "Perle" is a strong jazz/funk colored with percussions, electric piano and their trademark falsetto vocal, while the 19 minutes instrumental suite "Put od balona" gives a clear direction towards progressive/fusion territory, which they would more elaborate on the subsequent albums. Apart from Mihajlovic's guitar, overall album is dominated by L.Ristovski's Hammond organ and electric piano. This album is worth checking out if you are a devoted prog fan, especially if you are keen to explore ex-Yugo prog scene, but better SMAK works can be found on later albums.

Report this review (#34472)
Posted Thursday, March 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is one of my favourite and it wouldn't be the best selling Yugosalvian album ever if was not good.On that album is the best instrumental song Biska 2 and the best vocal song which had became rock standard for many singers Blues u Parku.Then we have some kind of funky-rock song called Mracni Mol which everybody likes.Song Perle are showing how powerful does the Boris singing sounds.And Put od Balona-Biska 20 is showing the thing about Smak that is powerful in instrumentals. And for the end i would like to say this to the members of Smak:''Samo nastavite da svirate vi ste najbolji i neponovljivi!!''
Report this review (#73952)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I know this album from a compilation CD titled "The Best of Smak" with the same five tracks and three additional tracks from other albums.

Most tracks are funk and blues rock except "Biska 2" (ethno hard rock) and "Put od Balona". The latter is an attempt at composing a prog epic (19min). It shows high musicianship but it's too disjointed and pretentious. I think they are better in shorter ethno and fusion prog compositions as heard on latter albums.

SMAK is one of the best ex-Yugo prog groups. Their debut already shows potential but they really evolved with their suceeding albums (well represented with streaming samples on this site) - first try these and if you like them their first album is a good addition!

Report this review (#75962)
Posted Sunday, April 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A good debut from a heavy rock band that occasionally stepped into fusion, folk and symphonic.

A production leaves lot to be desired. The bass is muffled, the synth barely audible. The album - and band's career - starts with "Perle". Great, quite simple, catchy guitar riff. The bass guitar follows. Great percussion. And then vocals....

Boy, I can't digest those vocals. When I was a newbie to SMAK, I taught that band leader, guitarist Točak is singing. Okay, it's his band, it's his will...but then I realised they actually have a man hired only to use his throat. A man who is not busy very often since many tracks are long, or even instrumental. And when there's a singing, B. Aranđelović sing it badly. I mean, badly. High pitched, but forced vocal, washed out, tiny, stretched like a bubble gum. That was the timbre, the timbre is not the worst part of the vocal. No. It's the pronunciation. Do not worry because of the language barrier - I can't understand the lyrics neither. And I really doubt anyone from the band can. The vast majority of the singers in the seventies had great pronunciation, regardless of genre, where you can here every vowel and every oscillation of the throat. Those vocals were sometimes pathetic, sometimes tacky, sometimes great, but always cipherable. The rather-chew-or-murmur-than-say vocals happened later globally. However, Aranđelović fits into the later category.

When you finally digest the vocals (and the easiest way is not to pay attention to them anyway) you can focus on music which might be sometimes good, sometimes bad, but it's always energetic and sincere. "Perle" is realy toe-tapping", "Mračni mol" and "Biska 2" are full of great melodies and guitar riffs, Točak's trademarks. Check them out. The longest track on side A is "Blues u parku" ("Blues In The Park"), and it's of course, blues, just a little bit less boring than LED ZEPPELIN's "Since I've Been Loving You". Oh wait a actually love that tune? Then you'll love this one was executed equally ballsy. The drums are - why hiding it - identical.

Side B, one track: "Put od Balona". Whatever.

This track is GREAT.

At the moments.

Pity, it's not great all the time. Actually I like it a lot - people are complaining that it's too pretentious, but this was friggin' progressive rock band, and a good one at that. What do we have here: great, ehm, classical melodies on acoustic guitar, great melodies on electric piano, great use of the word "great" in my review; around 3:00 there's something that is most likely two-hand tapping on a guitar. On the acoustic guitar. If that's not true, I don't know what it is. Okay, big deal. After the very symphonic (in a meaning of a rock genre) beginning, the song continues into a heavy/fusion hell, with lots of showmanship - okay. Now we were convinced that both drummer, organist and bassist are all great musicians. Točak proved it on a side A. But who needed it? However, I actually like this kaleidoscope of virtuoso pathetics, at least most of the time. Jazz sections are a killer. It's beefy all the time.

You will like it if you like that kind of pretentiousness (the 70's one). Plus, you have to love both heavy prog and jazz-rock - and then this record will be very appealing to you. Give it a try, it's a good one. That was a debut: ideas all over the place, directions only here and there. Don't be afraid by the vocals; there are not much of them anyway.

Three-and-half rock-solid stars.

Report this review (#150094)
Posted Sunday, November 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Though essentially not the best SMAK album (the following Crna Dama could take that title), this one is still my favourite. It blends various music styles into one. There's blues, jazz-rock, even hard rock at times. Of course, the most significant thing in the band's sound is the guitar. R. M. Tocak, easily one of the best and most original guitarists in former Yugoslavia, plays some great riffs and solos. And there is some classical guitar parts as well. The rhythm section Milanovic - Stojanovic (nicknamed Kepa) works together perfectly, while the marvelous Lazar Ristovski provides an excellent atmosphere with his organ. Some would say, the high-pitched falsetto of Boris Arandjelovic is irritating and not understandable. My opinion is, the guy has a great voice and rules comparing to the 90's singer, Dejan Najdanovic.

The album's opener Perle (Pearls) starts with a little guitar solo, and turns into an interesting tune. The following Mracni mol could easily be the most radio-oriented here, yet it's OK. Blues u parku (Blues in the Park) is a 7-minute heavy blues thing, while Biska 2 (an instrumental) showcases one of the best Tocak's riffs. The B-side consists of only one song, the 19-minute Put od balona (Biska 20) (which means The Baloon Path!). SMAK proves their ability to improvise on this one, yet with a theme constantly recurring in the song.

All in all, one of the best debut albums in overall Yugoslavian rock'n'roll. A progressive and still hard, this is very interesting stuff.

Report this review (#172589)
Posted Friday, May 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This is SMAK's debut from 1975 and we get a lot of bluesy guitar and a side long suite. This is a mixed bag for me really with two outstanding tracks while the rest is average at best. Their next two albums were outstanding though.

"Perle" is all about the guitar early on. Nice. Vocals and drums after a minute. Not a big fan of this. Keys end it. "Mracni Mol" is nice and heavy as the vocals join in. This is pretty good. "Blues U Parku" is a fantastic track and a top two for me. The guitar is just so impressive early on. When it stops the vocals and a beat take over and this contrast will continue throughout. The guitar is killer. "Biska" is an instrumental and my other top two. Great sounding guitar to start then it changes style. Organ after 2 minutes.

"Put Od Balona (Biska 20)" is the 19 minute closer. To be honest this song doesn't do much for me. Not a lot going on until the organ and drums become more prominant before 5 1/2 minutes. Guitar before 7 1/2 minutes. It lightens again before 13 minutes then the organ comes in with power. Guitar takes the lead then the organ again 16 minutes in. More guitar a minute later. The last part of this suite is much better.

So a good album that pales when compared to their next two.

Report this review (#762390)
Posted Saturday, June 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A very good and popular group from Kragujevac, Serbia, originally named Gentry and formed around friends Radomir Mihajlović Točak (guitars) and Slobodan Stojanovic Kepa (drums).Next to join the group were bassist Zoran Milanovic and singer Slobodan "Koma" Kominac, while the line-up was completed with Misa Nikolic on Hammond organ.After kicking off as a cover band, the first original tracks brought and a change of name to Smak.Several line-up changes and a couple of short breaks later, while struggling to find a steady fan base, only Mihajlovic, Milanovic and Stojanovic remained from the original core, which by 1974 included Boris Aranđelović on vocals and Laza Ristovski on keyboards.A far better period followed with the first single of the group, lives next to Bijelo Dugme and Pop Masina, while they opened for Deep Purple during their venue in Belgrade in March 1975.Signed by ZKP RTLJ, they recorded a couple of more singles and their self-titled debut saw the light in the second half of 1975.

The diversity and talent of the group becomes clear already during the first few songs.While not very proggy, the tracks of the opening side offer inspiring, melodic and well-executed compositions with Classic Rock, Blues and psychedelic influences, highlighted by Mihajlovic'es incredible guitar workouts and Arandelovic'es crystalline voice.Keyboards help a lot by adding an excellent depth with mostly some great organ work, while the second tracks features some very GENTLE GIANT-like parts on clavinet.Very important is the fact that most of these pieces contain plenty of room for instrumental exercises, while the vocal parts are absolutely harmonic and expressive.The highlight is definitely ''Biska 2'' (dating from the group's early days), where the guitar work of Mihajlovic trully shines.From the decent compositions of the first side we turn to the excellence of the sidelong track ''Put od balona'', clocking at 19 minutes and covering the whole flipside.With links to the sound of TAKO and inspirations from KORNI GRUPA, this is a fantastic piece of Symphonic Rock with Folk and jazzy breaks, featuring rich instrumental themes, tightly connected movements and a well-synchronized sound overall.The psychedelic side of the group is not completely gone, but ''Put od balona'' is definitely built on keyboards to a higher deegree, twisting from smooth, melodic lines with symphonic leanings to more frenetic Fusion-like textures with impressive guitar solos and a loose attitude as a whole.Among the very best epics of ex-Yugoslavian Progressive Rock.

There is a CD reissue around by ZKP RTLJ, featuring material composed for the early and later singles of Smak along with a rock interpretation of a Scopian Folk song.Influenced by acts such as DEEP PURPLE and JIMI HENDRIX, these tracks move on a Heavy/Psych/Blues Rock field with edgy guitar and organ parts, but melody is always present.''Zajdi, zajdi'' though, the aforementioned Folk piece, is more than impressive.Based on the melancholic guitar of Mihajlovic and the atmospheric synthesizers, this ends up to be a highlight of Smak's early recordings and a good reason to chase the reissue.

A really nice album, among the goodies of Serbian Prog.The sidelong track alone deserves your attention, but the rest of the material is also good, albeit a bit far from the exceptional style of ''Put od balona''.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1081551)
Posted Monday, November 25, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars ...and my journey for the reviewing of Smak album begin!

Yugoslavian prog is not exactly news, since I begun with Drago Mlinarec (still listen now and then) with some S Vremna Na Vremne and Drugi Nacin and later, of course, the beautiful Leb I Sol. But Smak was another kind of taste. The kind that grew slowly to become a whole with you. So, lets do it.

Smak' first album is of course one of their most hard rocking (at least of the begining of their career), and the first song is already a blast with heavy guitar and a performatic and powerfull vocals delivered in Ian Gillan's fashion. A tread for who like the genre. Mračni mol and Blues u parku are more "classical" and sit alongside more with blues... but not necessarily not-enjoyable, for that matter. The hard rock come again in Biska II, where a nice and full riff, reminding me the best moments of BUDGIE, finds way in a great closing song (for the a-side, in the case). The last song, a great epic, full instrumental, with amazing keyboard solos and fluent passages through each instrument is as good as any release of Uriah Heep, with some leanings towards some soundigns of FOCUS (Hamburgo Concerto), but it has its own spirit and caracter, certainly.

Its a solid 3,5 release, but as ambitious and strong debut are woth to be praise, I'am not afraid of roundig up!

Report this review (#1385778)
Posted Sunday, March 22, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Smak's s/t debut encompasses a wide range of variety. It is thoroughly ambitious in nature and it seethes with youthful enthuasism; - notably the track 'Perle' which kickstarts the album with a driving guitar theme led by Radomir Mihajlović "Točak", until the rest of the group join in and it becomes a mini-anthem with flashes of r'n'r ambience. Boris Aranđelović's style of singing is quite rowdy and extroverted; especially during brief outbreaks of falsetto which are a little bit too predominant in the mix, - allowing himself to become a little too exposed. Thankfully most of the record's shortcomings are somewhat endearing and it IS a stellar example of a record that gets better with every track. It has to be said from an objective direction that the group are stronger during the fusion- based moments, particularly the 19-minute closing track 'Put od Balona' which undergoes several exciting melodic themes, eccentric chord changes and soothing tempo changes whilst near-perpetually showcasing the remarkable talent of keyboardist Laza Ristovski and his lightning-speed organ chops, making it undoubtably the strongest track on the record and a must-listen for fans of ELP's 'Tarkus' and Focus's 'Eruption', - the latter being a stronger candidate in terms of structure-comparison. 'Biska 2' is the other instrumental track on the album, a four-minute hard-rocker which captures the musicians at their most organized and melodically accessible which should be instantly appealing for fans of guitar / synth interplay. In fact, the whole record should be very enthralling for guitar enthuaists; - Radomir Mihajlović in his heydey was regularly cited as 'The Yugoslavian Hendrix', but as a modern observer it's fair to say he was perhaps more versatile as he's prone to switch from psychedelic riffage to extended Hendrix-esque blues solos whilst still retaining a degree of acoustic sensitivity when necessary. 'Blues u Parku' is a fine example of his ability as a guitarist but the overall structure of the song isn't very captivating in comparison to the others.
Report this review (#1685742)
Posted Friday, January 27, 2017 | Review Permalink

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