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Smak - Crna Dama [Aka: Black Lady] CD (album) cover



Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Last time I listened to this album was in early 1980s when I was in my teens and believe it or not it was extremely popular in the time of its release. Actually it broke into the mainstream rock scene and radio, with three songs as major hits: "Crna dama", "Alo" (one of best forrays into scat singing of the era) and "Daire", while the album sold quite well. Then, in 1977 SMAK was really among the top ex-Yugoslavian bands, but for a long time I thought it overrated and being just enough lucky to catch the moment of trend while BIJELO DUGME was in hiatus and LEB I SOL just started their career. Listening again today I must be objective and state that in my opinion this is very close to a masterpiece. Everything here runs smoothly, production is excellent and musicianship superb. Two instrumental pieces "Domaci zadatak" and "Tegoba" are wonderful, with stress on piano, synth and strong melodic bass, with guitar just in place where necessary. Of two ballads one was excellent, "Plava pesma", while the other "Stvar ljubavi" is slightly dull for me. Nevermind this is a gem and a rare instance of commercially successful jazz rock fusion in ex-Yugo. It is recommended listening to all prog fans. This was issued in English version the following year for the Western market, under the title "Black Lady".
Report this review (#34474)
Posted Thursday, March 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Miki Petkovski replaced Laza Ristovski here and the result was pretty much the same as with Ristovski. Petkovski is an excellent soloist and improviser, which he shows best in "Domaci zadatak(Homework)". Here he utilizes his skills on piano, organ and synthesizer. His compositional skills were also notable, here he wrote "Tegoba", a Chick Corea-like instrumental. Other notable songs are "Alo", "Plava pesma" and "Daire", the last one an ethno fused number. The title song is pure mainstream rock while "Stvar ljubavi" is a sickeningly sweet and boring love song.

On "Crna dama" Smak moved a step closer to commercial music, but they still didn't forget their roots. Of all Smak albums, it has the most jazzy feel, which is undoubtedly due to Petkovski's influence. It remains Smak's perhaps most successful album, commercially and musically.

Report this review (#42343)
Posted Wednesday, August 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The only thing you have to know is that it sounds suberb!They didn't catch the moment of trend because Bjelo Dugme was the most popular in that time by the magazines.Song Domaci Zadatak was made for Bjelo Dugme,too show how much musicaly Smak is better. This album i haven't bought on LP and i am very disapointed ,it is the best album in Yugoslavia that i ever heared
Report this review (#73954)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars SMAK is one of the most interesting ex-Yugo groups. "Crna dama" (Black Lady) is their best effort together with "Stranice naseg vremena" (Pages of Our Time). Both albums were recorded in London, so the production is apparently clearer than ex-Yugo productions of that time. Vocal tracks were also recorded with English lyrics for foreign market. I was lucky to get the CD reissue of "Crna dama".

The musicianship on this album is high but not all tracks are strictly prog. It's an interesting mix: a hit song ("Crna dama"), nice blues rock ballads ("Plava Pesma", "Stvar ljubavi"), a funky track ("Alo"), prog instrumentals ("Domaci zadatak", "Tegoba") and an energetic ethno rock song ("Daire"). The speciality of their style are funky fusion and occasional oriental elements full of temperament and soul.

I enjoy all tracks but the most impressive is the instrumental "Tegoba". It starts with a short emersonesque piano intro and continues with busy drumming and one of the best bass melodies in a nice counterpoint with upper melodies. It's hard to describe but it sounds close to the spirit of PIAZZOLLA. The vocalist also doubles some melodies with wordless singing. One of my alltime favourite prog tracks! The album is worth having for this one alone.

As SMAK is one of my favorite groups my subjective rating would be 5 stars but I can't rate this album as a prog masterpice because only 2 or 3 tracks are entirely in the progressive style. Nonetheless worth exploring and an excellent addition to your collection!

Report this review (#75975)
Posted Sunday, April 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars SMAK's third album showed more mature picture of the band. Compared to its predecessors, production is much better, and ideas gained better development, creating brief interplays and prolonged solos when necessary. The album is much in a symphonic/fusion realm, with occasional clashes with blues. Prog folk is almost absolutely absent (save the hard rock-folk track "Daire").

Vocals are still the weakest point (not the timbre or the Arandjelovic's performance, but the horrible pronounciation/diction), but good enough not to spoil the picture of the album in general. Musical craftsmanship is top-notch, occasionally astonishing. One of the weakest points of the album is "'Alo", but even the lowest point provides the pleasant listening; plentiful of blues-soloing accompanied with unison vocals and occasional keyboard journeys to the fusion. Very good. One-above-the-weakest song is "Daire", providing us excellent guitar riffs and brief but good Moog solo. "Tegoba" is an excellent semi-ballad with piano introduction that resembles Keith Emerson and RETURN TO FOREVER, floating into rolling concrete rhythms of Stojanovic's drums, with nice guitar solos. It got some sad disco mood, so to say, although the tune itself is not disco. "Plava Pesma" is an excellent Yugoslavian-style ballad, needles to say more.

"Domaci Zadatak" is the highlight of the album, presenting SMAK's outstanding technicians. Every instrument waits for it's own very moment, handcrafting the tapestry of extraordinary progressive rock. Although this tune was recorded only for the purpose of demonstration of band's skills, I wouldn't dare to say that it's pompous or progressive just for the sake of being progressive. The solos are just gorgeous, proving once again that Tocak and his fellow band members are excellent songwriters. The song have one of the rare bass guitar solos on wah-wah pedal (or EHX Bassballs, more likely).

At the end of the day, this is one of the best albums from former Yugoslavia and definitely worth having in your collection, if you can find a copy.

Report this review (#99111)
Posted Thursday, November 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Ex-Yugoslavian bands are rather hard to find in progressive rock style, so it's always a challenge to listen to an album coming from that region.SMAK were a popular band in Yugoslavia and ''Crna Dama'' reached my hands so I decided to give it a few listens...

Well,the conclusion I've made is that this is an uneven album.On the one side we have to deal with the great talent and excellent musicianship of these guys that are delivered in instrumental tracks like ''Domaci zadatak'' and ''Tegoba'', where the band shows how insiped prog/fusion must be played...But on the other one there are some weak tracks such as ''Crna Dama'' and ''Daire'' that aren't even prog and the additional vocals are weak as well.So this is a rather mediocre album,recommended mainly for fans of BRAND X and DIXIE DREGS,which I cannot rate higher than 3 stars...

Report this review (#170493)
Posted Saturday, May 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars Love at first listen my friends. SMAK were a band from Yugoslavia who boasted an amazing guitarist but the key on this album for me are the incredible songs. I really like the vocalist too, in fact everything about this recording just does it for me.

"Crna Dama" is a top three song for me,and check out the intro here. It then kicks in with vocals and it's quite catchy too. Good contrasts here between the laid back sections and the uptempo passages. A nice guitar solo before 2 1/2 minutes. "Stvar Ljubavi" is a touching and meaningful track.This guy can sing and he has that RPI style of singing too. Love the instrumental section after 2 1/2 minutes as the guitar solos tastefully and the synths, drums, piano and bass continue.The vocals are back before 4 minutes. "Domaci Zadatak" kicks in fairly quickly to an uptempo soundscape.This really reminds me of KRAAN and is the most JRF tune on here. Some nice bass before 2 1/2 minutes then the synths lead. Drums are up next leading the way until after 5 1/2 minutes when the song kicks back in. Lots of piano here.The organ then leads before synths come in to end it.

"Alo" has a good heavy rhythm with vocals melodies.Guitar joins in as well on this fun tune. "Tegoba" opens with piano before drums,guitar and organ join in. What an incredible sound here. Gorgeous ! Synths come to the fore 3 1/2 minutes in and the drumming is excellent. So is the guitar 6 minutes in. A top three track for sure. "Daire" features keyboards and vocals as some heavy drums, bass and guitar join in. "Plava Pesma" has this classical sounding intro and outro. In between it starts first with some steller guitar followed by the vocals. Man he sings so well. The guitar is back after 2 minutes. So good. Some nice drumming late. A moving track.

The best album i've heard so far from Yugoslavia.This will be hard to top with that emotional element that is important to me coming into play throughout.

Report this review (#307751)
Posted Sunday, October 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Second time in Smak' world. Second album. And what a album!

Bands that shows a great maturity from their debut to the second album must always be rpaised. Making music (and original music) may not be easy as it seems. Crna Dama (or, Black Lady) is perhaps one of the best Yugoslavian albums, and certainly a essential album of the genre (Jazz, Rock, Fusion and Jazz-Rock-Fusion).

All the caracteristics of the previous albums are persent, but they are perfected: the vocals are warm, the keyboards envolves you and the guitar lead you into the music (thats an expression I use a lot, but artists who REALLY do it are difficult to find). The three first tracks are great examplaries of the whole album, in a manner. The first brings the album with a great and catchy rythm, the sencond warm you all around with the vocals, but especially with the keyboards and guitars, and the third is a cheer up festival of all instruments showing the band members hability. "Alo" must have been a great track to play it live, and shows a jam in studio (something reminding me Deep Purple, I guess), "Tegoba" return to melody, as "Daire" dares to came back with great vocals. The closing track is a great closure for the whole ensemble, returning to the more melodic aproach of the album even with some string arreangements.

In a total time of 35 minutes, not exaclty a long album, Crna Dama is a work that can be easily apreciated but at the same time chalenges you to find the best spots that most suites you right after tha album is finished. As I already said, its a essential album, not only for the local scene, but for the universality of the musicianship. 5 Starts.

Report this review (#1385777)
Posted Sunday, March 22, 2015 | Review Permalink

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