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DRAGO MLINAREC

Prog Folk • Yugoslavia


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Drago Mlinarec biography
Drago Mlinarec was one of the most prolific singer/songwriters in the former Yugoslavia and the leader of the renowned beatsters GRUPA 220, the first ex-YU rock band that managed to record an LP album back in 1968 in Zagreb (present Croatia). Upon the break-up of the group's first line-up in 1970, Mlinarec gathered a new GRUPA 220 band with the musicians: Husein Hasanefendic, Ivan Piko Stancic, Nenad Zubak and Brane Zivkovic. He planned a new GRUPA 220 album, but instead decided to issue it under his solo name, "A ti se ne daj" in 1971. That album marked the beginning of his solo career and the following year saw the release of "Pjesme s planine", critically acclaimed LP with Zubak and Stancic of GRUPA 220 as rhythm section. The third album "Rodjenje" in 1975 introduced keyboard player Neven Franges with whom Mlinarec was about to collaborate until 1978, recording two more albums. During 1970s Mlinarec also appeared at many rock festivals including famous "BOOM" pop festival in Ljubljana 1972 and 1973, and was engaged in composing music for several theatre plays, TV shows, documentary and feature films. From 1979 till 1983 he recorded three albums in Sweden with producer/multiinstrumentalist Tinnie Varga, while during the 1980s he collaborated with Zagreb-based New Wave bands AZRA and LE CINEMA. Around 1987 Mlinarec moved to the Croatian countryside, where he lived away from publicity until 1994 when he recorded an ambient-experimental cassette tape "Analog" with Aldo Ivancic. The CD retrospective "Krhotine" appeared in 1996, which presented a recap of his entire career. In 1997 Mlinarec won Croatian music honorary award "Porin" for life accomplishment in music.

Mlinarec's first four albums ("A ti se ne daj", "Pjesme s planine", "Rodjenje" and "Negdje postoji netko") are usually regarded to be the best; there he explored diverse musical interests, crossing over between acid-tinged jam proto-prog rock with long compositions featuring guitar, organ and flute solos, and more mellow acoustic and electric folk rock with progressive and sometimes psychedelic or "classical" feeling. On one hand it resembles TRAFFIC or CSN&Y, on the other "Meddle"-era PINK FLOYD.
Recommended to fans of folk-rock, progressive folk and acoustic guitars with melodic but sometimes extended songs, with psyche moments.



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DRAGO MLINAREC discography


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DRAGO MLINAREC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 2 ratings
Grupa 220: Nasi Dani
1968
4.68 | 6 ratings
A ti se ne daj
1971
4.04 | 6 ratings
Pjesme s planine
1972
4.96 | 4 ratings
Rodjenje
1975
4.00 | 3 ratings
Negdje Postoji Netko
1977
3.00 | 2 ratings
Sve Je U Redu
1978
4.00 | 2 ratings
Tako Lako
1979
3.05 | 2 ratings
Sabrano
1980
2.38 | 4 ratings
Pomaknuto
1983
3.00 | 1 ratings
Analog
1994

DRAGO MLINAREC Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

DRAGO MLINAREC Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Osmijeh - Koncert Boogaloo 29092005 (DVD+CD)
2006

DRAGO MLINAREC Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.10 | 2 ratings
Krhotine
1996
4.00 | 1 ratings
Krhotine 2005
2005
2.00 | 1 ratings
Grupa 220 & Drago Mlinarec: The Ultimate Collection
2007

DRAGO MLINAREC Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Nocna Ptica
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Caracas
1977

DRAGO MLINAREC Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Krhotine 2005 by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2005
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Krhotine 2005
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
4 stars "Krhotine 2005" is a sort of refreshed issue of the previous, similarly titled CD "Krhotine", released in 2005 on the occasion of Mlinarec's awarding the "Porin" - Croatian music award - for life accomplishment in music. Regarding the collection of songs, it is similar to the previous one with few important differences.

Instead of 5 songs from 1996 issue (out of which prog aficionados should regret the absence of two tracks from debut album, "Pop pjevač" and "Srebri se mraz"), this collection is strengthened by addition of two excellent, progressive compositions: "Rođenje/Helena lijepa i ja u ki?i" in its integral almost 17-minutes form taken from "Rođenje" LP and a new track, 14-minutes electronic ambient instrumental "Drums In 3 Fun", which was composed in 2001 for the theatrical play "Christopher Columbus" by Michael de Ghelderode. In case you want a single-disc compilation of the songs representing the bulk of Mlinarec's solo career, let it be this one.

PERSONAL RATING: 3,5/5

P.A. RATING: 4/5

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 Krhotine by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1996
3.10 | 2 ratings

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Krhotine
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars "Krhotine" (eng. Splinters) was the first CD issue by Drago Mlinarec. It contains a selection of songs taken from all of his eight solo albums, starting from debut "A ti se ne daj" (1971) through "Pomaknuto" (1983). It is a fair representation of his career although one could nag about certain key songs missing, especially those progressive ones from his acclaimed LPs, "Pjesme s planine" and "Rodjenje". Instead, the completists will hail the inclusion of the later, 1992 live version of "Kaj god Blues", known for its previous appearance at the Boom Pop Festival Ljubljana 1972. This time again it was Tomaz Domicelj, a renowned Slovene singer/songwriter, who provided lead vocals. An old GRUPA 220 song "Prolazi jesen" from 1968 is included here in its re-recorded version that appeared on Mlinarec's anthology "Sabrano" in 1980. This CD is recommended if you do not own any other Mlinarec album or would like to have an introduction to the music of this important rock author of ex-Yugoslav period.

PERSONAL RATING: 3/5

PA RATING: 3/5

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 Analog by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Analog
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars Having the last studio album "Pomaknuto" (1983) showed serious signs of creative crisis, Mlinarec retired from music business. After the 20th anniversary reunion concert of his old-time beatsters GRUPA 220 in 1987, he also retired from public life and moved to live in the peaceful countryside near the Slovene-Croatian border, surrounded by stray dogs and cats (he developed a sort of animal refuge centre at his house) and computers.

In 1994 the Slovene underground label FV issued a tape called "Analog", which presented Mlinarec as an author of music largely unrelated to his known career of an acoustic laid-back singer/songwriter - the electronica! However, he was anything but a novice to digital equipment. Even on "Pomaknuto" one could hear certain studio manipulations with electronic sounds, while in a recent interview he explained his passion for electronics had dated back to early 1970s when he acquired his first 16 KB memory computer!

Sidelong "Well You Know... Okee" will surely remind you of some FLOYD/TANGERINE DREAM aspects, starting from introductory natural sounds of birds and roosters to mixing of voice hums and radio speech to later rhythmic sequencers of trance-like sensation. Of course, the minimalist ambient aspect of Brian Eno also comes to mind, which is particularly evident in the closer "C'est" with its sea waves emulation, gentle percussions and electronic bass.

Mlinarec as a singer can be heard in two remaining tracks, "Predvecerje puno skepse" (eng. An Evening Full of Scepticism) and "Dijana u gradu" (eng. Diana in Town), recalling his best-known period. This time, however, he used lyrics written by Miroslav Krleza, a famous Croatian author from the Yugoslav era. Both songs are very nice and can match some of his earlier and most popular works from the past.

Since the sound of this tape is largely digital (including the electronic drums and percussions), the cassette title may be read as a paradoxical twist, but is nevertheless an interesting issue that should be listened to, not only by Drago's fans.

PERSONAL RATING: 3,5/5

P.A. RATING: 3/5

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 Grupa 220: Nasi Dani by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.05 | 2 ratings

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Grupa 220: Nasi Dani
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Debut album of Zagreb-based GRUPA 220 "Nasi dani" (eng. Our Days) belongs to the category of records about which one could say: "Even if it were released as an empty piece of vinyl without a sound, it would have still been historically important"! It was the first LP record released in Yugoslavia (late 1968) by a domestic label (Jugoton) and by a Yugoslav rock band (GRUPA 220), which at the time were called "vocal-instrumental combos" (local abbr. "VIS") or "beat ensembles" playing music influenced by the British invasion/rock'n'roll sound of the mid-1960s.

But "Nasi dani" was and still remains more than that. Unlike the fashion of the day when Yugoslav bands mostly played covers of international hits (in broken English or in translated versions) or instrumental surf rock of the Shadows, Drago Mlinarec and his group engaged in writing their own songs and thus manufacturing the first authentic, domestic rock hits in the local language like "Osmijeh" (eng. Smile) from 1967. This practice was groundbreaking and pioneering effort in ex-Yugoslavia and perhaps only INDEXI could match GRUPA 220 in that manner. Even politically significant for the period of Titoist "real socialism", this action showed to the Yugoslav establishment that "pop music" (as it was called those days) was not only an "American imperialist import" but also a global musical expression that could nicely fit into local cultures and produce quality.

Musically, this album sounds little bit like famous transitional albums of the BEATLES ("Rubber Soul", "Revolver") or Bob Dylan ("Highway 61", "Blonde on Blonde") with tiny elements of psychedelia impregnated in the songs, particularly the eerie Alan Price- like organ and wah-wahed guitar licks. The title track bookending the album invokes the quasi-classical organ melodies of PROCOL HARUM, while the most "progressive" is certainly 6-minute "Negdje postoji netko" (eng. There is Someone Somewhere) with a loose, hypnotic and jazzy arrangement. Strong eastern-tinged percussions and recorder solo played by Branimir Zivković reminded rock critic Zlatko Gall of some early TRAFFIC works when he wrote liner notes for 2000 CD reissue. This song would re-surface later on the namesake solo album by Mlinarec in 1977. The second songwriter in the band, guitarist/vocalist Vojko Sabolović, was more inclined towards straight pop melodies and danceable hits so three of his tracks somehow do not seem to merge well with Mlinarec's cynical and introspective "lonesome wolf" Dylanesque lyrics such as "Starac" (eng. The Old Man) and "Besciljni dani" (eng. Aimless Days).

Overall, do not expect much in terms of production, instrumental prowess or mammoth and complex song structures - it is too early for that! Remember, we are talking about 1968 and the closest we can relate this LP to prog rock is to say it might fit into the proto-prog category. But, the progress here lies in the form and in the historical/regional context, not in the vinyl grooves. This album represents the birthplace of Yugoslav (and hence Bosnian/Croatian/Macedonian/Montenegrin/Serbian/Slovene) long- playing discography of rock music and of many of its later subdivisions including progressive rock.

PERSONAL RATING: 3/5

P.A. RATING: 4/5

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 Pomaknuto by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.38 | 4 ratings

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Pomaknuto
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Juozas

3 stars "2 u 8" (2 in 8) is the expression from central Croatia and Croatian Hinterlands (Zagorje) for the mix of (usually bad) white wine and mineral water; 2/10 of water and 8/10 of wine. "5 do 8" is similar expression for cognac.

Much of Mlinarec's consequent work after this album was experimental music which usually surfaced at the various exhibtions openings or as the part of the artistic installations, also as the ambient music for radio or TV. No matter how bad it may sound as the LP, it indicated the direction of the Mlinarec's music to come.

Album was made during the expansion of Varga's studio, so the temptation to experiment was obviously much too strong.

During 90s Mlinarec issued 2 cassettes of experimental music for a Slovenian label. Apart from the experimetal tracks, the first cassette comprised also 2 songs composed on poems by the great Croatian writer Miroslav Krleza.

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 Pomaknuto by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.38 | 4 ratings

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Pomaknuto
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars "Pomaknuto" (Set Off) is the final in the trilogy of albums recorded with producer Tinnie Varga in his studio in Sweden. Moreover, it is the final Drago Mlinarec's album in his career and it remains so in the years to come.

Maybe it is unfair to pronounce it his worst album, but really so much dependence on drum machines and synths, vocal synthetic treatments, totally unnecessary sampling of odd sounds (baby cry, football game commentators...) and overall production done in this way, cannot rely on more understanding and sympathy. The worst thing is, the very songs seem not too bad at all and one wish that they be undone and re-recorded with more humane and natural production.

There are a few good moments, though. "Volim ih" (I Love Them) and "Urlik Skrutten" (Swedish translation needed...?) contain some very good guitar solos, augmented by certain psychedelic techno effects. The closing track with nonsense title "2 u 8,5 do 8" brings back acoustic folksy sound with Neil Youngish harmonica and a brewpub atmosphere. Speaking of Mr. Young I still remember my horror when hearing his notorious 1982 "Trans" album where he experimented with synths and computers, but over the years I learnt to treat it as such - a failed but sincere experiment.

Unfortunately, "Pomaknuto" is not experimental at all, rather it shows a period of letargy and creative down of a great songwriter. For collectors only...

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 Sabrano by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.05 | 2 ratings

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Sabrano
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars After successful collaboration with producer Tinnie Varga on his previous album "Tako lako", Drago Mlinarec logically decided not to change his winning team.

Backed by a group of local session musicians and under the studio direction of Varga, he chose to collect a handful of his earlier songs and to re-record them in Varga's studio in Sweden. Therefore, the album title "Sabrano" (Collected Works), although suggests a compilation release, actually contains new studio recording of these tracks.

Mlinarec combined both his solo tracks and those he did with GRUPA 220 in late 1960 in order to present a refreshed version of his entire career up to this point. Music style is similar to that of the previous album "Tako lako" - a more or less straightforward "mainstream" rock, with hints of British pub rock, American "heartland" folk rock and a crisp "new wave" production, which is especially evident in rhythm section treatment.

This is a very accessible and easy-going rock music, but not an "easy listening" pop, which is quite a different thing. Highlights include a reggae re-work of evergreen GRUPA 220 hit of 1967, "Osmijeh" (The Smile), "Trkaliste" (The Racing Field) and a slightly condensed prog masterpiece "Pjesme s planine" (Songs From the Mountain) from the namesake album of 1972 - for this occassion slightly harder and with more compact arrangement. "Trkaliste" was previously released only as single in 1974, and Mlinarec performed it as a representative of TV Zagreb during the then federal all-Yugoslavian contest for Eurovision competition.

Although with very little progressive rock elements, "Sabrano" is good album in its own right. It can serve as a decent introduction to Mlinarec's classic period, however, listeners who don't like the "synthesized" production of early 1980s may opt for later, more comprehensive CD compilations.

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 Tako Lako by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Tako Lako
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Mlinarec's previous album "Sve je u redu" failed to hit the charts and was also dismissed by the press. Therefore, Mlinarec decided to change direction a bit. Instead of Neven Franges and his group, for the new album he established collaboration with Croatian- born Swedish resident, Tihomir Tinnie Varga, who was a musician himself and owner of a recording studio in Sweden. This new collaboration was to last until the final studio album "Pomaknuto" in 1983, when Mlinarec decided to retire from the music scene. During this period, a legion of Yugoslavian and Swedish studio musicians participated on his albums.

The sixth studio album, recorded and released in 1979, was titled "Tako lako" (So Easy). It marked stylistic change from largely acoustic, laid-back, spacey folk-rock ballads towards straightforward, electrified and energetic rock'n'roll. It is obvious that the then New Wave sounds brought "fresh blood" and new ideas to the legions of classic (prog) rockers, and Mlinarec was clever enough to take it as a challenge. And he succeeded! Influences on "Tako lako" are varied - American folk-rock and southern rock, British roots revival and pub-rock, and psychedelic folk ballads.

The title track is a hot-blooded rocker, filled with guitar riffs and strong rhythm sections, much in the style of American southern rock a la ALLMAN BROS or LYNYRD SKYNYRD. "Stranac" (The Stranger) was a big hit with extremely nice and catchy chorus, semi-acoustic and semi-electric mainstream rock piece. The word "mainstream" here denotes that it is not "prog", not that it's too AOR. There are slices of "Caribbean" percussion. Instrumental "Jezera" (The Lakes) brings back the acoustic side of Mlinarec, with nice duet of 12-strings and Dobro guitars (and sort of what sounds like mandolins) which invoke Ry Cooder's soundtracks a little bit (however, this is 1979!). Harmonica adds a bit of "Western movies" atmosphere.

Then a storm comes in - a menacing and stomping bass rhythm and guitars, with high pitch percussion effects - "Ovce" (Sheep)! "The sheep don't care about wolves and winter problems as long as there is enough long grass to eat..." I am not saying this was a deliberate allegory on the peak moment of the Yugoslavian "the most humane" and most developed self-governing socialist system in the world under Tito leadership (he died the following year), but one wonders... It is definitely a cynical commentary on the society. And given the furious electric guitar solo, it is not the only connection with PINK FLOYD's "Animals"! "Ovce" is definite masterpiece of this album and one of the strongest musical and lyrical works of Drago Mlinarec. Unfortunately, or maybe just because of that fact, it remained obscure and unknown in the Yugo scene.

"Prijatelj" (My Friend) mixes THE ROLLING STONES guitar riffs with New Wave/Ska rhythm guitar chords, with additional 1950s style rockabilly backing vocals and more Caribbean percussion. A song made perfect for the parties, but pales with repeated listening. "Vjetar s juga" (Southern Wind) is a slower track with acoustic guitars, melodic bass and drums hit with brushes. Again we feel typical American sound of folk/country/rock - I can sense the presence of GRATEFUL DEAD's "American Beauty" sound, which is great.

"San" (The Dream) is another "progressive" highlight of the album. It is a slow ballad in a familiar Mlinarec style, including synthesisers, wonderful electric guitar solo moments and changes of tempo. The chorus is very atmospheric and gives a wide-space sensation with some folksy melodic solos. This song was composed back in 1969 when Mlinarec served the army in Rijeka. For this occasion a female friend spoke a part of the lyrics in Swedish. "Nostalgija" (Nostalgia) has a sort of honky-tonk jazz/blues rhythm performed mainly with acoustic instruments. Check excellent solo on acoustic guitar!

Now, on the strict prog side only two or three songs fit into that category. But don't be so narrow-minded; "Tako lako" is excellent rock album first and foremost. It is diverse in style and all the tracks (well, except maybe "Prijatelj") are very well crafted and performed. "Ovce" alone would qualify this album for a highly recommended listening.

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 Sve Je U Redu by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Sve Je U Redu
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The previous Mlinarec's album "Negdje postoji netko" already showed signs of crisis, but this one, the fifth album "Sve je u redu" (It's All Right), despite its title, is clearly a weaker one. It was done again in collaboration with pianist and producer N. Franges and his backing band. The style is similar to that of the previous album - mainly acoustic, with guitars and piano as lead instruments and typical singer/songwriter laid back sound, with some American style folk-rock spices.

"Glas s broja 514 913" (The Voice From Number 514 913) and "Ne brini doktore" (Don't Worry, Doctor) sound as good old Bob Dylan epics. "Penzioneri" (The Pensioners) brings interesting jazzy violin solo and percussion in a slow tempo. "Mora da sam bio mlad" (I Must Have Been Too Young) and "Svi sve znaju" (Everybody Knows Everything) are mediocre mainstream rock tracks, with captivating chorus but not engaging enough. The 10-minute ambitious epic suite "Cirkus" starts slowly and builds up with piano, electric guitar and fine drums and organ. It reminds of Mlinarec's earlier progressive epics from previous albums. It goes and goes, interchanging solos between guitar and piano... "Cesta" (The Road) closes the album with another acoustic piano-led ballad, a sort of rather boring melancholic Elton John...

Actually, there is nothing particularly wrong with this album. It is just not up to the high standards set with previous albums and especially given Mlinarec's reputation as the leader of GRUPA 220 and his strong authorship. The entire sound and production is flat and, while quite listenable, it doesn't produce that "certain feeling" in a listener. Even with excellent cover art it is hard to give more than 3 stars to this album, which should have been renamed into "Something's Wrong"! That Mlinarec himself was aware of these facts, the next album, done with entire different producer and backing musicians, was to confirm.

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 Negdje Postoji Netko by MLINAREC, DRAGO album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Negdje Postoji Netko
Drago Mlinarec Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This is the fourth album of Drago Mlinarec. It was released in 1977 under this title which translates "There's Someone Somewhere".

It continues in the vein of the previous album "Rodjenje", only this time it is even more restricted in the arrangements and production that are minimalistic. Backing band is the same one, led by the pianist Neven Franges. Dominating instruments are acoustic guitars and acoustic (grand) piano, making this album the least "rocking" of all the works of Mlinarec. Melancholic, minor-key compositions are highly introspective, and require several listens in order to catch their substance. However, it is noticeable that arrangements and composing are not on par with earlier efforts, making "Negdje postoji netko" the first sign of the crisis of Mlinarec's creativity.

That said, this album still contains at least four excellent songs: the opening title track with amazing sound of acoustic guitars, reminding me of Johnny Marr's work for THE SMITHS some ten years later and a wonderful "Gdje je istina" ("Where's the Truth") with another strong guitar work, this time using the effects similar to PINK FLOYD's on "Animals" from around the same year. Two highlights of the album definitely are "Jedrenjak" ("Sailing Ship"), piano and bass driven epic song close to classic prog rock sound and a gentle, pastoral ballad "Polja" ("The Fields") with repetitive acoustic guitar chord and a playful right-hand piano work of Franges. In these songs Mlinarec proves his vocal and lyrical abilities and confirms his position as the leading singer/songwriter with a "rock" sensibility in the former Yugoslavia of the time (he is originally from Croatia).

"Zelen kao zelena trava" ("As Green As Grass") and "Caracas" are IMO unsuccessful attempts to produce more accessible if not commercial material, while the closing lengthy instrumental "Cvrkut ptica" ("Birds Singing") with the birds sounds, electric piano and harmonica would be a proper choice for a documentary soundtrack. Here on the record, unfortunately it leads aimlessly to boredom. This album fails to match the previous three masterpieces of Drago Mlinarec, but it still has a lots of good material and excellent music to be recommended, if you enjoy listening to "nice and easy" mainly acoustic songs. Not quite for 4 stars, but also more than merely an average "good"!

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Thanks to seyo for the artist addition.

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