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Maja de Rado & Porodicna Manufaktura Crnog Hleba - Stvaranje CD (album) cover


Maja de Rado & Porodicna Manufaktura Crnog Hleba


Prog Folk

2.64 | 7 ratings

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3 stars Singer/songwriter Maja de Rado (lead vocal, 12-string acoustic guitar) and her cousins Jugoslav Vlahovic (prim, guitar, back vocals) and Slobodan Kuzmanovic (acoustic guitar) formed an odd underground acid-folk group called PORODICNA MANUFAKTURA CRNOG HLEBA in late 1960s. They soon became a part of the early seventies' burgeoning "the Belgrade acoustic scene" which gathered many musical groups (such as S VREMENA NA VREME, TRIO DAG, SUNCOKRET, VLADA & BAJKA, TAMARA & NENAD, DOGOVOR IZ 1804, GANESHA, or ZAJEDNO to name a few) to explore the post-psychedelic folk and traditional music fusion with the contemporary pop attitude. It was partially also a reaction towards the more popular "loud 'n' proud" electrical heavy (progressive) rock of bands such as POP MASINA or YU GRUPA. After several non-commercial 7" singles and frequent plays at the famous Belgrade off-mainstream theatre "Atelje 212", they recorded their debut LP called "Stvaranje" ("The Creation") in 1974. It was conceived while the group spent some time on the island of Brac, Croatia, in January 1974. That fact probably contributed to the use of language for the lyrics not typical for a Belgrade-based people. Today's linguistic- nationalist purists of the Yugoslav successor states, always sensitive to subtle linguistic differences, might be shocked to hear that a "Serbian" group was singing in "Croatian" language, while back then during the Titoist system of "Brotherhood and Unity" probably a few people actually noticed any difference or made a fuss about it. Maja's lyrics as such had a worthy "poetic" feeling and were far removed from the dominant sentimentality of the "love and romance" pop song approach. However, the band's early demise in 1975 doomed the record to obscurity, so it remained their only LP ever to be released. The original vinyl release was printed by PGP RTB label in a modest circulation, so today it presents one of the most looked-after rarities of the former Yugoslav pop and rock music. A vinyl re-release appeared in Austria around 2005 - issued by an obscure label Atlantide and it may still be found at web shop music sellers. It remains still unissued on CD format, so the only way for me to actually hear this album in order to write this review, was to dig a little bit and find an mp3 rip-off. In the meantime, Jugoslav Vlahovic built a respectable career as a cartoonist and record sleeve designer, while Maja de Rado practically disappeared from the pop scene and had been engaged with literature and classical music.

At first listen I was not much impressed. Poor audio quality of the available mp3 format notwithstanding, mostly acoustic balladry with occasional flute and prim tambouritza (a mandolin-related string instrument common to Central-South-Eastern Europe) contained little to invoke my repeated listening, so I abandoned it for a while. Still, I recently decided to give it another try in order my review for ProgArchives to be more substantive.

What strikes me the most about this LP is an apparent gap between the potential quality and song writing talents of Maja de Rado and her companions (including Petar Pavisic on double bass and Branimir Malkoc on flute) and the resulting product. There are many interesting moments that keep this album firmly within the contemporary acid-folk or psychedelic acoustic rock of the Seventies. The leading instruments, flute and prim tambouritza, were still not common in rock scene back in 1974, with a few notable and famous exceptions, so that fact alone represented a brave and pioneering act in the early 1970s in Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, the production was very poor and it is particularly evident in the mixing of the vocals, for which the group members (namely Jugoslav Vlahovic as main credited producer and arranger) were to be blamed. On top of that, the PGP label lacked professional and skilled producers and sound engineers who should have known the contemporary pop and rock expressions and how to translate the artists' ideas into a final recording process. Similar thing happened to the famous debut of POP MASINA - "Kiselina", which was originally a disastrous product in terms of production, but was recently remastered according to the original band's idea.

I would say, "Stvaranje" should be seen as the next candidate from the PGP RTB back catalogue for a thorough remastering and reissue on CD format (I hope the current editor of the PGP Retrologija series Mr. Bane Lokner will read this! - He has already deserved credits for several important CD reissues of old classic progressive rock acts like SMAK, INDEXI, or IGRA STAKLENIH PERLI).

Musically speaking, the two side-opening tracks are certainly the best on the album. "Strah" ("The Fear") is excellent track led by flute, catchy and quite accessible harmony vocals by Maja and Jugoslav and supplemented by solo parts on prim and (surprisingly!) drums courtesy of guest player Branimir Grujic. This track could have been a hit and is sadly neglected and rarely mentioned in the history of Yugoslav rock. "Noc" ("The Night") opens up with a bluesy acoustic guitar riffs, then delving into a mesmerised psychedelic acoustic jam. Flute leads the way, accompanied by percussion and bass when Maja enters with her soprano attempts (although her vocal is usually more on the alto scale). Prim adds some fine "banjo-like" finger picking spices. Again, this song belongs to the top of the acoustic acid-folk style.

"Zid" ("The Wall") is more light sounding acoustic ballad with a violin (by guest player Milomir Stamenkovic) and a chorus part that evokes the pop festivals of easy-listening vocal pop/"Schlager" music. "Covjek i pas" ("A Man With a Dog") presents an odd and interesting attempt to make an acoustic blues song with prim emulating guitar-like riffs while organ provides nice and "floating" Floyd-like sensation. The track unfortunately stretches a bit too long while Maja is losing some of her vocal confidence. Another lightweight song with hit-potentials is "Nisam smio" ("I Should Not Have") sung lead by Jugoslav (I suppose, no detail given), which has an irresistible melodic hook similar to certain Dylanesque works by the contemporary luminary of the acoustic folk-rock scene in Yugoslavia, Drago Mlinarec from Zagreb. "Pa sto?" ("So What?") presents a short Renaissance/troubadour folksy vignette with gentle flute and tender prim picking similar to what Djukic Brothers did with the peer contemporaries S VREMENA NA VREME. "Bez zbogom" ("No Goodbyes") is another brief but strong heavy beat with leading flute chords reminiscent of some early acoustic JETHRO TULL moments.

Not everything worked well on this album and it is now obvious that they paid tribute to the lack of professional experience and of studio engineering support. The remaining songs sound much weaker and that seems more due to poor arrangements and production than to bad song writing ideas. The prime example of this is the closing dark tune "Put i krstovi" ("The Road and the Crosses", which was dedicated to Salvador Allende!) which seems to lead nowhere along the repetitive congas percussion and ends this album with a bitter and unfulfilled taste.

So to conclude, "Stvaranje" despite its valid moments and musical similarities was not a Yugoslav version of Germany's famous hidden masterpiece of similar style - BROESELMACHINE's self-titled debut of 1971 - that still occupies the loudspeakers of acid- folk and prog-folk lovers. At least, until "Stvaranje" sees the light of day in a remastered CD format... For now, no matter how sympathetic I may be I cannot give this album full 4 stars.


P.A. RATING: 3/5

Seyo | 3/5 |


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