Jan Kubík and Vladimír Kulhánek had previously played in the legendary group Flamengo. In 1975 they formed a new-group Bohemia with Lešek Semelka (previously of Modrý Efekt) and three others. The music of Bohemia must be classified as symphonic jazz-rock with some elements from Bohemian folk music. The long tracks feature flute, sax, electric piano, ARP synthesizer and electric guitar in elegant solos on five long tracks. Lešek Semelka's unique, bright voice adds the icing to the cake. Regretably, Bohemia's career proved to be short and Semelka returned to his old group, now re-named to M. Efekt. Michal Pavlíček and Michael Kocáb (a guest on this album who played in Mahagon at the time) would later collaborate on countless projects ranging from new wave, jazz-rock to contemporary classical music.
|1||ZRNKO PÍSKU||1978||PANTON 11 0699|
C & K Vocal (named after Jiří Cerha and Ladislav Kantor) were a vocal ensemble and Labyrint a progressive rock group comprising several ex-members of Flamengo. Their collaboration Generace (recorded between 1974 to 1976) has its moments (including an excellent, 9-minutc cut by Otakar Petřina), but some will dislike the call-and-response male and female vocals on several tracks.
|1||GENERACE||1977||SUPRAPHON 1 13 2023|
Marián Varga and Fedor Frešo had previously played in Bratislava's premier flower-power pop band Prúdy, along with Pavol Hammel.
Marián Varga's musical concept for Collegium Musicum had some common ground with the classical rock of Procol Harum, Moody Blues, The Nice and Deep Purple's Concerto For Group & Orchestra. An EP named "Hommage a J. S. Bach" (on Panton) became their 1970 recordingdebut. Their first album (recorded in October 1970) also incorporated elements of jazz, blues and beat in a manner similar to Colosseum circa 1969 (and also had some brass arrangements). Marián Varga's organ was the principal instrument, playing motifs mostly derived from classical music. In addition to two of Varga's compositions (both more than 13 minutes in length) they also included a version of Haydn's "Concerto In D" with a string orchestra.
Konvergencie was released before the end of 1971, a double album with only one track each side. "P. F. 1972" showcased Marián Varga's distinctive organ style, sometimes in dialogue with ace guitarist František Griglák, soon to form Fermáta, the Slovakian equivalent of Mahavishnu Orchestra or Iceberg. The track was divided into several interrelated sections, including one sung by a children's choir. "Suita Po Tisíc A Jednej Noci" (The Thousand And One Night Suite) was a free interpretation of themes from Rimsky-Korsakov's famous "Scheher-azade" performed live with a lot of extended organ and guitar solos. "Piesne Z Kolovratu" was a suite of small songs inspired by Czechoslovakian folk music and with lyrics written by the poet Kamil Peteraj. They have a soft and romantic feel and are blended together by elegant musical ornaments. Those who enjoy this track should check out the first Prúdy-album (from 1969) and the later collaborations with Pavol Hammel. "Eufónia" was a more experimental track with Varga squeezing out even stranger noises from his organ than Mike Ratledge had done before him.
When Griglák left Collegium Musicum, the others made an album with Pavol Hammel. He had been singer and guitarist of the beat-pop group Prúdy of which Marián Varga had also been a member. Zelená Pošta (1972) was credited only to Hammel and Varga, but was very much a group effort with Fedor Frešo handling production. This is another collection of short songs connected to a suite, and again with lyrics by Kamil Peteraj.
Collegium Musicum's next move was a superb live album recorded by the powerhouse trio of Varga, Freso and Hájek. The 1975 album was also partly recorded live, this time adding a guitar player again. These two albums display the group closest to the classical rock idiom with free interpretations of themes by Bartok and Prokofiev, but mostly original compositions and crafty improvisations. Within this field, few others have done it better!
For the next two years, Varga and company made two more albums with with Pavol Hammel, Kamil Peteraj and others. Na Druhom Programe Sna (1976) featured noted guitarist Radim Hladík and is an excellent cycle of 13 songs, interspersed with the characteristic Collegium Musicum instrumental framework. This is just as good as their "own" albums. Cyrano Z Predmesta (1978) was a kind of pop opera with two female and two male singers, strings and brass. Some instrumental segments are good but the vocals are too close to pop music.
1978 also saw the release of a new album credited to Collegium Musicum (with long time member Fedor Frešo returning from Modrý Kfekt). Continuo was an attempt to renew their old formula using the latest synthesizer technology. Varga played long, experimental solo parts (trustworthy old themes but played in strangely bended keys), alternating with more steady rock rhythms and vocals. Two tracks went beyond 16 minutes but are in many ways overshadowed by their previous attempts. Still this is quite a good album.
On A Ona (1979) had a much stronger orientation towards conventional rock than its predecessor and lacked a bit of distinction. It contained nine tracks in all and a couple of them are still quite good.
Ten years after Konvergencie, Varga concluded the Collegium Musicum years with another double album named Divergencie (1981). This was, similarly, a work in four main parts (the separation created by old vinyl albums could be an advantage). While this skeleton was very much the same, the musical fleshing was more indicative of Varga's recent efforts. The eminent guitar player Luboš Andršt graced the jazz-rock side "Refrény". Old partner Pavol Hammel was once again the featured vocalist on this and "P. F. (1982. 1983...)", a sweet attempt to combine pop, folk music and progressive rock with orchestra and choir. "Musica Concertante" was a more serious and academic composition (mainly for symphony orchestra) written by Varga in collaboration with Vojtech Magyar. This was a remarkably successful fusion of classical and rock music, sounding like a revision of Martinu's symphonies. Parts of "Sadza Do Obálky" (a new song cycle by Varga and Peteraj) represented the most song-oriented and ordinary material. Overall, this was one of the best Collegium Musicum albums, totally different from the EL&P-oriented material of the mid-seventies. Varga's solo album Stále Tie Dni (1984) was certainly different too, with experimental compositions (including a 20-minute war requiem) centered around synthesizers and vocoders. Marián Varga's group was undoubtedly the leading progressive rock band from Bratislava.
|1||COLLEGIUM MUSICUM||1971||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1018|
|2||KONVERGENCIE (2LP)||1971||OPUS 9113 0136|
|3||LIVE||1973||OPUS 9115 0261|
|4||COLLEGIUM MUSICUM & MARIÁN VARGA||1975||OPUS 9116 0446|
|5||CONTINUO||1978||OPUS 9116 0704|
|6||ON A ONA||1979||OPUS 9116 0727|
|7||DIVERGENCE (2LP)||1981||OPUS 9113 1221-22|
|A1||ZELENÁ POŠTA||1972||OPUS 9113 0191|
|A2||NA DRUHOM PROGRAME SNA||1976||OPUS 9116 0493|
|A3||CYRANO Z PREDMESTIA||1973||OPUS 9116 0638|
|A4||STÁLE TIE DNI / THE SAME DAYS AGAIN||1984||OPUS 9113 1308|
This chamber jazz-rock group met for the first time in 1974. Their first album Veči didn't appear until 1980, but do not miss it as it is a real gem! Their music was totally unique, merging elements of Slovak folk songs, Stravinsky, Bartok, Balkan reels and modern jazz with experimental rock. This is similar to Zappa's Uncle Meat, a Universe Zero with humour, Henry Cow playing for fun (seems unlikely!) at an Irish Pub or Robert Wyatt's vocal dadaism translated to music. Combo FH made short instrumentals with various keyboards, saxes and bassons to the fore (also some electric guitars and accordion), augmented by more than 20 percussion instruments (some of them quite unlikely). They always sound more playful than serious - this is far from free-jazz.
|1||VEČI||1980||PANTON 8113 0184|
|2||SITUACE NA STRESE||1985||PANTON 8113 0559|
Along with Plastic People, DG 307 were the leading group in the Prague 70's underground scene. The group was named after a medical designation for a psychological disorder. No official recordings were permitted, but in 1990 Globus International released a compilation of cassette recordings from different venues, including the first festival of the Second Culture in Postupic, 1 September 1974. The technical quality is bad but this has some historical interest as DO 307 partly predated the industrial rock of groups like Einstürzende Neubauten. Other parts were closer to the Plastic People-sound with agitative texts chanted over repetitive rhythms.
ARCHIVE MATERIAL (LP):
|1||1973-5||1990||GLOBUS INT. 210023|
This is a respected jazz guitarist, similar to Luboš Andršt. Dialogy was a work on which Dašek played in duo with several different players, creating an intimate atmosphere reminding me of Jiří Stivin's duo albums.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1980):
|1||POHÁDKA PRO BERITKU||1970||SUPRAPHON 0 15 0843|
Energit were among the best Czech jazz-rock ensembles of the seventies. They were fronted by the excellent guitar player and composer Luboš Andršt. His mid-seventies works were inspired by late sixties Miles Davis, Lifetime, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever, but also Jimi Hendrix and B. B. King. The eponymous first album (recorded 1974) reveals them at their best on the 17-minute "Ráno" - this is jazz-rock of international class with the fruitful combination of electric guitar, sax and electric piano. Try it if you like Frank Zappa's Jaka Jawaka. During this period, Energit also appeared on Jazzrocková Dilna 1 & 2.
Piknik (1978) featured Rudolf Ticháček on saxes again but keyboardist Miloš Svoboda had now replaced Emil Viklický. The album also featured guest players on trumpet and trombone. This is impressive jazz-rock throughout.
The solo album by Luboš Andršt was more similar to Steve Tibbets, although here the wonderful acoustic guitar parts are alternated with electric violin.
|1||ENERGIT||1975||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1787|
|2||PIKNIK||1978||PANTON 11 0695|
|1||CAPRICORNUS||1980||PANTON 8115 0168|
The Extempore Band were lurking around in Prague underground circles throughout the seventies along with Plastic People and DG 307. Their leader was Mikoláš Chadima, a veteran writer and musician of the underground scene. In 1984 he issued a 700-page history of Czechoslovak rock in the underground press. His activities were severely surppressed by the authorities and he had to undergo psychiatric treatment in hospital. Not surprisingly, Extempore Band were never permitted any releases on state labels although unofficial cassettes might exist. After the end of the cold war, the innovative new company Globus International compiled a double album from good quality live tapes recorded during 1979 (at the 9th Prague Jazz Days) and 1980. This is Kafkanian rock in opposition - frightfully dark and depressive underground music with a jazzy edge. This will arouse images of an era that thankfully has largely come to an end.
Chadima later formed another group, MCH Band, who recorded a superb double album for Globus.
|1||VELKOMĚSTO (1979-80)||1991||GLOBUS INT. 210068-9|
The Slovak fusion group Fermáta was established in 1973 by František Griglák and Tomáš Berka. The former was already an experienced guitar player from the groups Prúdy and Collegium Musicum.
Their first album comprised top class European instrumental fusion with fiery guitars and lots of synthesizers. In many ways they were the Slovak equivalent of the Spanish group Iceberg, sharing both their technical abilities and their will to incorporate elements of local folk music into their own, advanced compositions. The album contained five tracks of instrumental pyrotechnics, mostly by Griglák's burning guitars.
Pieseň Z Hôl' (1976) continued in a similar path, but with marginally more keyboards. In contrast, Huascaran (1977) was much more influenced by the composition techniques of classical music, being a monothematic whole (based on an earthquake disaster in the Peruvian mountains that killed 80,000 people) and lasting for nearly 40 minutes. This time acoustic piano, cello and a guest vocalist were also used.
Fermáta then took a two year break. During this time many members played with Marian Varga and Fedor in Collegium Musicum and other projects. The veteran Frešo then became Fermáta's new bass player for the productive period from 1979 to 1981. Dunajská Legenda (the Danubian legend) again focused on the interplay between Griglák and Berka, but also experimented with the addition of a string quartet. This brought their sound closer to the sophisticated French sound of Zao and others (but also the mid-seventies Camel).
Biela Planéta (The White Planet) dealt with the famous explorers (Magellan, Colombus...) filling the white spots on the world map of the Europeans. Frcšo's mandolins augmented their sound this time.
Generation (1981) revealed that their creativity had passed its zenith. It seemed as though Fermáta were stuck in a musical rut with few new directions to explore.
Their last album Ad Libitum (1984) then broke with their past and settled for synthesised rock with vocals, more in the style of Progres 2 or even Genesis with added jazz elements. This revamped line-up of Fermáta proved to be short-lived.
|1||FERMÁTA||1975||OPUS 9115 0374|
|2||PIESEŇ Z HÔL'||1976||OPUS 9116 0521|
|3||HUASCARAN||1977||OPUS 9116 0604|
|4||DUNAJSKÁ LEGENDA||1980||OPUS 9116 0726|
|5||BIELA PLANÉTA||1980||OPUS 9116 0939|
|6||GENERATION||1981||OPUS 9113 1150|
|7||AD LIBITUM||1984||OPUS 9113 1580|
Flamengo were among the leading late sixties beat bands in Prague. They released seven singles between 1967 and 1969. František Francl was their eminent guitar player at the time, gracing their material (most of which was self-written, although they also made a great cover version of John Mayall's "No Reply") with stinging fuzztone passages.
The second part of their history started with the arrival of woodwind player Jan Kubík and Vladimír Mišík, who was previously vocalist and lyricist for Blue Effect. Kure V Hodinkách (1972) contained energetic progressive jazz-rock somewhere between Jethro Tull, Colosseum, Traffic and Cream. For some reason the Czech authorities found the lyrics too provocative and subsequently the record was banned.
|1||KURE V HODINKACH||1972||SUPRAPHON 1113 1291|
A vocal trio of two females and one male who sang soft hippie-pop tracks with orchestral arrangements. Similar to The Mamas & Papas and the domestic group The Rebels.
|1||FORTUNA||1969||SUPRAPHON 0 13 0536|
Their first album contained cover versions of recent blues and soul numbers and is of little interest. Město Er is a strange, old-fashioned concoction of progressive rock, beat, pop songs, folk and jazz, with some strings and brass added. The title track was a 20-minute song cycle dealing with the imaginary city Er. The lyrics were written by the poet Josef Kainar, who is quite well-known in his homeland. The music is related to Progres Organization and Flamengo and even to Blue Effect's fusion attempts in the period between 1970-72. The second side of the album contained shorter and less ambitious tracks. No further albums were released until 1980. Pigeon's Dante (1980) wasn't too bad, melodic rock with hints of folk, jazz and blues. Neither of the albums credited the musicians.
|1||FRAMUS FIVE (BLUES AND SOUL)||1969||SUPRAPHON 1 13 0578|
|2||MĚSTO ER||1971||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1069|
|3||HOLUBÍ DANTE||1980||PANTON 8113 0169|
An obscure group from the Bratislava area. Their album contained instrumental jazz-rock centered around electric guitar and piano with the occasional addition of vibraphone and electric violin. The group also collaborated with the known jazz-rock keyboardist Gabriel Jonas.
|1||GATTCH||1971||OPUS 9113 0125|
As the name implies, this was a beat group (from Brno), although no "George" could be spotted! Obermayer had previously played with the legendary Matadors. Their first album contained sympathetic songs with harmony vocals, electric guitar, organ and decent string and brass arrangements. Some songs from the album was re-recorded in 1986 by Peter Novak with G&B (which included new members only) for a "best of" album.
|1||KOLOTOČ SVĚT||1969||PANTON PA 01 0203|
|2||VE IMENU LASKY||1972||PANTON|
This was one of the leading Czech jazz-rock ensembles of the mid-seventies, inspired by Miles Davis (Bitches Brew), Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Josef Zawinul. Their style was highly rhythmic with a fluent interplay between electric guitar, trumpet and various keyboards. Impuls also appeared on Jazzrocková Dílna 1 and 2 (from 1975 and 1976, respectively).
|1||IMPULS||1977||PANTON 11 0684|
Martin Kratochvíl formed the first version of Jazz Q Praha in 1965. It was dedicated to free-jazz with some beat elements as well. Among the early members was Jiří Stivín, later a well known name in Czech jazz circles. In 1970 they recorded Coniunctio with Radim Hladík's Blue Effect, an avant-garde album where fuzz guitars battle with screaming saxophones in pretty wild improvisations, creating a cacophony of sound. This is an interesting experiment, but surely not to everybody' s taste.
The Watch-Tower, in sharp contrast, was a sophisticated and relaxed jazz-rock album dominated by Kratochvíl's almost meditative electric piano textures. The blues-influenced electric guitar of Luboš Andršt provided a more robust counterpoint on the four long instrumental tracks. Only "Trifid" had vocals, introducing the strong female vocalist Joan Duggan.
Duggan was given much more space on Symbiosis, a more up-beat work with additional rock elements. Frantisek Francl, previously a member of the beat group Flamengo, had now replaced Andršt, who went on to form his own group Energit.
In 1976 Kratochvíl received a scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The later Jazz Q albums were in the typical European instrumental jazz-rock tradition with similarities to several French albums of this kind (but can also be compared to Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock). Kratochvíl's range of keyboards had now increased with Moog and ARP synthesizers added to his arsenal. Tidings (1978; with Andršt back again) will provide a good introduction to the band for newcomers.
JAZZ Q PRAHA & BLUE EFFECT:
|1||CONIUNCTIO||1971||SUPRAPHON 1 13 0845|
|2||THE WATCH-TOWER||1973||PANTON 01 0285/11|
|3||SYMBIOSIS||1974||SUPRAPHON 1 15 1356|
|4||ELEGY (ELEGIE)||1976||SUPRAPHON 1 15 1983|
|5||TIDINGS (ZVESTI)||1978||SUPRAPHON 1115 2450|
|6||FEASTING (HODOKVAS)||1979||SUPRAPHON 1115 2604|
Gabriel Jonáš, a jazz-rock keyboard player from Bratislava, made his first appearance in front of a larger audience at the Kroměříž jazz festival in 1975. The following year he made the album Zodiac in collaboration with Jiři Stivin and Klávesová Konkláva (Keyboard Conclave) with Karel Růžička and Emil Viklický (although that was not released until 1978). This represented a meeting between Jonáš and two other well-respected Czech jazz-rock keyboard players. Of these, Emil Viklický had previously played in Energit. This collaboration is quite good but will mostly appeal to a jazz audience. Impresie (1978) contained jazz-rock of the kind you would expect from a conservatory graduate - academic and technically competent, but also dangerously sterile.
ALBUM BY KLÁVESOVÁ KONKLÁVA:
|1||KLÁVESOVÁ KONKLÁVA||1978||SUPRAPHON 1 15 2228|
|2||IMPRESIE||1978||OPUS 9115 0729|
Mahagon's first album brought together a lot of the best jazz-rock musicians from Prague. The result was an energetic fusion remarkably close to several French groups or the British Canterbury sound (featuring electric violin, electric piano, electric guitar, sax and scat vocals). This is among the best of such albums from Czechoslovakia and a perfect starting point for the curious. Michael Kocáb later started Pražský Výběr before becoming a new wave rock star in the mid-eighties.
Signál Času was quite different from the first album, being more song-based, poetic jazz-rock with mannered vocals by Jan Spálený.
|1||MAHAGON||1977||SUPRAPHON 1 152145|
|2||SIGNÁL ČASU||1979 SUPRAPHON 1113 2646|
The Matadors rank among the most legendary bands from behind the Iron Curtain. In 1966 The Matadors were the house band at the Slunicko beat-club in Prague, playing versions of "I'm A Man", "My Generation" and the like. In 1967 their first release was the EP "Farmer John". Later on, they were also featured on Night Club 7 967 along with their rivals Olympic and some dreadful entertainment pop stuff. The neutral sleeve and label doesn't specify which tracks the artists are performing, but The Matadors played at least three selections: "Don't Bother Me", "Get Down From The Tree" and "Old Mother Hubbard".
Unlike The Primitives (Prague's psychedelic underground band) they were able to record a complete album in 1968. This is perhaps the best sixties album from this area, displaying Hladik's superb fuzz guitars playing aggressive beat and r&b close to early Pretty Things and Kinks. Seven tracks were original compostions, the remainder were great versions of songs by John Mayall, Bob Dylan and others. The album is almost impossible to find at all nowadays, let alone a copy in good condition.
Otto Bezloja and Tony Black accepted an invitation to perform Hair in Munich, Germany, and never returned to Czechoslovakia. This meant the end of The Matadors. Viktor Sodoma went on to Apollobeat and Jan F. Obermayer to the beat pop group George & Beathovens. Radim Hladik, for his part, kept close to the spirit of Matadors and formed a new group. The Special Blue Effect, who made their live debut at a Prague club in late 1968.
|1||THE MATADORS||1968||SUPRAPHON 0 13 0493|
|S1||NIGHT CLUB 1967||1967||SUPRAPHON 0 13 0205|
Vladimír Mišík is a well-known character of Czech rock. From the mid-sixties onwards he had played with The Matadors (before their first recordings), Karel Duba (a popular singer), Flamengo, New Force, Blue Effect, Formace and Energit. As far as I know, he wasn't featured on any albums between Flamengo's Kure V Hodinkách (1972) and the first ETC-album, released in 1976. This new group comprised several acquaintances from Misík's prolific past. His material is largely song-based, ranging from jazz-rock resembling the aforementioned Flamengo album to Bohemian electric folk-rock with harmonica and electric violin, vaguely similar to Bob Dylan and The Band. Etc... 2 (1980) replaced the jazz-rock elements with new wave, but this was indeed closer to folk-rock than the predecessor. They also made several more albums in the eighties.
VLADIMÍR MIŠÍK & ETC... (UP TO 1980):
|1||ETC||1976||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1918|
|2||ETC... 2||1980||SUPRAPHON 1113 2558|
The Blue Effect continued in the spirit of The Matadors, playing superb r&b material with Radim Hladík's fuzz guitar in charge. In 1969 they recorded their first single "Slucený Hrob" and an untitled 4-track EP.
Their album Meditace (1970) was great. "Pamet Lásky" opened the album with threatening gothic voices, narrative lead vocals and careful orchestration, much like a post Soviet invasion requiem. The other tracks ranged from Yarbirds-like sitar excursions and blues-rock highlighting the flute (similar to vintage Jethro Tull) to well-written pop-psychedelia in the typical late sixties tradition.
It seems that Vladimir Misík left The Blue Effect after a dispute over lyrics. He wanted to sing English lyrics, which didn't exactly please the Czech authorities. Misík joined the second version of Flamengo, but still had to sing Czech lyrics on their 1972-album (it was banned anyway!). His place was soon occupied by Lešek Semelka, a vocalist with a very unique style.
Hladik, Cozel and Čech then embarked on the first of three experimental recordings, attempting to combine free jazz and beat with Jazz Q Praha featuring Jiří Stivín. The sound of Coniunctio will puzzle the ears of many listeners, as this is considerably different to early Western attempts to combine jazz and rock at the time.
The New Synthesis albums are indeed even stranger, recorded with the Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra. Judging by their playing techniques, these professional musicians collectively seemed to ignore any new developments in jazz since 1960 (and rock was totally out of the question). The result was not a "synthesis" but two different generations of musicians playing on top of (but not with) each other.
A self-titled and largely instrumental progressive rock album was recorded in 1973, but not released until two years later. Two tracks were over 10 minutes long and ideal showcases for Hladik's intricate style (somewhere between Jan Akkcrman and the non-Latin jazz-rock style of Carlos Santana). His reputation as the best guitar player in Eastern Europe has a lot to do with this album.
In 1975 Hladik reformed the group (now as M. Efekt) with Čech and two new members: Fedor Frešo from Bratislava had been the bass player in Collegium Musicum (and he would later join Fermata) and Oldřich Veselý from Brno, the keyboard-player of Synkopy 61 (later relaunched as Synkopy). Their album Svitanie (1977) marked a turn towards a more lyrical and symphonic approach with a wide array of keyboards (ARP, siring ensemble, pianos and organ). Some aspects of this new sound resemble Yes circa 1972-73.
Svet Hledacu (1979) was recorded after the departure of Freso. He was replaced by the returning Lešek Semelka, who in the meantime had played in the group Bohemia. The album fullfilled the M. Efekt-concept of long, elaborate tracks. It's interesting to note that no bass player was employed. This was also the case on their final album 33.
While the Slovakian part of the country had Collegium Musicum, the leading Czech progressive rock group of the seventies was definitively Modrý Efekt.
|1||MEDITACE||1970||SUPRAPHON 0 13 0689|
|2||CONIUNCTIO||1970||SUPRAPHON 1 13 0845|
|3||KINGDOM OF LIFE||1971||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1023|
|4||NOVA SYNTEZA||1971||PANTON 11 0288|
|5||NOVA SYNTEZA 2||1974||PANTON 11 0489|
|6||M. E. & RADIM HLADÍK||1975||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1777|
|7||SVITANIE||1977||OPUS 9116 0541|
|8||SVET HLEDACU||1979||PANTON 8113 0068|
|9||33||1981||SUPRAPHON 1113 2897|
These two albums are mildly interesting and feature typical 70's material ranging from pop and rock to folk and jazz. They fit in the "progressive singer-songwriter" category, centered around Neckár's piano and vocals. Petřina adds some nice guitar passages on Planetarium (1977) a double concept album worth listening to (conventional music but enjoyable).
ALBUMS BY VÁCLAV NECKÁR & BACILY (UP TO 1980):
|1||TOMV, KOLONÁS MÁ RÁD||1975||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1545|
|2||PLANETARIUM (2LP)||1977||SUPRAPHON 1 13 2301-02|
Essentially a well-known pop singer in his own country (he was the singer in George & Beathovens in the 60's), the album Kráska A Zvíře (The Beauty And The Beast) is worth a spin. It was written by Novak with Petr Formánek and Zdeněk Rytíř and stretches the pop format to progressive rock, jazz and folk. There are even great moog synthesizer and electric guitar passages. Additional vocals are provided by Věra Mazánková and C. & K. Vocal. Forget your prejudices and you will probably enjoy this unhip but excellent album. The 1980 album is rather ordinary, though.
|1||KRÁSKA A ZVÍŘE||1975||PANTON 11 0486|
|2||CO JE TO LASKA||1980||PANTON 8113 0123|
With Petr Janda in charge, the first Olympic line-up originated in Prague in 1963 (initially named Big Beat Quintet). Their first single was a cover version of The Beatles' "From Me To You", indicating their direction for the following years when they were Czechoslovakia's premier heat-hand. Olympic also toured Poland with The Animals in 1966.
Their first album Želva (1968) was up to date with the hottest Western influences at the time, including Pink Floyd and The Juni Hendrix Experience. This reached a peak on the long freak-out "Psychiatrický Prášek". Other tracks were more in line with the 1966 British beat sound. A very good album!
Ptak Rosomak (1969) had massive orchestration and sitar parts, much in the tradition of Sgt. Pepper. These are among the most interesting sixties artifacts from Czechoslovakia, along with the stunning Matadors album.
At the turn of the decade, Olympic were the victim of the paranoid authorities, who banned their earlier albums. Still, they were allowed to make further albums and Jedeme Jedeme (1971) was another album strongly influenced by the late sixties Beatles, but also showing some early signs of progressive rock, much like Spooky Tooth's first album.
When Olympic resurfaced in 1978 with Marathon, their sound had changed considerably. It seems they attempted to be the Czech answer to Omega (or Eloy), presenting synthesized heavy-rock. This was well received by the record buyers and Olympic followed the same commercial direction on their eighties albums, although with a gradually decreasing musical quality.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1981):
|1||ŽELVA||1968||SUPRAPHON 1 13 0412|
|2||PTAK ROSOMAK||1969||SUPRAPHON 1 13 0689|
|3||JEDEME JEDEME||1971||SUPRAPHON 1 13 0994|
|4||OLYMPIC 4||1973||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1475|
|S1||12 NEJ||1976||SUPRAPHON 1 13 2016|
|5||MARATHON||1978||SUPRAPHON 1113 2119|
|6||PRÁZDNINY NA ZEMI||1979||SUPRAPHON 11132600|
|7||ULICE||1981||SUPRAPHON 1113 2950|
|1||HANDFUL||1972||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1207|
|2||OVERHEAD||1978||SUPRAPHON 1 13 2380|
|3||HOLYDAYS ON EARTH||1981||SUPRAPHON 1113 2714|
This guitar player was originally a member of Labyrint, the short-lived group formed by remnants of Flamengo. He contributed to their collaboration album with C & K Vocal, recorded between 1974 and 1976. Later he contributed compositions and arrangements to two reasonably good albums by Václav Neckár & Bacily.
The album Super-Robot (recorded in 1976) contained deeply mournful, slow tracks. Two of these exceeded 10 minutes and were augmented by a string quartet. Petřina also used bottleneck guitar reminiscent of David Gilmour on Obscured By The Clouds. This album is impressive and recommended (don't be fooled by the undistinguished front sleeve). His later album was a more ordinary affair.
|1||SURER-ROBOT||1977||SUPRAPHON 1 13 2330|
The Plastic People of the Universe became leaders of the so-called 'second culture' in Czechoslovakia. They were formed by Jirouš in September 1968, one month after the Warzaw Pact invasion. Due to their long hair and repertoire of songs (own compositions and covers of songs by The Fugs, Mothers Of Invention, Captain Beefheart and Velvet Underground) the group lost their 'professional' status in 1970. With home-made equipment they played unofficial concerts for the next few years. Among the most important was a performance named "homage to Andy Warhol" and the first festival of the Second Culture in Postupice (1 September 1974) along with DG 307 and Umělá Hmota III. A sequel to this was held in Bojanovice in February 1976 with the same groups. The authorities didn't stop these events but a month after the second festival the police raided apartments and arrested most of the performers. The manager of Plastic People (Ivan Jirouš), Vratislav Brabenec and Pavel Zajíček (of DG 307) were sentenced to jail from 8 to 18 months. Harassment of the Plastic People and their fans persisted for the remainder of the decade. A tape recorded in 1974 was eventually smuggled out of the country and released in France on the Scopa Invisible label. This album contained provocative lyrics by the underground poet Egon Bondy. Plastic People's music was violent and harsh, reflecting the austere climate in Prague at the time. But it was also indicative of the rich Czech jazz tradition with sax and electric piano dominating the instrumental segments.
|1||EGON BONDY'S HAPPY HEART CLUB BANNED||1977||SCOPA 10001|
|2||PASSION PLAY||1980||BOZY MLYN BM 8001|
|3||LEADING HORSES||1983||BOZY MLYN BM 8301|
|.||FRANCOVKA 1974-79||1992||GLOBUS INT. 210126 1318|
|.||ELIAŠOV OHEŇ 1972-76||1992||GLOBUS INT. 210127 1318|
|.||EGON BONDY'S HAPPY HEART||1992||GLOBUS INT. 210128 1318|
|.||PASSION PLAY (1978)||1992||GLOBUS INT. 210129 1318|
|.||SLAVNÁ NEMESIS (1979)||1992||GLOBUS INT. 210130 1318|
|.||LEADING HORSES (1981)||1992||GLOBUS INT. 210131 1318|
|.||HOVĚZÍ PORÁŽKA (1983)||1992||GLOBUS INT. 210132 1318|
|.||MIDNIGHT HOUSE (1984)||1992||GLOBUS INT. 210133 1318|
Their name means "Prague Selection" and this was essentially Michael Kocáb playing with various well-known musicians from Prague jazz-rock circles (including members of Impuls and Jazz Q). The majority of their album was filled by two 15-minule suites named "Mysterium" and "Metamorphosis". All this is serious jazz-rock of a high technical standard.
Michael Kocáb later reformed Pražský Výběr as a hard-hitting new wave band (in fact making excellent albums!), sometimes also known as just Výběr.
|1||ŽÍZEŇ (THIRST)||1978||PANTON 8115 0053|
Along with Framus 5, Progress Organization represented the best attempts in Czechoslovakia to play a more advanced form of pop music, constructing song cycles augmented by strings and brass on their debut album Barnodaj (1971). This was inspired by The Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper-period. Progress Organization also included their versions of "We Can Work It Out" and "I Feel Free" (the latter originally recorded by Cream).
Nothing was heard of Progress Organization until they resurfaced in the late seventies under the name Barnodaj. Another concept album of decent pop-rock songs with some orchestration then emerged - this time with a seventies-flavour, due to the frequent use of moog Synthesizer and occasional heavy guitars. A new change of name occurred before Dialog S Vesmirem (1980), a rock opera dealing with the sci-fi theme of encounters with alien civilisations. By now their sound was heavier, with more emphasis on instrumental passages of electric guitar and synthesizers (inspired by recent Pink Floyd-albums).
Třetí Kniha Džunglí (1982) represented the peak of their achievements. It was another rock opera, spanning four sides of a double album. Progres 2 made further albums in the eighties but they are all rather weak attempts to modernize their sound with new wave elements.
ALBUM AS PROGRESS ORGANIZATION:
|1||BARNODAJ||1971||SUPRAPHON 0 13 0985|
|2||MAUGLÍ||1978||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1919|
|3||DIALOG S VESMIREM||1980||PANTON 8113 0130|
|4||TŘETÍ KNIHA DŽUNGLÍ (2LP)||1982||PANTON 8113 0259|
Prúdy's album was a Slovakian response to Sgt. Pepper, an album full of charming pop songs with harmony vocals, lush orchestration and a hint of psychedelia. The best songs were written by Marián Varga, who soon went on to form Collegium Musicum. His characteristic keyboard ornaments are already recognisable at this early stage. A historic Czechoslovakian album full of period charm. Hammel later recorded many albums with a new version of Prúdy. This is rather forgetable pop. More interesting are the various Varga and Hammel collaborations. See the Collegium Musicum-entry for details.
|1||ZVONKY, ZVONTE||1969||OPUS 9013 2237|
|2||P. H. & PRÚDY||1971||PANTON 010 257|
|3||SOM STASTNY KED' STE STASTNÍ||1972||PANTON 11 0293|
|4||ŠLEHAČKOVÁ PRINCEZNA||1972||SUPRAPHON 113 1284|
|5||HRÁČ||1974||OPUS 9113 0339|
|6||STRETNUTÍE S TICHOM||1977||OPUS 9113 0528|
|S1||1966-1975 (2LP)||1982||OPUS 9113 1328-29|
These Rebels were in fact quite peaceful with flowers in their hair. Their one and only album was another of the Eastern bloc attempts to copy the Sgt. Pepper-sound. Side one contained six nicely orchestrated (with oboes, bassoons, brass and strings) songs segued into each other. The second side had English lyrics cover versions of "Twist And Shout", "California Dreamin'" and other John Phillips compositions. This was probably the reason why the album was banned by the authorities.
Jiří Stivín is one of the most famous jazz soloists of the seventies. His music is usually largely improvised free jazz. He played with Jazz Q Praha from their foundation in 1964 and also on their album with Blue Effect in 1970. In between his own albums he has played in countless formations at jazz festivals. The two first listed albums are typical free jazz offerings of the times, comparable to the earliest albums released on ECM and MPS by Jan Garbarek, Volker Kriegel, Wolfgang Dauner and others (his sources of inspiration were the sixties works of Coltrane and Coleman). Tandem (1976) was recorded with only Rudolf Dašek as co-musician and is more accessible. Stivín obviously favoured such duo collaborations - as he recorded Zvěrokruh with Gabriel Jonás in 1976 and Výlety with Pierre Favre in 1979.
ALBUMS (UP TO 1982):
|1||J. S. & CO JAZZ SYST.||1971||PANTON 110265|
|2||5 RAN DO ČEPICE||1972||SUPRAPHON 1 15 1229|
|3||TANDEM||1976||SUPRAPHON 1 15 1799|
|4||ZVĚROKRUH||1977||SUPRAPHON 1 15 2015|
|5||ROZHOVORY||1981||SUPRAPHON 1115 2890|
|6||VÝLETY (2LP)||1982||SUPRAPHON 1115 3381-82|
Synkopy 61 from Brno (Slovakia) never recorded a full length album but were active for many years from the late sixties onwards. In addition to several singles and EPs, they also recorded two mini albums of heavy rock influenced by Uriah Heep and the like with powerful Hammond organ and electric guitars. Both of these lacked originality and are collectable mostly due to their rarity value.
When the group split, Veseiý joined M. Efekt for the synthesized, jazzy progressive rock album Svet Hledacu (1979). His reformed version of Synkopy used this particular sound (using a second keyboard player in place of a bass player) as a starting point for Sluneční Hodiny (1981). This album successfully created a light and melodious symphonic rock, fronted by Veselý's bright, Jon Anderson-like vocals.
10" ALBUMS BY SYNKOPY 61:
|1||XANTIPA||1973||PANTON 22 0414|
|2||FORMULE 1||1975||PANTON 22 0503|
|3||SLUNEČNÍ HODINY||1981||PANTON 8113 0078|
|4||KŘÍDLENÍ||1983||PANTON 8113 0407|
A musical concept album about a boat that didn't float...
Dežo Ursiny was a veteran from the Bratislava beat scene of the sixties, playing in groups such as The Beatmen and The Soulmen. The latter released a 4-track EP on Panton in 1967.
The backing group Provisorium Was formed in 1972 and included the rhythm section of recently disbanded Flamengo (Kulhánek and Šedivý). The 1973 album is quite remarkable, a mature classical pop attempt resembling David Bowie at the time of Space Oddity, but with more jazzy sophistication than this. Even more remarkable was the use of English lyrics, which at the time usually meant being banned by the authorities. The orchestration on this album is really beautiful on the 20-minute track "Christmas Time". This album tends to be overlooked by collectors of Czech progressive rock, but truely belongs among the best and most integrated works.
The two later albums have lyrics in Slovakian and are enjoyable for their melodic, nocturnal jazz-rock songs with tasteful keyboard contributions from Jaroslav Filip.
|1||URSINY & PROVISORIUM||1973||SUPRAPHON 1 13 1380|
|2||PEVNINA DETSTVA||1978||OPUS 9116 0647|
|3||NOVÉ MAPY TICHA||1979||OPUS 9116 0817|
|.||BEAT LINE||1968||SUPRAPHON 0 13 0525|
|.||BEAT LINE OF TODAY||1971||SUPRAPHON|
|.||2. ČESKOSLOVENSKÝ BEAT FESTIVAL||1969||SUPRAPHON 1 13 0607|
|.||BAZAREM PROMEN||1990||PANTON 81 0812-1311|
|.||BEAT LINE OF TODAY||1971||SUPRAPHON|
|.||JAZZROCKOVA DILNA||1975||PANTON 11 0572|
|JAZZROCKOVA||DILNA 2||1976||PANTON 11 0598|
|.||NIGHT CLUB 1966||1966||SUPRAPHON|
|.||NIGHT CLUB 1967||1967||SUPRAPHON 0 13 0205|
|.||NIGHT CLUB 1968||1968||SUPRAPHON|