Monday, 25 June 2018

R. M. Točak (Smak) “R. M. Točak” 1976 Yugoslavia Prog Heavy Blues Rock,Jazz Rock Fusion


R. M. Točak (Smak) “R. M. Točak” 1976 Yugoslavia Prog Heavy Blues Rock

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Radomir Mihajlovic Tocak is an excellent Serbian guitarist born in 1950 in Cacak. He was a founding member of the Smak group with which he recorded a dozen albums. Another of his projects was the band TEK with Slobodan Stojanovic (drums) and Mikica Milosavljevic (bass). During his long career he has composed various soundtracks for film and theater. In 1976 he released his first solo album, “RM Tocak”, and seventeen years later came the second, “Vizantijsko plavo”. It also has several live discs with different formations. For some it is considered the Serbian Jimi Hendrix.This magnificent guitarist presents his first solo album containing six instrumental tracks with a total duration of just 30 minutes. His music is characterized by a mixture of styles where rock guitarist joins the jazz rock. The initial theme, “Gold,” contains certain folk doses. “Aria Diamond” shows us the true potential of this guitarist with many good riffs with a fast pace. All kinds of techniques are present in “Svrabez” with certain funk airs and with a few final minutes where Tocak is left alone with his guitar. At times it reminds me of the riffs of Tommy Bolin on his solo albums. Featured without a doubt is the song “Organizam Blues”, epic guitars with a certain blues touch. Radomir is accompanied by Zoran Milanović (bass)….~


RADOMIR MIHAILOVIĆ TOČAK is guitarist, composer and leader of the band SMAK. His playing style is characterised by mixture of emotional expression and unique technique. Among other things, his specific style includes skillful fingerpicking and vibrato techniques. In many compositions he uses non-standard string tunings along with natural effects obtained from the guitar amplifier. For a long time he’s been running his own guitar school. As a solo artist he took part in many recording sessions of other bands. Together with Slobodan Stojanović on drums and Mikica Milosavljević on bass, he is playing in a trio called TEK. He also composed soundtracks for film and theatre, and in 1994 he was awarded for the “Byzantine Blue” film score. Točak is also engaged in experimenting with computers while composing. (by Sead S. Fetahagić)….~


The one and the only 70’s solo effort from the SMAK’s guitar player, Radomir “Tocak” Mihajlovic is very similar in style and sound with the SMAK’s albums from the same era. A very nice, emotional bluesy progressive rock. Musicianship is very good, actually is almost on the same level as usual SMAK setup. There are loads of interesting ideas here (“Modifans”), rocking moments (“Svrabez”) and a nice diversity of styles, including some Mihajlovic’s experimentation using drum sticks on his Fender Stratocaster. 
This album, although it is an instrument-oriented one, is as very intimate reflection of author’s state of mind - it was made in the year when Tocak’s father died. So we have here a perfect blend of - let’s say - Santana-style blues, Robert Wyatt’s introspection and DEEP PURPLE rocking, all spiced up with LEB I SOL-like style of fusioning Balkan folk with rock music. 

The tracks vary in the quality, but there are no weak songs on the album. Perhaps the highlight of the album is the opening track itself (“Oro”), because it’s one of the first efforts in rock music to blend rock with Balkans’ irregular time signatures in a very particular form of a dance called oro. Radomir’s guitar really rocks here, and it’s quit difficult to follow the song, since it’s written in 11/8+11/8+11/8+14/8 ! 

The weakest point of the album is the sound itself. It’s…well…bad. Sound production is very seventies and very raw, but both in the bad way. The instruments sounds distant, and one can get an impression that they tried to get sophisticated sound out of the raw material, and at the end of the day you have great instrument interplays, but all muffled and emphasised in the audio mid-range. Pity. I’m not sure if this issue has ever been re-publish onto digital format, and if so, I hope someone skillful did a good remastering. 

This is very good album (design and inner sleeve of a LP are nice too) with no bad songs, but it’s not a masterpiece. Chronologically, it fits perfectly in the era, both from the genre’s and the band’s point of view. 
A decent record, but try a few SMAK albums first….by clarke2001 ….~


By mid-1976 SMAK already gained reputation as a strong blues/heavy rock based group with progressive and jazz-rock potentials. Having released one album and several singles would perhaps not have meant much if Radomir Mihajlović Točak had not presented himself as a guitar-hero modeled on the Hendrix school of guitar pyrotechnics and engaged in often ridiculous and juvenile music-press fights with peer musicians and journalists over who was the best guitar player in Yugoslavia. According to Točak, the answer to this question was obvious. In his opinion, all other great Yugoslav guitar players of the era (Josip Boček, Goran Bregović, Vedran Bo?ić, Slobodan A. Kovačević, Bata Kostić etc…) were somehow trading their artistic skills with commercial demands and popular tastes of the day, while only Točak (that is - himself) was pure in his uncompromising and determinant artistic approach. 
In early 1975 he participated in the best guitar players contest held in Zagreb under the name “Kongres rock majstora” (The Congress of Rock Masters). Despite many fans and supporters, Točak was not selected among the best four players allegedly because Jugoton label favored their own musicians (Bregović, Boček, Bo?ić and Kostić, all of them appeared on the 2LP set issued by Jugoton), unlike Točak who at that time recorded for RTV Ljubljana label. 

In July 1976 SMAK had a brief tour in New York, USA (at that time a rare opportunity for a Yugoslav band - only BIJELO DUGME at the peak of popularity had enough resources to support such a trip) and upon return, encouraged by SMAK success, Točak probably felt this was the right time for his personal “revenge”. Album “R.M. Točak” is technically speaking the second studio album of SMAK, minus the singer Boris Aranđelović, since the entire band backed Točak during recording sessions. He was however dominant figure and he clearly showed intention to present himself as a solo artist with his own vision of guitar playing. Given above background, he did it more in order to convince the public of his merits than for the sake of his own artistic project of the moment. Regarding the music itself, the album demonstrates in a decent and competent manner the instrumental abilities of Točak and SMAK members. It is a heavy, blues-based jazz-rock record with occasional funky dynamics. “Oro” introduces a traditional circle-dance folk theme in odd time signature, typical of southern Serbia and Macedonia, in a furious tempo. “Aria Diamond”, named after one of Točak’s guitar models, is probably the best track on the LP. Six-and-half minutes demonstration of his guitar skills in a tasteful manner and memorable main melodic theme. Stojanović-Milanović rhythm section is strong as ever, while Ristovski adds some nice Hammond chords. In this composition Hendrix meets Blackmore in a creative and purposeful way. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the album does not always reach a high standard of the first two excellent tracks. “Svrabe?” (The Itch) starts nicely with odd time signature, then moving into a funkycised bass and electric piano mode. The ending guitar solo section in which Točak demonstrates his finger acrobatics in a way - “if Ritchie Blackmore can do it, I can do it too” - unfortunately spoils this technically fine and competent composition. Too bad for a listener. “Neki paraziti” (Some Parasites) continues in a similar style but apart from really strong Milanović’s bass groove the track is not very convincing. The ending notes on guitar borrowed from famous early synthpop hit “Popcorn” (smashed the charts in 1972 as performed by HOT BUTTER) only add a slight humoristic touch to the otherwise dispensable composition. 

“Organizam Blues” tries to follow-on the tradition of slow-tempo electrified blues tracks by SMAK such as “Blues u parku” from debut LP or “?umadijski Blues” from EP “Satelit”. The latter two were and still are the SMAK classics, which cannot be said for too long 7 minutes of “Organism”, stretched out and boring intake of the 12-bar blues scale without much added value and poor main guitar theme. Album ends with “Modifans”, another heavy funk theme with catchy and even dance-like grooves stressed by Stojanović’s strong percussion including cowbells. Again, something is missing. Even the best of jazz-funk-rock can be boring without some additions of vocals or brass section or more structured arrangements and perhaps those are the things I am missing here. 

Nothing really amazing or crucial is present on “R. M. Točak” album, apart from excellent “psychedelic” sleeve design, but it is a fairly decent effort that many listeners would want to hear. Given the above shortcomings, relatively short duration of less than 30 minutes may be even a good thing, while I would surely recommend you to check “Oro” and “Aria Diamond”. Serbian label One Records re-issued this album on CD in 2008….by Seyo ….~


Smak (Serbian Cyrillic: Смак; trans. Endtime) is a Serbian and former Yugoslav rock band from Kragujevac. The group reached the peak of popularity in the 1970s when it was one of the most notable acts of the former Yugoslav rock scene. The band’s leader, guitarist Radomir Mihajlović, nicknamed “Točak” (“The Wheel”), is considered one of the most influential guitarists on the former Yugoslav rock scene. 

Formed in 1971 by the guitarist Radomir Mihajlović “Točak” and drummer Slobodan Stojanović “Kepa”, the band did not get a default lineup until 1975 by which time bassist Zoran Milanović, vocalist Boris Aranđelović and keyboard player Laza Ristovski consisted the official band membership. However, after recording their eponymous debut album, Ristovski left the band and the remaining quartet recorded their subsequent albums with various keyboard players before disbanding in 1981. 

After brief reunions in the period between 1986 and 1992, the band was reformed by the two founding members with younger musicians, vocalist Dejan Najdanović “Najda”, the second drummer Dejan Stojanović “Kepa Jr.”, second guitarist Milan Milosavljević “Mikica” and bassist Vlada Samardžić. During the late 1990, the latter was replaced by the bassist Slobodan Marković “Sale” who performed with the band until 2002 when Smak disbanded once again. The remaining members from the last lineup, with the new bassist Miloš Petrović reunited in 2010, and in 2012 the default lineup of the band made a one-off reunion….. ~



Credits 
Bass – Zoran Milanović 
Drums – Slobodan Stojanović Kepa 
Guitar – Radomir Mihailović Točak 
Keyboards – Lazar Ristovski* 


Tracklist 
A1 Oro 2:30 
A2 Aria Daimond 6:39 
A3 Svrabež (Boom ‘76) 5:31 
B1 Neki Paraziti 3:07 
B2 Organizam Blues 7:05 
B3 Modifans 4:30

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