"Cocktail" is debut album of the Slovenian avant-garde artist Marko Brecelj. It was recorded and released in 1974, a year before his famous debut with BULDOZER's "Pljuni istini u oči" hit the music scene in Yugoslavia. In order to understand Brecelj's highly unusual and unconventional music solo career "Cocktail" serves as indispensable introduction.
If you only look at the cover image you may not notice at first sight, but it is a white laboratory mouse stirred up in a cocktail glass! This is already very unusual design for the period in which this all happens. Actually I would say it is perhaps the first "provocative" art statements if we speak about record sleeves of "pop music" in Yugoslavia.
Especially it was not conventional for a participant in the famous popular music Youth Festival Subotica where Brecelj appeared in 1974 and got a prize for his performance of "Dusa in jaz". Furthermore, the album was awarded with "Sedam sekretara SKOJ-a", an official prize given by the Communist youth organisation in SFR Yugoslavia! That would reveal some interesting info about the ideological nature of Yugoslav communism, but let's stick with music.
Musically, "Cocktail" is an interesting and unexpected mixture of big band/swing jazz, acoustic folk blues and pop music (Schlager) informed by cabaret humour. Majority of songs are arranged and backed by "The Dance Jazz Orchestra" of Radio Television Ljubljana, conducted by renowned film music composer Bojan Adamič. He has contributed to more than 150 films and TV shows during his career. Thus, what we have here is an avant-garde songwriter whose alternative lyrical and musical ideas are packed together with a festival-orchestral form. Speaking in worldwide terms, can you imagine the early 70s Tom Waits making a record with an orchestra conducted by John Williams or Enio Morricone? If you can, then you may have a picture of what this album sounds like.
Right from the start, "Same prave stvari" (Only the Right Things) introduces rich orchestral arrangements led by solo clarinet and Brecelj singing in a jazz-crooner style. "Črni Peter" (Black Peter) has a strong comedy pop feel with its silly brass and Alpine/polka odd time signature.
The following three tracks are pure blues. "Skandal v Rdečem baru" (The Red Bar Scandal) has got lot of "boozy" atmosphere of Tom Waits' albums from the same period, with gentle tones of acoustic guitar, Hammond organ and trumpets. "Hiskar rogač" is an electrified blues in the vein of John Mayall or Chicago Blues style, with leading harmonica chords and combined acoustic and electric guitars. It is the only track without Bojan Adamič's arrangements - here the band 7 SVETLOBNIH LET is backing Brecelj and we can witness the early incarnation of what would soon to become BULDOZER. Guitar solo by Uros Lovsin is particularly indicative of his future contributions on "Pljuni istini u oči". Minimalist acoustic blues "Pozar" (Fire) stresses the singer/songwriter potentials of Brecelj and closes with the sound of fire alarm.
The next three songs are bringing again a laid-back "lounge" style. It is particularly evident on minor hit "Dusa in jaz" (issued also as 7" single) and "Časopis" (The Magazine), while "Alojz valček" breaks in with folk and humoresque parts in ¾ time stamp, nice flute and funny fade-out with Brecelj spelling out the lines "stara plosča... stara plosča..." (old vinyl... old vinyl...) - thus mocking the odd time signature and emulating the sound of a pick-up skipping the grooves. The closing number "Gozd" announces strange psychedelic atmosphere with minimalist sounds of the chimes and acoustic guitar. There is a spooky feeling that reminds me of Syd Barrett's solo works.
It may seem that the album's main flaw is exactly in what its title suggests - a mix of different styles, ideas and arrangements. In the hands of a less gifted or confirmed author it may lead to quite inconsistent and under-developed piece of art. Not in the case of Marko Brecelj! His genius is big enough to make even from seemingly unfocused material an excellent album that opens up and offers to the listener more with every repeated listen.
It must be said that this is yet another shamelessly overlooked LP from the Yugoslavian 1970s discography. Luckily, it has been re-issued on CD by Nika label in 1996, including 7 bonus tracks: all three songs from the 1981 EP "Parada", b-side of "Dusa in jaz" single "Tri zenske", and 3 more previously unreleased tracks. This is good opportunity to (re)discover this fine album.
1. Same prave stvari
2. Crni Peter
3. Skandal v rdecem baru
4. Hiskar rogac
6. Dusa in jaz
7. Alojz Valcek