Sunday, April 3, 2011
Indexi - Indexi (Jugoton, 1974)
The subject of today's review is an item that I picked up while on vacation in Croatia during the summer of 2002. An old friend of mine is 100% Hrvatski (his father is from Sibenik, Dalmatia, his mother from Pozega, Slavonia), and his family takes regular trips to their homeland every summer. I had been bugging him for a long time to let me tag along on one of these trips and finally got my wish that year. This isn't a travel blog, so I won't bore you with irrelevant details; suffice it to say that this three-week excursion to one of Europe's best-kept secrets (at least to Americans) was an extremely memorable and fun-filled vacation. Although Croatia - and especially its Adriatic coast - has long been a popular holiday destination for Europeans, American tourists were still something of a novelty when I went there nine years ago, and it was nice to be in a country that was civilized yet not overly commercialized. To wit, the dearth of billboards and other obnoxious forms of advertising was especially refreshing. Unfortunately, I've heard that things have changed quite a bit since then. But I digress. Among the other activities I did while exploring the capital city of Zagreb was to visit its used record stores. I don't recall the names of any of these establishments, but at one where the proprietor was a little less curmudgeonly (an apparently universal characteristic of collectible music sellers throughout the world) and a little more fluent in English than others, I found an intriguing selection of vinyl artifacts from the surprisingly vibrant Yugoslavian music scene of the 1960s and 1970s. This fantastic LP remains the crown jewel of my discoveries.
The numerous wars that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia during the 1990s seem like they occurred only yesterday. I'm not here to take sides or to assign blame to one particular side or another. Yugoslavia might not have been a socialist paradise, even though I'm sure it would have been a better place to live in compared to just about any Eastern Bloc country during the Cold War. The one thing that seems to be true - and I've heard the same contention from older Croatians, Serbs, Bosnians, Macedonians, and Montenegrins - was that this era fostered an unprecedented commingling of the country's diverse cultures never to be repeated. Despite the fact that it is now mostly remembered for numerous scenes of carnage during the aforementioned military conflicts, the Bosnian capital Sarajevo was a dynamic cosmopolitan melting pot in the 1960s that provided a supportive milieu for the numerous rocks bands that called the city home.
Foremost among such groups, Indexi (est. 1962) took their name from the ubiquitous booklets used by university students for attendance and exam-taking purposes. The individual names of main members Davorin Popovic (vocals), Slobodan Kovacevic (guitar), and Fadil Redzic (bass) illustrate the multi-ethnic nature of both the band and Sarajevo itself. Their story is similar to countless other contemporary American and European aggregations in that they started out primarily doing cover versions of other musicians' works and then progressed to writing and performing their own more ambitious material by the end of the 1960s. And tell me if this doesn't sound like a story similar to numerous musical acts in the capitalist world: Indexi were a multifaceted unit that could pump out radio-friendly numbers for the pop charts but were also capable of more experimental stretched-out compositions that have earned them accolades from aficionados of European psych and progressive rock. The group recorded extensively and remained active with varying lineups for nearly 40 years up until Popovic's death in 2001.
This self-titled effort, Indexi's debut LP from 1974, collects tracks originally recorded in the late 1960s-early 1970s period, including a mix of both straight-ahead and avant-garde material. At this point in the band's history, they sound as if they were influenced by various Yugoslavian folk music styles in addition to 1960s British rock bands that featured prominent organ such as Deep Purple, Caravan, and Procol Harum. Indexi seems to have had as many keyboard players pass through their ranks as there were drummers in Spinal Tap, but my research suggests that the organist on these tracks is either Kornelije Kovac or Enco Lesic. Such sources also indicate that Miroslav Saranovic is probably the percussionist on most if not all the selections and that second guitarist Ismet Aranutalic may be present on some of the earlier recordings as well. Indexi starts off with "Svijet U Kojem Zivim" ("The World We Live In") and "Krivac Si Ti" ("The Culprit Is You"), two tough rockers that showcase the keyboardist and Redzic's dextrous bass playing. Despite the fact that my understanding of Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian (all extremely similar languages that some argue are essentially the same) can be considered extremely limited at best, I'm guessing that "Budi Kao More" ("Be Like the Sea") is more of a romantic number judging by its mellower instrumental tone. "Da Sam Ja Netko" ("If I Were Someone") returns to rock territory and contains some tremendous distorted electric guitar presumably from Kovacevic. Due in large part to its furiously strummed acoustic guitars and infectious-even-if-you-don't-understand-it refrain, "Sve Ove Godine" ("All These Years") sold in huge numbers during the early 1970s and continues to show up on compilations of Yugoslavian hit recordings from that era. In similar fashion, the ethereal "Sanjam (Zgb 72)" ("Dream [Zagreb, 1972]") was so popular in its day that it has earned a place as a Yugo Rock standard. I've heard at least a few interpretations of this song by considerably more middle-of-the-road performers while in the company of Croatians, and they've always been a bit surprised that I'm familiar with the original Indexi version. The LP's finest moment belongs to the mind-blowing "Plima" ("High Tide"), which is quite simply one of the greatest psychedelic songs from the late 1960s ever recorded in any language. Most readers won't understand a word of its lyrics, but with the band's nods to early Status Quo and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd - not to mention the jaw-dropping guitar solo about halfway through - there is still plenty here to enjoy. With its soothing acoustic guitars and flute arragngements, "Balada" ("Ballad") brings matters to a delightfully tranquil conclusion and transports this writer back to carefree days spent relaxing on the sun-kissed Dalmatian coast.
1. Svijet U Kojem Zivim
2. Krivac Si Ti
3. Budi Kao More
4. Da Sam Ja Netko
5. Sve Ove Godine
6. Sanjam (Zgb 72)