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Bijelo Dugme - Bitanga i princeza - LP 2014 Croatia Records

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Punk /
Manufacturer: Croatia Records
Original release year: 1979
Manufacturing year: 2014
Cat. Nr.: LP S 6054893
Barcode: 3850126054893
Weight:329 g
Processing time:1 day

After the crisis years 1977-78, when they almost broke apart, BIJELO DUGME re-vamped with the new album titled 'Bitanga i princeza' (Eng. 'The Bum and The Princess') in early 1979. Ipe Ivandic had been convicted for drugs abuse, so the new drummer Dragan 'Šidi' Jankelic joined the band as a replacement. He had previously participated in the recording sessions for Zeljko Bebek's first solo album 'Kao da smo isti', so Bebek recommended him to Bregovic while looking up for Ipe's replacement. Vlado Pravdic was back in fold as keyboardist.

This album release was surrounded by numerous speculations about censorship regarding the lyrics and cover sleeve design. Executives of their record label Jugoton did not consent with several allegedly provocative lines in the lyrics. The song 'Ala je glupo zaboravit njen broj' (Eng. 'It's So Foolish to Forget Her Number') initially contained lines, in English roughly 'what's wrong with me today/what the [%*!#] is wrong with me', while the ballad 'Sve ce to mila moja prekriti ruzmarin, snjegovi i sas' (Eng. 'It Will All Be Covered With Rosemary, Snow and Yellow Flag, My Darling') had the line saying '...and Christ was a poor bastard..'. The offensive word from the former had to be erased from the recording, while 'Christ' from the latter was replaced with more neutral 'He'! (This is interesting to note that the alleged atheistic, Communist-led establishment of SFR Yugoslavia was so concerned about religious feelings. Unless, of course, if religion was, in a most peculiar way, actually used as a part of the Communist agenda for certain purposes....). As for the cover, the initial idea was to have a picture of a female leg hitting a male sensitive part between legs, but ultimately Bregovic had to give up and allow Jugoton's in-house designer Ivezic to come up with the undistinctive female blue eye close-up. Upon the release, Bregovic was furious and attacked in his interviews both the Jugoton censors and the establishment. But to be honest, one cannot deny that this sensation perhaps helped further the commercial success of the album, which in its own right remains the last true classic rock album and probably even the best studio album in the entire catalogue of BIJELO DUGME.

'Shepherds' rock' themes were long gone and the folk particles can only be heard in 'Ala je glupo...' in the form of synthesised bagpipes and Bebek's sort of yodelling. Otherwise, the album is divided between strong, concise rock songs bridging the old hard rock guitar riffs with the New Wave urban energy and upbeat on the one side and symphonic orchestral pieces on the other. Jankelic showes his enourmous drumming skills and quite original use of rototoms and other percussions, Pravdic is excellent on keyboards and provides effective and tasteful use of synths (with the help of guest Slobodan Markovic), which was still a novelty at this time. 'Ipak pozelim neko pismo' (Eng. 'I Am Still Longing For a Letter') is played in odd time with reggae rhythm section, especially stressing powerful bass by Redzic and one of the best short guitar solos by Bregovic.

Finally, 'Kad zaboravis juli' (Eng. 'When You Forget July') and 'Sve ce to mila moja...' are powerful prog rock ballads featuring orchestral, choir and brass arrangements conducted by Ranko Rihtman (ex INDEXI) and Vojkan Borisavljevic. Although the latter track was often dismissed as a cheap plagiarism of fairly similar structure of Peter Gabriel's 'Here Comes The Flood', and thus helped Bregovic deserve unpopular tag of a 'thief' and 'immitator', both compositions were to become DUGME classics. Gentle lyrics (in spite of missing 'Christ'), beautiful melody and acoustic guitar flageolet tones make this song ranking among the most beautiful compositions in the entire DUGME catalogue.

'Bitanga i princeza' is excellent album and due to more than few prog-related elements must be highly recommended to listen for all fans of progressive rock.

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