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The letter in a bottle

Barnodaj (a.k.a. Progres 2) – Dopis v láhvi
from album “Mauglí”, 1978, Supraphon 1131919
arranged by Pavel Váně & Zdeněk Kluka, produced by Hynek Žalčík, Jan Spálený & Květoslav Rohleder
Progres2_Barnodaj_Maugli_a_128 Progres2_Barnodaj_Maugli_b_128
original LP sleeve (front/back)
Somehow it took those guys from Brno about ten years until they finally determined a band name. They started in 1968 as the Progress Organization which was certainly meant with a portion of irony, aiming at the communist “newspeak”. In the dark times of 1971, when everything English was being banned by the authorities, they changed the name to Barnodaj, a fictional pseudo-slavic word. Their legendary first album from the same year still carried the original name though. The next six years they spent as Skupina Jana Sochora (Jan Sochor Group), backing pop artists like Martha & Tena Elefteriadu or Bob Frídl. In 1977 they started to work with lyricist Petr Kopta and producer Hynek Žalčík on a “composed rock programme” based on the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. But even before the resulting album Mauglí (Mowgli) – credited to “Barnodaj” again – was released in 1978, the group reincarnated once more, this time as Progres 2
Mauglí is a prog-rock album which at some places sounds like it would have been recorded during the late sixties psychedelia. Unlike its predecessor or the subsequent sci-fi rock opera Dialog s vesmírem (Dialog With The Universe), it’s not a masterpiece though, and even if you dig prog-rock I don’t think it will really blow you out of your funky socks. But I’d still point out both sitar tracks: the instrumental lead-in Džungle (The Jungle) with lots of tom-tom breaks and the dramatic final song Osud (Destiny).
In the middle of it all there’s Dopis v láhvi (A Letter In A Bottle), a wicked rock song with that certain touch of funk, written and sung by Pavel Váně. It starts with Pavel Pelc’s touch-wah bass, in comes Váně’s dirty guitar and Jan Sochor’s abstract organ and Moog lines, all held together by Zdeněk Kluka‘s lively drums. As special guests on this song we also hear an uncredited jazzy horn section as well as ex-Flamengo Jan Kubík with his strong-as-usual tenor sax solo. Yep, that’s what the Funky Czech-In is all about: discover the funk even in places where you wouldn’t expect it.
Progres 2 recorded a couple of boring albums in the eighties and faded away. Only Kluka kept the trademark alive, sort of: at the end of the 80s he re-appeared with a couple of young musicians as Progres-Pokrok (“pokrok” actually means “progress” in Czech) with the sarcastic show Otrava krve (Blood Poisoning), releasing an excellent and almost “punky” album in 1990. Nowadays the nucleus of the original group (Kluka/Váně/Pelc) still occasionally performs as Progres 2 or Progress Organization, besides working on their own projects.
You might find Mauglí on vinyl either on eBay or maybe elsewhere if you google for “barnodaj”. A CD reissue has just been released in November 2006, so get it while you can. The first album should be also available on CD with a couple of rare bonus tracks. And if you’re a “hardcore” collector and you’d like to own the original ultra-mega-rare very first Progress Organization EP from 1970, released on the short-lived Discant label, I know a guy who will sell it to you for as low as € 100.00 (I had to pass this one although I certainly liked it…)

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