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Leb I Sol - Leb I Sol CD (album) cover

LEB I SOL

Leb I Sol

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.07 | 60 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Leb i Sol is a Yugoslavian group led by guitarist Vlatko Stefanovski who was but 20 years old in 1977 and achieved a mature should of someone much older. This is mostly instrumental jazz rock with melody and fluid guitar solos and outstanding drumming. I also think the group would appeal outside of jazz rock circles to symphonic fans, as the Leb i Sol sound often reminds me of '70s era Camel but from a jazzier perspective. The bass player clearly recalls Ferguson, and the guitar playing sometimes can remind me of Latimer. While there are occasional good keyboard moments the big fish here is definitely the lead electric soloing of Stefanovski who is really amazing. He will land some punches. The band incorporates elements of the traditional music of their homeland into their sound as well giving it a flavor all its own. I believe that Leb i Sol should be of special interest to fans of my beloved PA namesake group Finnforest, their debut albums share a similar stylistic ground. Vlatko has given as personal influences Joni Mitchell (a very special one for her work with Methany, Pastorius, Mingus, and Shorter) and also The Beatles, Yes, Focus, Mahavishnu, Cream, Corea, Holdsworth, and Akerman.

A brief bit of early history from their website: "In the first half of the seventies of the last century, the music scene in Skopje was rather small so the future members of the LEB I SOL often worked in same bands. On 1st January 1976 Vlatko and Bodan founded LEB I SOL. together with the keyboard player Kokan Dimushevski and the drum player Dimitrije Chochorovski. They had the first performance out of Macedonia in 1977 in Novi Sad. Based on that footage they were invited at the Youth Festival in Subotica. There they won a prize and were widely acknowledged for the fist time and they signed a contract with PGP-RTS. LEB I SOL recorded their debut album LEB I SOL 1 at the studio of RTV Novi Sad in September 1977. The jazz-rock themes with ethno influences dominate the album, and six themes out of nine are instrumental. All four of the members are composing, though Vlatko is the most productive one." [Leb i Sol bio]

"Devetka" has one of the more memorable opening licks to a career, really nice stuff. It then starts to cross layer different guitar parts to a very nice effect, with the steady beat of Tavitijan keeping things perky. The ensemble playing of all four is quite remarkable for a young group's debut. Sadly the song is a fade out as will others be. "Pod Vodom" is some really driving fusion stuff, this is what you call firing on all cylinders, cooking with gas, choose your cliché. Lightning fast guitar and keyboard runs in unison, challenging each other to up the anty. YYZ fans would love this. "Utrinska Tema" gives you a rest with an acoustic, rather folkish number with vocals. The singing is pleasant enough but nothing great, but it doesn't need to be here. This is all about the band's prowess. "Kokoska" is a quirky, fun rocker. Read Moris' review for his analysis of the music portraying a chicken, which was an excellent observation. "Nisam Tvoj" has a very commercial sound but even here they touch it up with nice light mellotron in the background. "U senci" just cooks, think of some of these insanely technical shredders we have around these days, but the beauty here is that the lightning notes are used more judiciously and against the backdrop of the marvelously warm '70s sound. The sound is so warm and organic and it does not suffer from the modern day annoyance of the drums always being so damn loud in the mix. "Cudo za tri dana" begins with acoustic guitar and a gentle vocal, after a bit the mellotron comes in and it is gorgeous. A total guilty pleasure solo ensues, it's just a short feel good track. "Pesma" is delightfully slow and melodic, alternating what I believe to be flute played on keys with piano and guitar, with nimble and clear bass lines you can really hear. Great interplay, everyone really playing off the others. "Damar" is an upbeat track but not among the best in this set.

AllAboutJazz.com describes the group's sound like this: "Nothing in the world sounds like the band Leb i Sol. Period. For 20 years-as long as the band existed-it created music that was dynamic, turbulent, complex and soulful. Most importantly, the band drew upon jazz, rock and traditional Macedonian music, and later it helped in the popularization of traditional music in the Balkans during a period when the genre called "world music" didn't exist and when traditional music was thought to be un-cool."

Stefanovski himself told an AAJ interviewer "Leb i Sol was a band that at the time was superior when it came to its playing capabilities. We laid the foundations for what in the Balkans is known as ethnic or world music. We approached the folklore in a very spontaneous and brave manner, while retaining our image of a rock'n'roll band. Although we had an image like that still the music was totally different, authentic and pure. Intuitively, it was a totally unconscious decision and we had no idea that it will be given such enormous importance. I think that's a healthy approach towards the tradition i.e. one must not be entrapped by it nor one should be afraid of it. One has to use what is given to him, without any stress or fear that he might make a mistake. Off course, the responsibility is enormous when it comes to dealing with Macedonian folklore as it is very rich, colorful and precise and one should not play too much with it. I have a very laid back approach towards that folklore. I know it as much as I know it and i don't know it as much as i don't. I hope to get to know it more every day. For St. Nicholas (their family saint), we had a family reunion and believe me for 3 hours people sang songs that I never heard before. I just stood there listening to songs that are archaic and totally forgotten. But some of my relatives knew these songs. That's incredible, and all of this is passed on to our children." [allaboutjazz.com]

You just can't go wrong with this no matter your taste, unless you dislike emotional instrumental (mostly) rock of the highest quality. Leb i Sol's debut is music that soars very high, instrumental rock akin to fine wine that will have jazz and rock lovers alike putting this on their "special shelf."

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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