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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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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Out of all the satellite nations of the Soviet Union perhaps none escaped the extreme censorship of the arts more than the former nation of Yugoslavia which since the collapse of the once almighty empire has itself disintegrated into the seven nation states of Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the republic of Macedonia which in 2019 was renamed to Northern Macedonia due to a long feud with Greece over the Greek province of the same name. While still united under the banner of Yugoslavia, this region boasted one of the most vibrant rock scenes in all of Eastern Europe and while many such nations were struggling to get bootlegs of Western acts, the Yugoslav rock scene featured some of the most sophisticated prog and jazz-fusion bands of all.

One of the most successful of these bands was the Macedonian LEB I SOL which formed in Skopje in 1976 with its initial lineup of Vlatko Stefanovski (guitar and vocals), Bodan Arsovski (bass), Nikola Dimu?evski (keyboards) and Dimitar Čočorovski (drums) but Čočorovski was soon replaced by Garabet Tavitijan and the lineup would be stable until 1980 when the band recorded its first three albums which would feature an interesting mix of jazz-rock fusion with local homegrown influences in the form of Macedonian folk. The band's name LEB I SOL translates into "bread and salt" which is used as a greeting in the Macedonian language. This band became very popular in the 70s and 80s due to its creative arrangements and outstanding musicianship. The tracks are both vocal and instrumental with the vocal-free ones cranking out some of the most dynamic prog workouts while the vocal led tracks being the most singer / songwriter oriented.

This debut album was recorded in Novi Sad and released in September 1977 and cranks out some of the best jazz-fusion recordings i've heard from the former Eastern European block with Stefanovski showcasing his guitar wizardry along with the keyboard prowess of Nikola Dimu?evski delivering some of the most memorable workouts. The folk music of the Balkan region is already jazz-flavored and therefore the sounds of LEB I SOL mixing American jazz sounds with rock and its local folk flavors is quite the successful recipe for some stellar proggy workouts with accessible melodies ramped up by the jazzy chord progressions and energetic rock rhythmic drive. The tracks alternate between these fiery passionate instrumentals on overdrive starting with the opener "Devetka" and the acoustic guitar oriented slower ballads like "Ultrinska Tema" which feature Stefanovski on vocals. These vocal tracks sound a lot like some of the prog folk bands from 70s Argentina.

Unlike Western prog, these Eastern bands performed exclusively in their native tongues and since LEB I SOL was limited to the confines of the Yugoslav rock scene, the lyrics were performed exclusively in the official Yugoslav language of Serbo-Croatian (actually two languages but the former uses the Cyrillic alphabet while the former employs the Latin). LEB I SOL were primarily geared for live shows where they dazzled the crowds with emotive songs as well as sizzling instrumental virtuosity however much of this translates quite well into the band's recordings as this debut release perfectly displays what made this band so exemplary for a time and place that found just enough Western influences to make the connection to artists such as the Mahavishnu Orchestra and John Abercrombie's various acts. LEB I SOL also had firm control over excellent shifts in tempos, dynamics and other creative colorful expressions that really stands out from any Western equivalents. This was the start of one of Eastern Europe's most successful prog bands and a great place to start if you are interested in this region of the world's contributions to the richness of the greater prog universe.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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