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Vlatko Stefanovski: Greatest Hits


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Vlatko Stefanovski: Greatest Hits
Guitarist and songwriter Vlatko Stefanovski has led a life of constant artistic evolution. Not standing still has served him well and given us a corpus of works in which no two are the same. The material on this Greatest Hits record encompasses the period between 1994 and 2021, when he launched his solo career following the quiet demise of the mighty Leb i Sol band.

Stefanovski is one of Europe's premier guitarists and one of the foremost live performers, for whom every show is played as if it might be his last. As a recording artist, his focus has been on writing albums as definitive statements, and the singles were an incidental by-product of this effort. So, for this reason, his Greatest Hits comes across more as a "best of" or a collection of familiar songs, each great in its own right. For those who know Stefanovski's oeuvre, this collection is not going to give them anything they have not heard before. This is not a B- side or rarities collection. What was intentionally left out are the many collaborative projects that are equally important.

Compilations are always difficult to get right. The option is whether the selector should go for crowd-pleasers that we know and love in an effort to reach a wider public or go down with deep cuts and ultra-rare stuff. As such, Stefanovski's selection walks that fine line with aplomb. With 17 cherry-picked songs, Greatest Hits offers a perfect entry point into Stefanovski's solo output. It follows his career chronologically, and the selections showcase his songwriting talents rather than just his superb guitar playing abilities.

The selection starts with "Cowboys and Indians" from the same-titled album, a punchy rocker that is followed by the gentle and contemplative ballad "Kandilce." This tune was written while the civil war in former Yugoslavia was still raging. His former band was one of the leading bands in that country, so no wonder he was able to play everywhere during those times as he never picked sides, and he supported peace with playing at charity events. "Sarajevo" is part of the music for the same-titled theater play that was written by Stefanovski's brother, writer Goran Stefanovski, and directed by Slobodan Unkovski. It was premiered in 1993, when the city of Antwerp was the cultural capital of Europe. Apart from regular albums, Stefanovski has had a fruitful career as a film and theater composer. "Gypsy Magic" is one of his gems from his solo career. It is a pop song with gypsy flavors courtesy of violinist Gazmend Berisha and clarinetist Medo Chun, and it was the main theme of the same-titled film directed by Stole Popov. Released in the second half of the '90s, it became his signature tune and has since turned into a folk song with a life of its own apart from the author.

But the record that showcased his superb guitar skills and reminded us of his glory days with the Leb i Sol jazz-rock excursions was the Vlatko Stefanovski Trio (Third Ear Records, 1998). The instrumental tracks there were based on Macedonian folk music with its irregular rhythm patterns and virtuosic yet memorable melodic lines. "Kalajdzisko oro" is a prime example. This is a traditional reel where Stefanovski took some of the melodies and rearranged them as classic rockers It is a funky juggernaut based on 13/8 time and melded with solid rock. Even though this song was first introduced during the Leb i Sol days, it comes into its own with this trio and is still a staple in his performances to this day. "Vlatkovo Oro" is another powerhouse and a treatment of his signature style of lead guitar.

Other selections feature classical pop-rock songs and ballads from albums such as Kula od Karti (Avalon, 2003), Seir (Esoteria Records, 2014), as well as the late-career gem Mother Tongue (Croatia Records, 2017). It is a solo guitar album with instrumentals and was produced during a difficult time for Stefanovski, so the selections "Bistra Voda" and "Uspavanka za Radmilu M" bear emotional weight in their playing. The collection ends with the upbeat "Funky Junky" and the contemplative "Ogledalo" from his Taftalidze Shuffle (Croatia Records, 2021).

Greatest Hits collections offer something of an aural crash course in some of the best work an artist has to offer. If you like what you hear, you may be more than inclined to make your way further down the rabbit hole. For those new to Stefanovski, Greatest Hits is as good a place to start. With over thirty albums under his belt, out of which half are solo albums, the Greatest Hits shows a guitarist who is still very much in love with his craft and is still pushing forward.

Track Listing

Cowboys and Indians; Kandilce: Sarajevo: Gypsy Song; Kalajdzisko oro; Vlatkovo oro;lGluvo doba; Pustelija; Verba;Nadez; Ljubv; Amazng Grace; Seir; Fosforna Mesecina; Deca na Sonceto; Bistra Voda; Uspavanka za Radmilu M; Funky Junkie; Ogledalo.


Album information

Title: Greatest Hits | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Croatia Records

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