*ALBUM RECAP — DRACO ROSA: Vagabundo22 (LP, Reissue)

In 1996, Draco Rosa released the album Vagabundo which I still consider to be the most essential record made in the entire decade of the 1990s within the Rock en Español music scene. Indeed, other musicians/bands made important contributions to Spanish Rock, like Andres Calamaro (Alta Suciedad, 1997 & Honestidad Brutal, 1999), Caifanes (El Diablito, 1990, El Silencio, 1992 & El Nervio del Volcan, 1994), Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (Rey Azúcar, 1995 & Fabulosos Calavera, 1997), Enanitos Verdes (Big Bang, 1994 & Nectar, 1999), Jaguares (El Equilibrio de Los Jaguares, 1996 & Bajo El Azul de Tu Misterio, 1999), La Ley (Invisible, 1995). All of those albums are essential and iconic records, But Draco Rosa’s Vagabundo was in a league of its own.

Vagabundo was utterly different from everything else coming out into the Spanish Rock market during the ’90s, and nothing else sounded quite like it. The album was a rollercoaster ride of psychedelic rock, wrapped in raw melodies of love, solitude, desolation, and melancholy. The album was recorded in England and produced by Phil Manzanera, who by that time had already collaborated with other Rock en Español artists like Fito Paez (Circo beat, 1994), Heroes del Silencio (Senderos de Traicion, 1990 & El Espirito del Vino, 1993) as well as Aterciopelados (La Pipa de la Paz, 1996) and with the late Antonio Vega (Océano de Sol, 1994).  Phil Manzanera understands the soul of rock en Español music, and it clearly shows in the records that he has produced.

After 22 years since the release of Vagabundo, we finally have a remastered version and a limited release vinyl LP. It was remastered by the legendary Bob Ludwig (U2, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Nirvana, Paul McCarney). This is truly a unique and special release — additionally, this newly remastered edition takes it to another level.

Here is a quick rundown of all the tracks on the album:

 

Hablando del Amor: Not really a song, just an intro track. You get the sense of where the record is taking you; you can hear sounds of a forest in the background followed by some poetic lines.

Madre Tierra: This is an excellent rock song, guitars, drums, and Draco’s powerful voice turn this song into a beautiful, fast tempo rock anthem.

Llanto Subterráneo: This track is a beautiful poem wrapped in melody. Slower tempo than the previous track, but the song still maintains a powerful rock vibe with some dark undertones and very intense lyrics.

Vagabundo: This is a more acoustic sounding track, where all you get is guitar, Draco’s voice, and some background vocals. The lyrics are powerful, intense, and there is a touch of occult undertones in the meaning of the lyrics here.

Penelope: This song reminds me of Joan Manuel Serrat’s “Penelope,” but told from a different point of view; while Serrat’s Penelope was told from the point of view of a narrator, this song is told from the point of view of the traveler longing for the love he left behind. This is a beautiful song, one of my favorites.

Delirios: Here, we go back to a faster-paced tempo, more massive sound. Draco displays his great rocker frontman talent while at the same time keeping up with some powerful guitar and drums.

Para No Olvidar: Death, life, and desolation are the themes of this track. It starts slow, setting up the psychedelic mood with a sweet melody; we go from slow to fast and heavy multiple times. This is an intense song.

Blanca Mujer: The closest thing to a rock ballad in this entire album. Piano and guitar in the background create a compelling and persuasive companion to Draco’s voice. I consider this song a classic in Draco Rosa’s catalog.

Vertigo: Another dark and psychedelic sounding track shows a feeling of rawness and heaviness in Draco’s voice that works beautifully on this song.

Vivir: Probably the most personal track on this albumIt starts with a piano intro that feels straight out of a carnival stage show or circus, then the song takes on the first-person narrative, stating Draco’s journey from Popstar to freeing himself from the shackles of stardom and into becoming the artist he longs to be.

Brujería: A mix of psychedelic and gothic vibe give this track a unique sound and energy. Draco’s furious intensity makes this track one of the very best on this album. The guitars are also superb.

La Flor del Frio: This is a raw sounding track that works beautifully as a change of pace from the rest of the album. A piano accompanies Draco. There is a crowd of people talking and clapping in the background, which gives this track a unique feel and vibe. The raw and melancholic melody is the star of this song.

Amantes Hasta el Fin: This song sums up the theme of this album perfectly. It has it all; a beautiful melody, lyrics of love, desolation, death, and despair. Draco’s singing takes you on a ride from a mellow vibe to furious rage. The entire surrealism of the album is best displayed here.

Vertigo22: This track is a gem straight from Vagabundo’s recording studio archives. It is raw, powerful, and heavier than the album version. The song sounds completely different.

Madre Tierra22: This version of Madre Tierra sounds more like a demo, and at the same time, it has a raw and organic feel to it than the album version. Another gem from the PHVX Vault.

*ALBUM RECAP — U2: POP (LP Reissue)

In the 90s, U2 made a trilogy of highly experimental albums. The first of the three: Achtung Baby (1991), is considered a masterpiece and perhaps their most significant musical achievement since The Joshua Tree (1987).

Their second release in the 1990s: Zooropa (1993), was their most experimental album, not only of the 90s but of their entire musical career.

The third and final release of their 90s trilogy of albums — was the album: POP (1997), which was their most commercially unsuccessful album, and their most ambitious ever. Nevertheless, in my opinion, POP is, without a doubt, one of U2’s best albums of all time.

POP came out during a time when I was exploring electronica, a time when I was listening to a lot of music by Aphex Twin, The Prodigy, and The Chemical Brothers, just to name a few — and needles to say, I was drawn to this album from the first time I listened to it.

It’s been twenty years since this album was released, and it’s been twenty years since I been consistently listening to this album…. I’m pretty sure I play it once a month or bi-monthly.

Bono was quoted saying that the album “begins at a party (discotheque) and ends at a funeral (wake up dead man),” which is a pretty accurate way to describe the mood of this album. POP initially got positive reviews from critics, while other critics did not “get it,” for some, it relied too heavily on electronic influences. In contrast, others felt there was too much “religion” on most of the songs.

Regardless of the criticism, this album showed us just how ahead of their time U2 was, even way back in the 1990s; they were using sampling, sequencer software, loops, and a few other sound techniques, which are now part of the norm in today’s music scene.

This past summer of 2018, U2 finally released POP on vinyl double LP format, and obviously, I had to get it. What a treat it is to listen to this record on vinyl finally, and I still find it to be as deep, profound, and remarkable as I did in the 90s — it is a kick-ass record. So do yourself a favor, and listen to it.

Track List:

1.Discotheque: Funky, techno dance vibes dominate this track. Edge’s guitar solo is my favorite part of this track, where an effects pedal is used, which is a device that creates a distorted sound.

2. Do You Feel Loved: One of my favorite tracks on this record, it uses many electronic elements throughout the song, it has a nice techno beat.

3.MOFO: This is probably the most techno heavy song on this entire album. It wasn’t one of my favorite tracks when I first listened to this album back in the late ’90s. However, it is one of those songs that grow on you with time, and it has become one of my favorite tracks from this record. Bono wrote this song as a way to deal with his mother’s passing.

4.If God Would Send His Angels: This is a beautifully performed electronic ballad; Bono’s voice comes across like a crooner wrapped in a techno melody, while at the same time the lyrics provide a view of the state of our world from the point of view of a religiously devoted person. In any case, I feel as though the lyrics made sense then, just as they make sense now.

5. Staring At The Sun: This song reminds me of Oasis a bit, with a techno touch. It was the second single from this album. It was probably the most radio-friendly track from this record. I wasn’t much into this song at first, but in time it has also grown into one of my favorites.

6.Last Night On Earth: Another funky techno song, along with the lines of the first three tracks. It has more of a stadium rock feel to it than the previous tracks. It became one of my favorites from the moment I first listened to it.

7.Gone: Probably my favorite track from this record. It is the perfect blend of rock, techno, funky drums, and bass. Also, the lyrics are on point here. I’m regularly playing this track on my U2 playlist.

8.Miami: My least favorite track from this album, it was probably their most experimental song, and definitely not one of my favorites, but the boldness and courageous attempt to create something original is highly appreciated.

9.The Playboy Mansion: This song has a nice mellow feel, and loops are utilized all over this track. The lyrics are basically a rundown of pop culture and celebrity life in the ’90s.

10.If You Wear That Velvet Dress: Larry Mullen’s drums paired with some keyboards set the mood for this track. It is full of dark tones, and Bono’s melodic delivery gives this track a unique sound and feel. Definitely one of the best songs on this record.

11. Please: Drums take center stage once again on this track; there is also a delicate balance of guitar and bass on this song. Bono’s lyrics have political/religious undertones that fit perfectly with the entire album’s central thesis.

12. Wake Up Dead Man: This track feels like a follow to up “if God Would Send His Angels” (Track 4). It is all about Jesus returning and making sense of all the nonsense going on in our world. The lyrics are a direct appeal to Jesus to return. It is definitely the darkest song on this record, there is a bit of sampling going on here, and it works excellently. This song works great as a final track to complement the overall theme of this album.