*DRACO ROSA — MAD LOVE LUXE LP (Album Recap)

The partnership between Draco Rosa and Bob Ludwig continues with this double LP remastered edition of the highly successful 2004 album Mad Love. This is the second collaboration between Ludwig and Draco. Bob Ludwig also did the 2018 remastered version of Vagabundo.

Mad Love is an album that I continuously revisit multiple times a year. And truth be told, this is not merely an album that I like or enjoy; it is an album that I love — It defined an era of my personal life that I often look back with longing, nostalgia, and lots of fondness.

I bought Mad Love on CD back in 2004, the same week of its release at the now-defunct Borders Books & Music store in Baileys Crossroads, Virginia. It knocked my socks off almost immediately upon listening to it for the first time — it has been 16 years since that fateful evening in May of ’04 when browsing through the new release CD bins I happen to find Mad Love just sitting there waiting for me — I bought it, rushed home to play it, and fell in love with the entire album.

Even after all these years, this album still comes across as a passionate musical masterpiece. Draco was inspired by Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew (1970), an epic record that blended Rock and Jazz beautifully. Draco stated that he drove up and down the West Coast of the United States listening to Bitches Brew as he prepared to record Mad Love, and it is beyond noticeable the influence of Bitches Brew as you listen to Mad Love.

The critics gave it positive and glowing reviews when it came out. But it wasn’t the gringo crossover hit that it should’ve been. It was a massive hit in Latin America, and it was pretty successful in Europe as well. However, in the United States, it was categorized and considered as a Latin album, never mind that the album had only 3 songs in Spanish and 13 songs in English. Music media outlets boxed this album in as a non-English album; A complete travesty. Mad Love was the farthest thing from a conventional Latin album, especially when you look back to the kind of music coming out in those days in the Spanish language market. The music videos from Mad Love were excellent, but they got zero airplay on MTV or VHI. In those days, MTV and VHI were still playing music videos regularly and had not become what they are now. Music has changed a lot since then.

Maybe the record label (Sony) did not feel the need to promote this album as a mainstream release. I don’t know what really went down or how they viewed the marketability of this record. Still, the fact remains that this album was poorly promoted and poorly marketed when it was initially released back in 2004.

I’m assuming that everyone who would be reading this blog knows already that Draco Rosa wrote most of Ricky Martin hits like; Livin’ la Vida Loca, Maria, the cup of life, She Bangs, etc. So it is clear that Draco can write pop hits for himself if he wanted to but chooses not to pursue that route. Instead, he has focused on creating meaningful and profound music. There is a peculiar edginess to Dracos’ music that you can’t find anywhere else in Spanish language music. Whether that edge comes from deep personal emotions or willingness to be vulnerable, or perhaps Draco merely explores new avenues of musical expression. The fact remains that there are only a handful of Spanish language musicians out there who can match or come close to Draco Rosa.

The first concert I attended after my mother passed away was Draco’s concert at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia, about 6 months after my mother’s death. It was for “Lo Sagrado y Lo Maldito tour.” I enjoyed the show, but I was still in bad shape emotionally and overwhelmed by grief to fully appreciate the show. It took a lot of strength for me put myself together and make the concert. It was also the last concert I attended in the DC area before moving to New York City for good.

As a rabid record collector and the analog head that I consider myself to be, I was beyond static about the possibility of having a vinyl version of Mad Love finally available. This is a gorgeous-looking LP; it is pink (Rosa), and the artwork is exquisite. I don’t mind buying a non-analog LP — especially if I’m a fan of the artist or band. There is a novelty aspect to this new resurgence of Vinyl. Mostly with regards to albums that were initially recorded digitally, released on CD, and then remastered and transferred to Vinyl. These types of re-releases are a collector’s dream.

I’m not going to go on a track-by-track breakdown of this album because it is one of those conceptual records that you just have to immerse yourself fully. And you have to allow the music’s quality to take you on a poetic, sensual, and at times turbulent musical journey, which is what listening to Mad Love is all about.

DRACO ROSA: MAD LOVE LUXE (2020)

*GREEN DAY — FATHER OF ALL MOTHERFUCKERS (Album Recap)

After a 4-year recording absence, GREEN DAY is back with FATHER OF ALL MOTHERFUCKERS….This is their 13th album, and it is somewhat a weird album to describe; It is full of GREEN DAY energy; it feels more like a party rock album with some garage rock vibes; there are hints of glam, soul, and of course, punk. But at the same time, it feels like a retro type of album, with sprinkles of 50s swing to it.

I guess you can say that it is an alternative punk-pop album.

It is not an overly political album like their previous work — at first, I did not get any political vibes from it. However, after a few listening sessions, I noticed that some subtle political messages are masquerading throughout this album.

I think, FATHER OF ALL is the most upbeat album GREEN DAY has ever released; the record is 26 minutes long, the shortest album ever made by Green Day — which is great, ’cause I’m a fan of fast, under 30-minute album formats.

Billy Joel Armstrong’s voice is so unique and iconic, and it comes across sounding pretty great here. His falsettos were good — and a bold thing to attempt at this stage of his recording career. The bass and drums are always excellent on every GREEN DAY album, and they are excellent here also.

I have some theories about why this album feels a bit experimental. This was supposed to be their last album under Warner Bros, and I think they waited 4 years to release a final album to fulfilled their contract and get it over with. If that was the case, I dig it, and I applaud them. This not a bad album, but it is definitely not their best. Keeping an open mind is crucial to enjoying this album thoroughly.

FATHER OF ALL MOTHERFUCKERS is worth checking out; stream it if you can, and if you are a hardcore GREEN DAY fan, definitely get the LP.

TRACKLIST:

TRACK 1-FATHER OF ALL: First single, kick-ass track, the bass and drums are awesome

TRACK 2-FIRE, READY, AIM: Lots of piano.

TRACK 3-OH YEAH!: Is a straight-up pop-rock song

TRACK 4-MEET ME ON THE ROOF: It has a 50s swing vibe. It starts as an alt-rock song and morphed into a swing track.

TRACK 5-I WAS A TEENAGE TEENAGER: it is a catchy ballad

TRACK 6-STAB YOU IN THE HEART: It has some punk and 50s influences and some swing vibes.

TRACK 7-SUGAR YOUTH: It is the most punk song in the album…sounds like old GREEN DAY

TRACK 8-JUNKIES ON A HIGH: This is my favorite track, and it is the second-longest song in the album, could’ve been a single

TRACK 9-TAKE THE MONEY AND CRAWL: Edgy lyrics with weird sound effects

TRACK 10- GRAFFITIA: I really liked this track, and it felt like an appropriate song to bring this fun party rock album to a close.

GREEN DAY: FATHER OF ALL MOTHERFUCKERS (2020)

*SANTANA — ABRAXAS (50th Anniversary)

It blows my mind to think that this year (2020) is the 50th anniversary of Abraxas by Santana. Man, 50 years is half a century, and that is a long-ass time. 

I remember when I was a kid that my father had a Santana LP in his Vinyl collection, which from what I recall, was a pretty extensive record collection. I’m not sure which Santana album he had, or if he had more than one LP — all I remember is that the artwork was pretty awesome. I would say that I was somewhat familiar with Santana and a few of his songs here and there, but I never really paid attention to him until my late teens.

It was the summer of 1999, and Carlos Santana had his big comeback album Supernatural — An album featuring guest artists and a few instrumental tracks; It was a massive worldwide hit — It dominated radio airplay. It swept most of the music awards that year, including the Grammys. The entire album is pure summer magic for me; the music still feels very much relevant today, and it brings me back to a time in my life that I often look back with fondness. Supernatural ended up opening my eyes and my curiosity towards Santana’s discography.

As I researched their discography, I went all the way back to the genesis of the band and their first self-titled album released in 1969 to get a better sense of Santana’s music; however, it wasn’t until I discovered their second album; Abraxas, that my admiration for Santana was firmly cemented.

In one of my many visits to the DC area, I was at Smash records in Adams Morgan when flipping through the classic rock section; I came across a pristine first US pressing of Abraxas, which included an original Santana Poster. It was a no brainer for me, and I went ahead and bought it. It wasn’t too expensive, but it wasn’t cheap also, and I was ecstatic to finally own Abraxas on vinyl to pair it with my LP copy of Santana III.

Recorded between April and May of 1970 and Released on September 23, 1970, Abraxas was Santana’s second studio album, but their first album to reach #1 in the US. The album’s title is inspired by a passage from Hermann Hesse’s book Demian and the album cover art is from a painting by Mati Klarwein.

The album was a game-changer in the world of music, and it became a highly influential album to generations of musicians thereafter. There is a unique rawness to this album, mostly because there was nobody else from that era that sounded like Santana. Abraxas is the ultimate communion between Afro-Latino music, Blues, Jazz, and Rock. It has been 50 years since this album came out, and it still holds strong as one of the best and most impactful albums of all time.

Tracks:

1.Singing Winds, Crying Beasts (instrumental): Drums, keyboards, electric guitar; I love this intro track, it sets the mood for the whole album, and it gets me going every time I play it.

2.Black Magic Woman: The opening drums setting up the guitar is perfect. It is sensual and hypnotic; this track is simply out of this world. 

3.Oye Como Va: This song created an entirely new genre of music in the Spanish speaking Mundo. Oye Como Va was an original 1963 Mambo composition by Tito Puente; It is important to note that traditional Latin bands of that era were initially outraged by the idea of their music being covered by Rock bands. And initially, Tito Puente was not very supportive of the idea but came around to Santana’s version of Oye Como Va after the song and album became a hit. If this track doesn’t compel you to move and dance, then you probably have no soul. 

4.Incident at Neshabur (Instrumental): This track is a rollercoaster of sounds and a clear example of the high level of skillfulness from the band.

5.Se a Cabo: Written by percussionist Jose “Chepito” Areas. This track has a Salsa vibe mixed with some intense electric guitar. 

6.Mothers daughters: This is probably the least Afro-Latino influenced track of this album. It is more of a traditional Rock piece that shows the versatility of the band. 

7.Samba Pa Ti (Instrumental): The story behind the inspiration of this song is legendary. This is the sexiest track of this album; it is smooth, elegant, and beautiful. 

8.Hope You’re feeling Better: The solo riffs are powerful, and Greg Rollie’s singing is outstanding. This track is pure late 60s early 70s Rock and Roll. 

9.El Nicoya: Another contribution by “Chepito.” The track is short but sweet; it is a groovy way to brings this spellbinding album to a close.

*CERATI: FUERZA NATURAL (Documentary)

The opening lyrics to the first track of Gustavo Cerati’s 2010 album Fuerza Natural evoke some profound emotions, and they always manage to put me in a reflective mood. Those opening lyrics are haunting….

Puedo equivocarme, Tengo todo por delante Y nunca me senti tan bien, Viajo sin moverme de aqui….

Rock en Español has always been a critical component of my musical DNA, and within that DNA, Gustavo Cerati’s music has played a crucial role in shaping saïd DNA. This is why I was beyond excited when I heard that a documentary about the making of Fuerza Natural was available.

We are transported back to the recording sessions of the Fuerza Natural album, which became Cerati’s final studio album—filmed by Leonardo Fresco, a musician who collaborated with Cerati many times and played keyboards on Fuerza Natural. This documentary is a black and white intimate look at Gustavo Cerati’s recording and creative process. And although this documentary piece is only 15 minutes long, it still manages to capture some remarkable images and moments.

We get to see some cool stuff, like the recording of the song Cactus (Track 8), as Cerati plays the acoustic guitar himself. We get a quick peek at the handwritten lyrics and music notes for He visto a Lucy (Track 13). We see some pretty neat, old-school special effects made in-studio.

He seemed deeply involved in the music-making process. We get to see him carefully listening and fine-tuning every single piece of musical notes, making adjustments, changes, and offering constant feedback to his studio band. There is a moment when we see Cerati providing input on exactly how he wanted the bass to sound like….. that was a pretty cool thing to see.

I also notice his constant chain-smoking, which might have contributed to the respiratory issues that he developed after suffering the stroke. It is pretty surreal watching him happy, full of life, creating magic in the recording studio, and then barely a year later, he would fall into a coma and lay on a hospital bed for four years until he died in 2014.

This short documentary piece is a must-watch for all Soda Stereo and Gustavo Cerati fans; for 15 minutes, we get to pretend that we are there with him, and he still is here with us.

*RIP PAU DONES: JARABE DE PALO — Tragas O Escupes (Album Recap)

I was bummed beyond belief to hear about the recent passing of Pau Dones, the leader and frontman of Jarabe de Palo.

I first discovered Jarabe de Palo in the summer of 1999; I was dating a girl who at the time was much more knowledgable about emerging Rock en Español bands than me. She gave me a list of bands to look out for, and Jarabe de Palo was on the list. Our relationship didn’t last long, but I think the incredible music she exposed me to was the highlight of our relationship.

In those days, right after receiving my weekly paycheck from my minimum wage job, I would go on an obsessive-compulsive music buying spree. Every single week, I would make pit stops at multiple music stores throughout my city and end up spending a big chunk of my paycheck on music….. I can still clearly remember like it was yesterday when I purchased my first Jarabe de Palo CD, way back in the summer of 1999 — it was the album “DEPENDE” (1998), and it feels somewhat ironic that this past summer of 2019 marked 20 years since I bought their first album.

It quickly became one of my favorite albums of that year, and still today, it is one of my favorite Rock en Español albums ever. The whole album is pure magic, and it even includes a duet with Celia Cruz on the final track. Pau’s music was a fusion of rock, pop, flamenco-rock, and all the great Latin sounds that make Rock en Español such a fantastic genre. DEPENDE has aged nicely over the years, and it still sounds relevant today as much as it did 20 years ago — I would put DEPENDE in my top 20 Rock en Español albums of all time for sure.

Tragas o Escupes was released at the end of May on all streaming platforms, which caught me by complete surprise because I heard that the album was supposed to drop in September of this year. But it came out nearly 4 months ahead of schedule, and along with the album, Pau attached a press release thanking all of his fans and people who have supported him throughout his career. Sadly, Pau Dones passed away 12 days after the release of Tragas o Escupes; his final studio album.

Now, it makes complete sense to me why the album was released a few months earlier and why Pau’s letter was also attached to the album’s release. The whole thing reminds me of David Bowie’s Darkstar album being released a few days before his passing.

When news of Pau’s cancer diagnosis became public, there was an overwhelming outpouring of love that humbled Pau. As I read the letter he wrote to his fans, it becomes clear to me that perhaps he wanted to take this final opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those strangers who, in a way, were never really strangers to him…. Jarabe de Palo’s music brought us close to Pau and will continue to bring us closer….. Even long after he is gone from our physical realm.

The promotional first single, “Eso Que Tu Me Das,” sounds like a direct farewell to all his fans and loved ones — A farewell in the typical Jarabe de Palo manner.

With this album, Pau manages to turn the sad energy of his passing into a positive one — as you listen to the whole album, you cannot help but realize how at peace with his life he truly was. His musical approach was always about positivity and joy. The type of music that found the light within all the darkness.

I am glad that I had the chance to watch him perform live at the Howard Theatre in Washington DC, back in 2015. It was an excellent experience that I will cherish forever.

Jarabe De Palo – Live at the Howard Theatre (Washington DC, 2015)

As I listened to this TRAGAS O ESCUPES album in its entirety, it becomes such a unique and surreal listening experience to me; all the lyrics have profound meaning. It is like you are listening to a manifesto of a life that was lived fully, and now it seemed ready to come to an end — especially as I listen to the whole album within the context of his passing embedded in my consciousness.

Buen Viaje Pau….Thanks for the music.

*LIAM GALLAGHER — WHY ME WHY NOT (Album Recap)

I have always maintained that the closest thing my generation had to the Beatles was Oasis. I spent most of the 90s listening to bands like Oasis, Foo Fighters, U2, The Verve — you know, bands with guts and swagger. Those bands resonated deeply with me during my late teens to early 20s…..Hell, they still resonate with me today as I reach middle age.

I was pumped beyond belief when Liam Gallagher’s AS YOU WERE came out in 2017. It was a straightforward, kick-ass, in your face type of album. Furthermore, and most importantly, it was a guitar-based album, which is the type of albums that I usually prefer to listen to. I appreciate some experimentation here and there from some of my favorites bands. Still, certain things work just fine the way they are, and consistency is precisely what Liam Gallagher always delivers with his records.

Track 4: Paper Crown and track 5: For What is Worth are on constant replay in my daily playlist. Full disclosure; I do not own AS YOU WERE on vinyl yet. I bought the digital deluxe iTunes version when it came out…. but the LP is on top of my future purchases list.

WHY ME WHY NOT takes things to another level. This album rocks and kicks major ass. Liam is the personification of Rocknroll, and this album is so far his best work since Oasis.

Look, I am a nostalgic person by nature, and I would love nothing more than an Oasis reunion. However, this album is the closest thing to the vibe and sound of what an Oasis album should feel like. Noel Gallagher’s 2015, Chasing Yesterday, had a bit of an Oasis vibe to it, and it was a damn good album…. I think it would have made a perfect Oasis record.

I will not go on a track-by-track breakdown because every single track on this record rocks. However, there is a particularly interesting song, One of Us (Track 2). Liam has publicly stated that it is an “olive branch” to Noel, and most likely, his final reconciliation attempt.

Track 3, ONCE is ageless. I fucking love this song.

Liam has tapped into something unique here as a solo act; His live concerts are sold-out shows, and his albums are on top of the charts. All of his music videos are pretty cool, plus, there is an MTV Unplugged that just came out, which I already bought on iTunes, and I just ordered the LP version. The next thing for me on my wish list is to catch a live concert next time he comes through NYC.

*BUNBURY: POSIBLE (Album Recap)

It has been three long-ass years since the release of the highly successful Expectativas (2017), and Bunbury is finally delivering another excellent studio album. It comes out at a crucial moment during this global pandemic, where there is this collective hunger for light and positivity—a need for quality in music, films, and art. And POSIBLE arrives at the perfect moment to soothe our souls.

Bunbury has been consistently making some of the most profound and well-crafted albums of the last 20 years, so the expectations are always high when it comes to his work. Hell, in a world where Live albums are a rarity, Bunbury has released two of the most compelling “live” recordings of recent history; Bunbury: MTV Unplugged (2015) and Bunbury: California Live (2019). Both albums are excellent musical productions.

However, Posible (2020) feels more like an experimental album than previous Bunbury albums. There is a straightforward electronic-rock approach to it, full of lyrics that scrutinize certain aspects of his personal life. A more brooding, soul searching, and more personal sounding album. Where the possibilities of living multiple and parallel lives within a singular existence is a central theme here, I could not help but sense a cinematic vibe throughout this album, with a deep metaphysical sensitivity.

There are tons of David Lynch-inspired musical imagery that come across as you listen to this album, especially when you watch the music videos attached to this album. Most Notably, the Video for “Deseos de usar y tirar,” which is beautifully directed by frequent Bunbury collaborator and highly regarded visual artist Jose Girl (she directed all three videos for this album).

This Video has a clear-cut David Lynch influence, which features Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) and trans woman artist Jessica Hogan.

This Video for “Cualquiera en su sano juicio (se habría vuelto loco por ti)” is also full of David Lynch vibes. I heard Bunbury was influenced to practice transcendental meditation after hearing about Lynch’s creative process, which explains the connection.

I have been playing this album on heavy rotation, and I really think that as time passes by, it will age very nicely amongst some of the very best albums in the entire Bunbury discography.

Electro-rock is a sound that I have always appreciated when done right. U2’s Achtung Baby (1991) comes immediately to mind. And this album is right up there in terms of quality. A mix of elegant sounding lyrics and bold experimentations. POSIBLE is another phenomenal achievement for a remarkable artist.

WARNER MUSIC SPAIN (2020)

*FITO PAEZ-LA CONQUISTA DEL ESPACIO (Album Recap)

On my first listen I didn’t like it, and I didn’t really get it, It sounded like the same old and outdated Fito Paez from his 90s glory days. But I gave it a second listen, and then it grew on me. I tend to be very critical of musicians/bands who don’t take chances, who play it safe. Releasing albums that sound and feel the same as their previous albums or their older work. It just feels like they refuse to explore new sounds or don’t have anything new to express musically—and that is what I first thought when I first listened to La Conquista del Espacio.

FITO PAEZ-LA CONQUISTA DEL ESPACIO (Sony Music, 2020)

But then, on my second listen, I paid closer attention to the lyrics and begun to notice just how much personal reflection and socially relevant issues are expressed on most of this nine-track album. There are things on this record that work and some things that I can do without. For example; there are way too many Argentinian slangs and regional issues mentioned throughout this album, which I feel is an issue when trying to connect with audiences outside of Argentina. This has been the Achilles heel for rock en Español artists coming out of Argentina for at least the last 10-15 years. Look, although those issues are important—I feel that an International superstar like Fito Páez can exercise tremendous influence all over the Spanish speaking world with his music. It is also important to note that music has an enormous role to play in creating change and inspiring activism, which is why I take issue with parts of this album.

La Conquista del Espacio was produced by Gustavo Porner, who also produced Calamaro’s Cargar La Suerte—which explains why I had similar issues with both albums. The return of Guillermo Vadalá adds to the importance of this record. Vadalá collaborated previously with Fito on nine albums, most notably on the classic album “El Amor Después del Amor” (1992). The highly accomplished drummer Abraham ‘abe’ Laboriel jr also joins this album—Abe has been playing drums with Paul McCartney’s band since 2001 and has worked with Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and Shakira to name a few. Juanes also makes a quick cameo.

Although short and fast, with just nine tracks and under 37 minutes of playing time, La Conquista del Espacio is a solid, well-made album that grows on you pretty quickly. There are a couple of tracks that are destined to become classics, and Maelstrom is my new Fito Paez favorite song. Here is my take:

Track List

  1. La Conquista del Espacio: Opening track sounds like classic Fito Paez, making a mission statement on what this album is all about; Love and freedom—is the thesis of not just this song but the whole album. Juanes and Maria Campos lend their vocals here.
  2. Resucitar: This track was the first promotional single. It’s all about the contradictions of our human condition.
  3. Las Cosas Que Me Hacen Bien: A quote from the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu opens this socially conscious track. The police state, the current social and cultural issues plaguing society are expressed here using examples of modern life and trends. 
  4. La Canción de las Bestias: Now, this is one of my favorite tracks on this album. It sounds raw and reflective. Fito bears his soul while asking deep questions about our humanity. 
  5. Gente en la Calle (feat. Lali): A jazzy love letter to Buenos Aires. Beautiful melody, thoughtful social lyrics. Lali Espósito lends her vocals here. 
  6. Ey, You (feat. Mala Mama): My least favorite track, and allthough the lyrics have some social relevance, still, the musical choices do not work for me. We get some funk, rock, cumbia, and some English and Italian phrases (“Fucking bastard-Vaffanculo”). The Argentinian cumbia band Mala Fama and it’s lead vocalist Hernan Coronel add an unnecessary ingredient. I felt like this song could have worked without the cumbia element. 
  7. Nadie es Nadie: Fito is reaching far here, with lyrics that attempt to appeal to a more inclusive audience, while balancing his classic style of rock. Forgettable track.
  8. Maelstrom: Now here we have the highest mark on this album and my new favorite Fito Paez song. The songwriting and melody are excellent; it is Fito at his best. Everything about this song works. It elevates this album to new heights. 
  9. Todo Se Olvida: This final track is a declaration of where he stands after all these years in music and an icon of rock en Español. A solid way to end this remarkable album.

LA CONQUISTA DEL ESPACIO (Sony Music, 2020)

*DIEGO VASALLO-LAS RUTAS DESIERTAS (Album Recap)

Rock en Español is not just “rock in Spanish,” it is a hell of a lot more. Out of the many categories and subcategories for Spanish language music, rock en Español is, without a doubt, the richest and most diverse of all Spanish music genres. The name itself should be synonymous with sui generis. While at the same time, it is essential to point out that this genre is not only infused with traditional Latin sounds but also infused with jazz, blues, country, folk, soul, reggae, funk, and even metal. And musicians like Diego Vasallo are a clear example of why this genre is particularly exceptional when compared to other genres of Spanish language music. 

Diego Vasallo-LAS RUTAS DESIERTAS (Galerna, 2020)

Las Rutas Desiertas is Diego Vasallo’s follow up album to the excellent “Baladas para un Autoretrato“(Subterfuge Records,2016). Both records were co-produced by Fernando Macaya, who also plays guitar on this new album, and often plays on some touring gigs with Mikel Erentxun. Although Las Rutas Desiertas has somewhat of a dark sound and feel to it—it is not as bleak as it seems, or as the album title suggests (Deserted Routes). The lyrics are full of positive outtakes, and a hopeful outlook into the future. There is a lot more light and positive vibes on this record, which is a departure in tone from Vasallo’s previous album.

Diego Vasallo is a master lyricist, and this album is a confirmation of his mastery. At times, he sounds similar to Andres Calamaro, which is not a bad thing. Still, If you are sick and tire of Calamaro’s nonsensical lyrics as of late, then Vasallo is the perfect antidote. Diego Vasallo has delivered another fantastic album—full of soul, rock, folk, and a touch of blues. An album worth multiple listening sessions, and I feel that it will age exceptionably well with time. 

Here is a quick breakdown of Las Rutas Desiertas.

Track List:

  1. Mi Historia: Cabaret vibes are the best way to describe this track. Diego has a deep affinity for Bob Fosse’s film Cabaret (1972), which has always inspired and influenced some of his solo work.
  2. Cargamento: It is all about the good times ahead and the promise of a better tomorrow. This is a beautiful song. 
  3. Mecha en la Tormenta: This is such an alluring song. The lyrics are just magical and full of hope. The harmonica makes a cameo and adds a touch of blues towards the end.
  4. Esta Noche No Se Parece a Ninguna: One of my favorite tracks on this album. Everything about this song works. Vasallo is at his songwriting best here. 
  5. Entre el Olvido y el Perdón: This song is pure poetry wrapped in melody.
  6. Erase Una Vez: This track has a cinematic feel to it. I picture the opening of a film, set somewhere in the desert.
  7. Alli Te Esperare: My favorite track in this album. A beautiful love ballad. The lyrics, the vocals, the guitar play—they are all flawless. 
  8. El Rio Baja Crecido: The electric guitar shows up here, and it is impeccable. 
  9. Intemperie: Folksy and mellow. Reminds me of early Duncan Dhu
  10. No Me Niegues Nada: There is this air of blues and folk here. Reminds me of early Eric Clapton and Leonard Cohen
  11. Las Rutas Desiertas: Melancholic notes bring this masterpiece to a close. This final track sounds like a declaration of hope and the possibilities lying ahead in an uncertain future. 

LAS RUTAS DESIERTAS (Galerna, 2020)

*Andres Calamaro-Cargar La Suerte (Album Recap)

The title of this album references bullfighting, which means to charge closer towards the bull. Bullfighting is something Calamaro is very passionate about, and his support for the ancient bloodsport is blunt and unapologetic.

After a few listening sessions, I can say that Cargar la Suerte is a solid, pretty good but not great rock en Español album. It is a guitar-focused and well-balanced album, similar to previous Calamaro Albums. However, he is not trying something different here. He is staying within his musical lane, which works perfect for him, and it is what Calamaro fans have come to expect. Lyrically is where I take issue with this record. Calamaro has a history of writing lyrics focusing mostly on Argentinian culture and politics, which is difficult to follow if you are not intimately familiar with Argentinian issues, even some of the language and slang choices are not used or understood outside of Argentina. Bunbury and Sabina, for example, are two Spaniards who make use of their extensive vocabulary in most of their lyrics, and still, their message is understood and easy to follow; they avoid falling into opaque and incomprehensible language. Therein lies the difference in the mainstream international appeal of artists like Bunbury and Sabina, where Calamaro, on the other hand, has a limited and off-center appeal in markets outside of Argentina and Spain.

This album won the Latin Grammy for Best Pop/Rock Album of the year, which I do not believe it deserved, and it also won Best Rock Song for Verdades Afiladas, which it also did not deserve. Look, in the past, Calamaro made three incredible records, three records that I consider to be very important, essential and iconic Rock en Español albums; Alta Suciedad (1997), Honestidad Brutal(1999) and El Salmon (2000). Everything else that he has made since has been from pretty good to mediocre. For Example, El Cantante (2004), a non-rock en Español album made up of classic covers of iconic Latin songs and three original tracks. It was a very refreshing departure from his previous albums, I bought El Cantante on CD when it was first released, and I continue to enjoy it ’till this day. Lengua Popular (2007), was a huge commercial success and it was lyrically the closest thing to his earlier work. On the Rock (2010) was another ambitious undertaking where he collaborated with a bunch of different artists like Bunbury, Calle 13, Diego El Cigala to name a few, and even dived into more popular Latin rhythms like cumbia and even some reggaeton. Nevertheless, it was not a remarkable achievement, and it fell flat compared to previous releases. Bohemio (2013) was a forgettable and lazy album. Romaphonic Sessions (Volumen 11, 2016), was a stripped-down studio album recording where Calamaro is only accompanied by a piano, performing a mix of covers and a few of his own, it was an interesting experiment but inconsequential.

Cargar la Suerte Track List:

Track 1-Verdades Afiladas: This track was the first single, and it sounds like a classic Calamaro tune, the closest thing in this album to his previous work. And the lyrics have a quick references to older hits like Te Quiero Igual (Honestidad brutal, ’99) and Las Oportunidades (El Cantante, ’04).
Track 2- Transito Lento: The Saxophone stands out beautifully on this track. Waiting around patiently to travel from place to place and the life of the traveling musician is the main message here. Solid track.
Track 3-Cuarteles de Invierno: The theme here is about returning to Argentina during the cold winter, full of songs and full of nostalgia. It’s a very gratifying rock ballad.
Track 4-Diego Armando Canciones: This song is a mellow and measured ballad. A reflection of how Calamaro currently sees himself as a musician and as a human being. While at the same time addressing some of his detractors.
Track 5-Las Rimas: The most daring track of this album, where Calamaro Raps, rants and rages. Although this is a rap song, there are no hip-hop beats here, its electric guitar-driven, and it works nicely.
Track 6-Siete Vidas: This is one of the best tracks of this album. Fast-paced, up-tempo, a throwback to Calamaro of years past.
Track 7-Mi Ranchera: A passionate and emotional ballad.
Track 8-Falso LV: Fake Louis Vuitton is what the title of this track means. References all the fake rockeros out there, and the hypocrisy of our times. This is a song that would’ve fit perfectly on either Honestidad Brutal or Alta Suciedad.
Track 9- My Mafia: An acoustic and personal ballad, a heart to heart to the value of friendships.
Track 10-Adan Rechaza: Another fast-paced, up-tempo electric guitar-driven track. Very much in the spirit of Calamaro’s older work. It is a manifesto to living his life on his terms even after his death in the afterlife.
Track 11-Egoistas: Pop-rock en Español at its finest.
Track 12-Voy a Volver: It’s a beautiful ballad. The promise of an eventual return home. The idea of leaving things behind, seeing the world and learning along the way how to return home. There is a hidden instrumental track a few seconds after track 12 ends……

All in all, this is a good rock en Español album. It is not an instant classic as Calamaro’s previous work from the ‘90s and early 2000s, but it is still a solid achievement. Nevertheless, considering the standard Calamaro set for himself over twenty years ago, Cargar la Suerte was not deserving of a Latin Grammy for Best Pop/Rock Album of the year. The Latin Grammy Academy has a long history of bestowing this award to the biggest name in the list of nominees regardless of the quality of the work. In the previous award ceremony (2017), Juanes was awarded the Best Pop/Rock Album for Mis Planes Son Amarte, which was a joke of an album, but Juanes was the most popular name within all the nominees. In 2016 Los Fabulosos Cadillacs won in the same category, and it was far from their best work, but once again, they were the most prominent name within the list of nominees. There is a vast disconnect between the people in charge of selecting the nominees and the people voting for the winner.

Calamaro fancies himself as the Rock en Español’s version of Bob Dylan, which he is not. The closest thing we have in Spanish Rock to Dylan is Joaquin Sabina. My issues with Calamaro as of late is that as an icon of Rock en Español, he tends to take himself way too seriously sometimes, calling himself a rockstar every chance he gets, and of course, he is a rockstar. However, on the other hand, you have rockeros like Enrique Bunbury and Mikel Erentxun who do not have to go around shouting to the wind about being a rockstar, and they both embody the rockstar persona without any self-promoting antics. Bunbury and Erentxun keep on making records that sound and feel different from their previous work; they are continually pushing the boundaries, while Calamaro continues on repeating the same formula over and over again, erecting altars to his long-past glory days, and Cargar la suerte is a clear reflection of all of his past work and all of his past glory; A good album but not a great one.