*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.

*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.

*TOM PETTY: Greatest Hits

Anybody that knows me well knows that I stopped listening to or buying  “new” music years ago. Although, I do make some exceptions here and there for a few bands/musicians that I already follow somewhat religiously, like the Gallagher brothers solo work, Mumford and Sons, U2, Foo Fighters…. to name a few.

This past summer (’17), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers announced that their current tour would be their final tour, which eventually concluded in September at the legendary Roxy in L.A.

As I have gotten older, classic rock has become my favorite genre. In the last few years, I have developed a deep fondness for Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bowie, the Doors, and early Rod Stewart, to name a few…. but Petty, until recently, had managed to elude me musically. I simply do not know why it took me so long to notice him properly. I obviously knew of him, heard some of his music, and seen his music videos. I grew up watching MTV/VH1 daily, and those two channels always had his videos on constant rotation. I can still remember how captivated and at the same time creeped out I was when I first saw Mary Jane’s Last Dance music video in the early nineties.

Hearing about Tom Petty’s passing and reading online, all the profound love, admiration, and gratitude that regular people, celebrities, musicians, and artists were showing him really moved me. It finally pushed me to go out and buy his “Greatest Hits’ vinyl LP and give Petty a proper listen.

After spending some time giving this compilation of greatest hits a serious listen, I can’t help but feel like I’m arriving late to the Tom Petty party, songs like “Refugee” (extremely relevant to today’s political climate), “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “You Got Lucky,” “Learning to Fly,” and “Don’t Come Here No More” among others, all those songs will now remain permanent on my Forever Petty Playlist, and of course, we cannot forget the three most iconic songs of Petty’s catalog “American Girl,”Free Fallin,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Here is my Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers playlist: