*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)

*Mikel Erentxun-El Ultimo Vuelo Del Hombre Bala (Album Recap)

El Ultimo Vuelo del Hombre Bala es el mas reciente lanzamiento musical de Mikel Erentxun. Ya le di varias escuchadas completas a este album y me parece que es uno de los mejores discos que Erentxun ha creado en su larga y extensa carrera discográfica.

img_9562Este album es la conclusion a la trilogía de discos que Mikel empezó en el 2015 con el lanzamiento de Corazones junto a Paco Loco, quien se a convertido en su productor principal en estos tres recientes discos–junto con John Agnello, quien ha sido el ingeniero musical encargado del sonido de toda esta trilogía. Los tres discos fueron grabados en el estudio de Paco Loco utilizando instrumentos y cintas de grabación analógicas, y masterizados en Sterling Sound de NYC. La consistencia de estas colaboraciones han dado resultados excelentes al nivel artístico y creativo en esta etapa de la carrera musical de Mikel. 

En los primeros diecinueve años de este siglo, Erentxun a creado discos importantes con un sonido diverso y una personalidad peculiar en cada uno de ellos. Cada uno de estos discos tienen un lugar especial en mi lista personal de lo mejor del rock en Español en lo que va de este nuevo siglo. Discos como: Te Dejas Ver (2000), Ciudades de Paso (2003), El Corredor de la Suerte (2006), Detalle del Miedo (2010) y 24 Golpes (2012). 

img_9564Pero Corazones (2015) es sin lugar a dudas mi favorito de todos los discos de Erentxun. Fue un disco que marco una etapa importante en mi vida personal y fue como un soundtrack a la montaña rusa de emociones y cambios que ocurrieron en mi vida entre el 2015 al 2017. Es uno de esos discos que no pasan de moda y no me canso de escucharlo. Especialmente canciones como Dakota y Yo, El Ultimo Vals, Viento Errante, Corazon y Huesos, Un Corazon Llamado Muerte, Los Muros de Jerusalen, Veneno y Corazon, Con El Tiempo a Favor, Tu…en fin, todo el disco es increíble.

img_9563El Hombre sin Sombra (2017), fue el segundo disco de esta colaboración entre Mikel, Paco loco y John Agnello. Este fue otro gran album, y una excelente sequela a Corazones. La participacion de Maika Makovski en la mayoría de las canciones le dan un toque Leonard Cohen a este disco. Canciones como Llamas de Hielo, Héroe, Libélulas, Cicatrices, Y sin embargo te quiero, Tienes que ser tu, El amor te muerde los labios al besar, El Principio del final etc, son parte de la constante rotación de canciones en mi playlist titulada “Favorite tracks Erentxun.” 

img_9570El Ultimo Vuelo del Hombre Bala es un super discazo, se parece un poco mas en cuestión de sonido a Corazones y a Corazon Salvaje EP pero mucho mas eléctrico que los anteriores discos, ya que en este nuevo album no se utilizo ni una sola guitarra acústica. También cuenta con la compañia de Marina Iñesta en los coros. Marina es vocalista de la excelente banda indie Repion, y su voz le da un toque perfecto a las canciones en las que participa. 

Este album empieza con 25 segundos de arpa que da un opening a la canción Tu amor es un nudo (Track 1). Muchacha de ojos tristes (Track 2) se a convertido en una de mis favoritas, ese beat electrico me cautivo inmediatamente.  Circulos (Track 3) difinitivamente se convertira en una de las clasicas del repertorio de Mikel, noto las influencias Lloyd Cole y The Smiths pero con ese toque Erentxun inconfundible. Dejalo Estar (Track 4) nos conecta directamenta con la cancion Jugando con el tiempo del disco Naufragios (1992). Gigante (Track 5) es una rock balada poderosa cargada de letras intensas donde escuchamos referencias a su pequeño rockanrol de 24 Golpes. 

Tiempo de descuento (track6) es pura electricidad. Animales Heridos (Track 7) es la primera vez que Mikel nos entrega un tema socio-politico, con un aire a Duncan Dhu. Es refrescante y bienvenido este lado de Mikel el cual no es comunmente visto en sus canciones, este es un track super corto pero directo al punto. Amor Circular (Track 8) es un poco mas up-tempo y electrico, similar a al track 3. La Vereda (Track 9) fue el primer single y es posiblemente la mas comercial y “radio friendly” del album. Donde estas tu ahora estoy yo (Track 10) esta es definitivamente una de mis favoritas, en la cual tenemos referencia directa al titulo de este album. Tengo ganas de ti (Track 11) otra balada rock que encaja muy bien con el resto del album. Angel en llamas (Track12) Los coros y los drums son los protagonistas de este track. Corazon de mil inviernos (Track 13) Es problamente mi favorita, y siento que es la mejor forma de concluir esta trilogia.

Me pase todo este fin de semana escuchando este discazo, una y otra vez, caminando por las calles gastadas de Brooklyn (un guiño a Mañana de ciudades de paso). Aunque solo en version digital ya que todavia no lo tengo en formato LP. El vinilo recien estara disponible en Estados Unidos el 17 de Mayo. Asi que la ansiedad por escucharlo en mi recientemente adquirido tocadiscos Technics SL-QD33 sera un tremendo placer.

Y bueno, pienso que esta trilogía de discos con el paso del tiempo envejecerán super bien, ya que la calidad de letras, la excelente calidad del sonido y la genialidad en el concepto de cada uno de estos discos formaran parte de lo mejor de lo mejor que se ha producido en la historia del rock en Español.

*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.

*MY PASSION AND OBSESSION WITH VINYL RECORDS

I went from collecting CDs to collecting Vinyl records, which is somewhat ironic because listening to music on vinyl is how I was introduced to music growing up. When I was a kid, compact discs (CDs) did not yet exist, or at least around my immediate surroundings. And by the time I was old enough to purchase music on my own, with my own money, vinyl records were no longer easy to find, especially in music stores.

I guess you can say that I grew up around a time where the intersection of analog and digital was beginning to take place.

It was the 90s, and now CDs ruled the music world. CD players had entirely replaced turntables in just about every music store around the United States.

The Discman had replaced the Walkman as the primary listening device, and playing music on cassettes was somewhat considered uncool, or at least it was considered uncool by all my knucklehead middle and high school friends.

Music was now digital, which made CDs seem a lot more practical — mainly ’cause they now took up much less space in your home. Records, on the other hand, tend to take up more space, and they are pretty hard to take on the road with you — Now it was possible and easy to take your CD collection with you anywhere rather quickly. And you could even play your CDs in your car. It was a pretty fucking revolutionary idea — for the first time in modern history, people were able to carry their music with them anywhere they wanted. And we were only a few years away from CD burners, which provided us with the ability to create personalized CD playlists, which would eventually become a modern version of the cassette mixtape.

The other day I was going through my CD collection and noticed that in the last eight years, I bought less than 10 CDs, but on the other hand, in the same period of time, I purchased over 30 albums on iTunes. Albums that in the past, I would have totally purchased at a music shop.

When I was a teenager, I bought CDs just about every single week with my minimum wage weekly paycheck. I went on this weird, ritualistic “music store tour” every single week right after payday — making pit stops in-between three or four stores that carried a diverse selection of music. There was Sam Goody in Pentagon City mall, (It is now the clothing store Express). They had an excellent selection of cheap single promotional CDs, new arrivals, and a robust Rock En Español selection…. I bought some of my favorite Rock En Español albums there.

Record Town in Ballston Mall was another great music store — It was located on the top floor where the Arcade and the Regal movie theater are currently located; I remember Record Town employee Oscar, who also worked nights as a club DJ. He was very friendly and approachable… Eventually, Record Town became FYE, and they relocated to the second floor to a more prominent spot. Last time I was in town visiting, I saw Oscar still working there, as I walked by the store. I was happy to see him still working there after all these years — however I wasn’t in the mood to go in and say hello.

Best Buy in Pentagon City was also a great spot, especially if you were short on funds — their CDs were always cheaper than most music stores, and their music department was huge (now it is almost non-existent). There was also Tower Records, right off Seminary Road in Alexandria, VA. It was located in the same strip mall where Bally’s Total Fitness used to be, (it became LA Fitness).

For me, every single week visiting all those music shops was like a type of ritualistic affair. Sometimes I would hear a song on the radio, and I would feel compelled to listen to the whole album. My constant craving for good music kept me consistently buying albums from unknown musicians/bands. I would buy singles, radio edits, remixes. Buying albums and singles became such a vital part of my life — I would hurry back home and fully immerse myself in my ritualistic listening sessions. Those were some pretty intense sessions of musical discovery.

When my mother passed away, I was overcome by a powerful force to recapture certain things from my past, things that in a weird way reminded me of my time around her. Even though she was not a music collector like me, she never discouraged my obsessive-compulsive music-buying ways. She enjoyed having me at home engulfed in my semi-ritualistic listening sessions in my room rather than having me out in the streets getting into trouble, which I had a bit of a talent for (but that is a different story, for a different time).

So after a few months of deep grieving, I felt compelled to give myself something to obsess over again, like I did when I was younger with my music. Something that would help ease the pain, and occupy my mind, so I decided to use some of the money that she left behind for me to purchase a turntable and to go back to those analog days. To start collecting music again, to start collecting LPs, especially old LPs of classic rock , vintage editions of classic records. The older, the better. Used albums, first pressings, and some reprints here and there.

Vinyl records have recently become more popular, and that is a good thing. In the four years since I started collecting Vinyl — I have found gem after gem, mostly by visiting used record shops, and taking my sweet time flipping through crates of records. Not to mention my recent realization that I have an antiquated personal taste for music, films, and books. I love the whole “discovery” aspect of things — new things in plain sight like new movies that are actually old movies but they are new to me. New music that is actually old music but it’s new to me. Same thing goes for literature — I prefer to read early to mid 19th century authors. I always tell people that one of the best ways to get to know me more profoundly is to look at my music, book, and film collection.

I have found original pressings in excellent condition, with some minimal wear, and excellent sound quality. I found records that I never had the chance to give a proper listen to in their original analog format. I noticed that I had developed a deep appreciation for The Doors. I have become a massive fan of their music after listening to their first album over and over again on vinyl. Now I have all their albums on vinyl, except for Strange Days (I refuse to buy a reissued copy). Also those Rod Stewart’s first few albums with The Faces are now at the very top of my favorite classic rock albums of all time.

When you value your music listening experience as much as I do, you end up putting more value on the proper care of your Vinyl collection. Unlike CDs, you have to take better care of your vinyl records; you cannot just loan them to someone else. The idea of my records not being in my possession for an extended period of time terrifies me. I can easily imagine my records returning damaged…. and that is indeed a terrifying thought. On the other hand, the idea of lending out my CDs does not evoke the same emotion in any way, or even downloading an album on iTunes is not the same thing as holding an LP in your hands, admiring the artwork, and so on.

So, I am looking forward to the future. To a future where my vinyl collection surpasses my CD collection (which is massive) to a time where I can have my entire vinyl collection proudly displayed in shelving cabinets against the wall of my home. Where I can play an original pressing of The Beatles White Album, or Bowie’s Hunky Dory, or take a trip with Pink Floyd to The Dark Side of the Moon….

I guess what I am trying to say here is that there is no such thing as having too many LP records.