*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)

*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.