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Alameda - Aire Cálido de Abril CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.38 | 10 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars I’m not sure these guys really qualify as progressive folk. At least this album doesn’t as far as my ears are concerned. I’d like to get my hands on one of their first two albums sometime to make a comparison, because I’ve read good things about them. But this third release from the band reflects very heavily the age in which it was released; namely, the early eighties. The fact is I found this among a stack of my brother-in-law’s albums which included the late Rocío Dúrcal (and Juan Gabriel of course), Enrique Guzmán, Vikki Carr, and a bunch of Baja California mariachi bands I’ve never heard of. So I expected something at least mildly commercial, probably ethnically dated and conservative, and folkish.

Well, partially true it turns out. Since these guys are Spanish the stylistic influences run closer to flamenco than mariachi, and they aren’t anywhere near as commercial or dated as Ms. Dúrcal and her light-loafered sidekick. Don’t get me wrong by the way – I loved Rocío Dúrcal’s music and was listening to one of her Juan Gabriel collaborations when I met my future wife. But that’s not what I look for in my prog.

And that’s pretty much where the problems come in. These guys have a lot of the right trappings: twin keyboards, highly flourished Latin percussion, a great and emotive vocal presence in José Roca, and some excellent (although underemphasized) brass and string arrangements. But the downside is that the music itself (and most of the lyrics) are steeped in gaudy eighties shtick, beginning somewhere in the middle of the third track and running through the end of the album. The simple rhythms are obviously intended to make the music danceable, and the keyboarding Marinelli brothers have an annoying tendency to lay down a short keyboard or piano sequence and then repeat it ad nauseum rather than experimenting with more complex variations. Occasionally an interesting riff makes its way into the equation, but for the most part this is a rather pedestrian attempt at commercially palatable music that has not aged well at all these past twenty-seven years.

There are a few exceptions, and one is the opening title track. The piano, string arrangements and soft percussion are a very promising lead-in to the album. And like I said José Roca has a very solid and emotional voice that is perfect for flamenco-inspired folk music. This one still ends up sounding a bit in the style of Ms. Carr’s Spanish efforts of the seventies, but the instrumentals save it in the end. “Puente Azul” moves a bit closer to lounge-act territory, but still the string arrangements and keyboards are solid.

But somewhere in the middle of “Santa Clara” the band takes a great keyboard, string and guitar instrumental and morphs it into some sort of almost calypso dance number in a very abrupt and unflattering way. The awkward and poorly mixed fadeout ending completes the destruction of what could have been a solid track.

The band partially redeems themselves with another flamenco and piano composition on “Cuando llegue la Aurora”, and the instrumental “El Portil “, while heavily electronic, is an interesting flight of fantasy. “Sangre Caliente” is unexceptional but at least skirts the borders of folk, albeit in a rather cheesy eighties fashion. The vocals particularly pass the line of emotional and become trite by the end.

But all is lost with the one-two dance beat and keyboard finger exercises of “Zalima” and the very similar “Tierra del Sur”, and by the time the closing poppy show tune-like “Urbana Princesa en Flor” comes around I’m beginning to tire of this album.

This isn’t a bad album, but it also isn’t what I would have expected considering what great praise I’ve seen heaped on these guys in other reviews I’ve read, mostly of their first two albums. I can’t speak for those since I’ve not heard them, but as a representative of the band I can only hope this is not their finest work. Almost three stars for the three solid tracks on the front side of the album, but I’m going to go with two stars as a prog folk work and hope that I get a chance to hear better music from their other albums some day.


ClemofNazareth | 2/5 |


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