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Congreso - Viaje Por La Cresta Del Mundo CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.40 | 23 ratings

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3 stars Congreso’s fourth studio album brought with it many changes in the band, both in their lineup and sound. Primary vocalist Francisco Sazo is gone, although he would return to the band a few years later. Bassist Fernando Hurtado had also departed, along with flautist Renato Vivaldi. In their place the remaining trio of González brothers enlisted a quintet of musicians including a new vocalist and percussionist in the form of Joe Vasconcellos, a Chilean who spent most of his childhood and early adult years living in Italy. Vivaldi has been replaced by Hugo Pirovich, and the University-trained Ernesto Holman splits bass duties on the record with Patricio González. Ricardo Vivanco and future University music professor Anibal Correa round out the new lineup.

The most noticeable differences in the band’s music are the distinctively different vocal style of Vasconcellos, and the prominence of classical piano on nearly every composition (but particularly on “Undosla” and the lengthy closing number “La Tierra Hueca”). Vasconcellos doesn’t have quite the range or earthy sincerity in his voice that Sazo mustered in the band’s first few albums, and while the piano passages give the music a more cosmopolitan feel there is also some loss of the folk-leaning emphasis that made their earlier works so engaging for progressive folk fans.

The other tendency the band seems to have adopted is an inclination toward studio improvisation. Many of the songs here are much looser than the very crisp execution present on ‘Terra Incógnita’ and especially the coffee album. Along with Correa’s piano and the assorted brass insertions the music leans every so slightly away from being a regionally-rooted Chilean folk band toward a mildly fusion- sounding one. Had I never heard their 70’s albums this wouldn’t matter much, but I can’t say as the change in tone is necessarily welcome for early fans of the group. This would also be their shortest album to-date, clocking in at barely 42 minutes even including several minutes of pointless and ambling noodling on the closing track.

I was pleasantly surprised to belatedly discover Congreso a few years ago on the strength of their debut and ‘Terra Incógnita’, and still play those albums a fair amount. This offering lacks any truly distinctive characteristics or standout tracks though, and while the music is technically proficient it has the overall feel of having been sort of ‘mailed in’ in terms of the emotional engagement of the various players. The skill and artistry of the musicians involved pretty much require that the album be rated as something better than just a ‘collectors-only’ work, but not by much. Three stars may even be just a bit high, but considering the alternatives it is probably the most appropriate rating to give it. Not much recommended except to fans of Chilean music, and obviously to fans of Congreso. Otherwise I’d look to their earlier music if you are new to the band and looking to discover them at their finest.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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