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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars When three González brothers left 60’s psych band Los Sicodélicos and recruited lyricist/vocalist Francisco Sazo from another Chilean (and slightly more conventional) band Los Masters, Congreso was formed. This is their first full studio album, and while not quite as polished as the sophomore release ‘Terra Incógnita’, it is still a well-constructed folk offering that shows influence of the González brothers’ psych background (the fuzz guitar and wailing vocals on “Mírate al Espejo” are a perfect example).

The band clearly establishes their modus operandi as well, which is to take native Chilean instruments, paired with an occasional sprinkling of traditional tunes, and craft fresh and inspirational progressive folk offerings. I have to say that they succeeded here. Also, considering this album is nearly thirty-seven years old that the band did a pretty good job of putting together songs that would stand the test of time and not end up sounding like some scratchy old Parra family record. Listen to the guitar and vocals on a track like “La Roca” and you’ll see that the music is quite relevant still today, albeit mostly to folk fans, but still….

The lineup here is largely the same as for the second album, that being the three González brothers; Francisco Sazo and his excellent voice; and bassist Fernando Hurtado. Hugo Pirovich guests on flute, as he would with the band’s third album. The one missing element on this album is the earthy-sounding charango, which would not appear until later in the band’s career but which would really flesh out their sound and give it a more authentic Latin American tone.

Another example of the psych influence is ” Maestranzas de Noche”, a track that begins with all the intent of being a fairly uncomplicated pop-folk tune, but quickly evolves into a series of odd tempo shifts, guitar that alternates between acoustic strumming and a sort of dampered fuzz tone with staccato piano chops behind to make it sound more strident. A really odd song, but it will grow on you as well.

Some other tracks like “Vamos Andando mi Amigo” show a level of maturity in composition that is impressive for these young musicians. This album was supposedly recorded live in the studio with just two takes, and the polished sound really is a testament to the band members’ skill and discipline.

In keeping with the notion of adapting traditional music the band includes their rendition of “El Cóndor Pasa”, a song made famous as “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” the year prior by Simon & Garfunkel. The history of this tune is a bit unclear to me; The Simon & Garfunkel version on their ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ album is credited to Peruvian Daniel Alomía Robles, while the Congreso liner notes attribute this to a Bolivian traditional tune. Not sure which is correct, but no matter – Congreso extend the basic tune to include a couple of flute and piano forays that add to the emotional feeling this song tends to evoke in people.

The last and most interesting song on this album is the eleven-minute plus “A.A.R.”, an instrumental whose meaning is not explained in the liner notes. I’m guessing this doesn’t stand for “Association of American Railroads” or the “American Academy of Religion”, but it doesn’t matter really. This lengthy tune features a seductive bass line and somewhat restrained electric guitar solo backed by traditional percussion sounds and flute that result in a uniquely Chilean-sounding jam session. Worth picking up all by itself, and I suppose intended to give the band their requisite signature ‘opus’ to play at summer music festivals. I would sit through this at an outdoor concert, that’s for sure.

So overall a very good album, not as good as the two that would follow simply because those albums are more ambitious in terms of instrumentation, experimentation and variety. But this one is better than just a collector piece, and I would recommend it to any prog folk band or anyone who is into Andean music. Three stars.


Report this review (#152521)
Posted Saturday, November 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars First album by the second-most important Chilean group (from the suburbs of Valparaiso) after Los Jaivas, (El) Congreso is just as long-running as LJ is and had roots well in the 60's, even if their birth dates from 69 and their self-titled debut dates from 71. The double Gonzales guitar attack quintet presents the particularity of having a drummer that plays piano (also a Gonzales) and the singer some flute. Their early music presented some psychedelic folk with strong local (Andean) flavours and the debut is filled with fuzz guitar and sports the ever-present El Condor Pasa (correct version, not too much dramatics), and the group even managed a major label EMI-Odeon, reissued on Cd with Record Runner. It was recorded Live In The Studio for the most of it.

The group obviously intended to have something important in their lyrics (or else the wouldn't have called themselves Congreso) and in the first couple tunes, they speak of Neruda and other meaningful subjects in soft folk rock song with flutes, gentle fuzz-guitar, a bunch of typical Andean instruments like the tarca and quena and use some not-always straight-forward tempo shifts. The flow of track is relatively smooth, and superb instrumentals like El Errante interrupt the succession of folks songs that are all rather lovely, but nothing worth writing home about (or describe accurately in this review ;o)p) but still remain vaguely psychedelic. Some other tracks (like Mirale Al Espejo and its wailing fuzz guitar) take on a rockier form or dramatic feel like Rompe Tu Espada or La Roca, but the album never leaves the folk realm, something El Condor Pasa reminds us, just before a long (11 mins) instrumental (AAR) which starts out on a fuzz-lead tune, but goes on dissecting itself and end up with a bass and drum duo, before getting an overlong drum solo ends the album in its vinyl form. A bit too bad to end so weirdly

The Cd re-issue comes with two bonus tracks in the form of the non-album single of the next year, which goes on to bring back their pop side and more local instruments, with the Como Vas folk ditty, and its flipside, the delicious flute-lead Nuestros Es El Momento. Two valid tracks that add to the album's overall value, without sounding out of context, which has its importance. Somehow this album remains fresh and doesn't sound dated for the folk-minded progheads and if it wasn't for that weird drumming death, it might have garnered enough impact to go further up the rating scale.

Report this review (#199002)
Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Congreso are among the most long-lived Chilean bands ever with more than 40 years of career on their backs.By mid-60's brothers Francisco,Patricio and Sergio Gonzalez along with bassist Fernando Hurtado played together in several school bands,covering foreign English tracks.In 1969 they were joined by singer Fernando Sazo from the beat group Los Sicodelicos and Congreso was born.Based in the city of Quilpue,they started to blend traditional Chilean tunes with rock music,as presented on their debut ''El congreso'' from 1971.

With flutist Hugo Pirovich on board,Congreso play harmonic mellow Psych/Folk Rock deeped in the Chilean roots.The album is mostly acoustic with a few electric blows but with the constant presence of the rhythm section.The flute of Pirovich offers delicate traditional tunes and is mixed greatly with the rest of the band.Vocals are definitely a highlight of the album,very melodic,warm and sensitive.''El congreso'' contains mainly short tracks,all of them are highly melodic and enjoyable,but to say the truth I do not see any progressive leanings.Even the long instrumental ''A.A.R.'' continues in the same style,Psychedelic Rock with Folk influences and a mood for improvisation overall.

I would advise anyone into demanding and rich musicianship to rather skip this album,as it sounds very pastoral and even dated.On the other hand ''El congreso'' will be a great addition for anyone looking for soft rock musicianship blended with with highly melodic content and nice vocal harmonies,no matter he is a fan of Folk Music or not.Recommended.

Report this review (#493049)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have thought to review all the albums of this beautifull and rellevant chilean band, in order of release

"el congreso" is the first Album of congreso, in 1971, first of all, i must clarify this: this album is not a prog one (except for just one theme), its pure folk rock, it has mainly short themes, it has quenas (Andean flutes), charangos (Andean little string instrument, like a mandolin) and other folkloric instruments, in addition to occasional symphonic instruments like violins and cellos, I think the rock sound is pretty similar to the rock of the beatles in some parts.

the best themes here are: "rompe tu espada, vive la vida" (break your sword, live the life), it has a beautifull melody and the lyrics are dedicated to peace, "maestranzas de la noche", bassed in Pablo Neruda`s poetry, the instrumental "el errante" that achieves a very good fussion and harmony between folk and rock sounds, the version of "el condor pasa" it's a good cover, this time with lyrics, that are about peace and unity, the closing theme A.A.R is the first prog theme of all history of the band, its very interesting but also al little monotonous, specially on the the cajón solo (cajón: percussion instrument of Peruvian origin) of the minute 45:45, further the starting electric guitar riff (34:00) is very ugly.

I think that this album is rather for those who lived at that time and remember it with nostalgia, also for the meaning of his lyrics, which were consistent with the social and cultural context of that age (hippie years) it also has an historical value for being the first album by congreso and if you like this band its very possible that you want to know how it all started

"el congreso" isnt a grat allbum, and although it has some good songs, is the only one of the band I don't like, in fact, I do not think it's a good album to start listening to this band, if you have not heard this band, this album could demotivate you, but Congreso gave a long step between their first and second album in quality of composition, so I invite you to follow this band that has fused the rhythms, instruments, ideas and Latin American feelings with the sound of rock, progressive rock and jazz, achieving a beautiful and important legacy for Chile and Latin America.

Report this review (#1421150)
Posted Friday, May 29, 2015 | Review Permalink

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