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Congreso - Congreso CD (album) cover



Prog Folk

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Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Congreso's third eponymous album is popularly known as "El Color de la Iguana" (after the pener's title as well as the cover's main color), and also as the "Coffee Album", but let's just name it as "Congreso". This work is a clear manifesto that the band's fusion of Latin American creole folk and modern jazz has reached maturity, and indeed, you can tell that the band's sound feels more powerful than ever. The amalgam created by all members is the fruition of the style that the band had been developed throghout this seminal era. The acoustic guitars and woodwinds are quite predominant, but this is not your average folk album - most of the arrangements are patent invitations to enter the realms of fusion and adorn the final result with art-rock elements. The namesake track opens up the album on an exciting, candorous note, heavily inspired in Mexican folk. It's a pity that this track is not a bit longer, since its joyful mood feels really contagious. The following two tracks pretty much carry on with the telluric mood, albeit portraying a more serene ambiance, heading more closely toward the romantic side of fusion. The first signs of epic musical ambitiosn surface on 'Los Elementos', a track whose peculiar magic is born out of the fluid combination of exotic dynamics and candid colorfulness. The final section bears a merry spirit, as if it were some sort of sortilege of joy aimed to captivate the human heart's most intimate side. The album's second half gets started with a most beautiful cueca, 'El Cielito de Mi Pieza', arguably one of the best love songs to ever come out of Chile. I suspect that there are some touches of Paraguayan guarani cadences inserted in this cueca - anyway, it's a beautiful song that celebrates the hope of love. The last two tracks are the most ambitious regarding structure, which makes them the closest to the standards of prog fusion. The 6+ minute long 'Tu Canto' and the 10+minute long 'Arco Iris de Hollín' find Fernando Gonzalez approaching his guitar as a tool for definite melodic phrasing while Sergio Gonzalez's drumming becomes more patently complex. The motif and rhythm shifts are well ordained, and a special mention has to go to Patricio Gonzalez' deliveries on cello, particuarly for the way he paints such amazing sonic colors for 'Arco Iris de Hollín'. Thse tracks sort of complete and re-elaborate the promise previously shown on 'Los Elementos'. The CD edition comprises an extra track, a bonus piece that didn't make it to the album, although the lyricis would be later reused for a different melody in a song from their 1990's album "Aire Puro". This bonus is 'Para Ganarnos el Cielo', whose spirit delivers a marriage of tracks 4 and 7, once again with a cello that seems to effortlessly steal the limelight with its phrases and harmonies. "Congreso" is a real gem of Chilean folk-fusion, and as such, must be valued as an absolute highlight in Congreso's history.
Report this review (#144334)
Posted Saturday, October 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I decided to translate a review I made time ago of this album to post it here in PROGARCHIVES, because I think this wonderful album deserves more attention. Really, Congreso deserves more diffusion due their high musical quality and their deep compromise with the latin american rythms.

In "Congreso", released in 1977, the band achieves a very high creative point, and they reach by far the most progressive, powerful and passionate sound of their career. This is notable, because the disco was released under the dictatorship started in Chile in 1973. The album´s quality is high in all tracks, and most of them are simply unforgettable. "El color de la Iguana" is a very happy and elegant overture, where charango, flute, drums, bass and bronzes interact in perfect harmony. In "Volantín de Plumas", Congreso show their more poetic side, and with a fine cueca rhythm they make a ode to the "chirigüe", little typical chilean bird. "Si te Vas" is a love song with a strong Andean feeling helped by the zampoña. I like how the bass sounds in this song, and I find very interesting how Congreso mix fluently very simple (but beautiful) lyrics with a versatile and complex instrumentation. Then we have "Los elementos", an absolute prog song, amazing, and my personal favorite. It starts with a section that evokes a world morning, a vital wake:

Inútil como una flor de goma, abierto como un ropero viejo Absurdos los ojos y la boca, traté de ser un aeroplano Y ved la tierra justo abajo, cayéndose como una naranja negra.

(Useless like a rubber flower, Opened like an old wardrobe Absurds the eyes and the mouth, I tried to be an airplane And you see the earth just below, Opening like a black orange)

Then drums, charango and zampoña are added to the music, the story begins to be written, and the travel receives more energy.

Antiguamente, antes del reloj, y el campanario.

(In ancient times, before the clock and the church tower)

.This is the antechamber of an awesome section, with fantastic percussion and a simple, but terribly penetrative, guitar pluck. The drums are great, and arise of some deep place.

Cuando nadie estaba existían, sólo planetas silenciosos Parecían todos, un universo submarino Parió la tierra a la luna, de una grieta en el mar, mar y luna se nombró. .Vino el pez, la mariposa, los insectos diminutos Cada planeta preñado, obligaba a su progenie a continuar procreando

(When nobody was live existed only silent planets They looked like a submarine universe The earth give birth to the moon, of a fissure in the sea, moon and sea was nominated The fish and the butterfly came, and the little insects too Each pregnant planet, forced his childs to multiplicate.)

And after a frantic passage, a progressive cueca comes to us, and it gives an end to this masterful piece. You will love it.

Then, "El cielito de mi pieza" is an intimate track, with beautiful lyrics and angelic strings. "Tu canto" is more complex, even sour in some moments, with long instrumental passages. "Arcoiris de Hollín", another highlight, with an emotive and dark beginning shows a very complex structure, even more than "Los Elementos". Lyrics and shades reveals, like many Congreso creations, feeling and facts related to the life under dictatorship. Francisco Sazo delights us with a very strong voice, and his mouth shouts denunciation verses that the little brained soldiers never could decipher. A very notable ending, which remind us we are facing one of the bigger works of one of the more important bands from Chile.

"Para ganarnos el cielo" is a 11 minutes bonus track, unreleased before this album. It tells the arriving of Spaniards to America, with an epic instrumentation, deep and fantastic.

I only can say this album is absolutely essential, and you must hear it if you are fan of prog, the latin american fusion with beautiful and poetic lyrics, the folk or simply if you love the good music.

Five Stars absolutely deserved.

Report this review (#186935)
Posted Saturday, October 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

Also called Coffee Album (due to its colour and superb artwork), this third (also self-titled) album of the still intact Valparaiso original quintet, but this time, they are joined Renato Vivaldi (this could not be invented) on wind instruments. Actually by now, the group dropped the "El" -part of their name and where ready to flee the country soon, but this album was still recorded in Santiago in May 77, even if some of the material dates from 74.

Starting on the popular Color De La Iguana track, a Pacific Latin America folk (this could be ranging from Mexico to Tierra Del Fuego, in this case) number that uses much percussion (and even finishes into a duo) then following on the superb Volatin De Plumas (feather kyte I think), the album is certainly not denying its folk roots, something reaching its apex with Si Te Vas. But after three tracks, the album has not possessed much prog content; but the superb 8-mins+ Los Elementos will change this. Starting ever so softly from earth's entrails come out some percussions and later a flute and soft almost whispered vocals accompanied by delicate electric guitars, slowly crescendoing on a neat tempo, the track's haunting ambiance is beginning to cast its spell on you: this could last a half-hour you wouldn't mind but all too soon, the track returns to (almost) normal Andean folk with its closing section.

The flipside has only three tracks starting on a more relatively short Latino cuenca folk Cielito (I think ceiling of my room) first, than on the much more impressive 6-mins+ Tu Cantas, an almost- instrumental that allows for many moods to be developed with one Gonzales brother on the cello. Superb stuff. The closing almost 11-mins Arco Iris De Hollin starts melancholously and slowly on a flute and cello working along a pedestrian bass, before all gradually gain speed, while singer Sazo deals verbal blows to the Pinochet regime that they never "got". Great stuff, once again, even if this didn't change the country's course of event.

The Cd reissue comes with an 11-mins bonus track Para Ganarnos el Cielo in a demo state, but there is no indication that it dates from these years or not. Although lacking some of the finishing touches of the rest of the album (it is only a demo, they claim), musically it sounds much in the line of the later half of the album, and its subject is about the Conquistadors' invasion of the new world. So as a good gift, and improving somewhat an already excellent album, the Coffee album is nearing South American perfection. They don't come that much better thazn this one, even if the first three tracks were strictly folk and holds less interest for undiscerning progheads.

Report this review (#199282)
Posted Friday, January 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars In 1976 flutist Hugo Pirovich, who participated in Congreso's debut, replaced for a brief time Renato Vivaldi, but by the time of the recordings of a third album Vivaldi was back onboard.Facing the strict lines of the dictatorship, Congreso kept producing music, which now contained allegoric lyrics, preventing any chance of conflicts with the political enviroment.The band introduced a huge list of guests on strings and wind instruments (no less than seven musicians) and the new album ''Congreso'', known also as ''The cafe album'', was released on EMI Odeon.

With this work Congreso attempted to mix Andean Folk with an elaborate Chamber Rock, retaining the light rock elements through the bass lines and drumming, and offering for the first time a set of long tracks, ranging from 6 to 10 minutes.Taking this work step by step, the first few pieces are following the same concept presented already by the band in previous releases, an elegant South-American Folk Rock with emphasis on expressive vocals and traditional instrumental tunes.With ''Los elementos'' you will face the band at its most experimental side, a slow, psychedelic intro with effects and drums will leave its place to mellow Andean Folk with the zampona in evidence and later to a dreamy instrumental work of Jazz, Folk and Chamber Music inspirations, which will close with an optimistic mood full of recorders and charango.Charango is also the main instrument on the following, short and rhythmic ballad ''El cielito de mi pieza''.''Tu canto'' clocks at about 6 minutes and features a nice intro with soft electric guitars, percussion and recorders, opening the way for a stretched Chamber Folk performance with melancholic orchestrations filled with strings and some bass, before closing in the same way as it has opened.The development of the band becomes really apparent in the 10-min. ''Arco iris de Hollin'', which is closer to R.I.O. and Chamber Music than Folk, dominated by odd string sections and depressive orchestral parts, dark flute lines and even a jazzy taste.A true surprise considering that Congreso sounded usually as an optimistic group, this is definitely some haunting, semi-acoustic and very dramatic all instrumental music.

For most of its part ''Congreso'' sounds like any other release by the band.Ethereal Prog Folk with an acoustic background, smooth interplays and romantic vocals.But the closing suite is an additional reason to buy the album for its unique atmosphere, somewhere between R.I.O. and Folk.Recommended.

Report this review (#1328604)
Posted Thursday, December 25, 2014 | Review Permalink

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