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Congreso - El Congreso CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

2.97 | 25 ratings

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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.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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