Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reviews:: Alejandro Escovedo

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Alejandro Escovedo has many reasons to be happy and undoubtedly that sense of joy shines through on this new record. From the opening blasts of his trusted guitar on Always a Friend, you see that he's shaken free of some of the darkness that (understandably) encompassed his life lately and wrote songs that are not only a loving look back to past years, but also an appreciation of where he is now.

It would be easy to start talking about everything Alejandro has seen or done; to focus on the dark clouds and shining suns that have consumed his life but when you listen to Real Animal you get hit with two polarizing themes. There is not doubt that he is celebrating life, but he's realized that time is creeping up on him and his days here get shorter and shorter. So his songs try to look forward, and even when he revisits his past, it's not with regret and doubt. Everything that has happened and everything that will is simply what life intended for him.

"We're only gonna live so long.. We still got time, but never quite as much as we think."
"We've got so much to live for, it's not too late!"

He's never been an artist that you could pigeon hole and that ever changing diversity of his songs lets him deliver a cock sure, swagger laced collection of rockers that are as real as a diary entry. Whether it's his journey into self (the vague "Why Me" he uses to open up to on Golden Bear) or the sincere tribute to another terrific musician (the heavy guitars that pick up the pace of the Iggy Pop tribute Real as an Animal), Escovedo is exposing us all to his thoughts for the world, like a musical book on tape.

I think you have to give some credit to his writing partner (Chuck Prophet) and producer (Tony Visconti) for the success of this record. Tony was able to help fantastic artists like Bowie and Bolan find that self assured style they wanted, and has helped Alejandro mix his comfortable country twang with rapid fire drums, dynamic strings (like the beautiful arrangements on Sister Lost Soul) and big guitar filled hooks.

Tony's understanding of Alejandro's vision helps the album unfold slowly and cohesively. Tender ballads like Swallows of San Juan and Sensitive Boys fit side by side with the heavier, faster licks and allow Escovedo to shift sound seamlessly without any hiccups. I'd question the decision to say he's reinvented himself yet again, as the songs are so autobiographical you can't help but think these new sounds are just a perfect culmination of who he really is. Whether it was punk, alt-country, garage rock or glam, Escovedo proves he has the chops to make all his tried and true styles sound fresh and modern, but he never abandons the roots and history of the music.

Chelsea Hotel '78 is laced with the grit and grime that encompassed the famous hotel back during the Bohemian NYC era. Escovedo revisits the turbulent time, talking freely about some of his friends and the tragedy of the drug fueled time, but you don't get a sense of nostalgia from the seasoned vet. He simply tells a story, acknowledging the cast and events and admitting that "we all moved out, and we all moved on." Instead of glorifying the events with a dramatic soft focus, his memories and thoughts are crystal clear, even when they are slightly contradicting. Moving from SF to NY to be part of something made perfect sense, even when it didn't.

Escovedo is a complex man that has seen more than most, but in the end, this is a record of a man, his stories, and his trusted guitar. It speaks to every bar band with big dreams, every snot nosed punk looking to cause trouble and stand out, and every Nashville loving troubadour with dreams of times past. Most importantly, it speaks to every music fan. Why? Because in the end, Alejandro is every one of those people and more.

Posted at 8:20 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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