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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
South of the Border - The Lonely Bull - Lost Treasures (Reissued)
Shout! Factory

Rating: 8/10 ?


March 10, 2005
Nothing sells like sex appeal. Add a little trumpet and WOOOOWEEEE, now we're talking!

This is what Herb Alpert did early in his career - make instrumental trumpet-driven pop albums with a suave machismo visual. Either that or, as he did with one of his most popular albums, Whipped Cream and Other Delights, showcase the image of an attractive, whipped cream-clad female and let musical integrity do the talking. But seriously, if Alpert could make Americanized mariachi music sexy then more power to him.

Much of Alpert's music had a sexy, energized element of its own even without the visuals. The trumpeter was highly influenced in his craft by the overall experience that he felt when attending a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico. At these events the crowds would go wild after hearing a brass section introduce each new event. Although not of Hispanic heritage, Alpert longed to cull a sound within American pop music that would gratify the mariachi elements of harmonies and attack as he had heard in 1962 at that Tijuana bullfight.

Although Alpert didn't have the cultural background on his side to feel out the music, he did maintain the expertise through which to learn the technical side of the style. Prior to starting his solo career, Alpert had written compositions for American pop performers such as Sam Cooke and Jan & Dean. Now it was up to him to adapt a brand of indigenous Mexican music to pop America and likewise link with a record label that would find a way to sell it.

It turned out that neither of these challenges ever became a problem for him. Recording his first album, The Lonely Bull, he put together a backing band that would endure many of his most famous Ameriachi sessions and would give him the Latin-tinged sound that he desired. Alpert also took it into his own hands to release his efforts, giving rise to A&M Records, a label that stands as one of the largest independents ever created.

Enough of sounding like an encyclopedia. Herb Alpert made Los Angeles (A.K.A. Pop Americanized) mariachi something socially recognizable for years to come. Modern groups such as Calexico, although not sounding anything like Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, are in some ways similar to bending the Latin sound into the acceptance for the white boy raised in middle American suburbs. With three recent releases - one new and two reissues - Shout Factory is attempting to reintegrate the sound into American pop culture once again. However, for a culture that is raised on rock 'n' roll and advancing technology, the real sounds of these dusty grooves might be a little too off the beaten path.

Anyone who is a pure music appreciator will enjoy reissues of The Lonely Bull and South of the Border along with the newly compiled rarities and unreleased tracks collection, Lost Treasures. Each of these albums finally has been brought to CD format. They all have a longer life along with cleaner digital sound, which may or may not be a good thing depending on which audio camp you hail from, but they do maintain that great vintage feel back to the 60s when all the material was written and recorded. The essence of all these releases reminds me of cartoons from my youth, like when Tom & Jerry or Bugs Bunny would somehow end up in Mexico and go to a bullfight or meet up with their Hispanic counterpart. Alpert's sound is defined by tiny echo-y drum recording fronted by a powerful two-to-three man Latin brass lineup and chingly guitar strummings. Essences of Esquivel are emitted but not completely heard.

Also found in abundance on Alpert's reissued albums are covers of classics by musicians such as Jobim ("Desafinado," "The Girl From Ipanema"), the Beatles ("All My Loving," "And I Love Her"), James Taylor ("Fire and Rain"), Cat Stevens ("Whistlestar"), and Bacharach ("Promises, Promises," "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," etc.). Many of these artists released albums with Alpert's A&M Records as well, showing that you can do some things entirely in house.

The sex appeal has surely run out through the ages and the overall innovation of style meldings has also worn its welcome, making these reissues likely to continue to be underappreciated classics, just in a different format.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger

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