Wednesday, May 22, 2019

CD Odyssey Disc 1263: Alejandro Escovedo

This week I’ve been delving into some old school Linda Ronstadt. I don’t like all of it, but there are some gems out there. So far I only have 1977’s “Simple Dreams” but I could see myself adding 2-3 more records before I’m done.

I’ve also been listening to whatever the Odyssey tells me to, as per Rule #2. For the last five days, that had me delving into this record.

Disc 1263 is… Gravity
Artist: Alejandro Escovedo

Year of Release: 1992

What’s up with the Cover? Is gravity pulling Alejandro’s face down in this picture, or is he just feeling wistful?

How I Came to Know It: I checked out his music after some friends suggested I come out and see him live. I didn’t go to the show – which I regret – but I did dig through his back catalogue and found a few good records.

How It Stacks Up:  I have five of Escovedo’s records and “Gravity” is the best of them - #1!

Ratings: 3 stars but almost 4

If you’re only going to own one Alejandro Escovedo album, “Gravity” is a good place to start. If you can get the non-special edition version, all the better.

While “Gravity” is Escovedo’s first solo album he was 41 when he made it, and it features veteran songwriting and an easy confidence borne out of many years honing his craft. The record is a mix of blues, rock and country, with a wide mix of instrumentation. This includes a bit of strings when the occasion warrants, but the main stars are guitar and piano.

I found the boogie woogie of the piano a bit noisy from time to time and would have preferred more guitar-centered tracks, but that is more of my personal preference than anything wrong with the playing.

Escovedo’s singing style has more than a touch of the blues in it, but without the requisite hurt. He doesn’t blow the doors off with power, but he has a knack for phrasing and sits his delivery down in the pocket with an easy confidence.

The songs are mostly about love, and the hurt it can cause. This isn’t exactly new material, but as I’ve said before, you can’t go wrong with a love song, even a sad one. The record’s standout in the category is “Broken Bottle.” Here’s a song that captures what it feels like to carry a flame to the point that it burns you and then refuse to put it down. Escovedo’s imagery ably captures this mix of stubborn and self-destructive:

“My love is a scar that I wear for you
Like a crown of thorns
Like a bad tattoo”

The song has a barroom sway that evokes nights on the town when you should go home or at the very least order a water. Escovedo has a talent for making the music and the lyrics complement one another.

That said, I can’t say everything on this record grabbed me. There are songs that are perfectly well crafted, but just have a blues bar-band kind of feel to them which isn’t my favourite style of music. It created an unevenness that held what is otherwise beautifully crafted music just south of four stars

My particular copy of the album is a 2-CD special edition, where the second CD is a live performance. There is nothing great about the live tracks, which mostly sound like the studio versions, but with the strings higher in the mix. Also, the original album is 52 minutes long and when you add in the bonus album the experience became a bit of a slog. Also, the clapping on the last track goes on for so long that even though I was tired I still felt cheated when he didn’t play one more for an encore.

Escovedo has a solid reputation among musicians and critics alike and listening to “Gravity” it is easy to understand. Most of my criticisms of this record just come down to personal taste, and if you like barroom blues rock, then this record will show you how to take that music to the next level.

Best tracks: Paradise, Broken Bottle, Five Hearts Breaking, Last to Know

1 comment:

Gord Webster said...

I drove past you while you were walking home this afternoon, and was wondering what you were listening to :-)