Saturday, November 26, 2016

Alejandro Escovedo "Burns Something Beautiful" With A Little Help From His Friends

On his strongest release since 2001's "Man Under the Influence" and first release of new material in nearly 4 years (a lifetime to hardcore AE fans) Alejandro Escovedo and his collaborists turn out a great but not perfect work of art.  I use the term "art" intentionally for a number of reasons and say "not perfect" because rock and roll isn't supposed to be perfect.  Striving for perfection, doing too many takes of anything, can squeeze the life or human element out of a piece of art.  Perhaps that is why ancient rug makers would intentionally miss a stitch. The state of being human is imperfection.

I say art because Alejandro's music career has always been incredibly, well, artistic.  Escovedo's solo work has been richly diverse  in genres, influences and instrumentation performed with a cavalcade of the finest side musicians who seem to congregate around Austin like moths to a flame.  Escovedo's music can be intellectually stimulating with intelligent lyrics and complex music ranging in styles and instrumentation from classical to punk and strings to thrashing guitars.

What makes "Burn Something Beautiful" somewhat unique among
works of art is that it is a collaborative effort that worked out very well.  This caused me to think of a television interview I saw years ago with then Sopranos actor and long time E Street Band guitarist, Steve Van Zandt.  Responding to a question why he thought the Sopranos was such an artistic success, Van Zandt credited it, in part, to the fact that the Sopranos, like  Springsteen's music, was the product of one person's, David Chase's vision, adding "greats works of art are rarely created by committee".   That line has stuck with me ever since.   "Burn Something Beautiful" is the exception that proves the rule.

Produced by Peter Buck and Scott McGaughey and recorded by Adam Selzer at the Type Foundary in Portland, the abum features a cast of talented like mind musicians (Escovedo, Buck and Kurt Bloch on guitars, McGaughey on bass, John Moen on drums, Steve Berlin, sax with Kelly Hogan and Corin Tucker, vocxals and back-up vocals) who all connect to create an album that has been on my computer and in my car for two weeks straight and I still am not tired of listening to it.  I hear something new almost everytime I listen and something very rare for me, it had me singing along to the refrains as I painted the trim on my house.  Maybe it is what the listener brings to a piece of music but on Heartbeat Smile I can hear influences as wide ranging as early Who in the backing vocals to the track's ending guitar lick reminiscent of "Junior's Farm".  The influences I hear elsewhere on the cd include Tom Waits, Beatles "the love we take ...", Iggy and the Stooges, NY Dolls (Johnny Thunders) and Velvet Underground or more accurately post Velvet Lou.

On Wednesday, November 30th at 8pm the Austin City Limits TV channel on YouTube will be live streaming the taping of Escovedo performing Burn Something Beautiful with the musicians who played on the album.  Having just seen Alejandro perform Burn Something Beautiful at the Dakota Jazz Bar in Minneapolis on November 15, 2016 with a brand new touring band, this is a show you do not want to miss.`

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