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TRACK LIST: 1. Cancion de los Callos 3.49 2. Crisalida 4.52 3. Como Un Mensaje 4.16 4. Te Quiero Para 4.30 5. Otro Muerto 4.31 6. A Medio Vivir 5.12 7. Elastica 5.15 8. Punto Aparte 4.01 9. Mas Elastica 1.10 10. Vaina De Aqui 6.17 11. Va a Llover 10.05 12. Cancion De Lulu 4.26 LINEUP: Jonas – vocals; guitar; keyboards; saxophone Kilvin Pena – bass; backing vocals Pablo Pena – drums; backing vocals With: Eliezer Ramirez – bongos Patricio Bonilla – trombone (4, 7) Jorge Luis Mateo – trumpet (4, 7) Miguel Andres Tejada – organ (3) Willy Cruz – French horn (7) Ivanova Casimiro – violin (7) Raymond Felix – cello (7) Johandy Urena – drums (5) Ivan Batista – backing vocals (11)
Prolusion. As its name says, EL TRIO is a three-piece hailing from the Dominican Republic. “Siempre Que Hay Un Corazon” is their debut album, recorded between 2005 and 2007. They were put together by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jonatan Pina Duluc (aka Jonas), who also wrote all the songs on the album. The band is currently working on their second album, though no release date has been announced yet.
Analysis. Not much is known about El Trio, one of the very few rock outfits to have come out of the Dominican Republic – better known as a popular vacation resort, as well as for two equally popular varieties of Latin dance music, merengue and bachata. On account of the lack of a scene favourable to rock in their home country, the band have been struggling to gain acceptance since their inception, which has led to their dropping off the radar after the release of “Siempre Que Hay Un Corazon” in 2007. This is indeed a pity, because El Trio’s debut album shows they have all the makings of a true class act. Although “Siempre Que Hay Un Corazon” cannot be called a real progressive rock album (at least in its most conventional acception), there are enough moments throughout to kindle the interest of anyone but the most blinkered prog fan. The band’s sound, though rooted in the ‘power trio’ tradition, comes across as tasteful and understated rather than muscle-bound. Their use of the holy trinity of classic rock instruments – bass, drums and guitar – owes as much to jazz/fusion and Latin music as to the rock/blues tradition, and mainman Jonas’ laid-back, almost conversational singing style is more suggestive of singer-songwriters than of powerhouse rock vocalists. Instead of belting out the songs, he delivers the Spanish lyrics in an oddly endearing, uplifting way, and, even in those instances when the song has a bit more ‘bite’, he hardly ever conveys a rough or aggressive feel. The basic instrumentation of the band is supplemented by the occasional appearance of strings, horns, and ethnic percussion instruments. The twelve songs on offer range from sophisticated, jazzy numbers with a strong Latin flavour to the 10-minute psych/prog jam of Va a Llover, with some groovy funk-rock pieces in between. An outstanding example of the first category is Como Un Mensaje, a supremely elegant song with an almost Brazilian vibe which could nicely fit into Steely Dan’s repertoire. The funkier numbers, on the other hand, can be somewhat reminiscent of groundbreaking New York band Living Colour, though without the latter’s aggressive, punky edge. Otro Muerto, possibly the rockiest song on the album, features a great, soulful vocal performance by Jonas, with plenty of exotic percussion and horns to add energy and interest. In a similar vein, but with a more marked progressive slant, is the jagged, bass-driven Vaina De Aqui, while the aforementioned Va a Llover, the album’s undisputed highlight, surprises the listener with its loose, improvisational structure, bookended by unusually gruff vocals (possibly Jonas’ only departure from his generally smooth, relaxed style). The somewhat dissonant, avant-garde feel of the sax and guitar parts, as well as the inventive drum patterns, can bring King Crimson to mind, or even free jazz. If I had to level one criticism at “Siempre Que Hay Un Corazon”, I would say that its length (it clocks in at almost one hour) means an inevitable amount of filler. In spite of the overall high quality of the music and songwriting, I cannot help thinking that the album would have benefited from a somewhat shorter running time. These are minor quibbles, though, and do not in any way detract from the worth of this very interesting effort.
Conclusion. “Siempre Que Hay Un Corazon” will certainly appeal to people who, besides progressive and classic rock, find Latin music coupled with stylish jazz-fusion appealing. On the other hands, those looking for a full-fledged prog album, with all the conventional trappings of the genre, are in for a disappointment. In any case, this is a solid debut from a gifted band, one that hopefully will soon resurface on the music scene.
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