Alejandro Escovedo Cranks Out Another Great One!
But more important than the deceptively stripped down production— hard rocking simplicity provided by back up band The Sensitive Boys, surrounded by Visconti's endlessly ear-catching added elements—is the ferocity with which Escovedo attacks the songs, mostly co-written with Chuck Prophet. The former Rank and File country/punk member has to be pushing or is past 60 but he looks and more importantly sounds years younger.
He enters exuberantly on the uptempo opener "Man of the World," that with its hand claps and "Oh Yeah!"s will re-kindle the weak flame smoldering in many an old rocker. Escovedo sings "I've been parted out, Tool and dyed, Duct taped together, For one last ride, Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah!."
In "Big Station" he sings yet again about charging ahead despite setbacks (that included years of living hard and eventually collapsing onstage from Hepatitis C) with lines like "If you dare to turn back now, We'll face what we get, A moment of relief, For a lifetime of regret."
"Sally Was a Cop" (but now she's a soldier) is a dark, moving song about illegal immigrants, while in "Bottom of the World" Escovedo sings about change and ruin and the view from the bottom. "Can't Make Me Run" summons up a raw, intense defiance few artists of Escovedo's age can credibly manage, but he does.
Side two continues side one's theme of defiance, acting out, living rough, hanging tough and usually paying the price. On "Headstrong Crazy Fools" he references Bob Dylan's motorcycle accident and if side one's adrenalin pumping creative inspiration gives way to some formula on side two, it really doesn't matter. The album throbs from start to finish with energy and excitement rarely heard on rock albums these days, particularly from the older guys trying to hit that high mark yet again. Escovedo manages on every song, even the few that are less than fully realized.
In addition to the bass, drums, guitar anchor, Visconti tastefully adds horns, sax, strings and a few other elements in just the right proportions. Engineered by Jim Eno, The Spoons' great behind-the-beat drummer and Visconit, the sound is hardly The Man Who Sold The World style greatness, but budgets being what they are, and technology being Pro-Tools, the best you can hope for is clarity, a modicum of transparency, stage organization and unsquashed dynamics. This very well engineered recording provides all of that.
If the credited mastering engineer Paul Blakemore actually cut the lacquers (and these days that's never certain), he really tried hard to preserve dynamics. The sides are literally cut right to the paper labels. I've never seen cuts going this far in! Anyone with a changer isn't going to hear it all, you can be sure.
Not sure where this 180g was pressed but the copy I bought was very good: quiet and physically fine.
If you're a fan, don't miss this. If you've unfamiliar, start here! Search this site for reviews of previous Escovedo releases.