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Manu Chao album

Manu Chao Proxima estacion 'Esperanza' Padio Bemba

By Tony Pothitos

Manu Chao Proxima estacion 'Esperanza' Padio Bemba (Virgin France 03098)

When you spend almost 23 Euros on a double album, recorded in a country where the words Digital mastering or bulb pre-amp sounds like a swear, or a curse, it is not a wonder that one might not expect much. And indeed, the labeling and weight of the vinyl is not more than the paper leaf it comes in. I placed it on my Acoustic-solid and allowed my Denon DL 103 cartridge and an updated Rega 300 play what 'Manu Chao' had in mind when recording this album. The rest was an Accuphase 407E connected with a pair of Synergistic mkII and a phono stage recently acquired that fit into theAccuphase extra slots in the back. Synergistic wires again attacked to my Quad 989's and Audioquest RF Stoppers to compliment the electrical wires.

Coming from Metropolis in Piraeus with over 30 albums amongst Max Goodman and myself, it was not a wonder why I had left this double album last on my list of priorities. Max had bought me 'Echoes', Pink Floyd's latest compilation and to our disgrace found it to be less accurate and alive, than used older albums which both of us had acquired during the last few months in our search of the perfect vinyl. The four-album set is not worth its price unless you do not have anything to do for a few hours but waste your valuable time. I suggest you listen to the radio instead, you might learn something at least there.

Album one, side A:

Manu Chao1I sat and waited for the first notes, but instead heard the word ATTENTO, and something like a dying cat crying for water. Some children shouting in the background and some others, playing some type of African instruments singing along. 'So many nights the Merry Blues' comes out rather shy of High-end quality and some Egyptian woman doing something with her tongue in the background had an interesting affect even to my dog which was eloquent enough not to puke on me for the hardship I was taking him through. I could not understand why I was doing this to myself, putting myself through a listening constraint of African sounds, Brazilian radio players, some people playing back gammon and an airport feeling somewhere in the rear. The noxious feeling reminded me of MONT ROYAL last year in Montreal, where the humidity and smell of tacos was outstanding. People were dancing to the booze and to the magic of the nightfall beyond bliss and worries. How dare people not understand that the world needs to be serious, and people dancing in a park are dumb!

'Bixo', song duo, brought a voice much clearer into the picture, with a jazzy, live style, which took me to MOUNT ROYAL again. I remembered the woman dancing with sweat on her face, happy to be alive. The men with no shirts on, but with bandanas on there head moving to the music. I had the smell of tacos and burritos in my mouth, saliva running down my palette and a Spanish sounding man yelling too much Hypocrisy... set me free, set me free, oh oh.

And then it hit me:

The voices behind my head, the children dancing, the couples laughing, the older couples holding hands and swinging. I was if only for a second or minute or hour, transferred to there reality, there sweat and beer together with tacos and burritos, a live band arose in front of me, the door bell rang, I didn't care and to tell you the truth, I still don't know if it was the door of my house or the album. 'Me Gustas tu', had me flowing with so much adrenaline and epinephrine that drugs were not needed to make me high tonight. My eyes were closed but I could see it all in front of me, for if I thought the blind could not see the world, I was wrong, the blind do not necessarily have to have problems with there eyesight. We are blind to many things and we have all our senses working, supposedly!

There were voices behind my head again, the Quads were rolling the music off the walls and ceiling and the rhythm was now in my blood flow, the beat was now taking its toll on my mind and before I knew it I was latinized!

The first side was over, oh my god, what was that silence, NO NO, I want the rhythm the sound, the feeling back. This is not fair, why do albums need to be changed! I remembered I had legs and hands to do the job and got up and changed sides in 2/4 of a second, wiped the disc and put the Rega in place. I got back into my chair and it started all over again. The voices, which meant nothing to me, yet meant to my soul so much were everywhere, shouting women, guitars, classical, acoustic, country with jazz sounds, polyphony with cacophony making truancy and getting away with it. It all made sense, the madness, the shouting, the vivid epiphanies, the cries, the faint trumpet and drums were shaking my body from the inside out. I wanted to get up and dance, but I couldn't because I was too busy listening! The song changed, 'Trapped by love' started and the couples in the park on Mount Royal switched partners, the young were dancing with the old and everyone was part of a collective conscious that made the world make sense after all.

Slowly the dancers left the stage and the musicians, with a strange radio voice in the background coming forward from time to time intruding but bringing perfect harmony to the chaos brought beauty in this album. Someone was trying to play the trumpet, another muted trumpet, real this time, played in the background giving me the definite feeling that this album is not a high-end album at all. It is a LIVING album, where people if lucky enough can get the feeling of what MANU CHAO has inside his mind, soul and bloodline. I rarely remember listening to French, English, and other multi definitive languages make so much acoustic harmony together. This is not music; it is a lesson in human dynamics, interaction through music, voice, and sounds of the most interesting nature.

Suddenly I was taking care of the flimsy feather light album as if it was gold and it made me laugh to think that this was going to be a waste of time.

Conclusion: Without a doubt, one of the most entertaining, fun and educational albums I have heard this year. If any of you high end, low end or middle end listeners want to taste a taco and not gain weight, or if you want to live summer, even if it is snowing or raining outside, this is an album you should experience.

Material: *** 1/2
Performance: **** 1/2
Recording: **** 1/2

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