When I travel to the USA, which has been at least 15 or so times over the last decade. I have been heartened and surprised by meeting so many Believers within the Latin-Rock community. Firstly; I recall Gabe Manzo and Tony Menjivar and I spent a great night at the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, which towers over downtown San Francisco. On the 19th floor, Gabe and Tony were doing a gig with Congas Y Guitarras . We got to talking and it was there I shared my testimony of coming to Christ and the subsequent changes after this life-changing event. Gabe and Tony were also involved in a CD release called Bueno (sponsored by Dr Bernie Gonzalez) that is a truly excellent piece of both Christian and Latino based music. I also remembered way back in 1999 after a Malo / Tierra gig in Ventura (just outside Los Angeles), being in my hotel room and the Word springing out at me (being “quickened” in spiritual parlance) from a Gideon’s Bible (as usually found in hotel rooms in the USA). I had driven down with Ron Sansoe from San Francisco and all these events, small as they may seem, were stepping stones and building blocks to my emerging faith. I have always liked the open and frank way these Americanmusicos have shared their belief and faith. It felt very freeing after the post-Christian society that is contemporary England, in which it almost politically incorrect to talk about Jesus Christ. Talk about New Age or Buddhism say, and people are OK with it; mention the Holy Name of Jesus and they shy away. There is something so challenging even about the name that people will baulk at even the mention of it.
This leads on to a review that follows Richard Spremich’s recent interview on this site. Breath, Spirit and Life is a tasty collection of Holy Spirit filled songs with a contemporary Latin, soul and funk feel.
The ten track CD opens with Christo and the horn charged intro leads to a deep Latin groove, infused with piano and a vocal that reminded me so much of Gabriel Manzo’s (Malo/Manzo/Bueno) vocals.
Heavily compressed vocals in the Salsa style give this tune an added urgency. The song sits in a nice medium paced groove. The tune enjoys both English and Spanish vocals. A nice cleantrompeta solo followed by trombone break lifts the song also. A crisp timbale break breaks up the songs feel for a few bars.
The second track Yeshua is deliberately reminiscent of Suavecito with a nice timbale cascara rhythm. Sweet harmony vocals add a warm edge to the songs chorus. Again the horns are very well arranged. Not surprising as it also features original Malo horn man Roy Murray.
Another horn-led piece of funk is calledWe’re Beloved Of The Lord. The phat horn charts are reminiscent of the mighty Tower Of Power; a sultry vocal from Kimberlee Leber and Tony Martinez is down home and funkified. Spremich’s drumming is subtle but funky and deep in the pocket. It is nice to hear Spremich clearly as on the Malo albums I felt the trap kit buried a little in the sound mixes under the general percussive onslaught.
Fly Like An Eagle follows and sees Spremich in a deep grooving Latin vein. Rich employs an open syncopated groove, which opens up the tune and leaves a lot of space in the music. The music has an assured confidence and allows Luis Sanchez on Hammond B3 to open up and play a very tasty solo outing. Spremich chops and cuts at the rhythm using some very interesting drum fills to keep the groove percolating.
Tremble is a ballad with muted trumpet opening and an atmospheric production. The song softly breaks into a smooth double time lope towards the end replete with Fender Rhodes style piano rippling, again featuring Luis Sanchez.
Jesus In The House is a straight-ahead piece of joyous funk interjected with Albert Sandoval’s carousing guitar, while bringing a Biblical lesson for the people. Yahweh ensues and is
up tempo with a nice bass driven gospelly feel, it again hints at the early glories of Malo’s debut album, with unison harmony guitar lines and its unmistakable joyous West Coast feel. It also features a nice rumbling timbale and conga solo from Paulie Lopez.
Never Will I say Goodbye plays like a blues with Larry Nobel burning on a fervent guitar intro. Tony Martinez supplies a heart felt vocal.
Devil’s A Liar reminds very much of a sixties Stax recording in the vein of Sam and Dave or Otis Redding with its strong soul theme and vocals. Great horns bolster the funky soul vibe with nice drum fills by Rich Spremich. The vocals are nice and dry and it continues the cool production values of the recording.Fall In Love Again is a sweet soulful sound and ends this disc on a suitably spiritually uplifting mood. A song of ensuing hope and of spiritual liberation. It also features a beautiful Santana-esque guitar thematic.
This is a solid, soul-filled piece of work with respectful nods to Spremich’s former allegiance to the first Malo band. And a definitely special addition to both Believers and / or Latin lovers
Tags: Jim Mc Carthy, Jim McCarthy, Latin Rock, Malo, Voices of Latin Rock