was long ago that a usually reliable written source made me aware of
the past existence of a "left-of-center" Spanish rock group
called Musica Urbana: a quartet, active in the second half of the 70s,
whose musical language could maybe be defined as being contiguous to
jazz-rock and whose best album was said to be the one bearing the same
name, recorded and released in 1976. But I got there too late for vinyl,
and I never heard about a CD re-release.
immediately say that Musica Urbana is a very nice album for which it's
extremely doubtful that a tag like "in the jazz-rock idiom"
could be appropriate (besides its being counterproductive). I'd say
there are more than a few similarities to Frank Zappa's "jazz-rock",
when he was in his "funky" period (say, on albums like Roxy
& Elsewhere or The Helsinki Concert: it's the line-up featuring
George Duke and Ruth Underwood) - just listen to the jumpy theme of
the first track here, Agost, where keyboards are doubled by castanets
(!) whose timbre immediately brings to mind Zappa's use of marimba.
But there are also traces of Hatfield And The North - in their jazz
mode, and in their more intricate moments penned by Dave Stewart (here
refer to tracks Font and Caramels De Mel). Funny to notice how a group
so obviously influenced by Hatfield And The North appears in some moments
to predate National Health.
I emphasize those similarities it's not in order to diminish Musica
Urbana's achievements, but to avoid those exaggerated expectations originated
by announcements such as "Here for you is the (re)discovery of
a revolutionary idiom that had sadly been forgotten!", those kinds
of expectations leading inevitably to a let-down. This is a very good
record that doesn't need any hard sell.)
music, yes, but never "difficult". Intricate development and
orchestrations = we welcome the limpid recording. Most compositions
are by Joan Albert Amargós, who's also at center stage instrumentally:
many keyboards (Steinway acoustic piano, Fender electric piano, Hohner
Clavinet, Mini-Moog) and wind instruments (soprano sax, clarinet, flute,
trombone). (What's a "xoulet i violins Logan"? Maybe the "violin
keyboard" once made by Logan?) We also have inventive and precise
drummer and percussionist Salvador Font making a nice team with bass
player Carles Benavent. Not too easy to notice at first, guitarist Lluís
Cabanach's work is very good. We also have those castanets by Aurora
Amargós and various keyboards by Lucky Guri.
music, yes, the compositions being the fruit of a long work; intricate
but extremely logical developments, many themes. All qualities that
match very well with a kind of "simplicity" that sounds folk-related.
really hope that, besides being a welcome addition to the record collections
of those already aware, this album is a first step to the (re)discovery
of a big slice of European Rock Music that's today totally forgotten
(say, from ZNR's Barricade 3 to Face Aux Elements Dechaines by Etron
Beppe Colli 2005
| Jan. 2, 2005