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Posted on January 26th, 2012 (12:06 pm) by Patrick Shrimpton

The hottest rock and roll couple in Mexico, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, seems to have one motive - to write the most danceable instrumental Latin-Rock music in the world. Though this is quite hard to fit into a schedule of constant touring and helping composers Hanz-Zimmer and Henry Jackman out, with the soundtracks of "The Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Puss in Boots," and a record label breathing down their backs begging the duo to write some new material. So Rodrigo Sánchez, came up with a plan to still get the record labels something to sell along with fulfilling his dreams of having the duo backed by a legitimate Cuban orchestra. The plan was to pick the most popular songs off their last two albums, and revamp them in a fusion of traditional Cuban, flamenco, salsa, jazz, Hindi, and Rock & Roll music. They called up an old buddy, jazz salsa extraordinaire Alex Wilson for some help with the arrangements, along with C.U.B.A, which stands for Cuba’s Collective Universal Band Association to put together a full 13 piece Cuban orchestra. If you think that Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero’s music is epic played as a duo (enough for a Hanz-Zimmer Soundtrack), this just puts them completely over the top, with their newest release Area 52.

Area 52 should come with a warning label that states this album may cause uncontrollable urges to shake your ass. This album kicks off with their hit from 11:11 "Santo Domingo," with bumpin' brass and sensual strings, not to mention one of the most mind bending piano solo’s ever by pianist and arranger Alex Wilson. Rod and Gabe are perfect at taking a step back and letting the orchestra shine, unlike others of the virtuoso genre who have a “look what I can do” masturbatory style instead of realizing the emotion of each song. Though don’t get me wrong, some songs in Area 52 can get a little much at times. Such as the track "11:11" (a tribute to Pink Floyd) adds another 3 minutes which definitely drags on but it saves itself at the end with a beautiful Yoruba chant. And the intro of "Master Maqui" has just a little to much of a modern jazz influence for my taste but again it saves itself again with extraordinary guitar work. Every song on the album has so much variety; its hard to dislike an entire song.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela have their passports in order, working on a truly international scale by having tracks recorded in five different countries, not only working with C.U.B.A. but also a series of guest musicians from all sorts of genres and locations. My favorite of these guest appearances would have to be Anoushka Shankar, who turns the Latin jam, "Ixtapa," into a beautiful Indian landscape, successfully meshing the elegant drone of Indian music with the spicy rhythms of Cuba. The next guest star, White Zombie drummer John Tempesta, is proof of how big of metal heads Rodrigo y Gabriela actually are. Tempesta heavy hits his way through tracks "Hanuman" (a tribute to Santana) and "Tamacun," while definitely keeping to his metal style. The C.U.B.A orchestra is top notch and is a perfect fit for Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s, keeping to the core of every song while adding icing to the stripped down duo. The album also includes a DVD about the making of the album, and follows the recording sessions in Cuba. This 30-minute documentary that’s half in Spanish half in English, goes into depth into their recording process, and has some great interviews with the musicians and gives a glimpse of the Cuban lifestyle. This rock-doc is filled with some of the greatest facial expressions and the spastic hand movements from Rod, Gabe and producer Peter Asher, to the rhythms of C.U.B.A. laying down their tracks.

This is an overall great album, though it can be a little much some times and could be written off as music for musicians. Still, it is refreshing to hear a very original band that keeps some tradition, in a time where bands are moving more and more toward the neutered sounds of the synthesizer to get even a glimpse of a full sound.

Track List:
1. Santo Domingo
2. Hanuman
3. Ixtapa
4. 11:11
5. Master Maqui
6. Diablo Rojo
7. Logos
8. Juan Loco
9. Tamacun

Rodrigo Y Gabriela & C.U.B.A Area-52 Cover
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

75 / 100
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