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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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RG ROYAL SOUND ORCHESTRA

Impact

RG Records RG 0201

 

 


1. Hotel California
2. My Way
3. Volare
4. As Time Goes By
5. That's the Way
6. I Left My Heart in San Francisco
7. Strangers in the Night
8. Yesterday
9. New York, New York
10. Can't Help Falling in Love
11. O Sole Mio
12. Macarena

Billy Ross - Alto sax, soprano sax
Dan Salmasian - Alto sax
Ed Calle - Tenor sax, soprano sax
Ed Maina - Tenor sax
Mike Brignola - Baritone sax
John Kricker, Steve Sigmund, Jason Pyle - Trombones
Jim Berman - Bass trombone
Adalberto Lara "Trompetica", Jim Hacker, Mario Ortiz, Doug Michels - Trumpets
Hilario Duran - Piano (tracks 1-5, 7, 9, 11)
Jorge Arronte - Piano (tracks 6, 10)
Raul "Lulo" Perez -Piano (tracks 8, 12)
Lindsey Blair - Electric guitar
José Lozada - Guitar (tracks 1-3, 5, 7, 10, 11)
Paco Aguilera - Guitar, chorus (tracks 1-3, 7, 12)
José Miguel Carmona "Josemi" - Guitar (tracks 4, 9)
Juan Carmona - Guitar (tracks 6, 8)
Ranses Colon - Bass (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 9)
Antonio Ramos Urbano "Maca" - Bass (tracks 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11)
Edward Magdariaga - Bass (track 12)
Richard Bravo - Drums, percussion
Anye Bao - Drums (tracks 1-5, 7, 9-11)
José Manuel Ruiz "Bandolero" - Percussion (tracks 1-11)
Carlos Nuno - Chorus (track 12)

 

The track listing suggests an easy-listening album of popular tunes but this is something else. The RG Royal Sound Orchestra is the brainchild of Recaredo Gutierrez, a Miami-based producer who has put together this intriguing mixture of Latin-American and Spanish-influenced versions of pop songs. The arrangements are by a number of different people but they all refresh the big-band sound with hot Latino idioms.

The effect is to breathe new life into what otherwise might be regarded as hackneyed material. The Eagles' Hotel California, for example, opens the album with fiery trumpet backed by strumming Spanish guitars - almost a Mariachi feel. Recaredo Gutierrez aims to give us back the sound of "real" acoustic instruments as distinct from the electronic and studio-produced sounds that pervade so much popular music. And he sees in the Spanish flamenco a tradition "rooted in emotion, improvisation and rhythm".

It may seem odd to hear songs like My Way and New York, New York interpreted as Latin-flavoured big band pieces but the process works surprisingly well. Such tunes have been performed so often that you might imagine there is nothing new that can be said through them, but the Royal Sound Orchestra revitalises them. The rich orchestral sound is augmented by the stimulating rhythms of congas and bongoes. The multi-layered arrangements avoid the clichés of big-band writing, and there is so much going on that the listener can hardly become bored. For instance, Volare starts with a dose of modest trumpet and guitars but the sound is enriched when more instruments enter to thicken the harmonies before the whole orchestra bursts out into an opulent mambo - which for a while moves into swinging four-four.

Another attractive feature is that the music is eminently danceable. And the band has the benefit of such experienced soloists as trumpeter Adalberto Lara and saxophonist Ed Calle. Calle plays storming tenor sax on That's the Way, which also contains some searing guitar from Lindsey Blair. Most of the tunes are presented in torrid salsa style, although Yesterday is more restrained, but not without warmth. New York, New York turns out to make an admirably swaying Latin piece.

I expected this to be an average Latin-American outing but it proves to be much more.

Tony Augarde



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