By: David Higdon
When a band enters through the studio doors, they automatically bring an additional member to the line-up. A producer's role is as paramount to the album as the locking in of the rhythm section. Successful results stem from a combination of teamwork, communication and an understanding not only of the direction the artist is taking but of the path they took to get where they're standing at that very moment. The result of pairing Texas native Alejandro Escovedo with celebrated producer Tony Visconti (T. Rex, David Bowie, Thin Lizzy) is Real Animal (released June 10 on Back Porch), Escovedo's tenth album and perhaps brightest diamond. Unlike 2006's The Boxing Mirror, which successfully chronicled Escovedo's dark battle with Hepatitus C through producer John Cale's dreamy production, Visconti showcases the aural explosion which is the power of pure music.
From the opening shoulder shrug muscle of "Always a Friend," with its loose E Street Band cool, to the menacing cello and violin driving force in the punk infused "Nun's Song," Escovedo and co-writer Chuck Prophet have created a musical autobiography that recounts the importance that music has played throughout Alejandro's life. While all of Escovedo's previous albums have contained emotional candidness and vital musical backing, Real Animal is truly his most collaborative album to date. With the help of a tight eight-piece band, Escovedo brings back the excitement of a genuine rock 'n' roll record. You've got the rock ballad sway of the "Swallows of San Juan" bookended by beautiful strings, and you've got the raw power of the Iggy Pop dedicated "Real as an Animal;" this album is full of exhilaration and surprise. Escovedo is not only sharing stories of his past with us, he's also inserting some life lessons; the first being the importance that the belief in playing music can provide just about any answer to life's problems.
Bringing us to the close of the album is "Slow Down," an emotionally developed track about stalling in the present over past events. Escovedo has had to address his past, but he's no longer dwelling on it. Instead, he's turned to the driving force deep inside his gut, and he's released an animal.
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