Friday, February 27, 2015

Almendra - 1969 - Almendra


01. Muchacha (Ojos de papel) 3:07
02. Color humano 9:12
03. Figuración 3:32
04. Ana no duerme 2:46
05. Fermín 3:20
06. Plegaria para un niño dormido 4:03
07. A estos hombres tristes 6:00
08. Que el viento borró tus manos 2:38
09. Laura va 2:52

Bass, Flute, Vocals – Emilio Del Guercio
Drums, Piano, Vocals – Rodolfo Garcia
Guitar, Organ, Vocals – Edelmiro Molinari
Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica – Luis Alberto Spinetta

Organ – Santiago Giacobbe (tracks: 4)
Guitar – Rodolfo Alchourron (tracks: 9)
Bandoneon - Rodolfo Mederos

Along with Manal, Vox Dei and Los Gatos, Almendra was one of the pioneer groups of the Argentine rock (in Spanish) and with a proper concept and personality, this first eponymous album (1969), it's an exercise that mixes the psychedelia, with some acoustic and peculiar element, and a pretty personal style in general.
The Beatles influences are there probably, as a ground to develop something different, which seen closely, does defer from the British bands, in mood and in spirit, especially in certain subtle localisms, which sealed it unavoidably with its mark and flavor.
In the Buenos Aires of 1969, all these young rock groups were seen like a bunch of aliens (in those times the usual term over there was "pop music", "beat" or simply "hippies"), they were usually deemed revolting and junkies, since the normal people didn't listen to this, but to the correct starettes who appeared on TV, singing normal love songs, with neat hairdos, and correctly shaved...this "Almendra", which for these times sounds extremely innocent and ingenuous, for the Buenos Aires of 1969 was something considerably strange, too irregular, and close to marginal circles, I guess.
The production of this album is as low-budget as it can be imagined, the sound is technically deficient, not exactly bad, just old, though all the bands of the time and the place sounded this way, or worse.

I also find in "Almendra" certain cadences that remind me of the first Yes' album, which was released in those months, the spirit is pretty similar, imbibed with a dreamy, suave psychedelia, and a very 60s' sound yet. The album is graced with creativity, and fine tunes galore, like "Que el viento borró tus manos", "Fermín", "Ana no duerme", "Figuración", the very long and psychedelic "Color humano", or the folk-ish ballad "Muchacha (ojos de papel)", tune which, for some reason, stayed like the best song of the disc, though "Almendra" features more interesting tracks than that imo.
I suppose that part of the attractiveness of this album is in its oldness, and in its enchanted, fragile, almost surreal atmosphere, and of course: in its gorgeous songs...another folky ballad, similar to "Muchacha" is the angelical "Plegaria para un niño dormido", while the psychedelic pop beauty of "A estos hombres tristes", is probably my favorite track here.

The feel of the record is always melancholic, with fine poetry, guitar signature and vocals by an extremely young Luis Alberto Spinetta, well supplemented by Rodolfo García on drums, Edelmiro Molinari on guitar and Emilio del Güercio on the bass, listened today, 40 years later, Almendra leaves a sour-sweet aftertaste in the listener, talking about a Buenos Aires in distant past tense which I never lived, too distant, unreal, enigmatic.

Though nobody thought about it when the whole thing started, nowadays everybody agrees that the Argentine rock movement was established by three groups: Los Gatos, Manal, and Almendra.

While Los Gatos played beat-pop, and Manal played urban blues, Almendra (Almond) played something completely creative, innovative and... different. None of the other groups had sounded that way before! Almendra played beautiful melodies and magnificent lyrics, sometimes mixed with extremely moody sounds and sometimes mixed with extremely furious –but always melodic– lines.

Almendra was formed in 1968 after the break up of three teenage school groups: Los Sbirros, Los Mods, and Los Larkins. The initial rehearsals were held at the Spinetta's house in Belgrano (an upper-middle class neighbourhood of Buenos Aires). By mid-1968, they met producer Ricardo Kleiman, who signed them for a single. (Kleiman was the owner of an important clothing shop –Modart– and ran a radio show –Modart en la Noche [Modart at Night]– that aired the latest editions of beat and rock music of the world).

On September 20th, 1968, "Tema de Pototo" (a.k.a. "Para saber cómo es la soledad") b/w "El mundo entre las manos" was released. "Tema de Pototo" is a beautiful beat ballad about a friend they thought was dead. Both sides feature orchestral arrangements by Rodolfo Alchourrón (a producer's request). This was the starting point of the brief career of one of the most wonderful groups in the world!

By the end of the year, "Hoy todo el hielo en la ciudad" with a great fuzz guitar work by Edelmiro hit the stores. The b-side features "Campos verdes," from which a promotional film was made.

Due to their performance at the Festival of Aucán in Peru (something completely unusual at that time), the single became a huge success in that country. They even appeared on a TV show in Lima.

Back in Argentina, Almendra played during the summertime –that is, beginning of 1969– in Mar del Plata (a beach city 400 km south of Buenos Aires). Their debut in Buenos Aires was on March 24th, at the DiTella Institute (the avant-garde cultural centre of the 60s). Almendra spent the rest of the year performing at different venues, until September 21st (the first day of Spring –also Student's Day) when they played at the Pinap Festival. Pinap was the name of a beat magazine, and this festival was the first major event of Argentine rock.

Meanwhile, the group was recording their debut album. An odd event marked the completion of the album. Spinetta had drawn an original enigmatic face character for the cover. Days afterward, the record company told the boys that the drawing had been lost, so they were planning to use a photo of the group instead. Obviously upset, the musicians looked for the lost drawing and eventually found it discarded in the garbage! Spinetta stayed up all night reproducing his original artwork and took it to the record company the following day. They offered no excuses the second time!

The extraordinary debut album was finally released on November 29th, 1969. Along with the infamous drawing, it included an insert with the lyrics and technical information. The black and white back cover pictured the group live at the Pinap Festival.

This LP is astonishingly beautiful. All the songs are excellent. It is really hard to try to explain them!

The opening track is an Argentine rock hymn: "Muchacha (ojos de papel)", an acoustic Spinetta song devoted to an old girlfriend that still thrills the listener. Next comes the superb 9-minute long "Color humano", written by Edelmiro, featuring his now famous long fuzz guitar solo. Molinari would name his next group after this song.

"Figuración" is a soft tune brilliantly sung by Spinetta with Pappo on backing vocals and Emilio del Güercio on flute. The energy and fuzz guitar returns with the superb "Ana no duerme", one of the best tracks of the album. Santiago Giacobbe guests on organ.

Side two begins with the sweet "Fermín", another beautiful song where everything is well done: the guitar, the organ (played by Edelmiro), the vocals... followed by a lullaby tune "Plegaria para un niño dormido" with yet another inspired Spinetta lyric.

I am personally fond of "A estos hombres tristes", a song with changing rhythmic and melodies. Emilio wrote and sung lead in the next one, the pleasant "Que el viento borró tus manos".

The LP ends with the slow and beautiful "Laura va", yet another great Spinetta song full of urban moods. Rodolfo Alchourrón was called on again for his fruitful orchestral arrangements and Rodolfo Mederos played the bandoneón to complete the sound of Buenos Aires.

This indisputable masterpiece is one of the best albums ever recorded in South America and a must to anybody interested in the music of these latitudes.

By the end of 1969 the record company released a new single featuring "Tema de Pototo" and "Final". The latter was originally scheduled to end their debut album, but could not make it due to time length limitations. The group wanted "Gabinetes espaciales" to be the a-side of this next single, but RCA wished to promote "Pototo" instead. "Gabinetes espaciales" was eventually included in the compilation LP Mis conjuntos preferidos (RCA Vik 3836).

In early 1970, another single was released with two songs from the album. Meanwhile, Spinetta was working on a highly ambitious –though not original at that time– project: a rock opera about mankind's inner search. But while they were working on this new album, the group split.

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