Saturday, February 28, 2015

Manal - 1970 - Manal


01. Jugo de tomate
02. Porque hoy nací
03. Avenida Rivadavia
04. Todo el día me pregunto
05. Avellaneda Blues
06. Una casa con diez pinos
07. Informe de un día

Alejandro Medina (bass, vocals)
Claudio Gabis (guitar)
Javier Martínez (drums, vocals)

Javier Martínez –one of the founders of the Argentine rock movement– was a regular at club La Cueva, the legendary cradle of many rock artists. There he met bass player Alejandro Medina (ex-The Seasons) and guitarist Claudio Gabis. They formed a trio named Ricota (a type of soft cheese) after the famous British band Cream. Martinez's main ambition was to sing the blues in Spanish (something unheard of at that time).

Manal was the first act to sign to Mandioca, the pioneer label created by producers Jorge Álvarez and Pedro Pujó. The label debuted by releasing three singles (Manal, Miguel Abuelo and Cristina Plate) on November 12th, 1968. These 7"s featured unique luxury fold-out picture sleeves. Manal's a-side featured a 6 (six!) minute song ("Qué pena me das!") and the b-side included "Para ser un hombre más", with an excellent fuzz guitar. Though extremely rare, this single is hardly recommended.

In the summertime, a venue called Mandioca opened at the Beach City of Mar del Plata. Pappo used to play piano with the trio, promoted as "blues and psychedelic-soul"! (This venue closed at the end of the summer, due to economic reasons).

In the middle of 1969, a second brilliant single was released –"No pibe" b/w "Necesito un amor"– and by the end of the year their first album hit the stores.

The LP is now a classic. The lyrics have a lot of urban references, almost a modern tango. The music –mostly rock and blues– is superb as well. The most remarkable moments are "Jugo de tomate" (Manal's most popular song), "Avenida Rivadavia" (about the longest avenue in Buenos Aires), "Una casa con diez pinos", "Informe de un día" and "Avellaneda blues" (a tango-blues about the suburbs). The trio sounds great and Gabis' performance is brilliant. A must have album, although original copies are extremely hard to get in good condition. (Two songs from the album were released on a single).

Also in 1970, Mandioca released a various artists album called Pidamos peras a Mandioca (Mandioca MLP 335) featuring the original version of "Elena", a song that Manal re-recorded for their second album.

Manal, along with Almendra, represented the first great moment of Rock and Blues in Argentina. Of course there were some important precedents like Los Gatos and Moris, among others, but Manal was different. They claimed Blues as an Argentinian experience, and made Buenos Aires, for some of us very young then, our city.
Manal, an invented word in Spanish that can be translated as "a lot of hands," reached all their fingers to the gray sky of a city catching up with the new music of the world (The Who's Tommy was just coming out, and the Stones were still bad boys) and offer their take on being young and angry and sad.
This CD contains some of their best stuff from their original recording for the independent label Mandioca, first and only of its kind in those days. You can hear songs that became hymns to us down there, like Jugo de Tomate ("If you want to be a big shot / cold tomato juice / in your veins /you will have to have" the chorus went), or Avenida Rivadavia and Casa con Diez Pinos. There are too some tunes from their second album, although this one never matched the raw energy and lovely poor production of the first.
I think that you don't need to have been born in Buenos Aires nor understand what Latin America was up to, to appreciate these songs. They are forefathers to the lo-fi / indie movement that has spawn so many great bands in the States. I have no proof but I'm sure that Vic Chesnutt would approve.