Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A. - Area 52

Viva la fiesta! And pre-release doubts go hang. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s most recent release, the laudable but far from essential Live in France, closed the chapter on their initial dizzying ascent. Touring their strongest set to date for two years, the excellent 11:11, they gave notice of a growing compositional urge, song writing finally catching up with their unquestionable technique. Some of us, once heavily inclined towards the rowdy bonhomie of their live shows, started to hunger for more of the same. Hence disappointment when the prospect of new material gets shunted for not only knobbing about with Disney (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End soundtrack) but this - what appears to be not much more than an indulgent diversion.

Fear not. Area 52 is a galloping triumph, a startling and irresistible reinvention, far from worthy and free of navel-gazing. If bored rock stars hooking up with a string quartet makes you gag, here’s backtracking that’s brimful of spark and spunk. R y G rewire by plugging themselves into an electrifying backing outfit, C.U.B.A. Along with a handful of key guest appearances, this new troupe goes about pummelling the back catalogue with indecent glee. ‘Ixtapa’ is picked apart and re-built, drawn out to 8 minutes; a soaring electric solo doffs cap to Santana. ’11:11’ broods deeper and darker than the original; it claws at the moon. ‘Logos’ throws in jazz piano and is as typical of the new, burning palette as this collection gets. There are massed vocals, bounding percussion and every indication that recording was done live. Another plus: beautifully curated, the duo line up only their finest work for the full band test. ‘Diablo Rojo’, ‘Tamacun’, ‘Hanuman’: every intro demands a nod and smile. With their live rep as a twosome already beyond question, they return in their new formation next month for UK gigs. What are you waiting for?

Overall

8

out of 10

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