The album title “Tres Caballeros” and the 8 bit artwork would suffice to buy the album blindly. But we come across one of the most important bands of our time (this is what it is all about), so that we cannot limit ourselves to just a few words, even if they are more than enough.
So let’s see how the latest work of Aristocrats sounds like. Formerly known as Guthrie Govan (“the guitar” today!!), Marco Minneman behind (but in front of, on and under as well) the drums and Bryan Beller (Mr. Groove) on the bass. 9 songs, 3 for each, as it was for the previous works. (reviews here and here). In this album, the recurring order is MGB.
The most different atmospheres, perhaps with a more evident Latin-Mexican vibe, if for no other reason than the homage to Ennio Morricone, to spaghetti western, to Tarantino, found in the spectacular Smugglers Corridor, composed by Bryan Beller. Or the very groovy Texas Crazypants, in which I’ve heard some references to Dog Party’s Scott Henderson and to the earliest Dixie Dregs.
What makes the Tres caballeros, pardon Aristofreak, pardon Aristocrats, a great band is exactly the fact that they’ve brought a huge cultural baggage as a common factor. Are you, e.g. a guitarist, a fan of Govan? I could even tell you to give up on this album! Why is that??? Because Guthrie sounds here like Guthrie in Aristocrats, who is different from Guthrie together with Steven Wilson or alone. Everything is very rational, designed to be in perfect synergy with the compositions and the spirit sought in other members’ composition, nothing else! Easier said than done!!! Their playing skill level here is so high that the majority of worldwide musicians wouldn’t dream of it, even in their most x-rated dreams at night!!!
So, let’s remember, Aristocrats are a great band and they nailed, one after the other, 3 excellent works, always in crescendo or with significant variations from one work to the other. I found, in Tres Caballeros, a maniacal attention to time, rhythm and groove, it can be noticed how each one of them might have thought of the other’s capability and how all three of them know about Minneman’s presence in the group!!! Yes, because Marco keeps it all on rhythmic level, being unstoppable, always partecipant without exaggerating and terrifically dynamic, after a couple of songs you will think you will be able to play as well as him, after all he makes it easy!!!
In Govan I found a remarkable attention to compositions. I think of Pig’s Day Off, where the master Allan Holdsworth echoes all around, and Jack’s Black, a daring rhythmic joint as it was already done in Culture Clash. Guthrie is moving so forward that he can play anything, also in background and be the protagonist even without disturbing a solo or a improv. His way of playing is perfectly harmonized and in synergy with the band. Do not expect the decisive “powerful solo”, with the others accompaining it.. nothing at all!! You have to listen to Govan throughtout the whole album, or nada!!
I was really impressed by Beller for his compositions: they’re the most clever and most twinkly ones, perhaps the most easy-listening, but damn, they’re really nice and ooze fun in all directions. Texas Crazypants is torrential, Smugglers Corridor is a masterpiece, the conclusive Through the flower is a beautiful ballad in the perfect Aristocrats style.
I was forgetting, this is not an easy album. If you know them, it’s more than easy.. if you don’t know them after three albums, you’d better do something about it.
1. Stupid 7
2. Jack’s Back
3. Texas Crazypants
4. ZZ Top
5. Pig’s Day Off
6. Smuggler’s Corridor
7. Pressure Relief
8. The Kentucky Meat Shower
9. Through The Flower