Review: Para Siempre by Pablo Valle Sexteto

Review: Para Siempre by Pablo Valle Sexteto

Another day, another round of covers, this time a compilation of styles borrowed from Messrs. Di Sarli, Biagi, D'Arienzo, Troilo, and Pugliese. Released originally in 2017, Pablo Valle Sexteto has made it available on Bandcamp a few days before Christmas 2020. Let's have a listen.

Containing ten cover songs and two originals, the album offers a variety of more or less believable imitations of the Golden Age classics such as Verdemar, A la gran muñeca, or Tus labios me dirán. All delivered with 100% professionalism and make-believe enthusiasm that should please even very traditionalist milongueros.

Personally, I enjoyed the two new compositions the most, but I have a dog in this fight - I want new music to come into being. Like I wrote last time, I struggle to make a decision to play a new version of a hit song (such as Verdemar) where there's nothing to improve on the canonical version.

The D'Arienzo covers

There are two - instrumental Yapeyú and vocal No mientas.

Compared to D'Arienzo's 1951 recording, Yapeyú here is very elegant and a lot less angry and urgent. D'Arienzo's accents are way harder and the transfer I have is also about 2 BPM faster. I feel like if you want to make the motive really stand out, you've got to punch some noses 'till they bleed.

It gets closer with No mientas.  The same grim story with a lot of tension and suspense. Echagüe is inimitable and the fantastic Bernardo Bergé does not try; he delivers in his own style, with precision and the right emphasis.

The Di Sarli covers

Another coupling of an instrumental and vocal piece - A la gran muñeca and Verdemar. And as for getting as close to the original as possible, the very best of the album.

*A la gran muñeca *(1945, 1954) opens a wide musical landscape in front of you and lets you walk through it like a played in a open-world computer game would, without a mission that you'd have to go through but with enough guidance you can enjoy the hike in comfort.

Di Sarli did Verdemar a couple of times, and Pablo Valle's covers is closer to that with Oscar Serpa than the first take with Rufino. The singer Bernardo Bergé does not imitate neither one and performs with great clarity and vibrance without being showy. A personal favorite!

The Biagi covers

I wasn't entirely convinced of Romantica Milonguera's handling of Tus labios me dirán, and, to my surprise, Pablo Valle Sexteto made my day here. Biagi's recording with Alberto Amor is hard to get in an acceptable technical quality (TangoTunes don't carry it as of late 2020), and listening to this, I feel like time-traveling to 1945 - even Bernardo Bergé's voice matches that of Amor with high fidelity, if not by intent. A terrific job.

Viejo portón from 1938 really shows its age today, even in the fabulous TangoTunes transfer, and the sexteto again shows how this lovely vals might have sounded back then. Instead of the ancient-sounding Teófilo Ibáñez, Bernardo Bergé is joined by Walther "Chino" Laborde in a brief estribillo duet towards the end of the song, and it is magnificient.

The Troilo covers, and a Pugliese

I did not find these to be particularly noteworthy, or even necessary, their technical mastery notwithstanding.

Guapeando is a fast, optimistic Troilo make-believe instrumental. It is also over-played in its original rendering from 1941, with a great TangoTunes transfer readily available, and with many other faithful covers.

Even more covers are available when it comes to Te aconsejo que me olvides, e.g. from Andariega or Cachivaches. I am personally not a big fan of Fiorentino as he recorded it in 1941 and will take almost any other singer over him - Bernardo Bergé sounds again very much more preferable to me here. Still, Troilo's own recording has a certain punch, some sense of urgency that I'm missing here.

To close the series of covers, I give you Pata ancha. There's little if anything to complain about about the musicianship and dedication of the band. I just feel that it's not necessary to make a make-believe replica of a track from 1957 where the original suffers neither from unacceptable recording quality nor many transfer artifacts. Where I do enjoy such covers is when the band takes another approach, perhaps amplifying Pugliese's idiosyncracies to some extent, like Tango Bardo does.

To each his own. These tracks are great when only considered on their own merits. My nit-picking originates from my tango DJ hobby, where each track must earn its place in my sets based on various criteria, many of which are not based on the band's own quality but rather the context in which it operates, it predecessors, influencers, and also competitors.

The originals

These two are lovely.

In Para siempre, the band takes some guidance from Mr. Di Sarli to make its own tune. The melody is pleasant and flowing in a comfortable walking tempo. It does not impose and leaves you smiling without remembering any particulars. It sounds to me as if the composer / arranger wanted to make a Golden Age tune without explicitly borrowing one.

The milonga Dotarpeando elaborates on a playful theme with a constant milonga beat below it, staying mostly on the tonic, which has an interesting effect, very compact, driven, like a river flowing through a tight valley, and not at all monotonous or repetitive! The tempo is just at about 95 BPM, there are no tricks to confuse less than savvy milonga leaders, and it will function well in any position within a milonga tanda. Thank you, Pablo Valle Sexteto, for this gem!

There are two versions of this song on the album, one with (very light and decent) percussions and one without. I prefer the latter as any kind of drums tend to inspire very different movements and feelings than one would want in a milonga (or tango or vals, for the matter).

Closing thoughts

When it comes to covers, and specifically those that want to re-create the arrangements and the style of the originals, Pablo Valle Sexteto comes as close as one can, and be directly compared to Los Herederos del Compás, the D'Arienzo cover band, that I reviewed recently. For all I know it could even be the same band, since the pianist Pablo Valle sits in both of them.

Whether or not is such an effort worth pursuing is an open question. Whenever the cover songs plugs a gap in the original material where the original is either too ancient or no acceptable transfer exists, I am happy to receive it. That was the case a few times on this album. Other times, the original resists imitation and makes it redundant, in my estimation. There are a few of these here as well.

Still, there are times when I organize an event with no ancient music at all. And there, all of the tracks showcased here would be warmly welcome.

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