Review: Loca de amor by Sexteto Cristal

I started this blog about a year ago with a review of Sexteto Cristal's debut album, Viejo del norte. As luck would have it, they have just released a new one called Loca de amor.

I just gave it my first listen-through, and you can preview it yourself on their website where they have clips of each song available. I encourage you to buy it as did I, for it's important to support our musicians who are keeping tango alive for us!

The following stands out immediately: all tracks are immensely danceable, played with great gusto and utmost professionalism. You'll be hard-pressed to find a missed note or an out-of-tune moment, everything is very precise. Not to the detriment of the dancer, however: the Sexteto is still playing for you to move in an embrace.

I am most impressed with the selection of milongas on this album. The lovely Cacareando has one "classical" interpretation by OTV, which is hard to get in an acceptable sound quality. Here it shines in all its intricate beauty, playful and seductive. I only felt a bit let down towards the end when I realized Rozenthuler would not be joining in. The instrumental arrangement is completely self-sustaining but I still missed the vocals here.

Another commendation goes for the inclusion of La milonga que hacia falta, a relative unknown only recorded by Miguel Villasboas. It's got a superb drive and "kick" in a still moderate tempo.

The third is La vida es una milonga, previously made immortal by Pedro Láurenz, whose recording is also quite difficult to obtain in an acceptable sound quality. Here, Rozenthuler comes in - and delivers. While I am very partial to Láurenz, I think that this version by Sexteto is most excellent. It might even be easier as it lacks Láurenz signature "nervousness" while retaining agility and drive.

The valses on this album venture into a better-mapped territory. Lágrimas y sonrisas keep it very close to the Biagi's version from 1941, including the piano riff towards the end where, just like Biagi, they are not quite able to keep the tempo and slow down by about 2 BPM :)

Quién será and La tapera are best known as recorded by Donato and they both received here a well-deserved modern rendering. I think that Rozenthuler is a great match here with his noble, gentlemanly style of singing.

The eponymous La loca de amor goes in a different direction than Biagi's classic, opening with legatos and being generally way more rounded. I found this instrumental arrangement simply irresistible.

There are four instrumental and three vocal tangos on this album, and one might have to reach for their debut CD to make consistent tandas, although it's still too early for me to draw definite conclusions here.

Three instrumentals in Di Sarli style don't really have an obvious fourth companion from the first CD: El amanecer, Shusheta, and Siete palabras. All three are approaching Di Sarli's style with respect and technical mastery. To make a full tanda, I'd probably include Comme il faut by Pablo Valle Sexteto or something in this direction.

Their Pavadita is temperamental, accented, and realizes the full potential of this tune. I'll admit that I have not yet heard De Angelis' version from 1958 while being already familiar with, among others, two other very distinct recordings: one by Sexteto Fantasma, which is just hilarious - totally disrespectful yet lovable, another by Tango Bardo, who are going overboard with the accents and just "milking it" to the extreme. Cristal is in my view closest to what the author might have meant.

We've made our way to the three remaining songs on this album, all vocal.

No te apures, Carablanca has two competing Golden Age renditions: that by Troilo/Fiorentino and by Demare/Miranda. Tough teams to beat. Personally, I favor Demare of the two. Then there are two modern interpretations I love: Quarteto Sol Tango did it as an instrumental, and Alex Krebs invited Vicente "El Cartucho" Griego to give his version a phenomenal "flamenco" ending.

Sexteto Cristal delivers a rounded, romantic arrangement with Rozenthuler's expression being somewhat reserved. I felt like I wanted to experience more emotion, more drama than I was receiving. This is meant as a statement of personal preference only; the sexteto is in their usual top form here.

Dos fracasos might have been even more of a challenge as there's the immortal rendition by Miguel Caló c. Alberto Podestá, and this one is available in great transfers, e.g. from TangoTunes.

Their rendering is true to Caló's, and as such invites obvious comparing. The listener either accepts that Rozenthuler sings differently from Podestá, or doesn't. Admittedly, I'm trying to resolve an internal conflict here: I love Podestá the most from all classical-era singers, and I also want to cheer new bands when they deserve it, and the Sexteto does! Perhaps I should limit myself to writing that Rozenthuler is himself here: clean, rounded, and noble.

Finally, there's Ríe, payaso. You might know it from the recording by D'Arienzo c. Carlos Casares, and is indeed close to their interpretation. Fast, punchy, and unlike Silbando's not totally overblown (although admittedly I am hoping to be able to use their version someday, too). It will make for a great closer in a D'Arienzo-revival tanda.

In summary, this is a phenomenal CD and will make it easier for me as DJ to make Cristal-only tandas. I can only hope that they will keep recording as I find their music to be immensely danceable and popular in milongas where I play it.