On their first studio album since leaving MCA in 1999, the Mavericks find themselves at a creative crossroads. While vocalist and songwriter Raul Malo is able to freely indulge his muse on any number of projects, the band as whole has been making numerous musical decisions. The results are not always positive. First, the good news: when at their ...
On their first studio album since leaving MCA in 1999, the Mavericks find themselves at a creative crossroads. While vocalist and songwriter Raul Malo is able to freely indulge his muse on any number of projects, the band as whole has been making numerous musical decisions. The results are not always positive. First, the good news: when at their best, as they are for a good part of this recording, the Mavericks are simply the best there is. On tracks such as "In My Dreams," informed as it is by Roy Orbison's ghost and Malo's deeply expressive singing, the band becomes larger than life. Singing a midtempo ballad, the band gathers around him and allows him to walk out on the emotional edge of his vocal and dig a lot deeper than the arrangement would normally suggest. Likewise, on the son-infused "Shine a Light" sheeny Cuban soul acts as the fiber the tune builds upon. A well-placed horn section and numerous strains of polyrhythmic drive make this the party tune everybody's been waiting to hear from them. Likewise, the slow rumba feel of "Wondering" with Malo's '50s-influenced singing makes this the greatest song k.d. lang never recorded. "By the Time" showcases the band's still deep country waltz roots, and the B-3 touch that hovers in the background is positively haunting. The slightly funky country AOR root of "Time Goes By" is one of the dirtiest and most emotional tunes the group has ever recorded. The Latin lounge of "San Jose" -- not the Bacharach tune -- would be the best thing on the album if it weren't for the badly intoned synthed-out strings. Likewise, "Would You Believe" and "Because of You" with their thickly textured busy-ness draw away from the emotion inherent in them, and they are swallowed by arrangements. The performance of "Air That I Breathe," while valiant and seemingly heartfelt, cannot redeem this song from the shmaltz pile. The Mavericks are still more than capable of coming up with the goods when it comes to fine songwriting and performances, but next time they should hire a producer to rough up their overly rounded surfaces. Malo may indeed be the problem, trying to maneuver his band into playing for his solo moods, but with a unit this fine, he should be writing for them. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi
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