Audio Mixer: Bruce Weeden.
Recording information: México, FL; Miami, FL.
Though the great Mexican maestro Eduardo Magallanes first worked with Juan Gabriel in 1968, they have been constant collaborators since 1971. While Magallanes is best known as an arranger, he is also a top-flight producer and conductor. All those talents come to bear on what may come to be known as the pair's crowning achievement. Gabriel has been on a roll. Both of his Duos volumes topped the Latin albums charts, and this date will likely accomplish the same feat.
The title, which translates in English to "In Evening Dress by Eduardo Magallanes," reflects the desire of the arranger to place Gabriel in a symphonic setting. He assembled an international cast of musicians and singers, and wrote brand new charts for 34 of his catalog classics. While he employed familiar forms -- mariachi, bolero, and ranchera -- he also challenged the singer with salsa, Afro-Cuban, son, tango, milonga, huapango, pop, rock, jazz, and neo-classical charts. The singer and songwriter responds as if these are brand new songs and he has something to prove: He sings his heart out. The gorgeous, cinematic pop of "Tú Me Dijiste Adiós" (complete with accordion) and "Vives en Mí," with swirling strings, Quincy Jones-esque winds and horns, and operatic chorales, are quite literally stunning. Likewise, "La Muerte del Palomo," with bassoons, flutes, mariachi brass, classical guitar, tympanis, and backing singers, takes a passionate song and transforms it into an epic of doomed romance. "Es Mejor Perdonar" is breezy, jazzy milonga. The nearly eight-minute "Por Ser Como Eres Llevando E" is Gabriel the Latin roots rocker at his best, with a doo wop backing choral and bumping horns atop soulful electric guitars. "Voy a Comprobarte" stitches mariachi to brassy cinematic pop and roll with a walking boogie-woogie bassline. No matter the tempo, combination, and recombination of tempos, textures, dynamics, and genres in these songs, the entire proceeding -- nearly 152 minutes spread over two discs -- is full of sophistication and soul. While Magallanes and Gabriel have utilized orchestras, rock, and mariachi bands before in their endeavors, given the diversity of material, its chronological time span -- some tunes are over four decades old -- and the massive cast, the material is virtually reinvented. The songs welcome a new generation of listeners while easily re-engaging longtime fans.
The achievement here, even if you don't understand a word of Spanish, is awe-inspiring. It may have been a tribute from Magallanes to the singer/songwriter, but Gabriel's amazing performances mirror the honor right back to his arranger. With Vestido de Etiqueta por Eduardo Magallanes, the pair reaches a new plateau of achievement. ~ Thom Jurek
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