Between 2005 and 2007, the beat of The Brass was alive and well at Shout! Factory. The label’s Herb Alpert Signature Collection restored eleven classic titles from the celebrated trumpeter to the catalogue on CD in deluxe remastered editions, plus a rarities compilation and a remix album. Three further releases were also made available, albeit in digital download form only. Shout! is kicking off 2013, however, with the surprising reissue (due February 19) of Alpert’s 1982 Fandango, one of the most vibrantly colorful albums in the pop-instrumental titan’s canon.
Longtime Alpert fans know that many of his original A&M CDs, including Fandango, are among the most difficult CDs to find secondhand, and frequently sell for high prices online. This is all the more unfortunate, because even after the Tijuana Brass’ sixties heyday, Alpert continued to make fresh and exciting music with a range of collaborators. Fandango arrived between 1981’s Magic Man and 1983’s Blow Your Own Horn, two more of those hard-to-find titles that deserve the reissue treatment. For Fandango, Alpert was joined by a crack band including Abe Laboriel on guitar and bass, Carlo Vega on drums, Paulinho da Costa on percussion, Bill Cuomo on keyboards, and Miguel Peña on guitar. Old friends Michel Colombier and Julius Wechter joined in on keyboards and what else, marimba, respectively. Six of the album’s eleven tracks came from the pen of Juan Carlos Calderón, a Spanish-born songwriter who also wrote for artists including Luis Miguel and Julio Iglesias. The trumpeter produced the album in tandem with Jose Quintana, the then-chief of A&M’s Latin label, and recorded it primarily in Mexico City.
Do the Fandango after the jump!
An authentic Latin air permeates Fandango, making it quite a treat for Tijuana Brass fans. Though the term “fandango” has since been appropriated for many uses, it originally described folk and flamenco music and dance styles, which made it appropriate to this musical excursion. Alpert’s Fandango is funky and jazzy, with his peerless knack for pop phrasing making the set both adventurous and palatable. The title track begins with a burst of trumpet of a style familiar to any TJB fan before the sinuously up-tempo Latin rhythm kicks into high gear. And Abe Laboriel, whom Alpert credited for introducing him to co-producer Quintana, makes room for some particularly tasty bass licks, too. But “Fandango” isn’t the only driving groove here. Strings add color to Calderón’s “Push and Pull,” on which Alpert’s trumpet stylishly glides above the funky beat.
“Route 101,” one of two paeans on Fandango to Alpert’s home state of California, may be the best-remembered song on the album as it grazed the U.S. Top 40 and made it to the AC Top 5. Calderón’s slick, pulsating song would be perfect for driving on that thoroughfare, were the traffic not so frequently stopped! The other, the dark-hued “California Blues,” is graced by light flamenco guitars. The wistful “Margarita,” also by Calderón, is a tender, atmospheric sigh of a song that subtly brings to mind (and predates!) Marvin Hamlisch’s horn-led title theme to the film Romantic Comedy. Alpert even contributed a rare and charming Spanish-language vocal to Rafael Perez-Botija’s pretty ballad “Quiereme Tal Como Soy (Love Me the Way I Am).” (His trumpet accents recall Burt Bacharach, but one brief melodic phrase in the song actually recalls “Misty.”)
Again in the spirit of the classic Tijuana Brass, “Coco Loco (La Guajira)” offers a bit of mariachi for a summer’s day, and “Angel,” too, conjures up a buoyant and tropical atmosphere. As with a number of the album’s tracks, “Angel” has crisp and clean production that dates it to 1982, but that polished sound is never ladled on too overbearingly on Fandango. An album-closing “Latin Medley” tips its hat to the past, featuring four famous compositions including “Frenesi” and “Bahia.” With its background whoops and hollers, it conjures last call at the cantina.
Bernie Grundman, who mastered the original LP, has tastefully remastered it for CD. The package itself is top-notch, continuing the tradition of past entries in the Signature Series. Herb Alpert has provided a brief introductory note (his original liners are reprinted, too) and Gene Sculatti adds depth with his new essay.
A couple of questions remain, however: Does Fandango mark the end of the line for the long-dormant Alpert Signature Series? Or is it the beginning of a new wave of reissues?
Over at A&M Corner, an indispensable site for all fans of the venerable label created by Alpert and Jerry Moss, Alpert’s nephew Randy “Badazz” Alpert has generously provided information about the future of the Herb Alpert catalogue. On the sweet side, he’s revealed that “The past few years I have been over-seeing the transfer of Herb's extensive analog tape library to Hi Rez digital wav files. Both 2-track mixes and many, many, multitracks from dozens of songs. Dance mixes, mono mixes, alternate mixes, and everything interesting and unique.” He added that Herb’s new website (LINK) will offer “both MP3 320 and Lossless files. I would love to eventually offer 24 bit 192K files.” Unfortunately, on the bitter side, Randy confirmed that “Most [emphasis mine – JM] of the music will not be released as CDs.” On the bright side of things, he also mentioned that the Alpert team is open to suggestions, so all hope isn’t lost for future CD reissues. You can read all of Randy’s comments and join the discussion here at A&M Corner. Certainly the audience for Herb’s albums, as well as those of his talented wife Lani Hall, craves these recordings in a physical format, and presented with as much care as the Signature Series releases.
The character of Herb Alpert’s trumpet has always been a joyous one. Thanks to this enjoyably entertaining new reissue, this overlooked album will have the opportunity to reach a new generation of listeners. Welcome back, old friend!
Fandango is due in stores next Tuesday, February 19! It can be pre-ordered below!
Herb Alpert, Fandango (A&M 3731, 1982 – reissued Shout! Factory, 2013)
- Fandango (Juan Carlos Calderón)
- Margarita (Juan Carlos Calderón)
- Push and Pull (Juan Carlos Calderón)
- California Blues (Juan Carlos Calderón)
- Quiereme Tal Como Soy (Rafael Perez-Botija)
- Route 101 (Juan Carlos Calderón)
- Coco Loco (La Guajira) (Diego Verdaguer)
- Aria (Eduardo Magallanes)
- Angel (Juan Carlos Calderón)
- Sugarloaf (Erasmas Carlos, Roberto Carlos)
- Latin Medley: Frenesi, Bahia, Moliendo Cafe, Porompompero (Dominguez, Barroso, Manzo, Ochiata/Valerio/Solano)