Sing The Real – Quetzal
Vanguard Records 79712-2
A look at Quetzal's new CD may make you groan. How pretentious can these
people be, managing to compare themselves to Bob Marley, John Lennon and
John Coltrane in a note on the back cover and naming the first track "The
Social Relevance of Public Art"? Oh no, not one of those bands.
But, somehow, Quetzal, the young L.A.-based Chicano nine-piece, delivers a
soulful, toe-tapping and – yes – socially conscious disc without beating you
over the head with their politics. Some of the topics here are foreign to us
outside the Mexican and Mexican-American community, but somebody in the
Quetzal camp made a smart move, including translations of the songs that are
in Spanish as well as explanations of some of the topics. With the subject
matter and language barrier, this could have been an unbearably esoteric
album, but the extra effort here to explain goes a long way.
The first song, "Social" has a hip-hop/R&B feel, with tight drumming and
wah-wah guitar. Martha Gonzalez's vocals are soulful and, if you had to
compare the sound here to a band in the jam community, I'd pick The Bomb
Squad, Deep Banana Blackout, or their countless offshoots.
The second track, "Cerzontle", is the first track sung in Spanish, with
Martha and Gabriel Gonzalez trading lead vocal lines. The song has a much
more traditional Mexican feel than the disc-opener, but a nice electric
guitar solo adds a modern touch. Violins add sharp accents without being
"20 Pesos" is an English language piece, with Martha delivering the verses
rap-style and Gabriel singing the choruses. Funky drums and vibraphone make
this one of the album's best. "Emotions" eschews the political for the
personal and finds Martha sounding akin to Sade, not in tone but in
delivery. The dark ballad benefits from haunting vibraphone – and haunting
vibes – and Martha's best vocal performance of the collection. This is my
favorite track on the disc.