The term "one world," as it applies to music, makes one think of vapid New Age background sounds. This is where musicians take little exotic bits of music from Third World countries and turn rich cultural legacies into fast food sounds with no distinction and a wisp of the original flavor. It wasn't always this way. Back in your crazy Uncle's day - the 70's, the decade that will never die - bands like War, Mandrill and Santana had no trouble mixing the music that they heard and loved with their own cultural roots. Mandrill, in particular, was consciously created - personnel-wise - to include members with Latin and Caribbean roots to go with as black Americans and one of their psychedelic, white, hippie friends. These artists took the beat of the streets - jazz, soul, Caribbean and Mexican music into their hearts, minds and souls - and came out as a nice hybrid that took the fire and guts of these different music strands and not just the surfaces.
One World lives up to this legacy, creating a Pan Latino music that leans heavily on the Mexican tradition; itself a creole melange of different styles: country swing & blues from Texas, Spanish flamenco and Cuban music. Best of all, they avoid the vapidity trap because band founder and leader Frank Unzueta has deep roots in this music, coming from a family with Mexican-born grandparents and a mother who played piano and loved classical, mambo and mariachi music. Authenticity, after all, doesn't come in a can.
The songs on 'Share My Love' range from hybrids to rockers to straight traditional Latin numbers. The title track is based on classic mariachi music. A flamenco guitar intro sets up a fast waltzing tempo. The melody is echoed and stated by viola and violin, and propelled by drums, percussion and bass. Urzetta sings this song, an appeal to universal love, in the strident manner of a Mexican singer, despite singing in English. The next cut, "Got A Letter," takes a radical turn into Santana-land. The opening salvo features blazing electric guitar over a hard rock beat. It breaks suddenly into a rock Salsa mix, the signature sound of Woodstock-era Santana. The Latin groove and influence continues throughout the CD but in different forms and with different musical flavorings.
"Las Calles" starts out as a traditional Spanish language mambo, with sweetly passionate vocals and violin colorings. Then the drummer, Art Valdez, switches to a rock feel on the choruses giving the song more intensity. "Orale 5:02" is a blues infused rock cut featuring the sonorous vocals of percussionist Alandras Brown. The Latin element, present on every cut, comes through on the backing vocals. The biting, dueling electric guitars by Unzueta and Mitchell Chavez are stellar. "Tina Mas Fina," an instrumental tribute a fine, fine babe, is hard-hitting Latin jazz, with vocals and a saxophone melody that is a virtual tribute to Prez Prado. The one world idea and the overall theme of love are expressed, also: "Latin soul hip hop old school and anything you like to get your groove / now it's time to slow dance, there's that special girl so take a chance."
Virtually every song on Share My Love is a love song, whether it's love lost ("My Love Where Are You") and found ("Got A Letter" and, in "She Longed For His Love"), love offered (the title track and "Give Yourself to Me"), and yearned for ("If You Were Mine"). While many love songs in the worlds of R&B, pop, and indie emo rock tend to slide into the muck of maudlin sentimentality and emerge covered in sap and pap, here this is avoided by lyrics that are simple and real and music that expresses passion and energy. This is a result of Ursetta's excellent arrangements and the powerful playing of Valdez, the bass player, Larry Steen, and Unzueta and Brown's singing. All in all One World, while leaving much of the world out of its music, lives up to its name as far as the Latin diaspora is concerned, and Share My Love es muy satisfacción.
Mark Kirby received his B.A. from Oberlin College back in the days when heroin was harder to find than pot and sex didn't kill you. He is a drummer, screenwriter, and fixture in the bars and clubs of N.Y.'s Lower East Side and the current mecca of the New Bohemia, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.