This album feels, smells and sounds like Montevideo. Once in Los Angeles, I played Rubén Blades’ six songs by Jaime Roos on a cassette tape (“Retirada,” “Los Olímpicos,” “Tu laberinto,” “Brindis por Pierrot,” “Inexplicable” and “Amándote”), and the author of “Pedro Navaja” flipped. “¡Qué bueno que es…!” [“He’s soooo good!”], he kept repeating after each song. But he was particularly taken by “Amándote.”
Blades’ ended up recording his own version. The album, La rosa de los vientos (1996, which included songs by Panamanian authors except for the closing track, Jaime’s “Amándote”) went on to win the Grammy for Best Tropical Performance.
Jaime’s milonga playing and arranging on this album is so edgy and original.
And the murga could not have been more explosive, as was the case with this instant classic.
Liner notes by Guilherme de Alencar Pinto: “Just like, in many respects, 7 y 3 (1986) was the antithesis of Brindis por Pierrot (1985), Sur was [the opposite] of 7 y 3: It doesn’t have an official backing band, the sound is mostly acoustic, there are no pre-programmed tracks, there are solo guest musicians, and there is murga.
Lacking the kaleidoscopic variety of Aquello (1981), Siempre son las cuatro (1982) and Mediocampo (1984), [Sur] is a multi-colored album unified by an identity concept summarized by the album title [‘South’]. The cover photo — taken next to Montevideo’s Central Cemetery, with a wall facing the Río de la Plata — was named by Jaime and [photographer] Mario Marotta as a reference to the tango ‘Sur’ by [Homero] Manzi and [Aníbal] Troilo. [The city of] Montevideo is the scenery for all the music and lyrics (except for ‘Carta a Poste Restante,’ which wanders around Latin America).
For this record it was possible to have the participation of leading figures of earlier generations. Jaime had been the bassist in Los Olimareños’ Veinticinco años (1986), and he invited them to sing. Rubén Rada and tango guitarist Julio Cobelli (well-known accompanist for Alfredo Zitarrosa) also took part in the recording.
‘Las luces del Estadio’ was conceived in the Autumn of 1987, to be used as the theme song of the soap opera Los tres, at the request of director Jorge Denevi. In order to fulfill the assignment, Jaime called Raúl Castro, who wrote the basic text inspired by a personal experience. Jaime developed and adapted those verses to the metric of a music piece he had written in Paris in 1975 (in the same week he had written ‘Que te había olvidado/Tu vestido blanco’ and ‘Te quedarás’). For the album, only the vocal parts were retouched, and he proceeded to mix.
Simultaneously, Jaime was able to write the intricate music for the play El regreso del Gran Tuleque, by Mauricio Rosencof, which premiered at the La Gaviota theater. The farewell song, sung at the end of the play by the fictitious ‘Murga del Humo,’ caused great enthusiasm in the audience, and Jaime decided to include it in the album. For its recording, the same chorus was invited and the batea [drum section] of the Falta y Resto murga and a recitation by Raúl Castro were added, along with a new instrumental base.
‘Candombe de Reyes’ was played by 10 drummers of Concierto Lubolo (later known as Sinfonía de Ansina). The drums were recorded with no sound reference whatsoever: Jaime reviewed the song mentally while indicating moments of crescendo, where the repiques should come in and out, and when the maderas should play.
In ‘Lluvia con sol,’ Jaime launches a new way to play milongas — drums played with brushes and a delicate, ethereal sound — that would become one of his distinctive ways to approach that genre.
‘Amándote’ existed since 1981. Jaime, who had sung it at barbecues and meetings with friends, was conscious of the impact the song had. He felt it didn’t fit in any of his projects, until the song found its place in Sur. With this song he achieved, for the third consecutive year — after ‘Brindis por Pierrot’ and ‘La hermana de la Coneja’ — an instant hit. Eventually, it would also become his best-known song internationally. In Uruguay, ‘Despedida del Gran Tuleque ’87’ became the signature song for the campaign against the so-called law of impunity for crimes committed by the dictatorship. Sur went Platinum in its cassette and vinyl editions.”
As a bonus, here’s my little personal self-congratulatory moment, with Jaime and Blades together (in Spanish).
Next page: Esta noche (1989).