#95 / The Jaime Roos ‘Complete Works’: A Must-Have for (Serious) Alt Latin Music Lovers

Photo by Mario Marotta Jr.

Photo by Mario Marotta Jr.

[UPDATE on 7/26/18: All 13 volumes released so far are available on Spotify and other digital platforms.]

Unless you’re from Uruguay or Argentina, chances are you have no clue as to who Jaime Roos is. I won’t bore you with ultimately unimportant biographical details, but here’s a story I wrote about him years ago.

To make it quick and painless: Jaime Roos is one of the most successful and influential musicians (at least in neighboring countries) to ever come out of Uruguay and, if you’re into World Music in general (and Latin alternative/popular music in particular) you absolutely must find a way to obtain his Obra Completa series. As stated in the series itself:

“The collection Jaime Roos: obra completa includes all of the artist’s recordings to date. The audio has been transferred in high definition from the best available sources, then restored and remastered especially for this edition. It also includes all the graphic material from the original releases.”

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, as of today, the only way you can get these masterpieces is through a friend in Uruguay or Argentina, and there are no plans to ever have these albums available on digital platforms (that’s the whole point of the collection; you want to have the original art and info).

Uruguay’s Bizarro label is behind this mammoth project (from material originally released mostly by Ayuí and Orfeo), and in this blog you’ll have samples from each record (using original sound, not the remastered sound available in Obra Completa) and full translation of the Spanish liner notes for each album, specifically written for this collection by Brazilian musicologist and author Guilherme de Alencar Pinto.

Keep in mind Uruguay is a country with a population of a little more than 3 million (even less when Jaime started making music), so the meager sales figures mentioned in this blog are huge by Uruguayan standards (at one point, Jaime would become the best-selling local solo artist in the country’s history).

I will update the blog as new batches of CDs are released, and whenever I feel I want (and have the time) to add more of my own commentary for each album (so keep checking back for updates). Within the liner notes, you’ll find brackets with my own text, which I added for clarification. But I tried to respect the superb original notes by Guilherme as much as I could. Most of all, Jaime’s eclectic, timeless music should speak for itself. Listen loudly as you read.

My only reservation with this collection is that Jaime opted to release the albums chronologically, which means sometimes collaborations, live albums and rarities come before his albums of original material. No biggie. I’m just an impatient guy.

So here we go, starting with…

Candombe del 31 (1977)

jr-candombe-31

“Cometa de La Farola” is an early murga-song Jaime wrote while in Amsterdam, after receiving a newspaper clip from his father informing him that his beloved soccer team, Defensor, had won the Uruguayan tournament in 1976. It was the first time a “small” team won the tournament since the beginning of Uruguay’s professional era in 1932. Overcome by emotion, Jaime wrote what he once considered “a children’s song.” Years later, he would record an alternate version of it. Here’s the original:

And here, in my opinion, is one of the best (if not the best) candombe performances on guitar ever.

Complete liner notes by Brazilian musicologist, critic and author Guilherme de Alencar Pinto:

“On September 13, 1975, Jaime Roos got on a plane on his way to Madrid. The main pretext was a series of performances with Patria Libre, the Latin American folk music group he was a member of. His deeper motivation was to travel the world while escaping the oppressive climate of Uruguay, which had succumbed to a [military] dictatorship since 1973. Jaime was 21 and had worked professionally as an instrumentalist since age 16. He had written the music for a play in addition to four songs, only one of which (the 1973 ballad ‘Hoy’) had been performed live by Epílogo de Sueños, where Jaime was the bassist. But it was in Europe where Jaime finally developed as a composer, especially in December, when he moved to Paris and embarked on a personal artistic project he hadn’t foreseen until then.

In August 1976 he selected four of the songs he had finished and recorded a demo at Adam Studio in Roissy-en-Brie, a Paris suburb. Lacking alternatives, he played all the instruments, not devoid of a certain fascination for exploring the possibilities of multi-track recording and testing himself, albeit unofficially, as a one-man orchestra. Except for the bass, all the instruments were loaned to him. Because he couldn’t pay more than a few hours of studio time, both the recording and the mix were done almost without retouches.

Soon after, Jaime and his girlfriend — the Dutch Franca Aerts — went to Mexico with a plan: to hitchhike through Latin America and visit Uruguay, where they finally arrived in December 1976. In Montevideo, Jaime showed the recordings to Coriún Aharonián, co-founder and head of the Ayuí label, who immediately proposed to him an LP. Coriún figured those demos sounded better than anything that could be produced in Uruguayan studios, and decided to include them in the album. In retrospect, those four French recordings are the least ‘professional’ in all of Jaime’s discography, but their existence made it possible to finish the album recording only six additional songs, despite Ayuí’s tight budget. Four of them had been completed after the making of the demo (‘Viaje a las ruinas’ and ‘Carta [a Poste Restante]’ reflect the Latin American trip). To complete six, Jaime used ‘Te acordás hermano’ — the only pre-Europe song that made it onto the record — and specifically wrote ‘Y es así.’

At Sondor studios, Jaime had even less hours than in Paris (and more songs to record), but he chose simpler arrangements. Besides, he had guests: Jorge Bonaldi and Jorge Lazaroff, his buddies in projects like Patria Libre and Aguaragua; Luis Sosa (legendary drummer and former member of El Kinto) had shared with Jaime works for the stage and TV, and that’s how this candombe-beat pioneer also played in the first murga-beat: ‘Cometa de la farola.

The first batch of the LP was printed in a hurry (to coincide with the series of release shows in April and May of 1977) and its cover didn’t please those who had designed it. For the next batch, the colors were corrected, and this is the version utilized on the cover of the present edition.

Jaime returned to Europe immediately following those shows. Candombe del 31 sold a little more than 100 copies in its first two years of existence. Later, the increasing repercussion of his following albums fed the curiosity for this first work, which became a cult album and sold a little more than 1,000 copies on vinyl and cassette. This is the first complete CD release.”

Go to the next page to read/hear about 1978’s Para espantar el sueño.

#108: The original kamikaze

 kamikazes
ka·mi·ka·ze
ˌkäməˈkäzē/
noun
noun: kamikaze; plural noun: kamikazes.
1. (in World War II) a Japanese aircraft loaded with explosives and making a deliberate suicidal crash on an enemy target. The pilot of an aircraft making a deliberate suicidal crash.
adjective
adjective: kamikaze.
1. Of or relating to a kamikaze attack or pilot.
Reckless or potentially self-destructive.
“He made a kamikaze run across three lanes of traffic.” Japanese, from kami (‘divinity’) + kaze ‘wind,’ originally referring to the gale that, in Japanese tradition, destroyed the fleet of invading Mongols in 1281. (Taken from one of those free online dictionaries).
OK, that’s a kamikaze. But I’ve got my own kind of kamikaze, and this is is what he looked like in 1982:
spinetta1982

His name was Luis Alberto Spinetta (1950-2012), he was/is from Argentina, and he was arguably the greatest Spanish-language rocker ever born. He also never gave a shit and did what he had to do, with zero concern for fashion, popularity, or “serving my fans, without whom I wouldn’t be here” and all that crap so often uttered by minor entertainers. Spinetta was an artist, and he wouldn’t just write songs: the guy could draw, as shown in the cover of the iconic 1969 debut by Almendra, his first band.

Almendra_front

From that first album is the following song, in my book the ultimate rocanrol ballad.

In 1982, Spinetta released Kamikaze, his most minimalist, acoustic album. Listen while you read.

In the album’s liner notes, Spinetta asks, “…are there any more kamikazes out there in creative life?”

I have my kamikazes, you have yours. This is a blog about those kamikazes who write songs or make movies or do whatever it is that they do in order to remain sane, and that sanity is the sanity as described by the kamikaze’s own conscience, not that of society’s. I’ll update it whenever I feel like it and, every once in a while, I’ll stray away from art and write about other topics that move me or piss me off.

It’ll be long, and it’ll be short. Sometimes you won’t see it for weeks. At other times, it’ll be a daily bombardment of words, songs, and videos. Not the most recommended recipe in these days of idiotic immediacy and “keeping with the pulse of the city.” I don’t keep with nobody’s pulse but mine; that’s what jobs are for. But this, this is one of my two little gardens (the other one is here).

It’ll be good, and it’ll be bad.

But it’ll be mine, and it will self-destruct after 108 postings (or not). Such is the post-Big Meat Grinder life.

It’s unedited, uncensored, and bad for business.

But that’s what a kamikaze does. Destination Nowhere.

I only hope that at least one person out there discovers one of the artists I write about and shares my passion and love for them with me.

In other (better) words written by the Ultimate Kamikaze:

“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.

This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty … what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. (…)

To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordion, or a guitar. The essential thing is to want to sing. This then is a song. I am singing.” (Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer)

Get it?

So, sing. I wanna hear it.