It was late…maybe 2 o’ clock in the morning and I was surfing through the channels. Nothing was on. Infomercials, old episodes of “Cops”, and the occasional smattering of a reality show that I didn’t have the energy to care about. Lying across the blue 3-seater sofa, my eyes were heavy and I was about to turn the TV off when I heard one of the most amazing acoustic guitar riffs in a long time (come to find out later, it’s at the halfway point of “Diablo Rojo”). Sounds so awesome that it could wake me from a near-dead slumber. Between the amazing riffage, Voice Guy was saying “blah, young, blah, Mexico, blah, guitar, Rodrigo y Gabriela, blah, fourteen ninety-nine.” Nothing this amazing comes out of such a young pair of fingers. I thought this shit takes years of practice to master…I knew that I needed to pick up the CD as soon as I could.
I remember listening to the first track of “Rodrigo y Gabriela” and being blown away. I wanted to proclaim their awesomeness from a mountain top, I wanted everyone that I knew to know what I was experiencing…nothing short of an eargasm.
For almost the first half of the album (tracks 1 – 5), Rodrigo and Gabriela take you on a journey through their musical roots. Relentlessly using their guitars, not only to strum fast and furious notes, but as the source of their percussive beats. There’s no other instrumentation on the album other than two guitars (and a guest violin on “Ixtapa”). On many tracks, you find yourself tapping your feet or slapping your thigh unconsciously.
It’s the second half of the album where things get interesting. Starting off with a cover of the sacred cow of classic rock…Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven”. I’ve never been a huge fan of Zeppelin’s rock anthem. I enjoy it but at the same time feel that it’s overplayed on terrestrial radio. Every year when stations do their Top 500 Classic Rock Songs Of All Time on Labor Day weekend, it’s always a toss-up between The Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Led Zeppelin…and quite frankly, it’s all on how the music director is feeling that day. But I digress…Rodrigo and Gabriela give “Stairway To Heaven” it’s due diligence. Capturing the essence of the original, while still blazing through the guitar solo with ease and style.
When I picked up the CD at the store, I glanced at the track listing and noticed the obvious cover of “Stairway To Heaven”…but it was “Orion” that blew me away. I assumed that there was a coincidence between the fact that it was on “Rodrigo y Gabriela”, given their penchant for one-word song titles, and not a cover of the Metallica tune by the same name.
I was/am very familiar with the Metallica piece ever since I was a young lad and got “Master Of Puppets” from the local library (on vinyl!). Listening to the Rodrigo y Gabriela version for the first time, I had high expectations, almost as if I wanted them to fail in their attempt. As I listened to their version, I had the Metallica version playing subliminally, waiting for the slightest juxtaposition of notes, melodies, phrases…anything! But they nailed it!
As the album wraps up, you forget that Rodrigo and Gabriela have been on a tour de force for nearly 40 minutes straight without ever letting up. After listening to the album, certain cuts or the whole thing, I feel like I can take on anything! There’s something motivational/inspirational about “Rodrigo y Gabriela” that you can’t necessarily put a finger on it. Many people will listen to this album and it will touch each and every one of them in a different manner…all I know is…I’m glad I stayed up late that night.
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