Saturday, October 25, 2014

Leonino:"Naked Tunes"

Jorge Gonzales is the former vocalist for Los Prisioneros, who were one of the biggest Chilean acts  if not of all time then certainly dominated the 80's. Leonino is the name of Jorge's new project. "Naked Tunes" opens with  "I Think We Should Be Friends" doesn't carry that much of a Latin influence. It sounds like any number of new wave artists who crossed over into the 90's, Joe Jackson being the first that comes to mind. Jorge takes more of a soulful approach on the following "Don't Change Your Mind." that is very minimal except for his vocals which are spoken in a manner similar to rap. An intresting choice of delivery, not unlike his choices to  combines an odd array of organic instruments like harmonica in his work.

 The more upbeat "My Time is Gonna Come" has hints of Prince which I had detected in some of the earlier songs, but here it stands out in his phrasing, it is more along the lines of "Sign O the Times" . He dips into more of folk direction on "My Love Will Set You Free". The lyrics are sometimes shakey due to the fact English is not his first language, but he manages to sell you on them any way.The guy has sold over two million records to the production is far from an issue, and he knows what he is doing int terms of the way the vocals are sometimes layered. He has a decent pop voice that gets the job done. his strength is keeping on you toes like the surprising country elements that creep into the tail end of "My Love Will Set You Free" are unexpected. The only complaint is he sometimes hangs on the hook a little long that it comes close to wearing out it's welcome. "Not a Sound" finds an interesting electronic back drop.It makes me think of John Lennon trying his hand at Kraut rock. Marino Scopel lends vocals to the song as well. Jorge takes  a bizarre soulful turn on "How Many Times Did You Save My Soul" he once again gets by with a little help from his friends as Argenis Brito lends his talents to the track.The lyrics here are an improvement as he reflects on his struggles with addiction.

 The album takes a slower turn with the ballad "It Wasn't Mean to Me" . There is a slight Latin jazz flavor here.The song writing sounds like a mix of  Prince and the Plastic Ono band, not only here, but often the  backing vocals are layered very much like a Prince song. The Lennon comes from  how John Lennon gave every thing in his songs  lots of breathing room in this solo work. "After the Big War" has more of a Lennon feel to it. It's an upbeat folk with a slight Paul Simon cadence to it. "Down By the River" has a 90's feel to it, the guitars carry the Latin swing, the Prince once again struts it's stuff here as well. The Lyrics sound like they could have come from any 80's r&b slow jam. Where he really grabs my attention is on "There is a Light" that closes out the album. His vocals live up to the album's title "Naked Tunes" as it is all stripped down to layers of his voice  that are laid out and bared in beautiful harmony. It is layered as well like something Imogen Heap might have pulled off in her earlier work.The minimal piano that edges into the song doesn't take the focus of the vocals and only give  minimal support as an under current.

 It's clear Jorge is doing something right here if he consistently brings to mind greats like Prince and Lennon, though not the lyricist either one of those legends are, he does have a similar ear when it comes to arrangements and how to place the sounds on this record. Prince is a militant perfectionist so that's another testament to how good this album sounds. This guy has been at it for three decades, and his experience pays off on this album. It's not at all guitar driven , but simply quirky pop,so if you appreciate artists like Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello or Bryan Ferry's solo work, you can't say he really sounds like any of them ,but his music comes from a similar place and worth checking out.

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