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Music Reviews

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March 30, 1994

Gypsy Boogaloo

Willie and LoboWillie & Lobo, Gypsy Boogaloo (Mesa 1993) -- Willie Royal and Wolfgang "Lobo" Fink recently performed a terrific show at the Wild Blue that showcased songs from their fine Mesa debut, Gypsy Boogaloo. This unlikely pair, who live in Puerta Vallarto, play a distinctive instrumental mix of tango, jazz, and Tex-Mex melodies that isn't fully captured on their disc (which, however, beats the pants off your average "world-music" instrumental album).

Lobo, who hails from Germany, but who spent years studying guitars (and gypsies) in Spain, is the quiet one, while Willie, who plays a mean electric violin, is the group's spokesman. The duo performed before an unreasonably small crowd for a Saturday night (especially considering that KEZL 96.7 co-sponsored the show). Fortunately for those who gathered to hear the happy music of this duo, an immediate chemistry was sparked.

Featuring songs like "Turkish Dessert" and "Amsterdam," the pair was led by Lobo's fiery acoustic technique (and he's one of the most gifted acoustic/flamenco guitars to grace a Fresno stage in recent memory) and Willie's outgoing personality. Not to be outdone, Willie used a funky electronic effects box to squeeze some fascinating sounds out of his axe.

Also featured was the charming "Sweet Meandering," which they promised to put on their soon-to-be-recorded follow-up disc, and their rousing finale, a tribute to California entitled "Rockin' Gypsy Surfer Dude" (the pair claim to be avid surfers when at home in Mexico).

Though Willie & Lobo appear stern in their press stills, their stage presence is upbeat and friendly. These guys are terrific musicians, and put on a heck of a show (lasting almost 90 minutes, even though they were the warm-up act). Here's hoping you can catch them the next time they play in Fresno.

Lowen and NavarroLowen & Navarro, Broken Moon (Parachute/Mercury 1993) -- Broken Moon is the debut release on Mercury Records' newly revived Parachute label. The disc features the strong songwriting of Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro, framed around their two-part harmonies and country/acoustic-based arrangements. Pleasant and soothing, Broken Moon has inner strength.

Lowen & Navarro (with help from drums, fiddles, and electric guitars) have more of an edge than your average acoustic duo. The pair met in Los Angeles over ten years ago, and have previously written songs for artists such as The Bangles, David Lee Roth, Dave Edmunds, and The Temptations. Starting in 1988, Lowen & Navarro became mainstays at the Breakaway coffee house in Venice, California.

As Dan Navarro explains, "When Eric and I started playing at the Breakaway, we didn't call our music biz friends. This was a time when you couldn't give away a singer/songwriter -- now that whole environment's changed. We wanted to be happy, and as long as we couldn't get a deal, we figured we would write songs for other people and at least have fun performing what we please. Then, all of a sudden, it worked."

The pair's strong connections in the business paid off the new album, as Broken Moon features cameos from numerous musicians, including guitarist David Navarro (Dan's cousin, who has played with Jane's Addiction) and former Plimsoul guitarist Eddie Munoz. The highlight of the album, "I'll Set You Free," features harmony vocals from Susanna Hoffs (formerly of The Bangles) on a song of lost love and lost innocence. In addition, the album's title track was co-written with Rob Lamoth (of The Riverdogs), with assistance from Rob's three year-old son.

With songs like "The Best of Me" and "Constant as the Night," Lowen & Navarro have left behind their teenage angst and moved on to more adult themes. Parachute is aiming toward a progressive adult audience, and Lowen & Navarro should reach the mark. Find Broken Moon when you want a disk to cheer you up.

FiremenThe Fireman, Strawberries, Oceans, Ships, Forest (Capitol 1993) -- Strawberries, Oceans, Ships, Forest is nine instrumental tracks from a mysterious due based in England. According to the press releases, The Fireman consist of two famous musicians who had never previously worked together: the rumor is that one of The Fireman is Paul McCartney.

So what. Strawberries, Oceans, Ships, Forest is 77 minutes of techno/ambient music, with a disco beat and not much melody. If this is your bag, or if you're a die-hard McCartney fan, snap up this disk, as it is likely to become a collector's item. Other than novelty value, there's not much to recommend about Strawberries, Oceans, Ships, Forest.

A Little Help, Please -- Despite the great success of Barnes & Noble, nobody seems to have figured out that they need a ramp between their plaza and the Good Guys plaza. Somebody's going to get hurt scaling the two-foot meridian separating the two shopping centers; let's hope it doesn't take a lawsuit to encourage management to remove some of the concrete and create a safe passageway.

-- Randy Krbechek

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