Review: Jarabe de Palo reimagines its history

MICHELLE MORGANTE reviews Jarabe de Palo’s “Orquesta Reciclando” (Nacional) for (Rochester).

If there had been a love child born of Steely Dan and Santana during a tryst in Barcelona, a child who ran off with a Gypsy band and grew up strumming guitar in the romantic airs of the Caribbean, that child might sound like Jarabe de Palo.

A dozen years ago, Jarabe de Palo (a euphemism meaning Syrup of the Stick) landed atop the Spanish alt-rock wave with a rhythmic longing for “La Flaca,” a dark, Cuban girl, “a hundred pounds of skin and bone/40 kilos of salsa,” who leaves the narrator pleading he “would give anything, for one kiss of La Flaca.”

On “Orquesta Reciclando,” Jarabe de Palo reimagines “La Flaca” and 14 of its other most popular songs. These rebooted interpretations are innovations, rather than replays thanks to fresh instrumentation and new, underlying rhythms. The technical skills of the band are superb, and each fits one another with the sort of maturity that comes from years of playing together.

The songs’ melodies still have the sound of a young romantic composing alone in his room, but the depth in singer Pau Dones’ voice now gives them a weight that enhances the nature of the band’s signature melancholic chord changes. This sophistication makes the collection both a new album and a career review for new listeners and established fans alike.

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