Chicano Batman Hits On All Cylinders With ‘Freedom Is Free’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Published: March 03, 2017

chicanobatmanNot only is Chicano Batman’s newest album the most soulful, emotionally moving/political album of their career, it is also their most complete. Freedom Is Free finds the group continuing their South American rock influences but also diving head-first into classic American R&B with grace and passion.

Opener “Passed You By” effortlessly flirts with dreamy guitars and layers of groovy sounds but the pleasant background vocals quickly get overtaken by the money number “Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)”. This track traces direct influences to Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, all the 70’s soul/R&B greats and in the end, it stands toe to toe with those luminaries.

The title track lets the vocals soar behind the message of love while funky drum beats provided by Gabriel Villa and bass runs from Eduardo Arenas keep things constantly bubbling around the angular guitar work of Carlos Arévalo. “La Jura” amps the keyboards and Spanish language vocals from front(Bat)man Bardo Martinez mixing with a laid back dreamy soul groove. A track like this would have been right at home on The Arcs’ Yours, Dreamily, and that is no surprise as Leon Michels came onboard to produce Freedom Is Free. Michels is a Brooklyn-based producer who’s worked with everyone from Dr. John to Rick Ross; he is a natural fit for this band that is never afraid to experiment.

Not every track is perfect, however, “Angel Child” wanders in too many directions at once and never coalesces completely, while “Run” tries to bridge R&B grooves with quirky tempo changes but lacks ideas. However, the band nails it for the majority of the time, easily oscillating between light and breezy pop movements (“Flecha Al Sol”) to down and dirty funk (“Right Off The Back”) while managing to split that difference on some of the best efforts such as “Jealousy”.

The statement track on the album is the spoken-word, fiery “The Taker Story” that sums things up with this refrain: “Mass killings and mass graves, globalization of slaves, genocide and extinction, all the functions of civilization.” Martinez goes direct and it works, but what keeps everything afloat are the crisp horns, warbling keys, spectacular drumming and the never ending groove; instead of overbearing at five and a half minutes it feels too short. Closing with a breezy acoustic based instrumental “Area C” the album finishes on a quieter note, but the band has already staked out their position with Freedom Is Free.

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The post Chicano Batman Hits On All Cylinders With ‘Freedom Is Free’ (ALBUM REVIEW) appeared first on Glide Magazine.

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