Rafael & Energía Dominicana – Enamorarse en la playa [“Falling in Love at the Beach”] (ARC Music EUCD2715, 2013)
Many people, especially those of the romantic persuasion who enjoy the creative arts, believe in love at first sight. These days, one can eavesdrop on friends describing first encounters with potential paramours met online and hear them summarize, “We spent half an hour at Java Jive, and the spark just wasn’t there.” Cats, on the other hand, prolific beasts reputed to have nine lives, are more prudent; they do not believe in love at first sight. Two feline housemates may gambol and groom and sleep curled up together once they become acquainted, but the first interaction is a quick sniff and a spark.
For many people using online dating services, all housecats and at least this one listener to Rafael & Energía Dominicana’s “Enamorarse en la playa” release, “the spark just wasn’t there,” at first meeting.
This is probably because merengue itself is so strident and exuberant that it all initially sounds the same; everything’s on ten. On second and ongoing listens, though, this proves to not be just another merengue release at all. There is huge comfort with modern instruments and studio technique. The studio facility and staff are equal partners with the players here on a creative, passionate, gifted team.
This release develops, listen after listen, like a flower blooming. One looks forward to the next needle drop, not because it’s merengue night at a club, but because it sounds so good. Balance between instruments and sections, naturalness of vocals, judicious ring off from guitars, capture of the elusive horn solo from amidst the ever-steroidal salsa horn section … every concern that might go into a listener’s first impression is addressed and dealt with. It’s a record that makes one seek better speakers or tunable headphones to provide the sound a better frame.
“Enamorarse en la playa (Falling in Love at the Beach)” is not, at least to this listener, a love at first hearing release. It is, however, a long-term relationship.