Ruben Blades Presents Paraiso Road Gang (RB Records, 2019)
Famed singer-songwriter, producer and actor Ruben Blades is enjoying a highly productive phase. Recently, he has released excellent salsa and jazz albums, appears as an actor in the great zombie spinoff Fear the Walking Dead TV series and develops other fun projects. Ruben Blades Presents Paraiso Road Gan is an endeavor where Ruben takes music in a different direction and showcases Panamanian talent as well.
“As an artist, part of my function is to provoke reactions, stimulate discussion and tear down stereotypes,” says Ruben about Paraiso Road Gang.
In the album credits, Ruben appears as El Hijo de Anoland (Anoland’s son). Anoland Diaz is Ruben’s mother and he uses this artistic name when he experiments with other musical genres.
The album opens with the song “No te Calles,” a collaboration with alternative rock band Making Movies. The group includes two Panamanian brothers, guitarist and vocalist Enrique Chi and bassist Diego Chi; and Mexican brothers Juan Chaurand on percussion and keyboards and Andrés Chaurand on drums. On this piece, rock meets a wall of global drums.
“El País” is a delightful rock song with engaging lyrics in Spanish, elegant jazz trumpet and overall excellent vocal work.
On “Love Me or Leave Me,” Ruben switches to irresistible roots reggae with English vocals and a rocking guitar solo.
Says Ruben about Paraiso Road Gan : “This album represents the fulfillment of an intention that I expressed more than three decades ago. Make a record with material other than what I usually interpret and produce, in Spanish and English. This is “Paraiso Road Gang.”
On “Templo de Agua,” Ruben collaborates with renowned American bagpiper Eric Rigler from Bad Haggis. It’s a potent mix of rock and world music with Celtic influences and vocals in Spanish.
Panamanian rapper Pash appears on “Panamá Gris,” a song that incorporates salsa and rock.
“Nación Rica, Nación Pobre” is a Spanish language blues-rock song; a sharp socially conscious comparison between life for blacks in Haiti and the United States and also a critique of world powers.
Pop love song “Mírame” gives voice to singer-songwriter Horacio Valdés.
“Dime (Que puedo hacer sin Ti)” presents a love song with folk, rock and pop elements.
The final track, “La China Medina” is a really fun piece with rock, funk and retro disco beats and strings.
The lineup includes El Hijo de Anoland on vocals; Luis Enrique Becerra on keyboards and chorus; Marco Linares on guitars; Daniel Ortega on drums; Ademir Berrocal on percussion; Germán “Chispa” Lawson on bass; Juan Carlos “Wichy” López on first trumpet and Flugelhorn; Alejandro “Chichisin” Castillo on second trumpet and flugelhorn; Avenicio Núñez on first rombione; Francisco Delvecchio on second trombone; Carlos Ubarte on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones; Karla Vargas on chorus; Carlos Pérez Bidó on batá drums; Roberto Delgado on bass; Jose Ramón Guerra on percussion; Raúl “Toto” Rivera on percussion; Marcos Barraza on congas; Juan Antonio Berna on piano; Idígoras Bethancourt on trombone; Enrique Santamaría on guitars and bass; Néstor González on tenor saxophone; and Ladislao Becerra on harmonica.
“This new genre, “Mixtura”, allows me to present musical explorations that are fun and at the same time educate me,” adds Ruben. “Leaving the comfort zone is something necessary for the creative mind and I will continue to do it periodically. It is something that helps us grow and that prevents indifference from taking over our life.”