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ME LO GANÉ

En La Calle Otra Vez
Review by Michelle White © Timba.com

Album Review - Me Lo Gané - Calle Real Album Review - Me Lo Gané - Calle Real

Three years after the release of their popular debut album, Con fuerza, Calle Real is back with Me lo gané, an album that is guaranteed to thrill their fans as well as win them some new ones. If you are skeptical about whether non-Cubans can really play timba, this album is the proof. Calle Real está en la calle and they make it clear from the start: No me paran con una bala, no me paran ni con dos.

The production of Me lo gané is clean and consistent from the opening measure to the finish. The arrangements have matured as well and contain some very exciting rhythmic patterns and harmonic changes, which to me are part of the Calle Real sello. And of course lead singer Thomas Eby’s clear tenor voice is unmistakable.

Me lo gané is 100% timba, but Calle Real does it with their own flavor bringing something fresh to the genre. The influences of groups such as La Charanga Habanera and Los Van Van are clear and yet Calle Real never imitates what the Cubans do. Just when you think you recognize something, they put a twist on it. It's definitely serious timba and yet it's definitely different.

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what is different; the details of the interplay between the bass and piano, the relationship between the coros/guías and the clave, the word choice which differs from your standard Cuban vocabulary, the melodies and harmonies of the vocals/coros; there is something that makes the music recognizable as Call Real. Whatever the answer, in the end what it all comes down to is a treasure trove for DJs and dancers alike.

DJ alert: The CD kicks off with the no holds barred Somos familia. This is hardcore timba and an irresistible call to the dancefloor:Sígueme, sígueme. Sigue como sigo yo, sigue como va, and varying from 105 to 110 beats per minute, it puts some serious demands on the dancers. It also boasts a rather fascinating arrangement, with an unusual coro/guía pattern that enters with the Somos familia entera coro at two minutes followed by a mambo con clave change. Of course there are plenty of gear changes to satisfy the dancers. Somos familia is a powerful introduction to an album that does not disappoint.

DJ alert: The second track, El amigo José, gives the dancers a break as it “slows down” to a typical timba speed of 96 bpm. It is one of two “old” Calle Real songs on the CD that have been updated to according the modern sound of the group. It is also one of the tracks that bear witness to the influence of the Charanga Habanera of the Nineties. There is a guest appearance by rapero Lowcura during the bomba, followed by the rapped coro cuando yo lo pongo gritan y cuando yo lo saco lloran, which is reminiscent of the Charanga both for the chanted style of the coro and the callejero style of the lyrics. But wait…later Thomas explains: Con mi música tu gritas, Sin mi música tú lloras...so I guess it was just my mind getting lost in the world of double entendre.

DJ alert: Me lo gané is a floor filler and a perfect title track. It starts with bomba and a great tumbao accompanying the main coro and then slips into the cuerpo with some tasty chord changes before rapidly moving back into bomba at about 1:45 with the No me conformo con el ocio coro. Being a fan of lyrics I also like the theme of the about how working hard and being consistent and faithful to your ideas pays off in the end, as the band has worked hard having faith that they could succeed making the music that they wanted to on their own terms.
Me lo gané siendo consecuente y fiel
Y que? El aprecio de mi gente lo tengo yo
Cambie lo que cambie
Yo aguanto, En eso sí que tengo fé

After this intense start to the CD, they break things up a bit with Jugando Súper Mario Bros. It is what I will have to call a nontraditional timba, starting with about two minutes of something…strings, pop, R&B? It does not exactly lend itself well to dancing casino, but it does capture the dreamy sense of someone remembering their childhood. But ciuda’o because at 2:15 with the bridge to the Jugando Súper Mario Bros coro you find your feet and at 100 bmp it turns into an ultrahot dance groove. As unusual as it is, it already has a cult status among fans, who perhaps also feel nostalgia for the simplicity of childhood days spent playing video games.

The CD then slips into a trio of consecutive songs about relationships: El anillo, Los dos sabermos and La eternidad del amor. If you are sick of songs accusing women of being money-grubbing, lying, jealous zorras, these songs are for you. Instead they deal with issues such as fear of commitment, the end of a relationship that you can’t quite forget and los callejeros even assure us that real love has no end.

Some interesting features of these songs: El anillo starts with 35 seconds of rumba, but not your usual guaguancó pattern. It’s something different…that may well be the sello of Calle Real, familiar yet different. Los dos sabemos is the softest song on the album but never slips into the saccharine sweetness of salsa romantica. Calle Real shows that you can be romantic and still get your despelote on. There is also a nod to Los Van Van with the coro Quiéreme, Quiéreme como yo te quiero. The last of the trio of relationship songs is La eternidad del amor which starts with a burning tumbao and coro that I became fond of at their live concerts over a year ago, but the CD has a little oddity that I am calling a “helium rap” because it sounds like Thomas was on helium when he recorded it. La eternidad happens to be another of my personal favorites both for lyrics and dancability.

Mi melodía starts with a short tres intro that segues into a slow, sensual groove of about 84 bmp. This may seem slow for timba but it’s got that swing that keeps you on the dance floor, and of course it’s perfect for switching from casino to a little son. If you liked Soy bueno, soy malo (and who didn't?) this song is for you. At 1:47 they inserted a false stop where Thomas says ”Hej grabbar ni kan inte sluta nu vi har just börjat Kom igen! Kom igen!” Translation: Hey guys you can’t stop now we’ve just started. Come on! Come on!” And what do they do next? They pick it up again but even a bit slower, a steady grind that you can't help but love as they slowly increase the speed once more. Ay qué rico!

DJ alert: El Dony is almost a private joke that the guys are sharing with their fans. Dony is the nickname given to Gunnar in Cuba because the Cubans just couldn’t pronounce his name, so when they say "dale tumbao Dony" they are talking to Gunnar. But “El Dony” has developed into a fictional character that does pretty much everything that they have ever wanted to do, or plan to do, or wish they could do. El Dony was arranged by Gunnar and not surprisingly starts with a nice tumbao. It has an interesting arrangement with a major tempo drop. At 3:34 the song goes from about 90 to about 80 bpm and unlike the “standard” tempo drop which quickly speeds up again, El Dony stays there for the duration of the song.

DJ alert: Ábreme la puerta is the second “old “ Calle Real song and as with El amigo José I catch nuances of the old Charanga Habanera both musically and in terms of the lyrics which are a more typical timba topic concerning a man who goes out partying and comes home to find he’s been locked out by his girlfriend. The natural way of increasing the intensity of a song is to speed up as you go along, but Calle Real use drops in tempo to increase tension. Like El Dony, Ábreme also has a tempo drop but in a more “classic” style where they pick up the pace again almost immediately á la Princesa from their first album or Charanga Habanera’s Lola Lola.

DJ alert: The album is closed by the medium-paced Loco. The cuerpo has that semi-pop feel that Calle Real does so well but the coros are pure timba para bailar.

Calle Real’s albums are characterized by their diversity. The songs have different arrangers and vary considerably in feel from hardcore timba, to timba romantica to timba-pop, but there is a red thread that holds it all together and let’s you know immediately that you are listening to Calle Real and their timba sueca. Me lo gané is must have for DJs and timba fans and will be at the top of timba playlists this year.

Song (click the song titles to read the lyrics)
Somos familia
El amigo José
Me lo gané
Jugando Súper Mario Bros
El anillo
Los dos sabemos
La eternidad del amor
Mi melodía
El Dony
Ábreme la puerta
Loco
Monday, 19 March 2018, 04:15 PM