Wednesday, August 15, 2007

ALBUM REVIEW: JUAN DE LA CRUZ's "MASKARA" *****



Every great band has their masterpiece album; The Beatles had "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band", Pink Floyd had "The Dark Side Of The Moon" and Metallica had their self-titled 'black album'. For Pinoy Rock champions Juan De La Cruz, it was their 1975 magnum opus "Maskara". This line-up's second album finds the trio in top musical form. Unlike it's predecessor, 1973's "Himig Natin", which consists mostly of blues covers, this album is all original with most songs sung in Tagalog.

Opening with the psychedelic title track, Joey Smith invites the listener to open their hearts, minds and ears to the music. Hearing the lyric, "...hubarin mo ang iyong maskara, upang ikaw ay makilala...", one can't help but follow the Pinoy Pied Piper's request. The band then starts it's engine and revs up with 'Pinoy Blues' and clutches it into gear with the scorcher 'Nadapa Sa Arina'; Smith's ode to his adventures with the new designer drug of the times, cocaine.

"Maskara" also contains some beautiful ballads with 'Nakatagong Mata', 'We Love You' and 'Naglalakbay' that can all lull a baby to sleep. But it is the album's heavy hitters that gives it it's mystique. 'Rak En Roll Sa Mundo' shakes the foundations and the Wally Gonzales-sung 'Palengke' grooves like no other. The Philippines would be changed forever with the album's two biggest hits. Smith's 'Beep Beep' and Hanopol's 'Balong Malalim' capture the vibe of 70's Filipino life thru the eyes of the jeepney driver and it's dazed and confused youth. They are the musical equivalent of the Roman gods Apollo and Mercury. These two paeans about urban Pinoy culture have stood the test of time that bands still cover them to this day.

Sadly enough, this would be the trio's last album in the 1970's. Joey Smith left the band to pursue a solo career and adopt the nickname 'Pepe'. The remaining members called it a day soon after. Wally Gonzales recorded two albums, "Tunog Pinoy" & "On The Road" while Mike Hanopol would launch into his greatest work with the smash hit, 'Laki Sa Layaw' as well as composing hit songs for the Pinoy version of the disco group The Village People, Hagibis.


Mike Hanopol's solo album, "Buksan"


Cover of Wally Gonzales' solo album, "Tunog Pinoy"


Hagibis

JDLC would reconvene six years later and record the slick reunion album, "Kahit Anong Mangyari". Although it was a great comeback album with it's own roster of hits, it didn't replicate the vibe and aura that "Maskara" had in 1975. Thankfully, this classic is available today as part of a reissue series by Vicor Records. Experience the power and majesty that is "Maskara".

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