Monday, 27 July 2009

Los Shakers - La Conferencia Secreta Del Toto's Bar (1968)

Hugo Fattoruso - guitar/piano/harmonica/vocals
Osvaldo Fattoruso - guitar/vocals
Roberto 'Pelín' Capobianco - bass/backing vocals
Carlos 'Caio' Vila - drums/backing vocals

Do yourself a favour and download this now, and listen while you read. Because this is a good one, a real diamond in the rough that was 60's international beat pop. By this I mean that, regrettably, there were very few non-Western groups of the the era that weren't direct cash-ins on Beatlemania, or the worldwide popularity of the Stones and the Kinks.
Everything was carbon-copied from the 'four-headed monster' template: the haircuts, the songs (normally just making minor alterations to the chord sequences of the latest hit, if not just simply releasing no-frills cover versions), the teen exploitation movies, the 'cheeky' parent-baiting personalities... It doesn't sound too promising so far does it?

Similar to the Japanese 'Group Sounds' wave of commercial pop, South American groups were dragging the early 60's beat template well into the latter part of the decade, long after the fickle trendsetters in the US and UK had moved on. The band being presented here, Los Shakers, played rowdy beat pop and were modelled after the Fab Four, while their 'rivals' Los Mockers were Stones clones. That's not to say there weren't great original songs being produced in the region, or even a few classics albums (that I'm aware of), the most infamous example being Brazil's Os Mutantes. What made that album so great was the reappropriation of epic, psychedelic chamber pop with traditional music styles, making it a Sgt. Pepper's-inspired album that sounds totally Brazilian (this individuality, of course, earned them only the ire of the government).

^ This is Los Shakers' biggest garage-like hit from the 'Invasion' era, and the best example of their lasting legacy in 60's Latin beat... 'La Conferencia' doesn't sound like this, but I love this track as it lives up to their one-dimensional name.

So that's all very well, but in 1967 Los Shakers had also been listening to this Sgt. Pepper's, and like everyone else must have realised that things would never be the same again. This revolution came from the band that was their bread and butter, the very reason for their existence. They had to move on.
By this time the Shakers had made their mark as leaders of the 'Uruguaryan Invasion' (which for some reason was mainly an Argentine phenomenon); and like the Monkees in America, they were a talented band on a commercial leash who were beginning to get itchy feet.
The 1968 loose-concept extravaganza 'La Conferencia Secreta Del Toto's Bar' is the result. This is a ridiculously good high-pop album and a criminally overlooked world contender. Not only is it all the more respectable for incorporating Latin candombe and tango styles into the mix (yet still sung in English), but it's a huge leap from the restrictive beat formula they stuck to previously.
Predictably, the EMI label execs couldn't see past their pay cheques, and dropped Los Shakers for not producing an LP of 3-minute hits. I'm sure if Los Shakers had stuck it out and waited for the Argentinian market to catch up, this might have been better received. Unfortunately it was not to be and this was their last album-proper.

It's all a bit mystifying, especially as to the modern listener every song on 'the Secret Conference of Toto's Bar' is instantly catchy. Sure, the first half of track one has a vocal line that sound uncomfortably like 'I Am the Walrus', but that's where the Beatles-hijacking of old ends.
It may not be startlingly original, it may be sung in broken (but charming and comprehensible) English, and it may also be in the same symphonic ballpark as Sgt. Pepper's and Pet Sounds; but the songs more than speak for themselves and some real classics come to light.
The band is easily as tight as those Other Guys, their harmonies are up their with the Wilson brigade, and their songwriting and composition skills didn't seem to suffer from a career languishing in pastiche. In fact, you'd swear they had been secretly practising for this moment all along...

Una descargar muy especial, incluyendo obras de arte!* @320kbps, remaster with (good) extra tracks
Uno Dos

*disclaimer: I don't speak Spanish. Please correct me.


martin said...

Awesome man! Thank you very much. I'm from Uruguay and I was looking forward for this. I've found some other downloads, but they sounded pretty damn bad as they where a copy of the orginal version or something like that. Again, thanks.
Nice job you did with your blog, it's really good, probably i'll be back anytime soon.

hombre 335 said...

Hola. Thanks for this one.
The Fatorrusso btothers are also credited in some fine albums like "fingers" (Airto Moreira), and their own trio named OPA.

Gracias de nuevo