Poor Alejandro Escovedo. He releases album after album of great music, the critics swoon, he plays some talk shows, and then–no radio play except for a few college stations and KGSR (Austin), and few outside of Austin buy the records. I don’t have the sales and demographic data to prove that, but that’s my impression, and I suspect I’m not far off.
Well, too bad for the rest of America, but not bad for me if I’m being selfish–I still get to see him play small clubs, where he routinely tears it up.
Escovedo is simultaneously a journeyman and that geeky nineteen-year-old kid scouring thrift shops for vinyl–he revels in his roots, which are easy to know by the covers he does live and on record: Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople, the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, David Bowie, the Stooges.
There are no covers on Real Animal, but those influences suffuse the album. The majestic “Golden Bear” consciously echoes the haunting keyboard of Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” and I doubt it’s a coincidence that Tony Visconti, frequent Bowie collaborator and producer of T. Rex’s Electric Warrior, was behind the boards.
But influences do not equal pastiche, and this is Escovedo’s album all the way. It’s a sort-of musical autobiography, covering his time in “Chelsea Hotel ’78” and paying tribute to his first band in “Nuns Song.” I’m not going to decipher the whole thing (you can read some about it here), because the album would still be highly enjoyable if you had no idea who Escovedo was, where he’d been, or who he’d played with.
Whenever someone gets around to putting together an Escovedo box set, it’s going to be epic. In the meantime, there is plenty of catalog to explore, and Real Animal is a great spot to start or continue.
Here’s “Sister Lost Soul.” It’s accessible, catchy, and heartfelt. In a just world it would give Escovedo something he’s never had but richly deserves–a hit.