November 10, 2009 | 7:24am
We're not used to hearing a whole lot out of the mouth of multi-instrumentalist/composer Omar Rodriguez Lopez (guitarist for The Mars Volta and El Groupo Nuevo). His guitar does most of the talking. With twelve studio albums worth of Latin-drenched prog jams swirling in the creative space beneath his afro, this revered guitar legend has the whole "prolific musician" thing down pat. Still, for those who seem to follow his every recorded scrap of his career, one question still remains: Can he sing?
The answer to that is held up for the whole world to see on Rodriguez Lopez' latest solo album, Xenophanes, released today (Nov. 10) on his own label, Rodriguez Lopez Productions. Making his debut as a lead vocalist, Omar stretches his creative control just a little bit further by lending his voice to 11 brand-new songs, recorded for the first time out of his studio/compound in Zapopan, Mexico. What emerges is a smooth, effective stab at capturing audiences with his words rather than his notes. And of course, he does a pretty damn good job of keeping you addicted to his searing guitar lines no matter what else is going on in this album.
Singing entirely in Spanish (with vocal help from inventive vocalista Ximena Sarinana), Rodriguez Lopez offers a vocal style that varies in intensity between mildly melodic ("Mundo de Ciegos"), relaxed and heartfelt ("Ojo Al Cristo De Plata") and even a little powerful at times ("Maria Celeste"). Notably more concise than many of his previous solo efforts (the whole album clocks in a little over a half hour), the compositions on the album (named after a Greek philosopher/poet/social critic of the 5th Century B.C.) doesn't forsake one ounce of head-rattling dynamics. Capturing the kind of untethered, jam-band rampage that's made him famous required a little help from his friends.
In this case, uses his mates from the Mars Volta (bassist Juan Alderete de la Pena
, his brother/ percussionist Marcel Rodriguez Lopez
, drummer Thomas Pridgen
and additional keyboardist Mark Aanderud
) to bring thumping intensity to gems like "Desarraigo" and "Perder El Arte De La Razon Sin Mover Un Solo Dedo". Overall, Xenophanes
is sure to stand as a true creative step forward to completing Rodriguez Lopez' arsenal of weapons both on the stage and in the studio. And for monolingual Americanos, it's a great excuse to brush up on your Spanish while discovering new dimensions to the guitar legend you thought you knew. Check out a free streaming version of the album for this week only