No Bail Band does the jailhouse rock on Hiram Na Buhay (Borrowed Life). The Philippine band is composed of four male inmates who reside in a jail in Quezon City (a city near Manila). In fact, in the album credits the band sends a "thank you" to the jail warden and some police officers. An album photo shows them standing behind bars facing the camera, and another photo has them walking from a jail cell, carrying their instruments. All jail stuff aside, the album is better than one might think. In fact, it's good. The band is comprised of a vocalist, guitarist/vocalist, guitarist, and a drummer. The credits also list three session musicians: a bassist, keyboardist, and guitarist. The only instrument played by both the band and session musicians is the guitar, and it's difficult to tell how much the session guitarist contributed to the album. Nonetheless, the instrumentation is strong throughout. The singing is also excellent, and there are no "session vocalists" on the album. The album includes some ballads, some spirited tunes, and two covers of Western songs, "Green Green Grass of Home" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound." Many of the lyrics are deep and meaningful. The opening title ballad, "Hiram na Buhay," for example, questions why people do wrong and then blame God for their misfortunes. The singer, Efren Dimayuga, truly has a fine voice and sings with much passion and depth. The song tugs at the heart, especially the chorus, sung in a mournful minor key. It's possible there is so much empathy in the singing because of the vocalist's real-life sad surroundings. Another ballad surely has a measure of realism, "Bakal Na Rehas" (Iron Bars), which tells of a person in jail who longs to get out and live with his wife and children. Two songs are composed by No Bail Band's rhythm guitarist/vocalist, Rene Zafran: "Old Maid," which incorporates a folk dance-type rhythm and a touching ballad, "Sayang Ka Kaibigan" (You're Wasting Your Life, Friend). The other Philippine-composed songs are by non-bandmembers. The covers of "Green Green Grass of Home" and "Homeward Bound" are also enjoyable. Not a bad album for guys behind bars.
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