On the Rock continues along the lines of the more recent Andrés Calamaro releases, such as El Palacio de las Flores and La Lengua Popular. These albums are nothing more and nothing less than collections of typical Calamaro songs --and by his own standards, they're fairly restrained at that. As such, they stand equally apart from his genre tributes (the tango album Tinta Roja) or his more daring excesses (the five-CD set El Salmón). In the 12 tracks of On the Rock, Calamaro once again displays his effortless knack for writing pop songs in a variety of styles, indiscriminately picking -- and often intertwining -- from the musical traditions of Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, to name the most recurrent ones. Backed by his trusted road band of Candy Caramelo (who also co-produces), José "Niño" Bruno, and Diego García, a lot of On the Rock sounds like Calamaro on cruise control, as he revisits or repeats topics, arrangements, and melodies that will seem immediately familiar to Calamaro's fans. Novelty comes only from the surprisingly substantial number of collaborations, as one-third of the tracks feature guest vocalists. Furthermore, three of these are rather high profile: the exceptional flamenco cantor "El Cigala," and his guitarist Josuele on the opener "El Barco" (arguably the album's finest moment), reggaeton rapper Calle 13 adding venom to the bolero "Insoportablente Cruel," and Spanish rock legend Enrique Bunbury on "Te Solté la Rienda," a cover of master of ranchera José Alfredo Jiménez. The rest of the album includes a pretty good but still not great trademark Calamaro single "Los Divinos," a moving late-night ballad "Todos se Van," and a few accelerated numbers that may sound incomprehensible to those unfamiliar with Argentina's culture, politics, and/or linguistic idiosyncracies. Ultimately, while On the Rock provides another good example of Calamaro's famous songwriting facility and engaging voice, it lacks the aesthetic focus of his greatest solo achievements such as Alta Suciedad or Nadie Sale Vivo de Aquí. On the Rock was released in several different formats, including vinyl and a bonus-cd edition with alternate versions. As is often the case with Calamaro, however, sometimes less is more. But for a beautiful rendition of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' "Vasos Vacíos" (previously released in the Cadillacs' tribute album Vos Sabés) the extra tracks are largely inessential, if not counterproductive.
On the Rock Review
by Mariano Prunes