Street Songs of Love, Alejandro Escovedo's tenth studio album, is the first time in his career he has written an album entirely comprised of visceral, aggressive rock & roll love songs. Tony Visconti (who produced The Real Animal) is back in the production seat with Bob Clearmountain mixing. Most of the album was co-written with Chuck Prophet, a partnership that began on The Real Animal, but it's grown into something intensely focused. On these songs, the tempos are faster, the sounds harder. David Pulkingham's guitars scream and pummel, Bobby Daniels' bass rumbles and punches, and Hector Muñoz's drums sound like cracking thunder. (They're called the Sensitive Boys.) The tension and drama in Escovedo's vocal delivery are tough and tender simultaneously. His lyrics typically sear -- burning with sensuality and heartbreak, loss and anger -- yet ultimately surrender to love's power as a redemptive force that may tear one to pieces in the purification process. His words here reflect the truths revealed by songwriters Doc Pomus, Percy Mayfield and Lou Reed. Escovedo's singing is in-the-moment street poetry. On "Anchor," chunky power chords announce him: "I've always loved your love/In and out, up and down/If your love was a ship/I'd pull your anchor and I'd christen it/I'm in love with love/And it broke me in two...." The Sensitive Boys kick up a ruckus as Karla Manzur and Nakia Reynoso temper them like a back-alley angel chorus. "Silver Cloud" is ferocious with guitar riffs pushing Escovedo's vocal hard to get out in front. One can hear traces of glam in the mix and refrains, but the melody is pure Escovedo. Ian Hunter helps out on "Down in the Bowery," a beautiful, truth-telling street-corner ballad that stands up with the best from Dion and Willy Deville. Bruce Springsteen makes a duet appearance on the blazing anthem "Faith": they roar Alejandro's lyrics like unhinged prophets preaching the necessity of belief in the Beloved. Pulkingham's leads tear a hole in the mix and Muñoz's drums, nearly shove the time signature off the rails. "Tender Heart" has a furious, melt-your-face-off garage band intensity; "Shelling Rain" is pained desire and loss in rocking soul; "Tula" is a rumbling, funky blues. There is swaggering rage and revulsion in "This Bed Is Getting Crowded," and brazen desire in the knife-edged, sensual strut of the title cut. "Fall Apart with You" updates the Lieber & Stoller love song model. Street Songs of Love is the most raucous, rawest, and finest album Escovedo's yet released. In crafting this song cycle, he pulled out all the stops and reveals -- at last -- all his talent at once; it's a portrait of the artist at his zenith. Escovedo can take his place among the greats he's admired all his life; he's earned it, and at this juncture, there are few even in his league.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek