A couple years after a celebrated tour with Joan Manuel Serrat found him criss-crossing the Spanish-language world, Joaquín Sabina emerged from a creative rut and released Vinagre y Rosas, his liveliest album since the latter-day classic 19 Días y 500 Noches (1999) a decade earlier. In the opinion of many fans, the musical output of Sabina was never quite up to par after he suffered a stroke in 2001 and, shaken by his brush with death, made some lifestyle changes. The two albums he released in the aftermath of his stroke, Dímelo en la Calle (2002) and Alivio de Luto (2005), sold well enough but failed to measure up to the high standards of his past work, in particular 19 Días y 500 Noches, which was seen by some as the grand culmination of his hard-living ways. Moreover, Sabina became something of a hermit after his stroke, living abroad and going years without releasing new material, and so insatiable fans were fed a series of stopgap releases including the compilations Todos Hablan de Ti (2004), Punto... (2006), and ...Y Seguido (2006), plus a couple DVDs. The well-received tour with Serrat was a step in the direction of a comeback for Sabina, who was at least back in the public eye, active once again as a performer, and showing signs of vigor. After the tour wrapped up, Sabina went about writing his next album. He worked with longtime collaborators Antonio García de Diego and Pancho Varona, plus poet Benjamín Prado, but perhaps more importantly, he sought out a young rock band that could give him some spark and liven up his music a bit. The band he found was Pereza, a chart-topping duo from Madrid comprised of Rubén (born Rubén Pozo Prats) and Leiva (born José Miguel Conejo Torres). They're credited with writing a couple songs on Vinagre y Rosas, including the standout lead single, "Tiramisú de Limón," one of several songs on the album graced with blasts of electric guitar. This being a Sabina album, however, Vinagre y Rosas is first and foremost a singer/songwriter effort rather than an exercise in cutting-edge rock. The lyrics are indeed rich and open to interpretation; fans of Sabina's writing shouldn't be disappointed. Still, it's the musical punch of Vinagre y Rosas that is most impressive. In addition to the rock leanings (in full flight on a couple songs, the bracing "Crisis" in particular), which make Sabina sound more alive than he has since 19 Días y 500 Noches, there are touches of jazz on Vinagre y Rosas ("Nombres Impropios") and traces of Latin America (the bonus track cover version of Chilean poet Violeta Parra's "Violetas Para Violeta"). The full-band backing subsides every few songs, giving way to spare highlights that include "Ay! Carmela," "Vinagre y Rosas" (featuring the late Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa on harmony vocals), and "Blues del Alambique."
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier