Shedding his skin
Miguel Ángel Ariza had spent over a decade playing some great classic rock pieces as the leader of Última Experiencia, a band that focused on the glorious period of guitar rock with touches of Hendrix, Led Zeppelin (it is no coincidence that they recorded with Eddie Kramer), Rory Gallagher and the Who (of the late 60s and early 70s). But after three albums, and a pandemic, the 'power trio' has disappeared and their guitarist and singer has started again as, simply, Ariza. In doing so, the singer-songwriter has produced a more relaxed and mature album, in which the focus shifts from electrifying guitar solos to more pop and slower songs, in which echoes of psychedelia, folk and country rock can be found.
Volver a empezar begins with the title track, a suggestive song in which psychedelia and 'Spectorian' castanets go hand in hand to introduce us to a world in which the singer presents his new sound: a chorus with falsettos, dubbed vocals and echoes of Haight Ashbury, in which electric and acoustic guitars are mixed. El Lado Oscuro, the album’s second advance release, is candy for the old fans of Última Experiencia, the most classic song of the album with Ariza’s Telecaster helping shape a brilliant solo.
This is followed by Ciegos, one of the best songs on the album, and more representative of their new sound, with acoustic guitars and a slide giving it some edge. It is a brilliantly constructed song in which the melodic verses lead into a resplendent chorus. Cicatrices is a song that flirts with country rock, with a pedal steel and a vibe close to a singer-songwriter record. The writer’s melancholy drives the shining Héroes, a pop gem in which the Byrds and Los Brincos shake hands, in the most accurate melody of his career. The song is an ode to the victims of ETA who knew how to forgive their executioners, and in which his Gretsch Tennessee Rose and a 12-string Rickenbacker combine without rancor or anger.
But perhaps my favorite song is the excellent Hojas, where haunting and seductive verses break into a glorious chorus halfway between Brian Wilson and the Zombies, with a trumpet solo that seems to be a nod to Alone Again Or of Love. The penultimate track is Cuando Llueve, in which Ariza demonstrates his chops as a brilliant guitarist; it is a song built to reach a climax in which he lets rip with two of most mythical guitars in history, a Stratocaster (in this case a '69), and a Les Paul (a Studio). The album closes with Una canción, which has an acoustic theme and a melody with slightly medieval overtones, and is more typical of a singer-songwriter than of the old rock & roll animal that he was.
In short, this is an album with which Ariza sheds his skin and brings out his most personal and intimate side, one in which he reveals himself as a composer with a great melodic ear and an admirable facility for memorable choruses.