Que Levante El Dedo is an unexpected treat, highly worthy of your attention.
Jon Lusk 2008
In 1974, a little-known group from Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest, thus eclipsing their Spanish competitor Pedro Pubill Calaf, a Catalan Romany (Gypsy) musician otherwise known as Peret. ABBA trounced the competition with their worldwide smash, Waterloo, at the time. But unlike the Swedish victors, Peret continues to make music, and if this fine album is any indication, he's still in rude artistic health.
As vintage YouTube clips demonstrate, Peret's voice has lost some of its youthful timbre. His impressive eyebrows have begun to change colour too, but he is now a more subtle singer, deploying his characterful, nasal, lived-in wail with a sinuous charm that is instantly endearing.
Peret's speciality is Rumba Catalana, that infectiously upbeat mix of flamenco and Latin American styles – not to be confused with its Cuban or Congolese cousins – which Gipsy Kings popularised internationally in the 1980s. Que Levante El Dedo is packed with crisply percussive examples, such as the title track, Ella Es Asi, Tu Y Las Nubes, and the driving Jalamandrú, which has the most hard-hitting and memorable chorus of the bunch.
It's party music par excellence, although the album is not without other flavours. These include the gentle Cuban guajira swing of La Fama No Me Cambiará, and a couple of flamenco styles in the reflective Son Para Ti and the plaintive Qué Voy a Hacer (What Am I Going To Do?) which is just the right side of schmaltzy in its heartfelt lament for lost love. The closing Xaví is an appealing oddity, dubbed 'funky' but with strong elements of psychedelic rock and Brazilian tropicalismo.
Peret wrote or co-wrote most of the tracks (all but the last sung in deliciously clear Spanish, rather than Catalan) and plays a gratifyingly propulsive acoustic guitar, while producer/arranger/percussionist/string and bass player Xavi Pérez has captured everything down to the palmas (hand claps) and spirited backing vocals to full effect, without any recourse to unnecessary effects. One of the year's undoubted highlights, Que Levante El Dedo is an unexpected treat, highly worthy of your attention.