Review: Mexico and Mariachis
4 / 5 Stars
The 10-year anniversary sneaks up on you. The 5-year ones are fine. It's been only five years since Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, Blair Witch Project but when you think that it's been ten years since Forrest Gump, Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, etc… wow, they really aren't advertising to me anymore in Coke commercials. Well, maybe in that stupid C2 commercial.
It's been 11 years since El Mariachi came out and the force of that single movie was revolutionary. The movie within itself is fun but the act of its creation spurred on a new generation of filmmakers. On a cultural level, Robert Rodriguez is an important Hispanic folk hero showing that a Mexican-American succeeded an entertainer on his own terms. Rodriguez's can-do spirit is all over this compilation album of miscellaneous music from the Mariachi movies and other related Tarantino projects; a B-side mix of missed tracks and cherished tributes to those that have inspired him.
The album starts with "Malaguena Salerosa" which people should recognize as the roll call music at the end of Kill Bill Vol. 2. This rock cover of the old standard was originally written for Desperado but didn't come to light until a decade later performed by Rodriguez's "secret" band Chigon, made of various Austin musicians and himself. "Once Upon A Time In Mexico (Main Titles)" revisits the theme, different than the same track from the soundtrack release of Mexico
Multiple songs are the inspirations for El Mariachi, such as Los Lobo's "La Pistola Y El Corazon" as well "Flor De Mal" and "Just Like Roses" by Cruzado, a band of Tito Larriva's before he formed Tito and the Tarantulas. If there is a star of the album, Tito's the man. I didn't know that his influence on Rodriguez extended way before the first movie but listening to the album as a whole, his Tex-Mex blending of rock-n-roll and mariachi tunes undeniably gave the series an identity. And an excuse to use Tito is always welcome. The Iguanas' "Por Mi Camino" specifically inspired "Cancion del Mariachi", where Rodriguez and Los Los took from it and an original song changing the piece from a major chord and slow tempo to minor chord and speed up. "Cancion" has become in Rodriguez's own words, "a much-requested mariachi standard."
The bonus DVD is worthy of purchase alone. If you've ever seen a Rodriguez DVD, his commentaries and supplements are as exciting as the films themselves. You can debate the individual merits of Rodriguez's movies, but he is without a doubt one of the greatest teachers of popular film production this country ever has seen.
First, there's a 30 minute documentary tracking Rodriguez's musical evolution over the Mariachi trilogy. Robert shows the "how-to" of how he recorded the music on El Mariachi at such a small scale. As we learn from the candid video diaries, Rodriguez taped musician Juan Swarez (both a musician and an exterminator!) with an old fashion tape recorder and Radio Shack microphone. He directly addresses the audience and tells them they can write their own music with the rather ingenious low-tech solutions he came up with. Included as well are the original rehearsals and recording sessions of "The "Cancion Del Mariachi" and "Quedate Aqui" where we see the actually creative interaction between Rodriguez and others figuring out the song in relation to the movie. He clearly has the picture for the movie in his head already in how both the picture and the music interact with it. We see the actual recordings of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek's vocals (and some joking around in the booth). There's also a segment of Rodriguez composing the Mexico score on the fly from the original DVD and documentary highlights he shot while touring with Tito and the Tarantulas in Germany and concert footage of Austin band Del Castillo. Then there's a separate 5-minute interview of Rodriguez discussing the music theory of the series and finally, liner notes divulges rather candidly on the hand-made origins of the music. Tons of stuff.
As with Monster, this album gets a higher score because of the fantastic DVD included with it. With the exception of "Cancion Del Mariachi" and "Malaguena Salerosa" this is all new, so don't worry about double dipping your CD collection. For fans of Chicano rock, this album is a pleasant ride and if you are a Rodriguez fan, is a must.
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