Release Date: Jun 24, 2008
Record label: Back Porch
Genre(s): Rock, Pop, Alternative
It may be simplistic to describe Alejandro Escovedo's 2006 album The Boxing Mirror as a record inspired by the artist's brush with death, but given the record's back story -- it was recorded as Escovedo was recovering from a near-fatal bout with Hepatitis C -- it's hard not to imagine its brave and often dazzling creative ambition was fueled by Escovedo's knowledge that these could be his last words as a musician. Two years later, a healthier and stronger Escovedo returned to the studio to record his ninth studio album, Real Animal, and by comparison this is a leaner, more tightly focused session; in fact, this is the strongest rock album Escovedo has made since his 1997 album with Buick MacKane, The Pawn Shop Years. It's easy to tag Real Animal as a less ambitious and artful collection than The Boxing Mirror, but viewed on its own merits this ranks with the best and most powerful music of Escovedo's career.
Near-death experiences have a way of dredging up past memorable moments, and for a resourceful songwriter like Alejandro Escovedo, that’s a wealth of material waiting to be tapped. Fortuitously, to record his music-connected reveries, he’s got producer extraordinaire Tony Visconti, who’s helped shape a number of Escovedo’s key musical memories associated with David Bowie and T.Rex. These get nods on Real Animal, as do Iggy Pop, the Dils’ Chip and Tony Kinman, the Nuns and even Ike & Tina Turner.
In this follow-up to 2006’s The Boxing Mirror, genre-bending legend Alejandro Escovedo seems in a reflective mood. Real Animal not only features many of the styles he has worked in over the years, but lyrically the record is more preoccupied with his past than he normally has been. It's not his most rocking release -- in fact, at times it is downright slick -- but it is a personal record as much as it is a love letter to fans.
Alejandro Escovedo never just wore his heart on his sleeve. He's laboriously stitched his very soul into his material, beginning with his earliest compositions. As a musician, he nearly self-destructed, rising like a phoenix and reinventing himself amid marriages, suicide, several generations of children, life-threatening disease, and a remarkable gift for songwriting.