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Sanzo says that Calavera was a transition album, in part because it represented his debut with the group. "Fabulosos Calavera was the first album I played guitar on, and I think [the other members of the group] turned my amp to the max to show everybody that they have a new player and that the Cadillacs could rock, too," he says. "With La Marcha, I've found myself in the band, and there's no need to show off a new sound or anything. We just got together and jammed, and the songs are cool. There's not so much thinking; we just got together and played a lot. La Marcha sounds more like the Cadillacs. Calavera is a break, and it began a new stage of the band."
Calavera, however, was still good enough to win a Grammy Award in 1997 for the then-new Latin-alternative-rock category -- but we all know that the Grammys aren't exactly the most reliable barometer of quality or talent. Shortly after the release of Calavera, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs headlined the Rock Invasion Tour, which featured such Latin rock bands as Maldita Vecindad, and Aterciopelados on a tour of U.S. arenas. In addition, the band teamed up with Fishbone for an irreverent cover of "What's New, Pussycat?" (for the AIDS benefit album Silencio=Muerte).
"We just sat down and smoked, and the vibe was okay," Sanzo says of playing with Fishbone.
While La Marcha isn't teeming with as much crossover potential as the group's previous efforts, it represents the band's most mature and musically accomplished album to date. Beautiful string and horn arrangements turn songs like "Aguila" and the Latin lounge number "C.J." into eloquent ballads that sound more like the band's refined Brazilian counterparts Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil than the jumpy ska of No Doubt or the Bosstones. The band still indulges in frenetic hybrids -- the title track, a song dedicated to jazz great Thelonious Monk, sounds like a run-in between Queen, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Primus. "Salvador y Los Cordonas Flojos" features the kind of funk grooves Parliament is known for, and the instrumental "Negra" has a distinctly Latin guitar solo that would make Santana proud. Even when the group changes pace in "Necesito una Nariz de Payaso, No Me Prestas la Tuya . . . ?" ("I Need a Nose of a Clown, Can You Lend Me Yours?"), a track that features sinister vocals and death-metal guitars, the transitions are smooth and well-executed -- not sloppy, like they have been in the past.
"With this last album, I had to figure out how to fit with the band," Sanzo says. "Only a few songs are electric -- there are more jazz songs and acoustic sounds. I had to learn my place in the music. I enjoy all kinds of music, so that worked for me as a player."
If anything, La Marcha signifies Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' recognition that Argentina's jazz and classical tradition isn't something to be rebelled against, but should be embraced -- even by punk- and ska-oriented upstarts. Sanzo admits that pigeonholing Los Fabulosos Cadillacs as a rock en español band (a tag that often serves to generalize the wide range of Spanish-speaking bands and almost instantly turns off English-only listeners) does a disservice to the group and Argentina's storied musical past.
"We have a history of rock in Argentina," he says. "The first rock album recorded in Spanish was by Los Gatos in 1967, so we have a tradition to uphold. It's not a stolen culture. We have our own and have had it for more than 30 years."
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, October 20, at Celebrity Theatre, with Pastilla. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.