It’s hard not to notice such an unforgettable sleeve, and if the music it protects is half as memorable as the artwork, you know you just have to hear it.
We don’t think you’ll be disappointed because yes, this is the majestic 1971 album Un Muñeco De Madera, courtesy of the shadowy Sola, and it sounds exactly as you’d want it to. Originally released on RCA in Mexico, it’s kaleidoscopic Acapulcan-funk.
The album’s endless grooves are propelled by softly rocking, quasi-library funk breaks. Vocally, Sola is in step with the 60s French pop-chanteuse style, but of course her lyrics are delivered in sensuous Spanish. Her voice is beautiful. Pillowy soft and tender, it can suddenly explode in mystical anger. These are ten tracks of moody, mysterious vibes that stir the spirit and sooth the soul.
The LP was written, arranged and directed by prolific Spanish composer Manuel Alejandro, the man behind an incredible number of now classic Latin love songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s. As for Sola herself, next to nothing is known about the Mexican singer except the occasional whisper heard in only the darkest corners of the annals of music history. It’s said that upon growing disillusioned with the music industry she ended up in a convent of Carmelite Sisters. Fitting perhaps, given that Un Muñeco De Madera is a spiritual wonder of a record.
Much-loved single and title-track “Un Muñeco De Madera” opens the album. It introduces us to Sola’s sparkling Latin-funk, bursting with swaggering grooves sewn by tight drums, sweeping strings and lush keys. It’s followed by the serene but melancholic bossa groove of “Oye Mamá, Oye Papá” and the strings and guitar of “He Bajado Al Infierno” that hold up vocals reaching for an eternal truth. With full-on soundtracky feels, the rolling keys underpinning the Morricone-esque soundscape of “En Ellos Creo” will give you goosebumps. The gorgeous “Soy Rebelde” (“I’m Rebellious”), sets its gentle, piano-led delivery in delicate contrast to the lyrical sentiment.
Perhaps Sola’s most well-known track, the exotic bossa of “Tabu, Tabu”, is a formidable groove. Elegant bongos, prominent bass, delicate acoustics and a persistent flute blend with Sola’s unique voice; sinuous, sassy and forceful at the same time. The stunning “La Última Palabra”, while not literally the album’s last word, is nevertheless a stirring statement of strutting Latin soul, with more musical ideas packed into this one song than the entirety of most long-players.
If you hadn’t decided already, the final two tracks that are the funk-fuelled “Bada-Bada-Ba” and the horn-heavy percussive masterclass “Únete A Mi” will leave you in no doubt that this is one very special record.
Mastered with great respect by Simon Francis, cut by the master Pete Norman and with that sleeve lovingly restored by the Be With team, this re-issue ensures that Un Muñeco De Madera now sounds, looks and feels as beautiful as it deserves to.