Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

1966/2005: Shout! Factory DK 30858

  1. Our Day Will Come
  2. Mexican Road Race
  3. I Will Wait for You
  4. Bean Bag
  5. The Wall Street Rag
  6. The Work Song
  7. Mame
  8. Blue Sunday
  9. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
  10. For Carlos
  11. Freight Train Joe
  12. Flamingo

Finally, a CD issue of this long-overlooked Alpert classic! I believe the the first actual words out of my mouth after the yelp, when I noticed in late May of 2005 that this was now available, were “hot diggity dog!” The order was placed a moment later.

I’m no authority on HA/TJ recordings, nor am I even an aficionado, but this album was one my father had when I was growing up and I’ve always had a fondness for it even though it never fully dazzled me. Probably this is because although most of the tracks are quite good, there’s just no cohesive structure to the album: the combination of songs is mostly arbitrary, and the progression of sound is random, starting with a hip/salsa cover and ending with a sonically enhanced tribute/cover that’s a letdown after “Freight Train Joe” (which I suppose would have been a good closer). In fact as I write this I’m wondering if a simple rearrangement of the track order might not solve some of the album’s problems.

The lack of structure and consistency aside, there are many lovely pieces here, they just sound less wonderful next to each other. “For Carlos” does briefly suffer from the enhanced-ambiance gimmickry which makes “Flamingo” unfortunate from start to finish, but aside from that bit it’s a charming and thoughtful-sounding song. The expanded liner notes for this edition of the album emphasize the spontenaity and purity which led to this take on “The Work Song,” but when I was growing up and heard this version I’d never heard any other and still haven’t, so my appreciation for the craftmanship will still have to wait…but I’ve always enjoyed that track in my innocence/ignorance.

Similarly, “Mame” never quite touched me when I was a kid who’d never encountered the musical (let alone the marvelous Patrick Dennis original story!), so the playful near-campy vocal participation by Alpert and the band just seemed a little strange to me back then; now I listen to it and understand the context, and it sounds less painfully untalented and more self-effacing, but above all I think “DAMN I wish I could see Alpert singing that!” Because he truly was such a dish, you see…to hear a nice (if not arresting) voice coming from that terribly handsome face and body, well, it would have been frosting on an already lovely cupcake, shall we say….