A Review of “Naked Tunes” by Leonino.
By Kevin Tshiamala
Jorge Gonzalez was to Chile as Public Enemy was to black America in the mid 80’s to 90’s. As leader and vocalist of Los Prisioneros he sold over two million records while being the idol and voice for an entire generation of the oppressed youth throughout Pinochet’s dictatorship. He guided the trio through a series of best-selling albums full of bile and discordance. It was a journey that began with the disenchantment of straight-forward punk-a-billy and meandered through different song structures, including an occasional excursion into ballads and other cross-genres, and the use of samples, keyboards and electronic sounds. Years later he has returned as Leonino with a recently released album, “Naked Tunes,” that continues to explore multi-genre songs, samples, rhythmic interplay, harmonizing and all around varying song structure.
You get a taste of this ideology in varying song structures from the get go with the opening song, “I think we should be friends.” It’s reminiscent of something Harry Nilsson would have composed with the doo-wop, rock-a-billy melody accompanied by irregular song pauses, the use of multiple compositions in one, and syncopated blues harmonies. The song flows well into “Don’t change your mind,” which is a more R&B than blues jam reminiscent of Natty’s, “She Loves Me.” The song relies heavily on the backing bass line and vocals which are gently accompanied by a simple melody played through various instruments such as a piano, harmonica, and guitar. There’s also something about the voice, its half British, half Spanish tone matched with the harmonies is somewhat infectious and catchy, but what really makes the song is its composition.
For the most part, the message portrayed through “Naked Tunes” is rather uplifting. With titles like “There is a Light” and “How Many Times Did You Save My Soul” you can’t help, but feel an underlying religious tone. Maybe it’s simply the Catholic school in me or maybe they’re simply love songs – fact check that and get back to me – At times you can hear hints of Barry White in “My Love Will Set You Free”, Serge Gainsbourg and even Pink Floyd x Led Zeppelin in “Not A Sound.” The album carries forth with as much breadth and candor as it began. Each song tries something a bit different adding a few elements of blues, jazz, 50’s rock, and gospel here and there, while the lyrics point in a meaningful direction.
Overall the album is a surprising success. Despite a couple tracks, minor production issues and vocal pitch/tonality here and there, Leonino aka Jorge Gonzalez successfully achieved what he set out to accomplish on “Naked Tunes;” stripped down melodies experimenting with varying structures and songs with pointed lyrical content. It’s not an album everybody will fall in love with, but it’s an album everyone will appreciate.
“There is a Light” closes out the album in strong melodic minor harmony reminiscent of a Simon & Garfunkel or Crosby Stills and Nash song. The lyrics carry just as powerful a message as the song title: Yet there is a light/A glorious flash/waiting for me/to wake up/and be free…
MVP: “After the Big War”