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Cafe Tacuba Vale CallampaCafé Tacuba, Vale Callampa EP (MCA Records 2002) - Café Tacuba, an acclaimed quartet from Mexico, is putting the finishing touches on their new studio album. In the interim, the band has released the four-song Vale Callampa, a tribute to the recently disbanded Los Tres from Chile.

Let's not try to kid anyone. I know nothing about Mexican rock, even that with the influences of the Cure and the Violent Femmes (stated influences of Café Tacuba), and even less about Chilean rock.

Cafe Tacuba Vale CallampaBut I know a good rock record when I hear it. And the four songs on Vale Callampa fit the bill. For a group that released an album (Re, from 1994) that has been called the Mexican version of White Album, it is not surprising to find rich and varied studio textures, including strings and other instrumentation (not dissimilar to the style woven by Los Lobos, but with more pop elements).

Café Tacuba is: Elfego Buendía - lead vocals, guitar; Emmanuel Del Real - keyboards, vocals, programming; Enrique Rangel - bass, vocals; and Joselo Rangel - guitars, vocals. Their new 14 track set, Cuartro Caminos, is set for release on July 1, 2003. The lead singer changes names from album to album, and has recorded under the names Ruben Albarran, Gallo Gasss, and Rita Cantalagua.

Cafe Tacuba Vale CallampaSinger Elfego Buendía explains that the title Vale Callampa ("Worth Callampa") is Chilean street slang for things that are meaningless or lacking in value. Says Elfego, "We heard it for the first time while in Santiago, when from a passing car someone screaming at us "¡Café Tacuba Vale Callampa!"

In recording songs originally released by Los Tres, Emmanuel explains, "We have discovered that as a group it comes naturally for us to do cover versions, since the composer is not present and thus it doesn't matter if we break some boundaries; something we would not achieve if it were a song by a group member, for writing a song is such a personal thing that sometimes it's hard to just let it go and set it free for anything to happen to it - or have Café Tacuba run over it - something that in the end, is the best it can become, but it's hard getting use to it."

In the end, you're left with the songs, which are very well done. Particularly listen for the third track, "Amore Violento," which is a first rate rock recording in any language.

Eric Idle Rutland IslesEric Idle Presents the Rutland Isles (I Music 2003) - Eric Idle, one of the erudite funny men behind Monty Python, returns to the recording studio with The Rutland Isles. Long a proponent of comedy of the absurd, The Rutland Isles is a welcome serving from this familiar voice.

The liner notes tell the story. "Eric Idle (Monty Python, The Rutles) has broken a long comedy silence with a classic award-seeking documentary in which Nigel Spasm, one of a long line of British men in shorts, visits remote places and brings you a look at the people, the flora, and the sheep of The Legendary Rutland Isles." With 32 short tracks, the album moves along at a breezy pace.

Eric Idle Rutland IslesCertainly one of the most prolific comics of our generation, Idle has appeared on stage, on film, and on recordings for more than 35 years. Idle was born in 1943 in South Shields, County Durham. He was educated at The Royal School, Wolverhampton 1950-62, and at Pembroke College, Cambridge 1962-65. He has ten single 'O' levels, three 'A' levels, one 'S' level and an honor in English literature from Cambridge University. He was president of the Cambridge Footlights 1964-65.

Eric has been with his American wife, Tanya, since 1977. They have a daughter, Lilly, born in 1990. He was formerly married to Australian actress, Lynn Ashley, by whom he has one son, Carey, born in 1973.

Eric Idle Rutland IslesFans of the classic Monty Python comedy albums will greatly enjoy The Rutland Isles as "Nigel Visits Paranoia" the country which people hides from other people, where he is in time to celebrate Muggers Day. He looks for the Paranoid Canal, the only underwater canal in the world, and visits The Royal Camouflage Regimen. Idle also dishes out his absurdist songs, including "Banana Song," "Whoops Look Out Behind You," and "Fishing for Compliments."

Friends of Monty Python will enjoy The Rutland Isles.

Bob the BuilderBob the Builder: The Album (Koch 2002) - Bob the Builder is a hugely popular television show in England, geared at the two- to five-year-old set. (I heard that there is a 75% recognition rate among little people in England, making Bob sound like an overseas Barney.) The soundtrack is a fun set (at least my ten-year-old son liked it), though I can't say how closely it follows the TV series.

With songs like "Can We Fix It?" (a big charting single in England), "Right Tool for The Job," and "No One Can Dig It Like We Do," the songs are geared toward a busy beaver age. I didn't test the soundtrack on preschoolers, though I heard some were disappointed by Bob's British accent (apparently the U.S. version doesn't have the accent).

Bob the BuilderThe British feel carries over with Bob's version of "Mambo No. 5" and a rework of "Crocodile Rock," with a guest appearance by Elton John. The album also includes two bonus videos from the show.

We never followed Bob the Builder in our household. But my gradeschooler liked it, and so did I - the songs have the learn-while-you-smile feel of Schoolhouse Rock.

- Randy Krbechek © 2003

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