The Mav­er­icks, head­ing to the Gympie Mu­sic Muster

One of the great party bands has a new lease on life, writes Iain Shed­den

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents -

THE Mav­er­icks’ Raul Malo isn’t the first Amer­i­can singer to ac­knowl­edge a debt to Elvis Pres­ley. You can hear the King oc­ca­sion­ally in Malo’s easy croon, as much as you can de­tect Roy Or­bi­son or Johnny Cash or Jerry Lee Lewis. Those mu­sic gi­ants are at the core of the Mav­er­icks’ in­fec­tious hotch­potch of Amer­i­cana, Tex Mex and rock ’ n’ roll.

What is sur­pris­ing is that Malo, 47, was reared on a diet of Cuban, clas­si­cal, jazz and coun­try mu­sic rather than rock and pop. That came later.

All of those dis­parate ele­ments fea­ture in the Mav­er­icks’ cat­a­logue, the bulk of which was cre­ated dur­ing a highly pro­lific pe­riod in the early 1990s, when al­bums such as From Hell to Par­adise, What a Crying Shame and Mu­sic for All Oc­ca­sions brought the Florida out­fit to in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion and pro­duced a num­ber of Amer­i­can hits, in­clud­ing Oh What a Thrill, All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down and the Grammy Award-win­ning Here Comes the Rain.

Aus­tralian au­di­ences will get to ex­pe­ri­ence th­ese songs and more first­hand for the first time when the Mav­er­icks make their Aus­tralian de­but next month with a show in Syd­ney and a head­line ap­pear­ance at the an­nual Gympie Mu­sic Muster in Queens­land.

The visit comes as part of a Mav­er­icks re­nais­sance. The band broke up in 2004, af­ter the rel­a­tively mod­est suc­cess of its self-ti­tled sixth al­bum. Since then Malo has pur­sued a solo ca­reer suc­cess­fully with a string of al­bums and reg­u­lar tour­ing, in­clud­ing to Aus­tralia in 2011.

Soon af­ter that the group re­united, ini­tially for a run of dates in the US, but a new record­ing con­tract and a crit­i­cally ac­claimed new al­bum, In Time, re­leased in Fe­bru­ary, have given one of the great party bands a new lease on life. Re­u­nions don’t al­ways work out, but this one has thanks to the record­ing process, Malo says.

‘‘ We re­ally felt like when we got back to­gether that the mu­sic set the tone,’’ he says. The ‘‘ we’’ he refers to is Malo and bassist Robert Reynolds, drum­mer Paul Deakin, gui­tarist Ed­die Perez and key­boards player Jerry Dale McFad­den.

‘‘ When you are in the stu­dio you don’t know whether peo­ple are go­ing to like it, but we felt op­ti­mistic. The mu­sic had an en­ergy to it. That helped guide us along.’’

In­deed there is en­ergy and song writ­ing craft in abun­dance on In Time, an al­bum with all the mu­si­cal hall­marks of its pre­de­ces­sors, but that in the qual­ity of the per­for­mances on tracks such as Lies, Am­s­ter­dam Moon and the darkly am­bi­ent, eight-minute (Call Me) When You Get to Heaven raises it above and be­yond the stan­dard of many re­union al­bums.

There’s a spirit that was lack­ing in their self­ti­tled sign-off al­bum in 2003, when the band was dis­in­te­grat­ing for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.

‘‘ At that point no­body had their heart or their head in it,’’ Malo says. ‘‘ We were spir­i­tu­ally and emo­tion­ally some­where else and just go­ing through the mo­tions. There was no ha­tred or an­i­mos­ity ... it was just that ev­ery­one was ex­hausted, plus we got in­volved with some­one who per­haps didn’t have the band’s best in­ter­ests at heart.’’

Older and wiser, the band ‘‘ has a re­newed sense of pur­pose,’’ Malo says. ‘‘ Plus ev­ery­body knows their role. Any in­ter­per­sonal agen­das are out the win­dow. We’re all fo­cused on mak­ing this record a suc­cess.’’

Malo, whose par­ents moved to Mi­ami from Cuba in the early 60s, says he was lucky to grow up in a house­hold where all sorts of mu­si­cal gen­res from dif­fer­ent cul­tures filled the air­waves and the record player.

WE RE­ALLY FELT LIKE WHEN WE GOT BACK TO­GETHER THAT THE MU­SIC SET THE TONE RAUL MALO

‘‘ We lis­tened to ev­ery­thing,’’ he says. ‘‘ My par­ents had just come over from Cuba. Peo­ple don’t re­alise how close we [the US and Cuba] are, not just in ge­o­graph­i­cal terms but in cul­tural ways as well. At the time, what­ever was hap­pen­ing in the US was hap­pen­ing in Cuba. So when they came over to the US my mom was lis­ten­ing to all the lat­est records. We had all the Amer­i­can stuff grow­ing up, a lot of swing mu­sic, a lot of opera that my mom loved and Cuban mu­sic as well. I didn’t think about it at the time but I guess ev­ery­body had a Celia Cruz in their col­lec­tion, along with their Buck Owens and their Patsy Cline. It wasn’t un­til I moved away that I re­alised that what I had was a unique up­bring­ing. To be around all of that mu­sic was a beau­ti­ful thing. My dad was a bit of a coun­try mu­sic fan and a fan of Elvis, so we had it all.’’

It was from his fa­ther’s Pres­ley ob­ses­sion that Malo’s mu­si­cal epiphany emerged.

Pres­ley’s It’s Now Or Never, a hit four years be­fore Malo was born, switched him on to the idea of be­ing a pro­fes­sional singer.

‘‘ That was it for me,’’ he says about hear­ing the song as a teenager. ‘‘ It was like a light­ning bolt. I knew right then what I wanted to do. I’ve been try­ing to im­i­tate that ever since.’’

When the Mav­er­icks started out they were play­ing any­where that would have them around Mi­ami, and sup­port­ing emerg­ing artists such as Mar­i­lyn Man­son when they came to town. Back then they had no great as­pi­ra­tions about mak­ing a ca­reer out of what they were do­ing.

‘‘ We were happy to pay our bar tab,’’ Malo says. ‘‘ I don’t know that we ever spoke about any as­pi­ra­tions. I wanted to be a suc­cess­ful en­ter­tainer. But when we started the band we never spoke of be­ing big­ger than the Bea­tles or any­thing like that. We looked at what was suc­cess, which was the gig it­self . . . that you even have a gig. We looked at it as prag­mat­i­cally as pos­si­ble but still striv­ing to be as good as we could be and to write songs the best we could write them.’’

The Mav­er­icks are one of those rare acts that have de­fied be­ing pinned down by any one genre. Be­ing drawn from so many styles, there is a time­less qual­ity to the ma­te­rial.

‘‘ I’ve al­ways tried to write mu­sic that peo­ple will lis­ten to 20 years from now,’’ Malo says. ‘‘ I’ve never gone af­ter writ­ing for the ra­dio. I just want to do mu­sic that will al­ways be around. That means more to me than any­thing else.’’

En­cour­aged by the suc­cess of In Time, Malo says there’s a good chance of an­other Mav­er­icks al­bum and most likely an­other solo al­bum as well. More than 20 years af­ter he started, he’s still con­fi­dent about a long-term fu­ture. ‘‘ Some­body ap­proached me about writ­ing a mem­oir,’’ he says, ‘‘ but I think it’s a bit soon. I think we’re en­joy­ing this more now than in the first go round.’’

In Time is out through UMA. The Mav­er­icks play the Hi-Fi, Syd­ney, on Au­gust 23 and Gympie Mu­sic Muster in Queens­land on Au­gust 24 and 25.

Raul Malo, cen­tre, with the Mav­er­icks, who have re­united af­ter al­most a decade

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