t h e   m a v e r i c k s

trampoline

eight miles high and rising ....

Trampoline is The Mavericks’ fifth studio album and represents The Mavericks, erstwhile ‘country’ band, acknowledging the joy and risks of recording ‘live’ in the studio, together with string and horn orchestras. This is an inspired throwback to the recording methods of those formative years of popular and rock’n’roll music, where time and technology were at a premium. And the record label usually stated - ‘vocal group with full accompaniment.’
It comes then, as no surprise, that Trampoline is the fullest and most dynamic album The Mavericks have produced to-date. It is also their most eclectic, with a astonishing breadth of musical styles and portraits. It is centred around the spectacular vocal prowess of singer-songwriter Raul Malo and built upon their distinctive, driving rhythm section of Robert Reynolds and Paul Deakin, on bass and drums respectively.

The album opens with the brisk Dance The Night Away (the first single released in Australia and Europe - reaching No 4 in the UK). It is an almost ska-flavoured romp, helped along by some swinging Tijuana-style punctuation, provided by the Raul christened ‘Havana-Horns’; who feature heavily throughout the album. Next up is the punchy rhythm’n’blues of Tell Me Why, with the growling Raul Malo keeping well away from the lead guitarist Nick Kane, as he dedicates each crying note to bluesman extra-ordinaire, B.B. King.
I Should Know and Someone Should Tell Her are beat’n’bouncy, three-minute pop tunes with more lively splashes of colour thrown in by the Havana Horns. To Be With You (the first USA single) is four more, glorious minutes of pure pop – with a healthy mixture of The Mavericks’ more traditional sounds, and a melody many bands would die for.

The studio cast of thousands join forces for I’ve Got This Feeling, providing that enormous and full sound of classic Gene Pitney/Walker Brothers records; which was last seen around ‘68, dodging the crowded streets of a fashionable London. It is a credit to The Mavericks that they not only attempt a song like this in the late 90’s, but that they pull it of so brilliantly.
The pace slows down on Fool#1, where singer Raul Malo shows his enormous respect for the dreamy jazz crooner of a 50’s nightclub. This song could well be the smoky cousin to many of the smooth sounds of Music For All Occasions, The Mavericks’ previous studio album.

We return to the 60’s pop closet for the jangly sounds of I Don’t Even Know Your Name. Had the Sgt. Pepper-clad Fab Four returned another favour to their contemporaries, The Byrds; it would probably have sounded very much like this. This leads us into the masterstroke I Hope You Want Me Too. A uniquely esoteric mixture of ‘sunshine-superman’ funky guitar and organ, solo Tijuana trumpet, sitar, lazy double-track vocals and an absolutely mean-looking backbeat. This is The Mavericks at their most adventurous and invigorated. And hip. (It would have made a stunning single!)

We are given a short breather in the form of the mellow lounge instrumental ‘Melbourne Mambo’; the title of which speaks for itself; before being whisked back to the dance-hall days of the 20-30’s with the shoe-shuffling Dolores. Raul Malo grasps hold of a megaphone and with clarinet on one side and the barbershop quartet on the other, celebrates his desire for his ‘star of the silver screen’. He then leads us into the temptation of Save A Prayer, which can best be described as a rousing gospel hop, skip and dance.

The pure essence of Raul’s voice is the stunning focus of Dream River, with simple acoustic guitar and lonesome whistling as backing. This is pure ‘pennies from heaven’, with Raul in the spotlight, holding the microphone to one side, and dreaming of a better time. Al Bowlly may be in heaven, but his soul is in limbo down here on earth, spending a little time with the Mavericks. This song closes the US version of Trampoline.

For the Australian and Europeans fans there are two extra jewels in the crown. Firstly the gem of a track All I Get, full of jangly guitars, sublime bass, towering drums, and a wonderfully understated melody, co-written by Raul Malo and the marvellous (and vastly under-rated) Nick Lowe. The closing track is their rousing Latin samba version of the traditional Spanish tune, La Mucara. Raul dons his Ricky Ricardo outfit, the horns are in full swing and Jerry Dale McFadden on piano is finally given a bit more room to move. This particular version of the album closes as it began , in full swing.

After many many listens, I have only a couple of gripes, and very minor at that. Firstly the 'mix' at times does not do full justice to the 'live' performances; the percussion in Dance The Night Away should be a more prominent feature, not a backdrop, and Jerry Dales McFadden's piano should be jumping out of the woodwork in To Be With You, instead of  being part of the grain. Possibly these are just production concessions to the more traditional sounds expected of The Mavericks? Secondly, the rest of the boys should have hauled Raul over the coals, long before the final take, for a few rather lame lyrics which do not do justice to the rest of the album's sparkling quality.

Those personal quibbles aside, Trampoline is an exceptional album by anyone’s standard, let alone The Mavericks’. It champions a band that sounds and plays like a ‘BAND’, and enjoying every glorious minute of it. In an age where commercial radio is stuck in demographic slime, Trampoline is brimful of classic melodies, musical flavours, brilliant textures and some damn fine rock’n’roll. It’s what it was all about in the first place. The Mavericks’ have delved even deeper into the rich tapestry of popular music but their aim is true. If you already enjoy The Mavericks, Trampoline will provide further proof of their musical ascendancy. If you are new to music of The Mavericks, be prepared for Trampoline to bounce into your consciousness, and set up permanent residency.
 

footnote:
During the Trampoline sessions, 17 tracks were reported to be completed. All 17 tracks do appear on the Japanese release of Trampoline (even though the sleeve indicates only 13 tracks) The additional 4 hidden tracks are All I Get, Le Mucara (which appear on the Australian/European releases), Panatella and She Does.
Panatella is a rockin' 60's surfing style (a la Dick Dale) instrumental track, written by Nick Kane and would make a great theme for wacky TV series. It is also a much better instrumental than Melbourne Mambo!
The final track, She Does, is a short, funtime, rock-a-billy styled tune (a la Buddy Holly) with slightly strange lyrics from Raul Malo. These final two tracks provide an encore perfomance for an already astounding show.

...and yes.. a splendid time IS guaranteed for all


© 1998 chris swann