If a band could be arrested for recording under the influence of Santana, circa "Supernatural," deSol would find touring awfully difficult.
But once you get past the unmistakable similarities that pop up on the Latino rockers' self-titled debut, starting with Rich Soto's Santana-channeling guitar solo on the opening track, "Blanco y Negro," the septet's own strengths aren't hard to appreciate. In fact, they're almost as obvious as its influences.
Lead vocalist Albie Monterrosa's tuneful, crooning voice sails over the group's polyrhythmic thrust, and the songs he has co-written here are, well, let's put it this way: Santana wouldn't be badly served by covering a few, even though they tend to reflect deSol's East Coast roots.
Midway through the album, three gems surface, back to back: "Spanish Radio," a coming-of-age ballad that salutes Santana and Ruben Blades; "Bandleader," an innocent, infectious, clave-accent love song; and "Spin Around," a Bronx tale that moves without a hitch from Springsteen-etched imagery ("Yesterday the Yankees won / Homeless Gino, he made quite a sum / Taking hand outs from the stadium traffic") to rap. The brassy "Chica de Miami" is another highlight, an organ-laced, salsa-flavored road song about a lover who got away.
Monterrosa sings in English and Spanish throughout the disc, often against a vibrant backdrop of chanting voices and percussive crescendos. At the album's close, on the engaging coda, "See Ya Again Soon," the band merrily blends many of its influences, with Monterrosa briefly tipping his hat to soul man Bill Withers.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Sunday at Iota.