Acústica: Cuatro Vidas (CD review)

Dolores Villareal, John Orr, Dave Ambrose, Matt Crichton, Ray Coffey. Acústica World Music CD.

During the holidays my wife and I met a charming couple one morning at a bed-and-breakfast. Through the course of conversation we learned they were on their honeymoon, and they were musicians. At the time we knew they were a most-gracious and engaging pair. What we didn't know until we got home and listened to their present album was how good musicians they were.

Their group is Acústica ("acoustics" or "sounds"), and the name of their disc is Cuatro Vidas ("Four Lives"). The members of the band represented on the album are Dolores Villareal, vocals; John Orr, guitar and vocals; Dave Ambrose, bass guitar; Matt Crichton, percussion; and Ray Coffey, guest saxophone and flute.

The star of the show is Ms. Villareal, a multi-linguist singer, percussionist, and songwriter. Ms. Villareal sings in nine different languages, her most-recent Finnish. On the album's program she sings in Spanish, French, English, Portuguese, and Cape Verde creole. Her voice is lovely--sweet and tender one moment, big and powerful another. More important, she uses a good deal of flexibility and nuance to create a wide range of emotions in the songs.

The accompanying players add their own special blend of enthusiasm, imagination, precision, and professionalism to the proceedings. On their own, they are fun to listen to; along with Ms. Villareal, they are even better.

The songs on the album follow:
  1. "Amor Di Mundo"
  2. "Piel Canela"
  3. "Sous Le Ciel de Paris"
  4. "Historia Do Samba"
  5. "Cuatro Vidas"
  6. "Mas Que Nada"
  7. "La Vie En Rose"
  8. "O Barquinho"
  9. "Il Condor"
10. "Frenesi"
11. "Whatever Lola Wants"

Dolores Villareal
Favorites? Of course. Although I enjoyed all of the tracks, I especially enjoyed "Piel Canela" for its pervasive zest; "Sous le ciel de Paris" for its buoyant romanticism; the title song for its fluidly engaging lyricism; and, well, they all sounded good to me. A most-entertaining album.

Are there any drawbacks I could find? The only one I can think of is the usual one I find in pop and jazz programs: It's too short. I suppose I've just become used to classical albums providing something close to a CD's near eighty-minute limit, and this one gives us something more like half that playing time. Oh, well. As they say, it's the quality, not the quantity that counts.

Dave Gager of Bentrabbit Multimedia Studios and Dolores Villareal produced, recorded, engineered, and mastered the album for Acústica World Music in 2013. The sound is up close, as most popular albums tend to be. It provides good detail, though, and here we get no brightness or edginess, just a smooth, natural response. There is also a mild studio bloom that provides a realistic ambience for the group, and Ms. Villareal's voice sounds sweetly lifelike. While there is not a lot of air or depth to the sonics, there is a good, wide dynamic range and strong, quick impact, so we get a pleasantly listenable album.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

Amazon sells the songs for individual download but, oddly, not the CD. You'll find that at Acustica World Music:

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor ofThe $ensible Soundmagazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa