10/29/2012

Gustavo Cerati: Solo

One of the major figures in the world of Latin American rock, Gustavo Adrián Cerati Clark (born August 11, 1959 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a musician and producer best known as the singer/guitarist/frontman for Soda Stereo, the legendary rock band he led for a decade and a half (1982-1997). But Cerati's own influential solo career itself--which came to a halt due to a stroke suffered in 2010--is almost as long as his tenure in Soda Stereo, and in some circles, accorded the same level of respect as his former band.

Although his career did not formally start until after the conclusion of Soda Stereo's 1997 farewell tour, Cerati's first solo album, Amor Amarillo [BMG U.S. Latin-1993], was released while he was still a member of the band--Soda bassist Hector "Zeta" Bosio co-produced the album and played on the title track--and months before Dynamo [Sony], Soda Stereo's penultimate album, saw the light of day. Despite Cerati not touring behind it, Amor Amarillo did not go unnoticed, but instead became a favorite among Soda fans, to the point that Cerati was performing songs from the album live more than a decade after its release. Among these is "Bajan" written by Argentine rock legend Luis Alberto Spinetta in the early '70s.

(Two years earlier, in 1991, Cerati collaborated with Daniel Melero on an album titled Colores Santos [Sony] under the name Cerati/Melero. The album's marked electronica-based sound, influenced not only the sound of Soda Stereo's then upcoming album, Dynamo, but Argentina's burgeoning electronica scene as well.)

Having wrapped up his commitments with Soda Stereo, Cerati began the next stage of his music career with Bocanada [BMG U.S. Latin-1999], a batch of electronic pop that firmly established him as a solo artist. Five singles were taken from Bocanada ("Puente", "Paseo Inmoral", "Tabú", "Engaña" y "Río Babel") each with a corresponding video clip. Moreover, "Verbo Carne" was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios with the London Session Orchestra, conducted by Gavin Wright.

After writing the soundtrack for the movie + bien (or Mas Bien) in 2001, Cerati released Siempre Es Hoy [BMG U.S. Latin-2002], which was expected to rock out more and rely less on electronica, but the opposite turned out to be true. More lighthearted on its surface than Bocanada, despite upheaval in his personal life at the time, Siempre Es Hoy, however, was received in a lukewarm and unenthusiastic manner.

Speculation was rampant as to the direction Cerati would take on his next release, after Siempre Es Hoy turned out to be the lowest-selling of his solo albums. One theory circulating at the time back posited his return to a guitar-driven rock sound after a decade of making electronic pop pushed him away more and more from the sound of the band that made him an international star. (Although in truth, Siempre Es Hoy was less dependent on electronics and showcased his guitar more prominently than other previous releases.)

After a long wait and some four years after the release of Siempre Es Hoy, Cerati returned with a straight up, guitar-loaded rock album, whose pre-order sales were such that the album went platinum before officially going on sale. With the arrival of Ahí Vamos [BMG U.S. Latin-2006] came the burning questions: Did Siempre Es Hoy's relatively low sales lead to a supposed reconciliation with a rock-oriented sound, dusting off the guitars, cranking up the amps and indirectly revisiting past glories? And would the album exceed or at least match the expectations it had been saddled with? Leadoff track "Al Fin Sucede"--in addition to second single "La Excepción" and "Uno Entre 1000", the latter with a chorus the size of a house--immediately confirmed Cerati's intentions to rock out and the album was promptly hailed as a return to form. Which is not surprising since at different points Ahí Vamos is reminiscent of essential elements from the final three Soda Stereo studio albums: Canción Animal [CBS-1990], the aforementioned Dynamo, and Sueño Stereo [BMG U.S. Latin-1995].

After touring behind Ahí Vamos Cerati joined his former Soda Stereo bandmates for an epic reunion tour that saw the band perform for about 300,000 fans in 22 dates--including 3 shows in the United States--before going back into retirement.

In an interview given towards the end of the previous decade, the ever pragmatic Cerati referred to the division that characterizes his fanbase: rockers on one side and the devotees of his brand of electronica on the other, and how their numbers respectively expand and contract depending on which which way the muse guides him. Well, if Ahí Vamos was made to appease the rockers, Fuerza Natural [Sony-2009] seems to have been written in pursuit of self-satisfaction. Mellow in a way not heard since Bocanada but without that album's heavy electronica vibe, Fuerza Natural leaned more towards a poppier, singer/songwriter vibe. It also includes "Cactus", a song in which Cerati once again explores his native country's folk music.

During the tour for Fuerza Natural and after a concert in Caracas, Venezuela, Cerati suffered a stroke on May 15, 2010. He remains in a coma ever since.





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