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Texas Tornados

Four Aces – 1996 (Reprise)

Reviewed by Bill Sacks

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CDs by Texas Tornados

Let the real praise for this fine release fall to Flaco Jimenez, the champion of conjunto who at once reins in Freddy Fender's penchant for schmaltz and pushes Doug Sahm to avoid recycling himself. Jimenez's accordion gives the drive to some numbers, lilts in the sonic cervices of others; in either role, it is always perfect. His voice's signature tremolo provides distinction to the group's harmonies, and his leads are invariably strong.

Most importantly, his inventive spirit and knack for musical revision are the foundation of the Tornados' appeal; without him, they would certainly be a schizophrenic mess of barroom stomp and Vegas bravado. Which isn't to say that the other members' contributions are insubstantial. Sahm and Augie Myers remain a formidable team on guitar and keys. Sahm's songwriting contributions spring directly from the romantic Southwestern tradition, and his rough-hewn voice balances Fender's crooning. Meyer's lead vocal on Chris Wallisch's "Rosalita" is a stirring moment. And in an unlikely triumph, Fender musters the power from his early days with a rendition of "The One I Love The Most" which is his very best recorded performance in a decade.

Those who consider the first Tornados disc a treasure will be pleased by what is found here.