Juan Luis Guerra: Literal

Dominican Rhapsody

Listening Post 220. Juan Luis Guerra and his band 4.40 forever altered the Latin soundscape with bachata and merengue flavored by salsa, jazz and rock infusions and vivid lyrics bearing everything from magical realism and social commentary to sexual metaphor and unapologetic romance. Thirty-five years after his debut album, the Dominican singer-songwriter remains one of the most influential Spanish-language artists of all time—also a wizard, able to evoke reverent familiarity from veteran fans and rapt urgency from new ones. On Literal, his sixteenth studio album, he concentrates on love, family and faith, energizing Dominican and Caribbean rhythms with forays into hip-hop and electronic sound. Lámpara Pa’ Mis Pies (Beacon for My Feet) is a merengue ode to Guerra’s wife Nora, starting with their meeting in Boston, where he studied at Berklee College of Music (video 1). The Spanish-English mash-up I Love You More highlights his elasticity, combining the roots-merengue style perico ripiao; a voguish video reflecting his love of vinyl; and a melody reportedly inspired by Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (video 2). Classic bachatas include Corazón Enamorado, counseling patience and asking, “What’s wrong with darkness if it leads to dawn… With or without reason/Love can change everything” (video 3); and the unvarnished blue-skies idyll Me Preguntas (You Ask Me, video 4). Guerra is true to his social conscience in the trova-rock No Tiene Madre (This One Has No Mother) about corrupt leaders who ignore human suffering; and to his son, Jean Gabriel, in Merengue de Cuna (Merengue Lullaby). Daughter Paulina had a dedicated song on his last album and this time chose the title: Literal, Guerra explains, is one of her favorite words, signaling “very current, very cool.” It’s also a good adjective to describe the kind of artist who stays joyously relevant to disparate generations, pushing boundaries without straying from his essence. (Universal Music Latino)

Juan Luis Guerra & 4.40
Juan Luis Guerra: Vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, tres, producer
Adalgisa Pantaleón, Juan Rizek, Roger Zayas: Chorus

Musicians:
Janina Rosado: Chorus, piano, keyboards, accordion, co-producer
Juan de la Cruz: Congas, cajón, bongo, timbal
Luis Mojica: Congas
Jeremías King, Rubén Toribio: Bass
Isidro Bobadilla: Atabal drum, percussion
Otoniel Nicolás: Drums
Rafal Carrasco, Joel Ramírez: Güiras
Tom Piggot-Smith, Jackie Hartley, Bruce White, Chris Worsey, Igor Vasiljevic, Militza Lankova, Zvedana Radojkovic, Milena Zivkovich: Strings
Ernesto Nuñez, Pedro Liberato “Pilo,” Harold Andeliz: Trumpets
Patricio Bonilla, José Flete: Trombones
Naya Macea, Ed Calle, Joel Rosario: Saxophones
Willy Cruz: French horn
Angelo Cruz: Bassoon
Dejan Kulenovic: Oboe

Note 1: On April 25, 2019—a month before the release of Literal—Juan Luis Guerra received Billboard’s Latin Music Lifetime Achievement Award. During his career he has also won three Grammy Awards and 21 Latin Grammy Awards.

Note 2: For the review of Guerra’s previous album, Todo Tiene Su Hora, see Listening Post 2, June 26, 2015.
https://worldlisteningpost.com/2015/06/26/juan-luis-guerra-todo-tiene-su-hora-2/

 

Lámpara Pa’ Mis Pies/Beacon for my Feet
Lyrics & music: Juan Luis Guerra

(from the Spanish lyrics)
When I left for Boston/
And in Boston I found you
From your green eyes/Cute girl, I fell in love
And I gave you my dreams/My frets and my coffee
And my Gibson guitar/And you gave me a beacon for my feet

Beacon for my feet/Beacon for my feet
The light of your eyes is/A beacon for my feet
The meringue of my faith/Beacon for my feet
Ay, mira, eh/
Beacon for my feet

And I focused on your neck/And with my Polaroid
I portrayed the dance/Of your cotton kisses
And I developed your laughter/On paper in the darkroom
And now I don’t leave home/Without my Beacon for my feet

Beacon for my feet
The light of your eyes is/A beacon for my feet
The drum of my faith/Beacon for my feet
Ay, mira, eh/Beacon for my feet

I crowned you my queen/Confident of my dreams
And I bought you flowers/And mints for the heart
I presented you with songs/And we made tea
Now I don’t leave home/Without the beacon for my feet

Beacon for my feet/Beacon for my feet
The light in your eyes is/A beacon for my feet
The merengue of my faith/Beacon for my feet
Ay, mira, eh/Beacon for my feet

And we got wet in the rain/And then dried by the sun
Those are the little things/That turned into so much love (Girl, so much love)
And I surrendered to your lips/I gave you everything
And now I don’t leave home/Without your beacon for my feet

Beacon for my feet/Beacon for my feet
And your words are like honey/Beacon for my feet
The drum of my faith/Beacon for my feet
Ay, mira, eh/Beacon for my feet

 

I Love You More
Lyrics & music: Juan Luis Guerra

(from the Spanish and English lyrics)
I have a girlfriend who is a nightingale/I have a girlfriend who is a nightingale
There’s nothing more beautiful under the sun/There’s nothing more beautiful under the sun
I call her and say, “I love you, my darling”/I call her and say, “I love you, my darling”
And she answers, “Baby, I love you more!/”She answers “Baby, I love you more!”

Baby, I love you more
Tell me/I love you more
Say it again/I love you more
Baby/I love you more
Night and day/I love you more
My life/I love you more
Tell me/I love you more
Baby, I love you more

My girlfriend won’t ever lose her first love/My girlfriend won’t ever lose her first love
She only has ears for my voice/She only has ears for my voice
Her kisses, tender as peaches/Her kisses, tender as peaches
And she always answers “Baby, I love you more!”/She answers, “Baby, I love you more!”

Baby, I love you more
Tell me/I love you more
Say it again/I love you more
Baby/I love you more
At night/I love you more
In the afternoon/I love you more
All day/I love you more
Baby, I love you more

I love you more than everything
I love you more than rice and beans

I love you more
Tell me/I love you more
Say it again/I love you more
Baby/I love you more
Night and day/I love you more
My life/I love you more
Tell me/I love you more
Baby, I love you more

I write verses, love letters/I write verses, love letters
And she answers. “Baby, I love you more!”/She answers, “Baby, I love you more!”

Baby, I love you more
Tell me/I love you more
Say it again/I love you more
Baby/I love you more
In the afternoon/I love you more
At night/I love you more
All day/I love you more
Baby, I love you more

 

Corazón Enamorado/A Heart in Love
Lyrics & music: Juan Luis Guerra

(from the Spanish lyrics)
You don’t know how I felt for you/
When we talked that first time
You told me what happened to you, the disappointment/Of losing someone precious
And I told you: “Give it some more time”
What’s wrong with darkness if it leads to dawn?/And prepare for forgiveness
With or without reason/Love can change everything

How glad I am to see you again/With a heart full of love
And the image of living by your love’s side/And a shower of kisses, girl, soaking you
Today you have plenty of womanly dreams/And someone who passes the winters with you
Another time comes to accept and repeat/Love can change everything

How glad I am to find you again/With a heart full of love
And living by your love’s side/Getting soaked by a shower of kisses, girl
Today you have womanly dreams to spare/And someone who passes winters with you
Another time has come to accept and repeat/Love can change everything

How glad I am to see you again/With a heart full of love
And the image of living by your love’s side/Getting soaked by a shower of kisses, girl

 

Me Preguntas/You Ask Me
Lyrics & music: Juan Luis Guerra

(from the Spanish lyrics)
You ask me
How your white dress looks?/And the colored slippers
And the bow that crowns your head/And the little medallion carries has a song

And you loosen your hair and put on makeup/With a little hesitation
And you look at me in the mirror/And my voice confesses my love

For me you are as beautiful as an April flower/Like the morning in a spring garden
Tender as the warming sun, full of hope/That comes out to see you smile

For me you are beautiful as a blue sky/The path of light from the stars
Beauty like yours, for me there is no other/Nor anyone else who makes me so happy

You paint and perfume every kiss/An “I love you” floats from your lips
Or I tell you: “Everything looks beautiful on you”/And you know my heart doesn’t lie 

For me you are as beautiful as an April flower/Like the morning in a spring garden
Tender as a warming sun, full of hope/That comes out to see you smile
For me you are beautiful as a blue sky/The path of light from the stars
Beauty like yours, for me there is no other/Nor anyone else who makes me so happy

Beautiful as an April flower/Like the sun that comes to see you smile
Beautiful as a blue sky/And there’s no other as precious as you, like you

 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s