Review: Aldrine Guerrero – Suite 409

You probably already familiar with Aldrine Guerrero from his YouTube videos and his lessons on Ukulele Underground. Aldrine has just released his debut CD, Suite 409, and Ryan from UU (the album’s Executive Producer) was brave enough to send me a copy for review.

The Good Stuff

Bandito Tyler (Unplugged): A phenomenal tune. A stone-cold ukulele classic. It’s played with real force and energy. It fizzes out of the speakers.

The album contains two versions of Bandito Tyler: a solo version and a band version. The solo version is by far the most exciting. The tune is so strong and forceful that the band dilute it rather than add to it.

The Instrumental Tracks: As well as having impeccable technique, Aldrine has a way with a tune. The instrumental tracks are instantly catchy.

They’re also nicely varied. Schizophrenic Snowflakes is light and atmospheric. Uke on a Stick is great fun. It starts out as a 21st Century Greensleeves, kicks into some Dick Dale tremelo, launches into Santana-style soloing and recalls the solo from Hotel California before it’s done. Cecilia is steady and meditative. Each of them a huge success on their own terms.

The Not So Good Stuff

The Vocal Tracks: In contrast to the variety of the instrumental tracks, all the songs are mid-tempo, easy listening RnB. Whether he’s lonely (Buttercup), in seduction mode (Red and Silky with Danyo Cummings and Ariki Foster), or resigned (Ducky Adores Me), it never really shows in the songs. Lyrically, the songs don’t ring true. It feels like he’s holding back most of the time.

Listening to the songs made me feel like the girl who feel for the cock-strutting MoFo of Bandito Tyler and ended up with the limp lothario of Red and Silky. I wanted the same passion and honesty of the instrumental tracks in the songs.

Overall

Suite 409 announces Aldrine Guerrero as a serious contender in the ukulele world – up there with the very best. If he can get the same passion that he has in his playing into his songs, he’ll be unstoppable.

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5 Comments

  1. Jeff July 22nd, 2008 7:51 am

    Aldrine came to the Berkeley Ukulele Club along with a flood of Ukulele Underground players and the Dominator. Aldrine’s UU tutorial videos are outstanding, clear and fun. I found Aldrine and Rayan’s playing was very entertaining and enjoyable. I found out that AG has studied under Jake Shimabukuro. He is quite skillful in his technique and playful with his ukulele. He did some electric guitar pedal stuff and some other-worldly spaceship-landing sound effects using his cell phone and sliding it over the strings.

    Aldrine has that Hawaiian gracious style. There was a UU question and answer session afterward where he provided us with thoughtful and interesting answers to all questions. He played the Manny the Rooster riff, Lovesong, and the crowd was really into it all.

    _____ _____ _____

    Two days later, in Santa Cruz, Bill Tapia performed for a group of about 100 ukulele fanatics. Bill was born in 1908 and I must say I was extremely impressed with the sharpness of his mind and the agility in his hands. He plays ukulele jazz. Bill has so many stories to tell that you wish you could hang out for a week. He bought his first ukulele at age 6 for75 cents in 1914. He once got on stage with Louis Armstrong in 1939. He knew Cliff Edwards and his comments about Ukulele Ike we quite real in stating his personal shadows. During one song Bill played the ukulele behind his head and then he put it under his leg. At 100 what an entertainer and treasure to the ukulele community!

    “…And if you can survive to 105, think of all you’ll derive, out of being alive. And here is the best part…” keep going Bill!

  2. H. Lagenberg July 22nd, 2008 11:07 am

    I bought Aldrine’s CD as well, and your critique hits the nail right on the head. The magic of the Youtube vids, the virtuoso string wizardry is all there in the instrumental tracks. The “songs” however, are a bit too smooth, too generic to my liking. It appears that a lot of producing went into making an entire musical arrangement around the lyrics, instead of getting the song’s message through.
    Nevertheless, a very worthy CD that anyone with a heart for upcoming musicians should buy.

  3. Art Crocker July 22nd, 2008 12:58 pm

    Thanks for putting the review out there, it is a great collection of music. Aldrine is a joy to watch play, a combination of his wonderful talent and (as mentioned above), his gracious Hawaiian style.

  4. drfrancov July 22nd, 2008 7:50 pm

    I have the CD and have listened to it many times…Yes the instrumental part is by far the best…He can certainly sing but I agree with you on the fact that a little more intensity/passion could make the songs come better…Just give him 1 or 2 more CDs…You’ll see.

  5. Woodshed July 22nd, 2008 8:13 pm

    Jeff: Thanks for the write up. I’ve seen a fair few videos of the UU tour on YouTube and it looks like a pile of fun.

    H. and drfrancov: I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking it. I don’t much enjoy reviewing music: it’s such a subjective thing. I’m sure Aldrine will be massive before too long.

    Art: Yep, he’s cool.

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