A&M has reissued and remastered Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass-free, out-of-print 1982 solo album Fandango. It’s heavily Latin- and Mexican-influenced, and, for real, unlike the vaguely tropical and relatively exotic feel of his most famous work in the ’60s and ’70s, it really shows off Alpert’s skill as a trumpet player, and that he only got better as time went on, as one does.
This album also marks the last gasp of mainstream prominence for Alpert, one of the most powerful, important, and stinking rich people in American music history. His endless string of delightful ’60s albums outsold the Beatles, and while the kids were listening to rock n’ roll and buying singles, their parents were buying Alpert albums to soundtrack their backyard luaus and key parties.
Which is to say that Alpert (the A in A&M Records) defined the older crowd in an era that has been endlessly noted for its youth movement’s tastes. Alpert made music that was still interesting and unique, but for grown-ups. He more or less fueled the invention of “easy listening radio,” or at least bringing the “beautiful music” format into the modern age, replacing the Mantovani with “Tijuana Taxi,” “Spanish Flea,” “The Lonely Bull” and other instrumental faux-exotica.
By the dawn of the Reagan era, Alpert was a bit old fashioned; easy listening had given way to those now ubiquitous lite FM/”listen while you work” stations. But Alpert, always the savvy musical businessmen, scored a late career hit in that format, too, with 1980’s massive “Rise,” a disco-laden soft rock jam that went to #1, thanks it part to its use underscoring the Luke and Laura storyline on General Hospital, when it too was an unlikely cultural phenomenon.
Fandango was the follow-up to Rise, which produced “Rise.” On it, Alpert met himself somewhere in the middle, harkening back to the ’60s Tijuana Brass days, with no lyrics and lots of vacation music and sophisticated Jimmy Buffett island ephemera, but smoothed out smoother than Peaches making sweet love to Herb. It’s the kind of album that you could listen to while you work, is what I’m saying, but it’s also interesting enough to actually pay attention to and get in your head. It ranks in the canon and is an important document, and inadvertent final punch from one of the all-time icons.