The Sights and Sounds of Esquivel!

Esquivel! <i>Bar None</i>.

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Juan Garcia Esquivel was the happiest discovery of the silly, short-lived, ’90s lounge craze. A long-lost master of what became known as “space-age bachelor-pad music,” the Mexican bandleader specialized in giddy, sweetly weird instrumentals that tweaked the conventions of bland, easy-listening pop. On Sights and Sounds, recorded in 1974 as a promotional tool for a Chicago restaurant, Esquivel and his peppy crew could be a cocktail combo from a parallel dimension. As a pair of female vocalists soar and swoop nonsensically—“Pow! Pow! Pow!” and “Zoo-zah” are typical interjections—percussionists make a merry clatter and Esquivel showers the offbeat arrangements with rippling piano notes. Radiating optimism, he embodies a heartfelt love of sound that transcends the campy trappings; even the moody dance number “La Mantilla” is joyous. And if the hyperactive take on “Rhapsody in Blue” doesn’t raise a smile, you’re beyond help.

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