Cherry Red 2018
Grooving up slowly but surely, newly established hero of art rock crosses over to the center of where it all began.
In the last year, this American artist made a valiant and successful attempt to emerge from under various projects he’s been involved with and inhabit a world of his own – and what’s a better place for beginning a world dominance than the most famous recording studio? But the laying down of “Zebra Crossing” in the heart of London’s St. John’s Wood wasn’t only aimed at capturing the classic sonics; it was also targeting the spirit of a certain band and a certain era. That’s the reason why the album’s titular suite is one of the best Fabs homages ever created and, possibly, the most important statement Perdomo delivered in the tributes stakes: by quoting arrangements and harmonies, rather than melodies, Fernando runs through the effervescent variety of “Abbey Road” and, along the way, outlines something uniquely individual.
Apparently, Perdomo didn’t set out to dazzle the listener with his prowess as a performer on this record – there’s the "Out To Sea" saga for such a trip – instead, Fernando appears as a composer of note, with a different sort of strings washing over “I’m Here” as though to assert the artist’s presence and orchestral splendor that is wrapped around most of the pieces on display, up to the final sweep into “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – and the guitar is what gives instrumental “Not Meant To Be” magnificent gravity. He masterfully evokes the post-psych, pre-prog atmosphere of the late ’60s, so it’s not only THE BEATLES that Fernando references here but also THE BEACH BOYS; and it’s not for nothing that “Smile” – clearly a sequel to a Charlie Chaplin piece – is a perfect reflection of the fleeting period when a zebra-like black-and-white music suddenly burst into color. To sharpen the songs’ focus, Perdomo invited the latter ensemble’s occasional lyricist Stephen Kalinich to contribute to a couple of cuts, including “Sundays”: another warm, spoken-word-enhanced recollection of one’s childhood’s innocent days.
Should the acoustically driven lament behind “We Were Raised With Headphones On” feel too literal, if easy to relate to especially when electric solos send charge down the tune’s nerves, an insistent swirl of ivories propels “Sometimes I Feel Nothing At All” to a wide-eyed wonder where its writer is trying to locate himself and leave mundane numbness in search of rapture. “Find Love (Hold On)” may rock rather delicately before the number’s idealism is spiked with boogie, but nostalgia has found its way to many of these tracks as well, rendering a “dreaming in stereo” idea a distant memory, while painting “Somehow” with a hymnal hue and threading mandolin through “Crown Of Stars” whose communal reverie is irresistible. The same can be said about “Home” which seems simple, yet its richly textured folk flight will be close to any romantic’s heart, and Perdomo might be an embodiment of romance – a characteristic absent from progressive music for years now. With no pretense, Fernando is returning the genre to its spiritual origin: that’s why “Zebra Crossing” would be impossible to overestimate.