Review Various Artists – Peru Bravo


On their second compilation, the London-based Peruvian-focused label Tiger’s Milk Records have truly provided a document of what’s great about 60s and 70s Peruvian music. It’s all about the soul and those fiery guitar lines. Peru Bravo, which is subtitled Funk, Soul & Psych from Peru’s Radical Decade, has both of those values in spades.

It all begins with Laghonia’s “Bahia”, a track that’s half garage punk and half raw 60s pop, with a distorted-as-hell guitar breakdown to boot. It’s one of many garage/psych gems on offer here. It highlights that point when the 60s turned into the 70s, when songs could still have pop melodies without selling out, before guitars completely stole the songs, and when it was okay to sing about the simple things in life, about love, girls and having fun. Even though there’s a mention of the mid-60s to mid-70s period being Peru’s “radical decade” in the title few of these songs are political in nature.

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Of all the garage tracks on offer here it’s Telegraph Avenue’s monumental psych masterpiece “Sungaligali” that steals the show. Especially during that little slowed down percussion breakdown in the middle that kills me every time I hear it!

But garage is not the only star, there is also plenty of soul. Los Holy’s cover the mighty Meters’ “Cissy Strut” for a taut funk gem (though one that doesn’t top the original), Black Sugar head for some heavily percussive soul-funk with “Checan”, a track with a strong golden era Fania Records glint in its eye, and Thee Image intend to go “Outasite” with their doo-wop-esque soul treat. In something of a change from their normal cumbia-inspired fare Los Destellos even add a little bit of soul and some much needed cool with “Onsta La Yerbita” a delicious psych-funk cut from their infamous Constelación album.

In between these worlds of soul and garage tracks are cheery gems like Jean Paul ‘El Troglodita’s “Everything’s Gonna Change” and Los Nuevos Shains”Pancito Caliente”, which all fit well within the late 60s style of pop as the mood got more serious and the guitar became more important, even though the sound was still largely light in nature.

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The worst moments come on “Sookie Sookie” and “Hey Joe”, two covers which add very little to their original versions, and sound pedestrian compared to everything else on the album. They appear to feature as much for novelty value as anything else, and this was my main criticism of the first Tiger’s Milk compilation, Peru Maravilloso, which seemed too intent on picking a varied selection of rare cuts or intriguing cover versions than a coherent selection of tracks, which is exactly what Peru Bravo does.

As the album nears its conclusion, The Mad’s groovy-as-hell “Aouh Aouh” makes an appearance. It’s “aouh, aouh” refrains could go on forever, without ever feeling unwelcome. It feels emblematic of this compilation. It’s freshness, naivety, passionate delivery and primal pleasures reminding us all of what’s great about pop music. It’s an album which shows just how soulful Peruvian music was in its heyday, and how good they were at combining that with psych, funk, cumbia and pop. A highly recommended compilation.

Peru Bravo is available from Bandcamp and Amazon (UK | US)

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