One of the brightest pop music releases of 2020 is the “Rico Blanco Songbook.”
Not only because it’s one of the few full albums that was released in 2020, a year whose music landscape is much changed from when the original versions of the songs in the set was originally released, but for the sheer depth of the artist lineup included in it.
Starting with December Avenue, whose take on “Umaaraw Umuulan” was the first single released from the project. Incidentally, the project was the brainchild of Viva Records and Viva Music Publishing who last year announced the acquisition of the rights to Rico Blanco’s extensive song catalog. The idea being, was to reintroduce the popular songs of Blanco, which extends back to his days with Rivermaya up to his solo career (that continues to this day), to today’s generation of OPM listeners.
And certainly December Avenue is a band that represents a new generation of listeners. And so does most of the acts who willingly and lovingly recorded some of Blanco’s most recognizable hits. Including Earl Generao whose surging and electrifying version of “Yugto” is brilliant. The vocal intro that mimicked the original riff was a slick move and coupled with the brass arrangements, down to the bluesy guitar spotlight, to Generao’s vocals, would put a smile on Blanco’s face. Listeners should watch out for Generao from here on out.
Meanwhile Janine Tenoso’s acoustic, alt-pop approach to “A Love To Share” lends a delicate sensitivity on this well-loved Rivermaya gem. Not to say, that it surpassed the original (because that will never happen) but this one sure comes close to it.
Ditto John Roa who updates and brings out the pretty melodies and positive summer of love vibe that’s innate to “Ayuz.” This Band rises to the occasion with a sound-expansive, rhythmically colorful rendering of a certified rock classic in “Liwanag Sa Dilim.” Then there’s Raphiel Shannon whose honied vocals and performance is a revelation on this album.
The other half of the album is should we say, reserved for Rico Blanco’s contemporaries. Leading the charge here is Ebe Dancel whose approach to “Wag Mo Aminin” hints at a poignancy that was not there in the original. Heartbreakingly so. Kean Cipriano and the rest of Callalily meanwhile is all cool and business-like with their smooth and measured approximation of “241.”
Mayonnaise blazes hot and rocks a deep cut off Blanco’s catalog in “Lipat Bahay” that were pretty sure listeners would know of the song better now with this version. Speaking of deep cuts, Spongecola’s peculiar pick of “Imbecillesque” turned out so good that it gives quite the contrast to the rest. For one Yael Yuzon’s vocals certainly rubs well with the pop duo GIBBS (sisters Alyssa and Gabriela) who did a spot-on job with the harmonies.
But it’s Sarah Geronimo’s take on a Rico Blanco signature song that takes the cake for being so wildly different—and satisfyingly so—from the original with her trap-beat driven, electro rendering of “Your Universe,” that she, as the popular parlance puts it, killed it.
Rico Blanco reimagined indeed.