A PETRIFIED FOREST - (CPCY 93)
Express 29-9-90, by Stephen Dalton.
Spanish born, London based balladeer,
soundtrack composer and occasional novelist, Russo
is clearly a busy boy. But that hasn't stopped
him sitting down with his guitar, writing and
producing this elegant collection of late-night
laments and introspective acoustic epics.
Costello's wordplay and Robert
Smith's pained sighs combine on dashing Euro ballads
like “The Fugitive”, and the light-fingered
latin jazz title cut with its marvellously incongruous
carnival finale. But the prevailing mood is stormy
and sombre, as on “Friends Are Friends”,
a midnight stroll through neon-lit puddles of
sparkling guitar, ant the aptly titled small-hours
serenade “Late At Night”.
Elsewhere there are passable stadium
strums, routine Knopfler-esque struts and an elegant
pastiche of early Lloyd Cole called “Years
Gone By”. But between the peaks we also
find the overlong, Joe Jackson style tricksiness
of “Something To Be Proud Of” and
two big girls' blouses of bluster “Blind
Chase” and “Parallel Lines”-
which sound like Tears For Fears without their
expensive studio effects. Dull plodders, in other
But minor gripes aside, Rafa has
turned in an accomplished debut of folky, jazzy,
bluesy and heartfelt mood swings.
Vox , Sept
90, by Stuart Bailie.
A Spanish balladeer currently working
around London's New Acoustic scene, Rafa Russo
has made a debut LP that mixes nervy, insecure
moments with a brave, persevering pose.
Reference hunters will have a
fun time with these songs; I guessed at Al Stewart,
Roddy Frame and a boy neurotic TS Eliot. Much
of the time though, Rafa pursues a distinctive
line, as on the title cut, which suspends a winsome
philosophical tune over some cunning Latin rhythms.
“Devil's Angel” has
a cheerful, jangling tone not unlike Buddy Holly-
but once again you'll find that the underlying
lyrics are drawn to his familiar, girl-afraid
theme. Indeed, the only reservation about this
record is that it's really too bleak (“London
Clandestine is a killer!) to digest all at one
go. There's no doubting his talent, though.
by John Tobler.
Rafa Russo, as his name suggests,
is a Spaniard and while this enables him to write
some very good melodic tunes, his grasp of the
English language is less impressive. With very
tasteful backings involving one Martin Ansell,
whose name seems familiar without bringing anything
specific to mind, Russo's high, sensitive voice
is easy to listen to, but his lyrics seem to betray
a lack of comprehension of the language. However,
the title track, with its latin brass, is well
done even if it's not my kind of music. Devil's
Angel is almost a country song in Buddy Holly
style; Years Gone By is a pretty fair lost love
song and third verse of Late At Night is rather
If he got together with a high-class
British lyricist, he could be a real future prospect,
because his melodic gifts seem exceptional.
Magazine, Nov 90.
Russo's voice is fragile, his lyrics
concerned with getting through life's trials as
unscathed as possible. He seems the archetypal
quiet and sensitive type.
Luckily he is a craftsman of the
catchy melody, and is also cloaked in the alluring
mystery of the exile, having left his dark, depressing
native Madrid for our lovely capital.
Then there's his strange foreign
delivery and the odd, out of synch quality of
his English lyrics. Anyone who can get away with
something like: “I've got my carrier pigeons,
one for every star/Then I launch them in the air
and leave my door ajar” is heading for all-time
This el hombre navel-gazer likes
to spice things up a bit too. The title track
starts off like Suzanne Vega and ends up like
something out of Las Vegas cabaret, Latin percussion
and horns enjoying a field day. And on “Friends
Are Friends”, Russo give us a braek from
his personal universe with a rapture on the failed
relationships of a friend. Russo acts as the shoulder
to cry one and the tune fits the Agony Aunt mood
Side Two opens with “Invisible
Fire” which could be given a big production
job and become a Number One smash for someone
like Cher, though it's difficult imagining her
singing the lyric “Time creeps like a cat
with its silent, treacherous paws”.
Things get sunnier on “Devil's
Angel” cheerfully arranged with a whiff
of Martin Stephenson about it.
The final track “Late At
Night” finds Russo singing a beautiful tune
with an unaccompanied guitar. This song is perfect
for sitting yourself down with a bottle of plonk
and cry your eyes out about whatever you want.
A rare voice within these shores,
Russo should be cherished and lionised. Will his
next batch of songs centre again on the reflections
and doubts of a man of inaction which Russo appears
to be and stat to go on our nerves? I for one
can't wait to find out.
Spanish-born Russo's debut album
showcases songs that stubbornly stay with you
long after the turntable's been switched off.
His 'soft' delivery often conceals a diamond-hard
edge that can suddenly cut through what appeared
to be a simple love song.