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David Gonzalez The Poetic License Band: City of Dreams

And now for something completely different: City of Dreams, a cacophonous melange performed by David Gonzalez and his cornily named Poetic License Band, could’ve been a dandy instrumental album. Full of Latin fire fueled by Bobby Sanabria’s powerhouse drumming, it showcases two sizzling session players-keyboardist John Di Martino and bassist Boris Kozlov-and features boffo guest solos by Oliver Lake and Yomo Toro (who creates a stunning cuatro intro for Gonzalez’s autobiographical “The Secret of the Ceiba Tree”). Then, unfortunately, Gonzalez steps up to the mike to fill each track with cliche-ridden poems. He reminds me of the obnoxious rebel poet in Peggy Sue Got Married, who spends his days in sullen isolation spewing earnestly nihilistic verse. Gonzalez’s purulent riffs on life and love are the kind of pap that sounds profound when you’re 16. Then you grow up and realize what hollow hokum it is. Midway through his pretentious “Give Me a World of Art,” Gonzalez demands, “Give me tones drunk with flavor.” (City of Dreams does so in spades, most notably on the blazing Tito Puente salute “El Barrio” and with the stunning replication of a million cars pounding over payment in “The Cross Bronx Expressway.”) Gonzalez then begs for a world of art that offers “no metaphors or rhymes”-a sage bit of advice he himself seems utterly unable to keep. Somewhere, Dave Van Ronk is spinning in his grave.

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