The Mavericks have never been quite of the times. Their music was a pastiche of styles from the past, from Raul Malo’s Roy Orbison-style of open-mouthed operatic vocals to the classic Latin musical accompaniment to the rockabilly rhythms, the band sounded more timeless than of whatever particular era in their 20-plus year history they existed. The Mavericks are back after a seven-year hiatus with an album that sounds like it could have come from anytime since their founding in 1989, if not earlier. So the group titled the release In Time. Go figure.
The music is far from ironic. The Mavericks sing and play as if time mattered — every second is precious. There are no wasted words or melodies, noodling frills or mindless riffs. Everything is present for a reason; to create an effect or sustain a mood. Lead vocalist Malo wrote or co-wrote all of the songs, and he places his voice front and center of every tune. He’s a powerful singer who can also delicately phrase words of love. And these are all songs of love with titles such as “Back in Your Arms Again”, “As Long as There’s Loving Tonight”, and “Dance in the Moonlight”. The man is an unabashed romantic. I once saw him perform at the 18th floor of a hotel in Austin, TX where then Governor Ann Richards, ex-Mick Jagger wife Jerry Hall, and Pete Townshend’s paramour Rachel Fuller swooned over Malo’s manly singing. This anecdote reveals how commanding Malo’s presence can be.
In Time has its share of rave ups. Malo and the boys kick up the tempo and have fun on songs such as “Fall Apart”, “All Over Again”, and “Born to Be Blue”. The band also knows how to slow things down and let Malo croon on torchy material such as “In Another’s Arms” and “Forgive Me”. The unhurried melodies allow Malo to shine as his brawny vocals are both forceful and convincingly passionate. Whether he sings about having regrets or not having regrets — the two sides of the same coin of any lover affair — Malo makes one a believer.
Thirteen of the 14 tracks are around five minutes long or less. The Mavericks are more interested in creating single moments rather than a conceptual record. But make no mistake, despite Malo’s leadership and outstanding presence this is a Maverick’s album. The musicianship matters and is impeccably performed. As mentioned earlier, everything is essential, even on the one eight-plus minute cut, “Call Me When You Get to Heaven”. This journey to ecstatic love and surrender takes on more than orgasmic delight, but strives for spiritual connections to the place of angels. The intensity builds in a Bolero type way.
Thirteen of the fourteen tracks are in English, but the band does both an English (“Come Unto Me”) and a Spanish version (“Ven Hacia Mi”) of the same song. Because the musical accompaniment has a strong Latin flavor complete with Mariachi horns, there is little difference between the cuts.
The Mavericks have gone through personnel changes, break-ups, and reunions over their long history, but it has always had the big voice of Malo and tight instrumental chops. On this album and elsewhere, The Mavericks can sound like a greasy fifties group, a Tex Mex juke joint combo, soulful lover boys, and rockin’ band. Sometimes the players make you want to dance, and other times The Mavericks urge you back to the sofa with your main squeeze. Everything will happen in time, that’s the message here.