Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music
Congreso are another band I was introduced to on Progarchives, and one I took an almost instant liking to. There are inevitable comparisons to their fellow countrymen Los Jaivas: both bands have been around for forty years or so; both play a progressive style of folk music that is highly influenced by their Chilean ethnic roots; both record music that tends to both celebrate life and to make the occasional social statement; and both employ quite a bit of traditional Chilean instrumentation in their music (charango, marimba, tarka, 12-string guitar, tom toms, rondador) as well as more common modern instruments like electric guitar and bass, drums and synthesizers.
But there are differences as well. Congreso tends to focus on more traditional folk arrangements, particularly on their early albums, and many of their songs are either adopted from or inspired by these older tunes. Los Jaivas on the other hand quickly moved toward a heavier use of modern instrumentation and more symphonic prog arrangements in their music. Both styles are highly appealing to prog and folk fans, but the differences give us something to celebrate in each of their sounds.
Blessed with their first full-fledged hit album, ZZ Top followed it up with Fandango!, a record split between a side of live tracks and a side of new studio cuts. In a way, this might have made sense, since they were a kick-ass live band, and they do sound good here, but it's hard not to see this as a bit of a wasted opportunity in retrospect.