We Review the new album from Paco’s Oldies, Vol. 3

On his third album of rock standards, Massachusetts-based singer Paco brings an infectious enthusiasm to familiar tunes. Clocking in at twenty tracks, it’s an ambitious project. The settings closely mirror the originals, resulting in a collection that’s a loving tribute rather than a reimagining. Paco hearkens unabashedly to a time when rock music was for dancing and rock and roll music was for parties, and his personal warmth shines strong throughout.

He’s supported by a talented band of students recruited from Berklee College of Music. Their skill gives some of the most acute pleasures on the album, particularly the razor-sharp horns. The solos on Light My Fire, shared between horns, keys, and jazz-inflected guitars, summon up the spooky ghost of Ray Manzarek and drop back into the riff with satisfying tightness.

Paco shines brightest on the gentlest tunes. He’s a sentimental man, and songs like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” give room for his tenderness to breathe. Here also the female backing vocals, which sometimes struggle to find their place in the mix, are used to advantage.

These are all songs that thrive in a live environment. The whole album begs to be played live and loud, rather than politely on headphones. High-school hop classics like “Splish Splash” and “Who Put the Bom” are meant to be enjoyed on your feet, and dance tunes don’t get any better than “La Bamba”.  

The entire album hearkens to a simplicity that goes beyond nostalgia. Some of these songs are so purely fun that they seem almost nonsensical, fifty years after rock became a vehicle for social criticism and generational angst. But that was always the point, wasn’t it? Rock’s power has always been rooted in its ability to deal in nonsense, and therefore to imagine the world differently to what it is.  It’s still at its most potent in the hands of people who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Paco’s open embrace of nonsense and sentiment are infectious. The footer on his website announces, “My goal is simply to help others find a bit more joy and peace in their lives through the incredible medium of music.” With this collection, he delivers.