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RECORD LABEL: Universal Records
RATING: Three and a half oranges

     Here’s a thought: when one has been in the business as long as some local recording artists have, one might get a little jaded by the critical acclaim and commercial success.  End result: one comes up with a formula that one refuses to break for fear of losing the fans.
Some, however, nimbly cross the line between formula and daring, and come up with work that is both representative of the style for which they have become well-known while treading the waters of experimentation and good, old-fashioned chutzpah.  We can safely call them artists.
The Apo (they seem to have dropped the “Hiking Society” part of the monicker), they of the side splitting humor and left-of-center original songs, solidify their “artist” status with this release.  “Banda Rito” puts together nine remakes of 90s tracks from alternative Filipino bands, as well as one Jim Paredes original, and gives it arrangements that work so differently from the first versions that, if only for the novelty, one might want to give the album a listen.  Mind you, this is no novelty album; it’s a keeper. Jim Paredes, Danny Javier and Buboy Garovillo have created an opus that keeps with the formula (gotta do them remakes, y’all), but still has the Apo stamp all over it.  They’re fully in control.
Opening track “Pare Ko” redoes the Eraserheads original with a big band set-up, breathing fresh life into the early 90s hit.  The patented Apo harmonies also make themselves manifest on another Eraserheads remake, “Magasin,” also done full orchestral, brass-led style.  It’s an invigorating display of Apo ingenuity (and the arrangement skills of Bond Samson and JD Villanueva).  Other tracks also benefit from fresh rearrangements.  The cover of Orient Pearl’s “Pagsubok” receives South Border flavor courtesy on none other than Jay Durias.  Lorrie Ilustre’s arrangements of I-Axe staple “Ako’y Sa Iyo, Ika’y Akin” and After Image’s “Tag-Ulan” is delicious and cloying in the good way.  Joey Ayala would be proud of the Bob Aves arrangement on “Karaniwang Tao.”  And note the totally unorthodox treatment of Yano’s “Banal Na Aso”; Mon David’s almost secular a capella arrangement is completely thrown off by the Apo’s handling of the material – one’s tendency is to laugh with the song.
Not all tracks work as well as the others.  Jimmy Antiporda’s arrangement of “Harana,” done, this reviewer thinks, to mimic the two-step R&B dance flavor of INOJ, falls embarrassingly flat.  Thankfully, Antiporda redeems himself exquisitely on his rehash of “Kisapmata,” although the Apo’s vocals sound tentative near the end.
Through it all, we all know the Apo is in the driver’s seat.  Garovillo, Javier and Paredes are on the top of their game, and they know it.  “Banda Rito” is a splendid addition to their growing catalog, and one that’ll tide over the old fans and win a whole generation of new ones.

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