Beto Hale, featuring Tony Levin – Rebirth (2013)

It would be easy enough to pigeonhole Beto Hale’s new album as Beatlesque. After all, it includes work from two former Fab collaborators, including bassist Tony Levin. But Rebirth distinguishes itself from that easy comparison — in way large and small.

Rebirth is partly sung in the the Mexico City-born Hale’s native tongue, and that imbues the work with spicy new flavors — some of them intriguing and richly sensual, others buoyant and joyous. “Explosiones,” the opening track here, makes for a heart-filling anthem — even if you can’t climb over the language barrier — while “Trinchera” possesses a stirring anthematic arc.

Certainly, this is music with roots in the air-tight 1960s-era pop structures that came before. “In April,” for instance, moves from a confessional opening into a kaleidoscopic groove that will certainly remind you of a certain mop-topped group in its Sgt. Pepper period.

But even the album’s more overt Beatles connections come with their own impressive resume items from elsewhere, and that adds still more musical complexity. Levin, who played on Lennon’s Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey albums, is joined by multi-instrumentalist Marc Mann as part of Hale’s crack team of musical collaborators. Mann was part of George Harrison’s Brainwashed project, and also appeared as part of the 2002 Concert for George tribute band.

Thing is, though: Rebirth more often sounds like their respective work with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson and Danny Elfman. “Fire Away” combines a complete string signature with a crying guitar line to create something altogether unexpected. “I Will Always Be There” expands on the album’s essential positivism with a complex, prog influenced cadence.

A credit to Hale and his command of the lyric is that he holds his own among these towering influences, not to mention these out-sided musical personalities. Songs like “Come As You Are,” ultimately, are centered not on their refined, often brilliantly layered structures, but on his unabashedly upbeat themes — something that shines through, whatever the idiom.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.