MANILA -- When singer-songwriter Ebe Dancel's first recorded work with Sugarfree "Sa Wakas" was released in 2003, the title of the album referred to the three-year odyssey to put that material out.
The music through 12 tracks featured buoyant rockers that you’d tap your feet and nod your head. However, if you listened intently to the songs, they dripped with the musings of the pained, the lovelorn, and the hopelessly romantic. Sugarfree became a popular live act and a strong radio presence, and in Dancel, one of the best songwriters of his generation.
Today, 20 years after Sugarfree was formed, Dancel and his songs have grown in popularity. And the re-recording of his songs – 11 with his former band and one as a solo artist – have opened him to a new generation of fans including those of Generation X who picked up his first-ever release on vinyl, "Baliktanaw."
Barely a week after its release, the LP – pressed in Hong Kong -- has sold out and was re-selling on Discogs for $100!
Dancel was in disbelief at the reception of "Baliktanaw." At the same time, he couldn’t contain his excitement at having his music out on vinyl.
“I grew up listening to vinyl records,” he enthused. “To have my own is an honor and a privilege. Kudos to PolyEast Records for pushing through with the release given the strange times we now live in.”
“I have to admit that I wasn’t as involved because we were busy planning my 20th anniversary concert and Baliktanaw’s release on compact disc. I did hear the vinyl mix and I liked it a lot.”
“Baliktanaw" is "my ode to my former band,” pronounced Dancel of his old outfit that included bassist Jal Taguibao and drummer Mitch Singson and Kaka Quisumbing. “A (Sugarfree) reunion is out of the question at this point, so I wanted to give my listeners something close to that. Hence, the re-recording of some of their favorite Sugarfree songs.”
The selection process was aided by the letters fans send to Dancel. “I get letters every week from fans who say the songs helped them deal with different situations in their lives. Some say, I’ve even saved lives.”
“For someone who grew up in the province and not really having grand dreams, this is quite something. More than making music, it’s the way the songs connect to people that makes it special. I am humbled by these letters. Truly blessed.”
And no doubt, the newer versions of Sugarfree classic such as “Burnout,” “Telepono,” and “Mariposa” will tug at the heartstrings even more given the addition of brass and strings that give these pop gems a sheen and poignant elegance.
“We spent a lot of time choosing which songs to re-record,” bared Dancel, “and we involved a lot of strings and other elements. I was so busy doing shows and often slept in the car while in transit to the concert venue or the recording studio.”
At the production helm was songwriter-arranger and Silent Sanctuary member Chino David.
“He made sure everything went smoothly despite the crazy schedule,” underscored Dancel.
With the record sold out and the compact disc version out soon, Dancel is focusing on online shows.
“I spent a lot of time building my virtual stage from the audio set-up to the background and lighting. I am no techie and had the hardest time figuring things out. But I think I got it right. For now, it’s online shows for people who book me, a new song here and there, and a little time to reflect on the next step. It’s a crazy world. I want to take my time and make the best decision for myself and the people around me,” he said.