Sunday, March 25, 2007

Merengue: Juan Luis Guerra - La Llave De Mi Corazon

When Juan Luis Guerra sings, the world listens. Ever since Bachata Rosa gave him global fame, everything he touches turns in to gold. Grammy nominations and critical acclaim have been piling up, even for his evangelically inspired 2004 album Para Ti. And with reason, to me his music has always represented joy, sun and energy.

With La Llave De Mi Corazón, Guerra throws himself onto the Anglo music market. Spanglish is ubiquitous throughout the record, two tracks are even entirely in English (he has to work on his accent though). And -thank God- I didn't hear any religiously influenced lyrics, Juan Luís goes back to singing about the best subject of all: love.

Love songs equal ballads, and that's mostly what you'll hear on this album: bachata and bolero-influenced baladas.

Si tú no bailas conmigo, prefiero no bailar
(If you don't dance with me, I'd rather not dance)
seems to be the philosophy behind the album: the merengue that made him famous serves to express his joy over love, as in title track, first single and damn groovy dance track "La Llave De Mi Corazón" (and the English version "Medicine For My Soul"). Also check out "Como Yo".
The baladas are more like a window into his soul, as in the hopelessly romantic "Que Me Des Tu Cariño". And "Cancioncita de Amor" combines the best of both: starting out quietly and sensitive, but ending in joyful trumpet chaos.

I definitely prefer the upbeat songs to the slower ones, but then again, seldom have I enjoyed ballads this much. Overall, I think the album suffers a bit from too much tempo changes. However, that won't keep me from putting it on "endless repeat" for some time ;)

PS: iTunes link coming soon, you can click the ad on your right in the meantime, if you want to buy the album. Be sure to take a look at the 'retro' video for "La Llave de Mi Corazón", just click on 'Show Videos...' below.

Juan Luís Guerra - La Llave de Mi Corazón
mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon
Juan Luís Guerra - Cancioncita de Amor
mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bolero: Ibrahim Ferrer - Mi Sueño

No, (unfortunately) Ibrahim Ferrer has not risen from the dead, nor has he recorded an album in heaven. BUT, luckily Mr. Ferrer did (almost) make his lifetime dream come true before he passed away on August 6 of 2005: he always wanted to record a pure bolero album. With Buena Vista Social Club, Ferrer was often pushed towards playing rumba, son and guaracha, but on "Mi sueño" (My Dream) he could finally dedicate himself fully to the most romantic genre of Latin music. When he passed away, recordings for this album were stopped halfway. But Ferrer had already recorded some high quality demo's that - long live technology! - were enriched with modest arrangements afterwards.

If bolero's are often very, very corny, Ibrahim Ferrer with his magic touch turns them into true gems. Everyone knows "Quizás, Quizás" (or the English version by Nat King Cole "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps"), but never was it so touching: in this version, Ferrer is accompanied by another Cuban monument, Omara Portuondo. The result of this is the most fragile interpretation of this song I have ever heard. Actually, this applies to all songs on this album: Ferrer's old, frail voice gives them such subtlety and fragility, that you'll never want to hear anybody else sing them. The romantic "Quiéreme Mucho", the jazzy "Perfidia", they're all to die for. Also, the arrangements built around Ferrer's voice (by pianist Roberto Fonseca) are so well chosen, Ibrahim Ferrer today would be proud to hear how su sueño ended up sounding.

If Rhythms del Mundo - Cuba was a cheap spin-off of Buena Vista Social Club's international succes (see our post), betraying the true soul of Carribbean music, this album is Cuban all the way. And beautiful.

¡Adiós Ibrahim!

Ibrahim Ferrer & Omara Portuondo - Quizas Quizas mp3 pre-order@Amazon

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Salsa: Tito Nieves

Nostalgia can be a treacherous thing. Great songs can be loaded with bad memories, distorting your actual appreciation. The same counts for awful songs with lots of emotional value: you know you'd hate the track in any other situation, but with such pretty memories attached, you can only love it.

That's about the relationship I have with the songs of Marco Antonio Solís. I agree he's a decent songwriter with an impressive career, but his songs are so packed with romantic clichés (the violins, the way he says "amor", the honey-sweet melodies) that I wouldn't EVER listen to him. That is, if I hadn't lived in a small Guatemalan village for a year, where everybody seemed to love his music, and played it all day through. I can't listen to "Mas Que Tu Amigo" (video) without thinking of my madre postiza watching some telenovela.

So I can only love this cover by Tito Nieves, brushing up the original ballad to an uptempo salsa. Tito has retained the melody and the violins (relentlessly appealing to my sentiments ;)), but added some improvisation to keep things interesting. "Mas Que Tu Amigo" is part of a whole CD of Solís covers - but I don't think I can handle that right now :)

Tito Nieves - Mas Que Tu Amigo mp3 buy@iTunes buy@Amazon

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Reggaeton: Calle 13

Calle 13 is back with a new CD! Residente o Visitante will be released April 24th, and if the album is anything like it's first single, it will be a bomb. "Tango del Pecado" is the best reggaeton I've heard so far in 2007. Residente and Visitante (the two group members) reinvent the genre all over again, as they did on Calle 13's self-titled debut album last year, awarded with three Latin Grammys. They've had some help this time, as Oscar-winning producer Gustavo Santaolalla (reknowed for his scores for Babel, Brokeback Mountain, Motorcycle Diaries and many many more) invites his Bajofondo Tango Club on this devilish track.

"Tango del Pecado" starts right away with the infective chorus, classic violins and the indispensable accordeon dancing a soulful tango with the dirty beats of DJ Visitante. The real treat on this track is, again, rapper Residente. His lyrical flow is unmatched, his satirical style a relief in a genre that's taking itself way too serious. The words to "Tango del Pecado" read as a role-play of a modern Romeo and Juliet, where a rich and beautiful girl falls for a poor musician. Residente cites Rubén Blades classic "Ligia Elena" as an influence, but you can't help noticing the correlation with his own life, remembering the storm of comments after former Miss Universe Denise Quiñones fell in love with him. She also plays the role of his bride 'Juliet' in the video clip - as usual with Calle 13, music and video are a single entity, because of ther art/film background.

As with their breakthrough single "Atrévete-te", you can also interpret the song as an answer to common predjudices surrounding reggaeton and hiphop. Even back in 2003, when I was in Guatemala, religious leaders labeled the music as 'satanic' and 'sinful'. Residente's response?

¡Súbele el volumen a la música satánica!
(Crank up the volume on this satanic music!)

Gotta love him. Residente o Visitante must be the most expected release of this year...

Calle 13 - Tango del Pecado mp3 pre-order@Amazon

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007


After another web host service suspended my account, I've shortened the playlist to 10 songs. Hope you don't mind, it'll make things a bit easier for me.

I've also added a function to play all songs on the playlist at once, in your favorite mp3 player. In the sidebar, click the icon right next to "Play All", at the bottom of the playlist. For help with using the playlist in iTunes, read this page.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Rock: Zodiacs, Caramelos de Cianuro

Here are two rock songs, that fit into the category 'youth fun punk'. Both songs are bursting with an energy borrowed from late '70s punk bands like The Jam or The Clash.

Los Zodiacs - La Onda Tropical - Latin Music mp3 Blog
"Chica Normal" by Zodiacs seems to aim for a commercial poprock audience, but then the chaotic chorus breaks loose, guitars and vocals all trying to grasp your attention. Keep an eye on this young Spanish band, 'cause with a sound like that they're about to go big.

Caramelos de Cianuro - La Onda Tropical - Latin Music mp3 Blog
Venezuelans Caramelos de Cianuro, on the other hand, have an extensive history going back to their forming in 1989. National fame came in 1996, the international breakthrough six years later in 2002, and last year they performed before 40,000 people, opening for Shakira on an airfield. But after all those years, they still manage to sound innovating and full of vitality. "No Eres Tu" is three minutes of compact power pop, instantly impacting thanks to an unusual voice and smooth bass play.

Zodiacs - Chica Normal mp3 buy@iTunes (Spain only)
Caramelos de Cianuro - No Eres Tu mp3

Zodiacs - Chica Normal

Caramelos de Cianuro - No Eres Tu

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