Album review: Los Tigres del Norte and Friends’ ‘MTV Unplugged’
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One of the most anticipated Latin albums of the year, this “MTV Unplugged” session with veteran norteño superstars Los Tigres del Norte is the first album of its kind to delve into the regional Mexican arena — a genre that is tremendously popular in this country, but frowned upon by Latin American snobs. This may explain the questionable decision to invite a number of high-profile guests who add mainstream credibility to the band’s battery of bouncy hits.
As it turns out, the collaborations make for some fascinating listening — and a bit of surrealism too. The authentic norteño roots that Los Tigres have been championing for over 40 years dissolve into a sea of lush Latin pop on “Golpes Del Corazón,” a duet with Paulina Rubio that sounds like a Julieta Venegas hit from a parallel universe. And the happy-go-lucky vibe of “América” collides head on with the virulent rapping of Residente, the controversial MC with Puerto Rico’s Calle 13. Zack de la Rocha, however, sounds positively giddy on “Somos Más Americanos,” a bold political anthem that defends Mexicans as the original inhabitants of the territory known today as the USA.
Guest spots by Colombian pop god Juanes, eccentric rock crooner Andrés Calamaro and wide-eyed troubadour Diego Torres are equally intriguing, almost experimental at times. But the Unplugged Tigres sound much, much better on the few tracks where they perform by themselves. “Jefe De Jefes,” the title track off the band’s epic, 1997 double album, is playful and relaxed, anchored on some of the sweetest accordion lines you are ever likely to hear. For norteño neophytes, a sloppy but potentially eye-opening introduction.
Los Tigres del Norte and Friends
Three stars (Out of four)
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— Ernesto Lechner