The artists in this edition of Latin Pulse range from two kinds of salsa devotees--a veteran (Willie Colon) and a convert from hip-hop (Marc Anthony)--to a Mexican romantic idolo and a mainstream pop star who demands respect. Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).
* * * 1/2 Miguel Bose, "Bajo el Signo de Cain," (WEA Latina). Bose has made a dozen albums since the late '70s, but he's won more critical acclaim as an actor (he's the attorney/transvestite in Pedro Almodovar's "High Heels"). Despite above-average lyrics and strong sales, his music has been largely dismissed by purists as lightweight pop. This album, however, should bring him some respect. Produced by Ross Collum (whose credits include British rockers Tears for Fears), "Cain" has a new-age tinge, but without the one-dimensional connotations of the term.
Bose's most ambitious album by far, "Bajo" benefits from its strong Spanish flavor, such as flamenco vocal quejios (moanings) and guitars. The lyrics, more direct than usual, deal with ecology, God, love, exile and even the Spanish press, which began a false rumor that Bose had contracted AIDS.
* * * Marc Anthony, "Otra Nota," (Soho Latino/Sony). As with many young New York Puerto Ricans who give up hip-hop and dance music to go into salsa, Anthony was viewed by much of the salsa world with skepticism when he announced he was going to make this, his first salsa album. But he displays a convincing feel for the music. In fact, he may be the best of the many newborn salseros .
Equally strong on romantic ballads and standard salsa grooves, Anthony is an excellent vocal interpreter. The album has an unnecessary version of the old Bread hit "Make It With You," but otherwise consists of energetic salsa treatments of hits by Juan Gabriel, Ilan Chester and even Marc's father, Felipe Muniz. A noble effort.
* * * Luis Miguel, "Aries," (WEA Latina). Mexico's Luis Miguel, who started out in show business as a child singer, has evolved into a major adult force in pop. Unlike so many Latin pop singers who specialize in tired old romantic tunes, he injects healthy elements of jazz and funk into his polished sound. After a highly admired experiment with bolero music on his last album, Miguel returns to familiar territory accompanied by his usual superb arrangements and musicianship.
** 1/2 Willie Colon, "Hecho en Puerto Rico," (Sony). Recorded in Puerto Rico with mostly Puerto Rican-born musicians, Colon's 33rd album is, on one level, quite fine. But it's disappointing that Colon--who, along with Ruben Blades, changed the face of salsa in the '70s with his social commentary and sophisticated arrangements--shows so little creative ambition. He seems content to simply showcase music of other writers, little of it as powerful as his normal fare.