Dancing Back to the Disco Days

Like fellow pop veteran Madonna, Estefan, who turned 40 last year, is confronting middle age with her dancing shoes on. In lieu of the tender, reflective ballads and lilting acoustic arrangements that dominated her last album, 1996’s “Destiny,” Estefan’s latest effort is virtually a nonstop dance party, awash in the sort of percolating Latin rhythms that distinguished her earliest (and arguably best) hit singles, spiced with crisp, elegant production that nods to the latest trends in house music and hip-hop.

While Estefan’s technical prowess as a singer isn’t going to make club divas like Martha Wash lose any sleep, fiercely upbeat tracks such as “Don’t Stop” and “I Just Wanna Be Happy” are ideal showcases for her thin but plucky voice. Other songs acknowledge contemporary dance music’s debt to disco: The piercing synthesizer lines and lush strings in “Real Woman” could have been lifted from an old Donna Summer tune, while the jazz-inflected “Don’t Release Me,” which features a rap by Wyclef Jean, evokes the sweetly frantic intensity of Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover.”

Whether she’s waxing nostalgic or looking for a new groove, Estefan finds exhilarating, accessible ways to turn the beat around.



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* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times’ World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: clips