Plena Libre’s “Corazon” CD Review

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One of the most energetic groups to listen and watch performing live, Plena Libre launched its 15th recording in 19 years with the release of “Corazon”.

This album was launched in December 2012 in Puerto Rico, and in February 2013 in the United States and internationally.

I love Puerto Rican “plena” because it’s one of the most fun and energetic rhythmical genres in Latin music. And of course, i like it because I’m Puerto Rican 🙂 . I remember that when Plena Libre came to the Latin music scene almost 20 years ago. Some critics predicted a short life for the group due to its “plena” repertoire. Others thought it would become another Christmas-only group.

“Corazon” contains 9 songs, most of them “plenas” with the exception of two (2) Puerto Rican “bombas”. The album was produced by Gary Nuñez himself, and distributed under the GN Musica record label.

I had the opportunity to interview Gary Nuñez and asked him why he named the album “Corazon”. Gary gave a very explicit response that I think is best for you to hear directly from him. Here (below) is a clip of my interview with Gary where he explains why he named the album “Corazon”!

[Entrevista Gary Nunez – Como surge el nombre de Corazon]

What I Liked About “Corazon”

Plena Libre "Corazon" album cover art.
Plena Libre released “Corazon” in February 2013 in the United States and internationally.

• It contains 9 energetic songs that will get your feet moving.

• The 2 “bombas” are really good songs; one from the late Puerto Rican “bomba” legend Rafael Cepeda, and the other from the Cortijo y su Combo repertoire.

• Great singing by Plena Libre vocalists Kalie Villanueva, Victor Velez, and Emanuel Santana. They are true “soneros” that sing with clave and “soneos” that make sense with the song theme.

• Despite the personnel changes through the years, Plena Libre still maintains their “peppy” trombone-beat sound, and in “Corazon” Gary Nuñez added a few “cameos” by keyboards and a marimba.

• I liked the song themes in “Corazon”. There are a some love songs (“Algo Contigo”, “Bomba Pa’ Ti”), some classic “plena” and “bomba” songs (Mon Rivera’s “A Papa” also popularized by Celia Cruz with Willie Colon; and “Habla Cumbé” from the late legendary “bomba” maestro Don Rafael Cepeda) , and even some “tiraera” songs (“Huracan”, “Tira la Bola”) aimed at….someone Gary wouldn’t reveal in our conversation! “Al que le caiga el sayo, que se lo ponga” like they say in one of the songs.

Here (below) is a video of Plena Libre performing the song “La Verdad”:

In my conversation with Gary Nuñez, he explained the song selection for “Corazon”. Here (below) is the audio clip of Gary talking about the songs.

Entrevista Gary Nunez – Seleccion de temas

Suggestions to Plena Libre About “Corazon”

Gary Nuñez and Plena Libre
Plena Libre will perform a concert with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Puerto Rico on May 4, 2013.

• I thought the keyboard were a bit distracting to the music. Although the addition of some keyboard notes does bring an element of innovation to the songs, I found it a bit distracting. This is unlike the addition of the marimba, which blended in quite well in the couple of songs where it was used.

• Although I love the Puerto Rican patriotic song “Que Bonita Bandera”, especially when performed “live”, I found that I didn’t enjoy it as much in a recording. This song is performed sooooo much in Puerto Rico, almost every time there is a “bembé de plena”, that it’s almost the equivalent of recording the national anthem. Of course we all love our national anthems, but do we want to listen to it in a recording? That’s how I feel about this one.

I’m thinking that Plena Libre probably has performed it “live” so many times and has been received with great enthusiasm (I would be one of those, as I like it when performed “live”) that Gary Nuñez probably decided it would be good to include it in “Corazon”.

My Recommendation of “Corazon”

I really liked Plena Libre’s “Corazon” because of its energetic “plena” songs, it’s great sound, and the variety Gary Nuñez included in terms of rhythm (added 2 “bombas”) and song themes (love, classics, and “tiraera”).

This formula keeps “Corazon” interesting to listen from beginning to end. This is a very well produced album by Plena Libre.

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