Latin Grammy 2013: My Favorite Salsa Album


There are a lot of great artists nominated for the 2013 Latin Grammy for Best Salsa Album, and yet I see one album that raises above the rest.

Colombian group Guayacan celebrates their 25th Anniversary with a 2-CD set that includes 25 hits, 25 artists, and good Salsa music.

Nominees for Best Salsa Album

Albita's "Una Mujer Que Canta" has some fiery Salsa songs.
Albita’s “Una Mujer Que Canta” has some fiery Salsa songs.

Besides Guayacan, the rest of the nominees make a formidable list of artists, each with new Salsa music recordings good enough to deserve a nomination.

Albita (Una Mujer Que Canta) – the veteran Cuban singer Albita Rodriguez puts her strong voice in this album, in which the title track is my favorite. Since the title song is the 1st track of the album, I had the expectation of more of this hot Salsa through the album. I was disappointed to find only 2 or 3 other Salsa songs with the same flavor in “Una Mujer Que Canta”. There is some good music here, but not a strong contender for a Grammy.

Victor Manuelle (Me Llamare Tuyo) – the Puerto Rican “Sonero de la Juventud” brings more of the same Salsa formula he’s used in previous albums.

Victor Manuelle continues his successful Pop-Salsa formula in "Me Llamare Tuyo".
Victor Manuelle continues his successful Pop-Salsa formula in “Me Llamare Tuyo”.

This has been a winning formula for Victor Manuelle, which continues to sell many CDs with his Salsa Romantica converted to Pop Salsa style. His original 10-song CD has little experimentation outside the Pop Salsa formula.

In previous albums, Victor Manuelle has flirted with vallenato fusion along with Colombian guest Jorge Celedon. In this album the guest is newcomer Ken-Y, which sings a nice Pop Salsa with Victor Manuelle.

There is a 13-song version of “Me Llamare Tuyo” which includes remakes of “Panteon de Amor” (the 70’s hit from Orquesta Zodiac) and “Chiquitita”. I didn’t like either of the remakes. A good Pop Salsa album, that could impress the LARAS voters for the golden phonograph, but not Grammy material for me.

Tito Nieves goes back to making Pop-Salsa out of Mexican classics in "Que Seas Feliz".
Tito Nieves goes back to making Pop-Salsa out of Mexican classics in “Que Seas Feliz”.

Tito Nieves (Que Seas Feliz) – the veteran Puerto Rican salsero goes back to the Mexican songbook on this album, made of Salsa versions of popular Mexican songs. The album is so predictable that it becomes boring.

This is an 8-song CD with all songs converted to a predictable Salsa formula that brings no musical value to the table. It was a missed opportunity to collaborate with Mexican singers, and perhaps mix Salsa with a Mariachi band and do something a bit more innovative.

But Tito Nieves stays within the safe predicable Salsa formula he’s used in the past. Not sure why “Que Seas Feliz” was nominated, but I didn’t think it was even close to the quality of his previous album “Mi Ultima Grabacion”!

"El Caballero de la Salsa" brings a lot of music and variety in "Gilberto Santa Rosa"
“El Caballero de la Salsa” brings a lot of music and variety in “Gilberto Santa Rosa”

Gilberto Santa Rosa (Gilberto Santa Rosa) – after so many years in the Salsa scene, Gilbertito decides to self-title an album. This is a 13-song CD with a lot of Salsa variations within. It has Salsa dura, Pop Salsa, Boleros, tropical versions of Latin standards, and a Salsa fusion collaboration with Guaco.

In summary (and as I say in my “Gilberto Santa Rosa” review) there is so much music here that although some songs don’t hit the mark with me, there are still enough good songs to make it a good album. The song “Si Yo Fuera Tu” is nominated in the Best Salsa Song category, and it’s my favorite in that category. This could be a LARAS favorite for the Grammy, but not for me!

Sergio Geoge's "Salsa Giants" packs big name Salsa music stars.
Sergio Geoge’s “Salsa Giants” packs big name Salsa music stars.

Sergio George (Presents Salsa Giants) – this is one of the best collection of Salsa stars in one stage, but with a bit of overused Salsa songs. As I said in my “Salsa Giants” CD Review, couldn’t we get some other songs from veterans Cheo Feliciano and Oscar D’Leon other than the burnt out “Anacaona”, “Mi Bajo y Yo”, and “Mata Siguaraya”?

However, the Salsa star power is impressive and the music well-orchestrated and performed. Luis Enrique, Marc Anthony, Andy Montañez, Jose Alberto “El Canario”, and Tito Nieves bring to the “live” recording a lot of power, and the combined studio-recorded song with all singers is catchy and good. I think this will be anther LARAS voters favorite, but I’m sticking with Guayacan!

My Favorite: Guayacan “25 Años, 25 Exitos, 25 Artistas”

Guayacan goes all out in their 25th Anniversary with great guest Salsa singers and enjoyable Salsa music.
Guayacan goes all out in their 25th Anniversary with great guest Salsa singers and enjoyable Salsa music.

The album that is clearly different from the above bunch is Guayacan’s 25th Anniversary celebration. The album content is true to it’s title. The songs have aggressive and progressive arrangements, have guest singers from Salsa and outside Salsa, and the band sounds great.

This album really got me excited and my feet moving, as it is a Salsa dancer’s dream. I’m not going to list all 25 guest, but among them are Gilberto Santa Rosa, Pedro Brull, Mayito Rivera, Jorge Celedon, Felipe Pelaez, Choco Orta, Ray de la Paz, and many others. This may not be a super-stars album like Sergio George’s Salsa Giants, but it has a bunch of Latin music favorite singers, that make this album rock.

In past years I would have little faith that LARAS would actually select the best album of the category, as it almost always went with popularity and major record labels.

However, independent labels have been gaining ground in recent years, including many not-so-popular artists. Because of popularity, label, and star power, I think the Latin Grammy will likely go to Salsa Giants, but for me Guayacan’s is clearly a better Salsa music album. For Salsa dancers it’s not even a fair to compare Guayacan’s with any other album here.

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