Newsday’s music critic and Sonidos Latinos columnist Ed Morales with his picks of the best Latin music in 2007. I’m really baffled that United We Swing by Spanish Harlem Orchestra did not make his list. In my humble opinion it is the best Latin recording of 2007. Oh well, everybody’s a critic.
Reggaetón went mainstream, salsa went urban
This year reggaeton, instead of fading away, merged with the mainstream, and salsa continued to embrace a more urban sound. Pop bachata broke through with younger groups and Latin alternative held on with key releases by old favorites. But Juan Luis Guerra swept the Latin Grammys and won everyone’s heart.
1. JUAN LUIS GUERRA, “LA LLAVE DE MI CORAZÓN.” Stellar production, arrangements and songwriting could make this one of his best albums ever. The five Grammy Awards signaled not only commercial success but strong aesthetic accomplishment. Rides the strength of the title track hit, but innovative and bracing all the way through.
2. MARC ANTHONY, “EL CANTANTE.” This is a case where the soundtrack is more rewarding than the film. Sure, Anthony is no Hector Lavoe and producer Sergio George is no Willie Colón, but that’s a small argument. This music is the emotional center of a generation, and though Anthony’s throaty performance isn’t exactly on point, it’s a brilliant homage.
3. CABLE 13, “RESIDENTE O VISITANTE.” Strongly Puerto Rican yet globalized. The duet with Orishas was a highlight of the Grammys. The songs, though not as stunning as on their debut, grow on you, and the duets with La Mala Rodríguez and Tego Calderón are classic.
4. ISAAC DELGADO, “EN PRIMERA PLANA.” Guest stars Cachao, Victor Manuelle and Gonzalo Rubalcaba make this salsa like no other. Delgado brings a Cuban looseness, breaking out of rigidly commercial salsa. Producer Sergio George is the key, and songs like “Paquito Va” have the soul of a salsa anthem.
5. DADDY YANKEE, “IMPACTO.” Daddy single-handedly wills reggaeton into becoming a universal pop music. He makes shrewd use of producers Scott Storch and Kanye West and guest stars Akon, Fergie and will.i.am. From the futuristic title track to the “underground” reggaeton nostalgia of “A lo Cláscio,” “Impacto” is a relentless joyride.
6. LA MALA RODRÍGUEZ, “MALARÍSIMO.” Impressive duets with diverse talents Tego and Julieta Venegas make this album special, as do the talents of several Spanish producers and DJ Rectangle of Las Vegas. She pushes limits while coming off as a generous spirit and playful mistress of ceremonies.
7. VOLTIO, “A LO CLARO.” Suddenly a major voice in reggaeton, Voltio dabbles in multi-genre-ism, dabbling in cumbia, salsa, bolero, rock and post-disco. He’s the appealing middle ground between the archly suburban Calle 13 and the larger than life pop-gangster Daddy Yankee, and his embrace of the street is neither overbearing nor pretentious.
8. JUANES, “LA VIDA ES … UN RATICO.” The Colombian pop-rock megastar turns his own personal tragedy into material for yet another hit album. While not breaking much new ground musically, there’s enough originality and passion in the songs to push his career forward.
9. CAFÉ TACUBA, “SINO.” In some ways a comeback album, “Sino” allows band members to go back to the music of their youth. What results is an interesting flux between classic-rock jamming and ’80s synth-pop terseness. Best appreciated if you’re into the droning guitars, but the songwriting still has plenty to say.
10. PAPO VASQUEZ PIRATES TROUBADOURS, “FROM THE BADLANDS.” This “Latin jazz” collection of chaotic tunes embracing bomba, guaracha, plena, mambo and Aguinaldo erases genre boundaries. Propelled by Vásquez’s insistent trombone, and aided by people like Edsel Gómez, Sherman Irby, Milton Cardona, and Richie Flores, this is groundbreaking stuff.