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Serving Up a Spicy Musical New Year

By Ed Morales

January 13, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Newsday. All Rights Reserved.

NOW THAT ALL the 2001 postmortems are over and done with, its triumphs and failures digested, it's time to look forward to 2002. Latin music artists from New York to Buenos

Aires, from salsa to pop, are planning how to impact their audiences in the coming year. The following is a short list of some of the things to expect in coming months:

The famed ex-leader of the influential Argentine rock band Soda Stereo and now a solo artist, Gustavo Cerati will release a new solo album. Last year, he released "11 Episodios Sinfnicos," a collection of Soda Stereo and solo efforts recorded with a 40-piece classical orchestra in Buenos Aires. Though no plans for a U.S. release have been announced, look for both albums to be available sometime this year.

Cookman International, in collaboration with David Maldonado Entertainment, will release an album tribute to legendary salsa singer Hctor Lavoe, featuring such Latin-alternative artists as Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas, Los Pericos, Los Amigos Invisibles and Ozomatli collaborating with salseros such as Domingo Quiones, Yomo Toro, Ismael Miranda, Johnny Pacheco and Cheo Feliciano.

In February, Jennifer Lopez will release a DVD recording of last year's live broadcast from Puerto Rico. The DVD will contain the full 80-minute program (a truncated version was broadcast on national television last month), plus a 20-minute behind-the-scenes documentary. Later in the spring, J Lo will release an album of Spanish- and English-language remixes of songs from both of her solo albums.

Los Amigos Invisibles will record their next album this year, produced by Masters at Work, the pseudonym for Nuyorican Soul DJs- programmers Little Louie Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez.

The recently exiled Cuban salsa singer Manoln, "el Mdico de la Salsa", will record a new album this year in Miami.

Mexican pop singer Luis Miguel, whose current album "Mis Romances" is No. 2 on the Billboard Latin chart, will go on a 10-show, six- city tour of the United States beginning Jan. 24. He's scheduled to perform at Madison Square Garden on Valentine's Day.

A new version of Emilio Estefan's classic '80s group, Miami Sound Machine, will debut in March on Epic Records. The new group, MSM, is composed of singers Sohanny Gross, Lorena Pinot and Carla Ramirez.

Argentine p`op-rocker Fito Paez made his film directorial debut last year with "Vidas Privadas," starring his wife, "All About My Mother" star Cecilia Roth, and "Amores Perros" star Gael Garca Bernal. Paez's new album will be released this year.

Last but not least, three Latin-alternative releases to look forward to in March are Kinky, an electro-Latin band with playful vocals like Nortec's; Los de Abajo, an alternative salsa-cumbia band from Mexico City, and Quetzal, another cumbia-tropical-flavored Lat alt band from Los Angeles.

La Ley Unplugged

Currently at No. 16 on the Billboard Latin music charts, "La Ley Unplugged" (WEA) is the highest-ranking rock record at the moment. If you're so inclined, it's worth checking out the video-DVD version of the recording.

Opening with a stirring invocation by an unnamed indigenous man in full tribal regalia, "La Ley Unplugged" is an unbroken string of stirring performances by the Chilean trio. Though La Ley has been criticized in the past for being somewhat derivative, there has never been a doubt about the singing and songwriting talents of its leader, Beto Cuevas - and he is the star of this show.

From the gentle explosion of the first track, "Animal," through "El Duelo," his haunting duet with his special guest, Mexican rocker Ely Guerra, Cuevas, who's been at this for 13 years, gives the performance of his life. The unplugged format seems to help, allowing the well-crafted essence of La Ley to be front and center, and not buried in a storm of pompous synthesizers.

The rhythm-and-blues backup vocalists, Kenny O'Brian and Bambi, as well as the Miami String Section, give the songs depth. "La Ley Unplugged" features hits such as "Aqu," "Fuera de Mi" and "Krazytown" (the latter in French). And as a bonus, La Ley debuts three new songs: "Intenta Amar," the very catchy "Mentira" and "La Luna." Before launching into the latter song, Cuevas introduces Luz Clarita, whom he calls the band's "shaman" or "curing woman."

Like many Latin American rockers, Cuevas gives props to indigenous religions and their respect for the earth, and it's not just a gimmick for his shows. Last month, in a ceremony that preceded his formal marriage on Jan. 5, Cuevas and his new wife, Argentine model Estela Mora, exchanged vows before a shaman in a circle made of salt before 300 witnesses in downtown Santiago, Chile.

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