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San Antonio Express-News

Reclusive Crooner Still Fan Fave: Latin Star To Fill Freeman With His Romantic Ballads

By Ramiro Burr

March 29, 2002
Copyright © 2002
San Antonio Express-News. All Rights Reserved.

According to the standard pop-superstar playbook, long-term success requires talent, looks, original music and a willingness to promote it.

For Luis Miguel, two of the four has been enough.

The singer fans call "Luismi" performs at 7 p.m. Monday at Freeman Coliseum.

For most of the '90s, much of Luis Miguel's output, including three live albums, has been covers. He rarely makes himself available for promotional junkets. But that hasn't affected his status as Latin America's top balladeer or kept him from winning six Grammys in the past decade. His next-closest competitors would be Cristian and Enrique Iglesias.

Released last year, "Mis Romances" is his fourth bolero CD in what he said would become a 10-album series. While his latest bolero CD is a respectable effort, none in the series has topped the fire and inspiration of the original 1991 "Romance."

"Mis Romances" is at No. 10 on Billboard's Top Latin Albums after peaking at No. 2. It has received the RIAA's Latin double-platinum certification for sales exceeding 400,000 copies.

Luis Miguel has long had a reputation as a perfectionist, and it shows on "Mis Romances," which, like his previous efforts, enlists an A list of arrangers and songwriters, including Juan Carlos Calderon and Spanish songwriter Manuel Alejandro. He's backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra throughout and virtuoso Cuban emigre trumpeter Arturo Sandoval on the energetic "La Ultima Noche."

Other highlights include his remake of Carlos Gardel's classic tango "Volver" and Pedro Infante's "Amorcito Corazon."

The first single, "Amor, Amor, Amor," is a brassy, up-tempo Vegas-styled update of Julio Iglesias' 1970s hit. The second single, "Como Duele," a new soft-rock ballad written by legendary bolero composer Armando Manzanero, is No. 12 on Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks after peaking at No. 1.

In 2000, he told People En Espanol that his preference for older music partly stems from his philosophy about the modern world.

"Communication is so rapid that there's not the magic that sometimes existed in the 1950s and 1960s. It's a world that's losing a little bit of the human touch, contact, verbal communication," he said.

Ironically, critics often fault his singing for being technically impeccable but lacking emotion.

Reports from earlier tour stops say that Luis Miguel's voice has returned to form. A mid-February date in New York was abruptly canceled when he lost his voice.

Recent concerts have included a 21-song set in Miami that includes a sampling of hits from his 1980s teen-pop years through the present. The Miami Herald reported, "It was a low-key production compared to the lavishness of other Luis Miguel concerts, without a string section and only a small mariachi ensemble appearing for a medley."

The enigmatic 31-year-old rarely grants interviews, guarding his personal life. His reclusiveness combined with his onstage magnetism and liaisons with some of the world's most famous women have made him a prime target for tabloids and paparazzi.

Always followed by Spanish-language media, his on-again, off-again romance with Mariah Carey made him juicy grist for American gossip columnists. (The most recent reports say the relationship is on again.) He and actress/model Sofia Vergara were recently summoned to testify against tabloid photographer Angel Mora after an altercation between Mora and Luis Miguel's bodyguards in Miami.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Spanish singer Luisito Rey and Italian model Marcella Basteri, Luis Miguel grew up in Mexico City. He recorded his first album in 1982, becoming a popular child star with bubblegum hits such as "Tu y Yo" and "1 + 1 = 2 Enamorados."

Since his adolescence, Luis Miguel had a distant relationship with his parents. They divorced in 1986, and Rey died in 1992. In the past, he has told the press he has little contact with his mother.

The man who rescued the romantic bolero for a new generation of fans began his successful string of retro albums with 1991's "Romance." Alternating those releases with pop CDs, he continued with 1993's "Segundo Romance" and 1997's "Romances."

Luis Miguel

Where: Freeman Coliseum, 3201 E. Houston St.

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $49.50-$100 at Ticketmaster outlets.

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