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The Miami Herald
López's Musical Equation Subtracts 1 From Son By Four
By KARL ROSS
MAY 7, 2002
A year ago, salsa-pop combo Son by Four was on top of the Latin music world, sweeping the Billboard awards in all major categories on the strength of their crossover hit A puro dolor (Purest of Pain).
However, there won't be any accolades for the group at this year's awards, which will be handed out at the Jackie Gleason Theater on Thursday. But there will be plenty of talk as the group's former lead singer, Angel López, launches his second try at a solo career tonight at Sony Discos' showcase at Billboardlive. The showcase is not open to the public.
The appearance, López's first onstage performance in nine months, is a prelude to the June 11 release of his first Sony Discos solo effort, the aptly named En mi soledad (In My Loneliness).
''I felt really insecure when I was given the opportunity to sign with Sony,'' López says. ``I realized that when I'm up on stage I'm not going to see the guys jumping around behind me like monkeys. I'm going to be up there alone.''
To many industry observers, Puerto Rico-rooted Son by Four was more than the sum of its parts. López anchored the group with his soulful voice and uncanny range, while brothers Jorge and Javier Montes along with cousin Pedro Quiles formed the chorus and enhanced the act's marketability with their boy band appeal.
But Son by Four was only a facade by the time it claimed seven trophies at last year's Billboard awards. Sony kept the split under wraps for months until a lawsuit over rights to the band's name was filed in San Juan federal court.
López, who in the early 1990s recorded two solo R&B albums for a small Puerto Rican-based label, says it was impossible to hide his aspirations -- even as Son by Four burned up the charts.
''It was just something everybody knew,'' he says. ``Everybody knew I had a different talent.''
What emerged from the legal tangle is a situation that all involved hope will be a win-win proposition.
López is putting the final touches on his CD at the West Kendall studio of Sony Discos President and CEO Oscar Llord, who is also the disc's executive producer and who owns publishing rights to lead single Entre el amor y el odio (Between Love and Hate).
The Montes brothers, who founded Son by Four, get to keep the band's signature asset -- its name -- and have added New York-based singer Luis Damon to replace López.
Still signed to Sony, they are working on an album in Puerto Rico with renowned producer Angel ''Cucco'' Peña.
But success is not a sure thing for López or the band. López's first single is having a hard time gaining airplay, though program directors such as Tony Campos at Miami's WAMR-FM (107.5) expect it will make rotation by month's end.
''I think it will probably take a while for everybody to get into it again,'' Campos says. ``It's not Son by Four -- it's Angel López.''
In many ways, López is the antithesis of Latin crossover idol Ricky Martin. At about 5-feet-6 and 230 pounds, López readily admits he lacks Martin's sculpted looks and knack for showmanship.
''I always worry about how fat I am, that I'm the ugliest guy in show business,'' he says. 'But my mother reminds me, `They bought your music.' ''
Also unlike Martin, López's vocal prowess is beyond dispute.
''He's a real singer with extraordinary feeling,'' says Alejandro Jaén, co-producer of En mi soledad. ``His voice in the Latin market is just unique.''
Meanwhile, Rafael ''Rafo'' Muñíz, Son by Four's new manager, predicts López's former mates will make out OK, as well.
''The Son by Four name is associated with a very big song. To most of our fans, this is just the follow-up album,'' he says of the group's disc, slated for release in late summer.
``My guys do tremendous compositions. They wrote nine out of 10 songs on their upcoming album. I've managed Rubén Blades, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Olga Tañon and my guys have songs that are going to put them on the map.''
Muñíz says Javier Montes' De rodillas (On My Knees), the album's likely lead single, could emulate the magic of A puro dolor -- which some have called the top Latin hit of the past 20 years.
While López says he didn't part on bitter terms, Muñíz did not attempt to sugarcoat his clients' feelings.
''Unfortunately for them, Angel was the Yoko Ono of their lives,'' he says.