ALMA CARIBENA is surely Gloria Estefan`s most uncompromisingly Latino roots record since 1995`s ABRIENDO PUERTAS. Unlike the latter though, which takes a more Pan-Latin American approach to tradition, ALMA CARIBENA steers decidedly toward the island of Cuba. The tasty lineup of top-notch producers (Emilio Estefan, Jr., Rene Toledo), songwriters (Robert Blades, the Estefans) and distinguished guests (Celia Cruz, Papo Lucca) makes for a classy dose of roots pop.
Gloria opens the sumptuous bolero, "Por Un Beso," with a primal cry of desperation that awakens the romantic senses. Papo Lucca commands a lush big band chart filled with thrilling stop-starts and snappy trombone, tres and piano solos. "Punto De Referencia," sets out as a dreamy, pared-down acoustic love tune overflowing with water imagery, before taking off into a full-blown salsa passage. "Solo Por Tu Amor" continues in the same pop-bolero vein, with a rosy twist of flute and strings and the delightful accordion of Egidio Cuadrado (of Carlos Vives fame). Jose Feliciano joins Gloria for an amicable duet on "Tengo Que Decirte Algo," while the regal Celia Cruz joins in on "Tres Gotas," a fun salsa take on grandmothers and their old-world ways.
Personnel includes: Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, Jose Feliciano (vocals); Rene L. Todelo (12-string acoustic & Spanish guitars, cuatro); Sal Cuevas (acoustic guitar, acoustic & electric basses, background vocals); Manny Lopez (guitar, requinto); Justo L. Rivera (guitar); Yomo Toro (quatro); Nelson Gonzalez (tres); Luis R. Torres (flute, baritone saxophone); Nestor Torres (flute); Ejidio Cuadrado (accordion); Hernan "Teddy" Mulet (trumpet, trombone, background vocals); Jorge Torres (trumpet); Papo Lucca (piano); Pedro Perez Rivera, Nicky Orta (bass); Jorge A. Padilla (bongos, congas); Daniel Lopez (congas, timbales); Edwin Bonilla (timbales, guira, maracas, percussion); Robert Blades, Wendy Pederson, Angie Chirino (background vocals).