By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
But that doesn't mean Moreno went homogeneous on his recently released eponymous debut. "It's a big wacky mix," he says, equal parts Dion and Desi Arnaz, Beatles and Ruben Blades, with samba, timba, and Radiohead thrown in for good measure. Rather than winnow out the disparate elements of life in Latino America, Moreno attempts to stitch his influences together. "I did a lot of in-between songs," he explains. "I tried to leave very little space between songs. It's like a movie almost."
The soundtrack to Twenty-First Century Latinidad, Moreno starts out Enrique Iglesias enough, but after a few bars the first track, "Reloj" ("Clock"), morphs into a traditional son, then back to Latin power pop again. As the tremulous vocal fades at the end of the song, the accompanying tres gives way to a single desultory guitar. Fuzzy with feedback, the minisong serves as a hinge between one genre and the next, a musical rendering of the hyphenated existence of Latino Americans.
The confluence of influences is most intense on the tracks produced by Venezuelan-American Andres Levin, known equally well for his work with Tina Turner, D'Angelo, and Macy Gray as he is for Latin alternative landmarks with Aterciopelados, Amigos Invisibles, and El Gran Silencio. "For me it's important to dilute the barriers of Latin music," says Levin from his studio in New York City, "to blur where Latin music ends and pop begins." Levin deliberately confuses Latin music future and past with his production of "Si Yo Fuera," a mambo-injected reinvention of Los Zafires Sixties groove, then falls further into the time warp with his treatment of Moreno's twisted interpretation of Desi Arnaz's big-band signature, "Babalú." Levin and Moreno update Beatles classics as well, getting downright silly on the jail-bait romance "16," reportedly written on the fly while the two were drunk on sake in Manhattan. That piece of English-language ear candy anchors the electronic track "Ella" ("She"), produced by Moreno and programmed by his old friend Loríe.
The wackiest track of all, however, is the hidden cover of Beny Moré's immortal "Como Fué" ("How Did It Come to Be"), produced by newcomer A.T. Molina, who also handles some of the disc's more standard tropical dance tracks and ballads. But Molina makes up for that on "Como Fué," exploding what is perhaps the definitive Latin love song. Over down-tempo beats of the Portishead school, Moreno delivers the classic verse like a mullah chanting morning prayers. Then the chorus comes in like the Siamese kitties in Disney's Aristocats. Nothing is sacred here. Or maybe it's just that, as Levin observes, "It's part of a whole new generation of Latin sound."