Grandes Exitos [Bonus Track]by Juan Luis Guerra y 440
Juan Luis Guerra is the great, urbane poet of contemporary Dominican songwriting, a reclusive, mercurial talent who is deified by his countrymen and lionized by fellow artists. He and his band 440 (so named after the universal concert pitch; a testimony to their meticulous tuning standards) were a major revitalizing force in Latin tropical music from their outset in the late 1980s, serving up merengue and bachata (a street-corner ballad style which Guerra singlehandedly brought to pop respectability) with a previously unheard-of degree of lyrical and musical subtlety. Indeed, unlike most names in the genre, Guerra makes music that's as compelling to the mind and heart as it is to a shaking booty. Grandes Exitos collects all the gems of the period prior to 1998's Grammy-winning comeback, Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual. Velvety vocal harmonies and Guerra's melodious 12-string guitar complement the soft-rolling, dulcet balladry of "Frio Frio" and "Burbujas de Amor." Golden, upbeat trombones grace "Women del Callao," while Francisco Ulloa and his band lend their rural, accordion-driven sound to "Cosquillita." The star here is, of course, "Ojalá que Llueva Café," which, with its rousing bucolic imagery, was given a bouncy huasteca treatment by Café Tacuba on the Mexican alt-rock heroes' Avalancha de Exitos. Guerra's genre-bending collaborations with African soukous guitarist Diblo Dibala are here too, making this collection an ideal introduction to one of the Caribbean's finest songwriters.
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