Carlos Vives

Clasicos de la Provincia

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After making his mark as a romantic lead in one of Latin America's most popular soap operas, Carlos Vives burst onto the music scene with this infectiously upbeat CD of vallenato tunes from Colombia. The music as updated here is percussion-driven, with a rollicking accordion and great vocal harmonies, and Vives' expressive, full-throated vocals are a wonderful contrast to much of the treacly singing that emanates from Latin pop. The packaging is also superior, respectful of all concerned, with photos of the songwriters and transcriptions of the lyrics (in Spanish) that underscore the strong narrative structure of this music. Most are straightforward, albeit poetic, love songs -- notable exceptions are the opening "La Gota Fria" (a witty tune that was a major hit for Vives); the slower, darkly evocative "Altos de Rosario"; and the funny closing fragment of a song, "Contestacion a la Brasilera," wherein a friend is counseled to steer clear of the charms of foreign women. Reach for this disc when you need a mid-afternoon lift.

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