Ezequiel Peña

Al 100%

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In 2003, Ezequiel Peña celebrated the brassy richness of banda on an excellent album titled Viva la Banda (Long Live Banda), which is widely regarded as one of his best releases. The Mexican singer is, of course, equally capable of providing norteño (something he began recording on 2005's El de Nayarit) or mariachi, and some Peña discs have favored a mixture of banda, mariachi, and norteño. But Viva la Banda was, by design, an all-banda disc, and the same goes for 2007's Al 100% (At 100%). Fonovisa could have justifiably called this album Viva la Banda, Vol. 2 and marketed it as a sequel to 2003's Viva la Banda; given banda's tremendous popularity in the regional Mexican market in 2007, that would have made perfect sense. But less important than the album's title is the quality of the music. This 27-minute CD isn't the type of stylistic roller coaster one finds on experimental banda discs like Yolanda Pérez's Aquí Me Tienes; Peña is very much a traditionalist, and his fans don't expect him to feature rappers, combine banda with reggaetón, or provide banda arrangements of R&B songs. Nonetheless, Al 100% contains a fair amount of variety. Peña approaches banda in a classically ranchero fashion on "Por una Mujer Bonita," "En Donde Esta Tu Miel," and "El Necio," but banda is blended with cumbia on a lively arrangement of the familiar "Cangrejito Playero." And "Paso del Norte" reminds listeners how effectively Peña can sing a corrido. Al 100% isn't as essential as Viva la Banda, but it is a solid, if brief, demonstration of Peña's ability to function enjoyably well in a banda-only environment.

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