Juan Luis Guerra y 440

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Areito Review

by Jason Birchmeier

Along with its two predecessors, Ojalá Que Llueva Café (1989) and Bachata Rosa (1991), Areito is one of Juan Luis Guerra's classic albums. From a commercial and critical standpoint, it picked up right where Bachata Rosa left off, spawning another seven hit singles and another outpouring of acclaim. From a stylistic standpoint, however, Areito is far more varied than Bachata Rosa, which interspersed rousing merengues with romantic bachatas. In contrast, Areito features a wide range of Latin music styles, among them merengue ("El Costo de la Vida," "Rompiendo Fuente"), mambo ("Señales de Humo"), salsa ("Ayer," "Si Saliera Petroleo"), bachata ("Frío Frío"), cumbia ("Mal de Amor"), cha-cha ("Coronito de Flores"), and balada ("Cuando Te Beso"), along with album-opening and closing folkloric odes to Taino culture ("Areito," "Naboria/Daca Mayaní Macaná"). The range of styles is remarkable and speaks to Guerra's talent as an arranger and producer. In addition to the greater range of styles, Areito also finds Guerra expanding his range as a songwriter. For instance, "El Costo de la Vida," the album's biggest hit and his first to reach number one on the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks chart, is a witty song with a sharp socio-political edge unlike anything Guerra had written to date, let alone released as a single. Rest assured that there are still plenty of romantic songs on Areito, most notably the Top Five hits "Frío Frío" and "Coronito de Flores." On the downside, Areito closes on a maudlin note with "Cuando Te Beso," an orchestral ballad that is inexplicably repeated as a bonus track on some editions of the album. This is the only strike against Areito. It's an otherwise magnificent album that, along with its two predecessors, is one of Guerra's classics. As with Ojalá Que Llueva Café, it's unfortunate that Areito went out of print for a while and was often difficult to find as a result. It's an album that all Guerra fans should have in their collection.

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