Caricias Al Alma

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It isn't hard to understand why David Bustamante has been compared to another David: David Bisbal. Both are Latin pop singers from Spain, both have recorded for Spain's Vale Music, both have incorporated Spanish and Latin American influences, and both have recorded songs that were used as themes for hit telenovelas (Latin soap operas). But despite all the parallels, Bisbal is his own man; it isn't hard to tell them apart. Caricias al Alma (Caresses to the Soul), Bustamante's third album, finds the Spanish singer changing producers; while 2004's Así Soy Yo was mostly produced by the Miami-based Emilio Estefan, this 2005 follow-up was produced by Pablo Pinilla -- and under Pinilla's direction, Bustamante provides an album that is decent and respectable even though it falls short of Así Soy Yo's excellence. One thing that Caricias al Alma lacks is more than one really great up-tempo track. Bustamante soared on Así Soy Yo's romantic ballads as well as on up-tempo gems that included the salsa-influenced "Ni una Lágrima Mas" and the intoxicating theme from the telenovela Gitanas, but this time, up-tempo items are less of a priority -- and despite the rockin' infectiousness of "Baila la Tierra," Caricias al Alma is primarily an album of romantic Latin mood music. Not that there is anything wrong with romantic Latin mood music -- Bustamante is certainly enjoyable on "Ahora Que Ya No Eres Mía," "Con Otro Amor," "Mi Manera de Amarte," and other sleek ballads. But still, the difference between Caricias al Alma and Así Soy Yo is the difference between an album that is merely good and an album that truly goes that extra mile. Bottom line: Bustamante's hardcore fans will enjoy Caricias al Alma, but anyone who has yet to purchase a Bustamante disc would be better starting out with the more essential Así Soy Yo.

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