Los Rehenes

Con el Alma Desnuda

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In 2006, the narcocorrido controversy raged on; many radio stations in Mexico were still refusing to play those hard-hitting tales of violence and drug trafficking, which meant more airplay for the bouncy duranguense style and more airplay for romantic Mexican artists such as los Rehenes de Javier Torres. Narcocorridos, of course, didn't disappear -- they were still ultra-popular in the regional Mexican market -- although the stations in Mexico that maintained a no-narcocorrido policy were on the lookout for romantic, radio-friendly albums like Con el Alma Desnuda ("With the Naked Soul"). But despite being commercial and radio-friendly, this 2006 release is another demonstration of Torres' ability to be sleek without being ultra-slick or mechanical. One hears a variety of influences on this 28-minute CD, and they range from norteño, ranchera, banda and duranguense to Mexican-style cumbia (as opposed to South American cumbia of the Colombian, Peruvian, Bolivian or Argentinean varieties). But whatever the influence, Con el Alma Desnuda maintains its Latin pop orientation; Torres still inspires comparisons to Latin adult contemporary singers like José José, Joan Sebastian and Julio Iglesias, but he does it with a more overtly and consistently rhythmic approach. Torres puts a Mexican spin on romantic Latin pop, not unlike a Dominican vocalist who might put a bachata spin on something from Iglesias' repertoire. The edgiest song on Con el Alma Desnuda is probably the corrido "Martes" ("Tuesday"), which is not a narcocorrido; it is a tearjerker about a man whose alcoholismo (alcoholism) yields tragic results when he runs over and kills a small child who is crossing the street. But even on "Martes," Torres doesn't lose his romantic smoothness; the song doesn't have the usual corrido swagger. Con el Alma Desnuda falls short of essential, although Torres' die-hard fans will find it to be a likable addition to los Rehenes' huge, ever-growing catalog.

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