Guitar Passion

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Charo's first album is a collection of guitar instrumentals and Spanish language ballads. Fans of the Ultra Lounge series or celebrity kitsch undoubtedly will be attracted to music by Charo, the comic firecracker famous from the Love Boat guest appearances. But will the person who is looking for (anticipating?) cheese be willing to enjoy Charo's attempt to release a legitimate Latin album? Unlike her 1997 follow-up to this disc, Gusto, which falls into the post-Gloria Estefan, pre-Rickey Martin era of music, Guitar Passion is a solid album without any cheese. It is actually more Latin than Latin-influenced, if the latter describes an attempt at crossover. Six of the ten tracks are instrumentals (traditional or original), while only four have vocals. The hallmarks of a Charo album for most Americans would be her voice and cornball jokes. The former makes up a minority of the songs here, and the latter is nowhere to be heard. Those looking for a silly album to spice up mixed CDs or to humor friends at a party will be surprised to here this genuine attempt at making good music. Guitar Passion is musically a better album than Gusto, but the aforementioned listeners might prefer Charo's foray into pop. Not the best of its genre, but fans of the Gypsy Kings will enjoy the smooth rhythms and plucky fingerwork on Guitar Passion, especially in songs like "Romance of Love," "Dreams of Spain," and "The Harvester & the Wagon Men (Medley)."

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