Robi Rosa

Mad Love

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Sure, he was in Menudo and wrote Ricky Martin's pop-tacular "Living la Vida Loca," but before you go thinking Mad Love is a garish exercise in over the top slickness, consider that Robi Rosa prepared himself for recording the album by driving up and down the West Coast listening to Miles Davis' Bitches Brew. Mad Love is a sprawling album and a lot to take in on first listen. Even if it's a bit overstuffed -- one more layer could have killed it -- Mad Love has a lot of conviction behind it and wading through all the multi-tracked vocals and moody musical landscapes is rewarding. Only sensuality can contain Rosa's wandering spirit, and love and lust are all over the album. Vocally he can sound like a beefy Sting, especially on the yearning "Lie Without a Lover," but he's looser and a beautiful woman can no doubt make him speak in tongues. Swirling, dreamy tunes alternate with spirited rockers ("Heaven Can Wait" is the stomping highlight), and there's a touch of fiery salsa here and there. Van Dyke Parks' string arrangements add to the album's giant sound, and only occasionally does the ambition outweigh the substance. Mad Love is sexy and mysterious, challenging but approachable, and a fascinating listen from the more risky side of pop.

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