After an encounter with mortality, one tends to take stock of life with a sense of gratitude and renewed purpose. Robi Draco Rosa goes one better on Vida, his first recording after winning a battle with cancer. A quick look at the track listing, and one might think of this as a greatest-hits comp. And it is; but with so many twists and turns, and everything ambitiously re-arranged and re-recorded, that it becomes a dazzling new entry in the artist's already significant catalog. Rosa assembled a tremendous cast of guests from many parts of the Latin music world to re-record his hits. They include the current crop of Latin superstars, from Shakira and Juanes to urban artists such as Tego Calderón and Calle 13, bachata all-stars such as Romeo Santos, and even Latin rock & rollers Maná. To shrink the generational as well as genre boundaries, he also recruited legends such as Juan Luis Guerra, Rubén Blades, and José Feliciano. His contemporaries are also here: Ednita Nazario, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, and even more. The overall tone of the set is simultaneously celebratory and reflective. The arrangements are full of elegant touches and surprises; they showcase the heart of these songs while opening them wider. Check the muted trumpet break in the soulful, easy-grooving "Penélope," with Maná, or the tropical breakdown in the last half of "Paraíso Prometido (Hay Que Llegar)," with Anthony. "El Tiempo Va," with Blades, is thoroughly re-imagined; it contains elements of old-school son and cancion -- with thoroughly modern production -- and features a sonorous cello, shimmering Rhodes piano, poignant 12-string, and deeply sensual singing. "Blanca Mujer," with Shakira, melds classic Latin pop, modern Latin soul, and folk forms including the ranchera, but once more, they are woven together in an entirely seductive and graceful manner. "Brujeíra," with Calderón, weaves grimy funk, hard rock, and trip-hop textures and there's a killer flamenco intro in the otherwise steamy, nocturnal, "Cómo Me Acuerdo," with Alejandro Sanz. Vida was one of the most anticipated Latin albums of 2013; it more than lives up to the anticipation. Classified as a Latin pop album, it will no doubt be acclaimed as such. But that's far from the whole story: Vida transcends genre limitations. It will appeal to virtually anyone who appreciates great songwriting, arranging, production, and, most of all, inspired performances. Rosa may have assembled this fine cast in order to celebrate life, but in doing so he has delivered what will undoubtedly be one of the best popular recordings of 2013. Period.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek