Captain & Tennille

Por Amor Viviremos

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Madonna neatly brought the Spanish language to her core audience with "La Isla Bonita" in 1987 while many, many other artists chose to transform hit songs they originally recorded in English for those who spoke another tongue. Wayne Wadhams and the Fifth Estate recorded five unique versions of "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" in the 1960s, while Barry Manilow issued "En el Copa" (At the Copa) in 1978. Two years later, Tommy James also sang en Espanol when "Three Times in Love" went Top 20 and he cut a Spanish-language version specifically for that market. But it is Captain & Tennille who really make a case for using pop songs to instruct students whose teachers think they spend too much time with the radio. By having Toni Tennille re-record almost all her vocals for their classic debut album, they trump the artists who keep translations strictly to the hits. And it's "almost" all her vocal parts because on the humorous semi-instrumental "Broddy Bounce" (probably written for one of the dogs on the front of this and their Come in From the Rain album covers), the English commands to the dog or doggies (unless she was directing those commands at her keyboard player), "Lie down, roll over," remain in English. Yes, the backing vocals across the board can still be understood by the Anglo-Saxon, but why quibble -- the singer/songwriter does such a tremendous job that one might never guess she's just a gal from Montgomery, AL. "I Write the Songs" becomes "Es la Cancion" and needs study for the non-Spanish-speaking to figure it out. The artist who eventually had the hit with it, Barry Manilow, had the luxury of picking only one tune to promote in Spanish and "En el Copa" -- ever-present on the dancefloors -- was much easier to grasp. But the scope of this project can't be dismissed -- Tennille is very powerful, not only in translating these tons of words seemingly effortlessly, but in re-recording the soulful nuances and passion of the originals. It is fun spinning both albums back to back, but in doing so some of the magic is lost. It almost feels like the lead vocals were removed from the two-track masters electronically, with the new vocals put over those tracks. It doesn't have the full body of the original disc sung in English, meaning it is very certain the Spanish lead vocals were not put on the multi-track and remixed. So this is probably the original mix with the original vocals removed and new ones in a different language added on. Audiophiles will freak out, but it shouldn't diminish the importance of the project. "Mi Mundo Irreal," originally "Disney Girls," and "The Way I Want to Touch You," reinvented here as "Como Yo Quiero Sentirte," are the original single produced by Morgan Cavett with a new vocal performance after the success of the big hit title track. It's an interesting and historic translation of a special moment in pop music. And the good news is that despite some sonic flaws, it works.