Michael Stuart's sophomore release, Retratos would be the record that set his feet firmly on the path away from mainstream salsa. Though the music is certainly salsa, and Stuart a salsero sin dudas, it is a music that refuses to settle or conform. Though there are several tracks that play it straight, and are dancehall-worthy New York salsa, there are clues set around every corner that hint at Stuart's taste for the extraordinary. There are subtle melodic gestures and rhythmic textures that belie the record's sophistication. Producer Angel Fernandez and RMM owner Ralph Mercado seem to have their sights set high for the future of salsa and Stuart's place in it. Mercado, having been involved in almost every important release in the genre over the last ten years, certainly has an eye for talent and what to do with it. Fernandez, a veteran among veterans, has a suave, intelligent touch, and the arrangements have an inviting, charming quality not common in the often over-produced, plastic-sounding Latin pop world. Stuart himself sounds strong and clean, never disappointing. His ability to handle some truly demanding material sets him apart as one of New York salsa's most promising performers. Retratos is an exciting step for a promising artist.
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AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez