El Cugar

Yo Te Recuerdo

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In Latin America, telenovelas (Latin soap operas) are serious business. A Latin singer can receive a huge commercial boost if his/her recording is used in a successful novela; that is true not only in the paises españolhablantes (Spanish-speaking countries) that dominate Latin America, but also, in Portuguese-speaking Brazil. And if a novela is a hit, covering the program's theme song can be a wise commercial move. That lesson obviously wasn't lost on Mexican singer Cuauhtemoc Garcia, aka El Cugar; Yo Te Recuerdo's title track is a cover of Juan Gabriel's sentimental theme from the popular Univision novela, Mariana de la Noche (Mariana of the Night), which stars Alejandra Barros as the ill-fated Mariana and César Évora (a fine Cuban actor) as an intriguing but treacherous malvado (villain) named Atilio Montenegro. Thankfully, El Cugar is smart enough to realize that the best covers bring something new and different to a song; while Gabriel's famous version of "Yo Te Recuerdo" is a slow Latin pop ballad, El Cugar increases the tempo considerably and transforms the Mariana de la Noche theme into an exuberant banda/norteño workout. And that memorable opening track sets the overall tone of this CD, which successfully combines romantic sophistication with polka-minded exuberance. El Cugar is, in his own way, as much of a romantic crooner as Gabriel, José José, or Julio Iglesias, but musically and rhythmically, the Durango, Mexico native-turned-Chicago-resident obviously identifies with the sort of passionate exuberance one expects from los Tigres del Norte (minus their outlaw imagery) or Banda el Recreo. "Que Hermoso Sería," "Estoy Solo," and other selections are neither pop-drenched grupero nor the rough-and-tumble outlaw songs of los Tigres -- El Cugar is, bottom line, a romantic singer who just happens to like a lot of fast tempos. And that approach serves him well on this solid 2004 release.

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