Reviewed by/Reseña por: Jacira Castro
Many artists find it hard to sustain a high level of creative output, but Marlow Rosado has done it again! Granted, he set the bar very high after his first album, Salsalsa was #1 on Puerto Rico’s Zeta 93 for over 13 weeks, followed by his second album Retro, which won the 2013 American Grammy for Best Tropical Album – that’s a hard act to follow – but just wait until you hear SALSANIMAL – it’s a beast!
I had a sneak preview of a couple tracks back when I interviewed Marlow earlier this year, and I’ve been pestering him ever since to send me the entire album so I could listen to it all the way through from start to finish. I know artists spend a lot of time deciding the order of the songs to give an album just the right dynamic impact on the listener.
This album takes Marlow’s gift for writing songs and turns it into a gift for all salseros. After playing “Quiero que me quieras” just one time, I heard my husband humming the melody a few minutes later. Funny thing is, I’d been singing it in my head for a few minutes myself – it’s one of those melodies that just sticks and Javier Merino’s vocals highlight the musicality, with harmonies and spot-on high notes that make you want to sing along!
“Así son” with Mayito Rivera on vocals is a little Timba, a little bit of Cuba and really shows off Mayito’s ability to take a song and make it his own with his unique soneos.
“Cataño” features Herman Olivera on vocals, but that’s not what makes this track so special; it’s the love that Marlow poured into writing this song that is a tribute to his hometown (and Paquito Guzmán’s hometown too). It’s a personal story, a history lesson and an invitation to visit Cataño next time you’re in Puerto Rico just to see it for yourself!
“Cómo te extraño nena” starts out a little bit romántico but slowly builds into something much more carnal with a brass section that’s a scorcher.
“Puertas del jardín” is straight out of Colombia, featuring El Checo Acosta on vocals. “…Quiero abrir con las llaves de mi alma las puertas del jardín…” (“I want to open the garden gate with the keys to my soul”) and like a beautiful garden, this track is filled with colors and the petals of numerous flowers, and the textures and lingering perfume of each mix to form the perfect tribute to Colombia and all that it has contributed to salsa world-wide.
OK, here’s the truth: there’s one track that I think should have been left off the album – the one track that Marlow did not write: “OK Here Is The Truth” (yes, that is the title of the song). Salsa with English lyrics rarely works, and this is not one of those rare times. Even with Jon Secada singing, it is strained and comes off more like a redneck lament than something that could have crossed the bridge and attracted non-Spanish speakers to the salsa world. Sorry Marlow.
(Note to Marlow: Please stick to your own songs – they’ve already won you a Grammy!)
But Marlow more than makes up for that digression with the next track, “88 Mil teclas” which is a real treat because it isn’t just Marlow with his wizardry on the keyboards, it’s also Richie Ray and Larry Harlow, two mega-pianists of the salsa world who all three show off their different playing styles. Only problem is, it leaves you wanting more!
And he gives you more with a bonus track called “Todo a tus pies” with De La Torre singing – and wow, can this guy sing! He’s a 20-something 2nd generation Cuban living in Nashville. He is working with Desmond Childs, a monster hit-maker. De La Torre’s voice is emotion-filled with a wide range, and his phrasing is impeccable. This song will have you hitting the replay button – it is destined to be one of the hits off this album, mark my word!
Marlow has put together an album with amazing, top-caliber guest vocalists – a little Cuban, a little Colombian, some Puerto Rican (for sure!), some New York salsa dura, some Timba, even a touch of salsa romántica, and then he’s painted it all with his own sabor. …And once again, we are the lucky beneficiaries of his creativity.
This album will be released on July 29, 2014.