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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

OMARA PORTUONDO

By Marie Elsie St. Léger
Published January 17, 2006

Flor de Amor
Nonesuch/World Circuit

Omara Portuondo’s charming, well-performed Flor de Amor aims to please. The collection of mostly boleros boasts a band comprising Cubans and Brazilians; Portuondo, well into her fifth decade as a performer, employs subtlety rather than vocal calisthenics to convey deeply felt emotion. Yet the singer still relishes letting go, even if just a little: She does her own version of “Mueve la Cintura Mulata” here, swinging the charanga as fiercely as country-boy guitarist Eliades Ochoa. She is shameless as the Carmen-like character of “Alma De Roca” (“I don’t care if you run/I don’t care if you are trying to forget . . . You will love me as before”) as the chorus teasingly sings, “You will love me, you will want me.” But the bolero is where Portuondo feels most at home. She sings lovingly of her home town, “Hermosa Habana,” and is as tender as ever on the Portuguese original, the Carlinhos Brown–penned “Casa Calor.” Try as you might, dear listener, you won’t be able to resist Portuondo’s spell.