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World Music CD Reviews Europe

YURI BUENAVENTURA

By PHIL MEADLEY
Published May 30, 2006

Vagabundo
Mercury/Universal

Having been the first salsa singer to see an album go gold in France with 1998’s Herencia Africana, and having dueted with the likes of Faudel, Yuri Buenaventura is no stranger to success. For this third album he’s enlisted the help of solid musicians from San Juan, including Roberto Roena, several members of El Gran Combo, and Cheo Feliciano (one of the famous voices behind Fania All Stars). The overall feel is well-produced salsa bordering on easy listening. There are very few surprises, even though an unmistakable Parisian theme pervades a couple of tracks where accordion meets Argentinean Tango a la Gotan Project. The Latin American feel is understandably omnipresent but works most effectively when production is paired down (‘Afrotango’) and the organic roots of the music shine out. Poetry is an important factor in Buenaventura’s lyrics and homage is paid to one of his heroes, Pablo Neruda, while the subject of Latin values (‘Mi America’) and history remain important inspirations. It’s a slick and mostly enjoyable ride where Latin horns stab out salsa rhythms. The only complaint is the middle-of-the-road aesthetic, at times diminishing the overall vibrancy.