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Love dipped in anguish

Marc Antony brings a ghazal-like pessimism to Latin, a style that's usually more body than soul

Marc Antony
Artiste: Marc Antony
Sony Music
Rs 525 (CD)

For an artist who has sold more records in the world than any other salsa singer, an album such as this was absolutely inevitable. Marc Antony's eponymous English-language album is a revelation to those who thought Latin music was all about shake your bon-bon and livin la vida loca: his domain is predominantly midtempo Latin ballads.

Marc was born Marco Antonio Muniz to Puerto Rican parents in New York. As a child he used to accompany his father, a bachata composer (associated with the Dominican Republic, this genre gets its name from the bachata guitar -- a smaller and rather tinny sounding version of the guitar; bachata music is characterised by a strong plucking technique and strong intonation). His father also played Latin folk music. Ironically, Marc had little interest in Latin music and started out writing songs for dance, club and house music preformers in New York. In a project he signed with Atlantic Records in 1990, Little Louie Vega, with whom he was collaborating, was so impressed with one of the tracks Marc had sung that he asked him to do the rest of the tracks too! It was about this time that Marc got interested in Latin music because of his increased contacts and collaborations with famous latin singers.

Marc's salsa albums have topped Latin charts for about seven years now, ever since he debuted with Otra Nota in 1993. Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias have already set the stage for Latin, but Marc stays away from their style of dance music and comes up with romantic salsa, Cuban ballads and mostly midtempo numbers.

Marc's smooth tenor brings a special anguish to his almost pessimistic ballads. Walter Afansieff, erstwhile producer of other famous singers like Tina Arena, Mariah Carey and Michael Bolton, coproduces three tracks with Marc -- Don't let me leave, Am I the only one and My baby you. Understandably, these three tracks are a bit too mushy for Marc's English accent. They fail to excite. But the album's opening song When I dream at night makes up for them. Faintly reminiscent of Lionel Richie's Hello, this song just keeps ringing in your ears long after it ends!

So does the other ballad I need to know, thanks to its pleasing repetition and cabaret strings. Even its Latin version, Dimelo, sounds as good as the English one. The percussion will definitely make you listen to this song again. But the album's prized addition is You sang to me, previously added in the soundtrack of the Julia Roberts, Richard Gere starrer, Runaway Bride. The occasional accordion, coupled with Marc's delicate vocals, makes this a memorable number.

That's okay has extremely unstructured rhythms that literally make you squirm, but hey, this is Latino music! Remember me is the most pessimistic song on the album, with Marc literally crying his heart out. The only fairly fast number is She's been good to me (and its Latin version, Como ella me quiere a mi). The other Latin number in the album is Da la vuelta with its typical bongo, trombone, conga and cello ensemble. Other so-so English ballads include No one, How could I and My baby you, which is about his daughter, Ariana.

But we Indians are lucky! Sony, which has released this album in India, has included a hidden bonus track not listed on the inlay card -- Marc's duet with Tina Arena I want to spend my lifetime loving you, earlier included in the soundtrack of The Mark of Zorro. This track was not included when Columbia records released this album originally, outside India, much to the annoyance and disappointment of Marc's fans worldwide! Marc's breathy vocals appropriately work along with Tina Arena's and makes this song a real treat.

With a ghazal-like pessimism, Marc shows you a less known mood of Latin music. Marc's timing for the album is perfect, and the production is just right. He may not have the drop-dead good looks of an Enrique or a Ricky, but Marc's music more than makes up for all else. This one's from his heart, straight to yours!

Karthik S

Read review of Enrique Iglesias's new album:
Speaking Latin in the global village

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