Cheo Feliciano: 41 Years of “La Voz Sensual”

Since February is the month of love, I decided to check how old the all-boleros album “La Voz Sensual de Cheo Feliciano” is. Turns out this album was launched 41 years ago, 1 year after his comeback album “Cheo” came out.

I was surprised when Cheo Feliciano followed his amazingly successful “Cheo” with an all-boleros album. I wasn’t much into boleros at the time. I liked the album format of having 2 or 3 boleros mixed-in within the album so that if you were at a party, you had an excuse to dance close with the girl you liked. But all-boleros? Come on man!

“La Voz Sensual de Cheo” featured a song Bobby Capo wrote which had influences from the Cuban bolero “filin” movement. Cuban singer Elena Burke (nicknamed “Señora Sentimiento”) had performed the song “Juguete” in her distinctive sentimental style. Fania executives thought correctly that this song would be a perfect fit for Cheo’s sentimental bolero-singing style, and make it a strait “bolero” so it would be more danceable.

Bobby Capo wrote “Juguete” influenced by the Cuban bolero-“filin” movement.

“Juguete” wasn’t the only song in “La Voz Sensual…” that came from the “filin” movement. “Nuestras Vidas” was written by Cuban pianist and song-writer Orlando de la Rosa, who had a huge influence in the “filin” movement of the 1950’s and 60’s.

Cheo Feliciano wrote “Como Rien” another of the hits from “La Voz Sensual…”. All-in-all, “La Voz Sensual de Cheo” did very well commercially, piggybacking on the huge success of “Cheo” and on the success of 2 boleros in that album; “Mi Triste Problema” (which Tite Curet Alonso wrote as a “fill-in” song in a 30 minute bus trip to the recording studio, because Fania realized they were a song short for the album), and “Franqueza Cruel”.

There were very few Salsa music artists at the time (and to this day) that could successfully release an all-boleros album. The maestro Tito Rodriguez had perfected the art, but it was clear how difficult it was to emulate that act. Cheo Feliciano proved up to the task because of his great versatility as a singer, and the feeling he brings to his boleros.

Although 41 years ago I wasn’t very pleased with Cheo Feliciano releasing an all-boleros album, I’ve learned to appreciate this album, especially the 3 or 4 gems it contains.

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