Nicaraguan Salsa star Luis Enrique use the jukebox theme in his new album “Jukebox, Primera Edición”, to symbolize his new take on old Latin pop music hits and standards that filled “velloneras” around Latin America.
The concept of the jukebox is a neat one, and this time Luis Enrique enlisted Puerto Rican master producer Angel “Cucco” Peña, to provide a new fresh spin to this songs and to the Luis Enrique pop Salsa sound.
I certainly didn’t see this coming, particularly with the success the Prince of Salsa had working with another master producer, Sergio George, who helped revive Luis Enrique music career starting with “Ciclos” (2009). But perhaps the unimpressive follow-up “Soy y Seré” (2011) made Luis Enrique consider a change for his XX recording of his Latin music career.
Pop Salsa with Amazing Music and Unifying Theme
Concept/theme – I loved the concept of recording old pop song (nothing new about making Salsa songs of old love ballads, but the jukebox theme is a nice one, and some of these songs were indeed jukebox classics).
Luis Enrique must have been carrying this idea around for while, since in his 2nd album “Amor y Alegria”, he included the jukebox classic “La Mentira”. The “vellonera” concept is something that gives the album something distinctive to other albums.
New Sound & Arrangements – Cucco Peña, who initially help to lift Marc Anthony’s career, demonstrates he has plenty of music in him. The musicality in this album is simply amazing! Just listen to the scales where the trombone play, and the energy of the arrangements.
I take my hat off to the maestro Cucco Peña! Justifiably Luis Enrique shouts several times, “sopla Cucco” (I guess parodying Marc Anthony’s now popular “ataca Sergio”). I also have to comment on the electric guitar that shows up with great timing and musicality in several songs. Cucco didn’t miss anything here!
Multiple “mambos” and “coros” – in pop Salsa? Nahh…nobody does that, right? Or has Cucco Peña gone mad? As I said, this album is different. In several songs, starting with the very first song and album single “Noche de Copas”, Cucco Peña incorporates more than one mambo (not just the same “mambo” twice, but two different “mambos”), and complex coros that mix from one to another, and may change completely into a 3rd “coro”. Yes, the “mambos” are relatively short, but…hey, in a pop Salsa recording this is a novelty!
My Favorites – “Lo Pasado, Pasado”, “Te Amo”, “Sin Ti”, “Noche de Copas”, and of course the duet with Ruben Blades in the socially-themed song “Ya Comenzo” are my takes in “Jukebox”.
Opportunities Missed in “Jukebox”
“Ya Comenzó” (why twice?) – I don’t think Luis Enrique and Cucco missed much in “Jukebox”, so I’ll be really picky. The one original song of the album, “Ya Comenzó” was included twice, one if Luis Enrique and one in duet with Ruben Blades. I think the version with Ruben Blades was the only one needed.
Jukebox interlude – what about if the album would start with an interlude of a sound of a real “vellonara” playing the 1st song of the album, “Noche de Copas”, even capturing ambient sounds of people talking and the coin going down the jukebox to selected the song. Then after a few seconds of listening to the old song, it gives way to the new version in the album! Ah…I’m just dreaming of playing music producer! 🙂
My Recommendation of “Jukebox”
In my opinion this in one of the most musically amazing pop Salsa albums I have ever heard! Luis Enrique is able to keep up with Cucco Peña’s music step by step, and if Cucco brings high energy, Luis Enrique matches him.
I’ll be very surprised if “Jukebox” doesn’t win several Grammy (and other) awards!
If you like this romantic style of Salsa, but also like the classic Salsa dura, this is a somewhat hybrid style, where monotonous repetition (so prevalent in pop Salsa) was banned from the recording studio.
Great recording! Kudos to Cucco Peña and Luis Enrique!
Video of Luis Enrique’s “Ya Comenzó” featuring Ruben Blades
Here is a nice animated video of Luis Enrique’s song in duet with Latin music master Ruben Blades. Enjoy!!!