Reviewed on this page:
Sueño Con Una Gitana - Fin De Semana -
¿Y Que Tu Quieras Que Te Den? -
Magistral!!! - Suena Cubano - Para Bailar Casino - Mi Linda Habanera - Gozando En La Habana -
El Son De Altura - Respeto Pa' Los Mayores
If you'll permit me a baseball allusion, Adalberto Álvarez is the Charlie Gehringer of Cuban popular music: a top performer in a variety of contexts over many years, but often overlooked because of consistency - nary a stumble, nor a comeback - and a lack of strong identifying characteristics.
Alvarez has a fine ear for melody and a high-energy presentation, which he displayed from his early stint writing and arranging for Son 14, and thereafter on his own.
Bayamo En Coche (Conjunto Son 14: 1979)
Son Como Son (Conjunto Son 14: 1981)
I think this is the last Son 14 album to feature Alvarez or lead singer Félix Baloy.
In 1983, Alvarez arranged an LP for Omara Portuondo, Canta El Son, while plotting his next move. (DBW)
Adalberto Alvarez Y Su Son (1985)
Yes, another self-titled album from a Cuban recording act. Judging from the two songs I've heard ("El Mal De La Hipocrecía"; "Chivo Quiere Que Le Den Candela") Alvarez was sticking fairly close to conventional son at this point.(DBW)
El Regreso De María (1986)
Y de Baloy también.
Contains "Lo Que Me Pasó En La Guagua" - I believe the first of several bus-themed compositions - and the title track.
Sueño Con Una Gitana (1987)
I have five of these six tracks on a 1995 compilation opaquely titled Adalberto Y Su Son, and the other on La Salsa Caliente.
The title track is a swinging mini-suite, but the rest of the disc is more conventional.
"Como Amigo O Como Amante" and "Y Borracho Me Casé" are a bit too smooth for their own good, though still enjoyable.
While Alvarez has frequently tipped his cap to Arsenio Rodríguez, on this disc he interprets "Cántalo Pero Bailalo" by that other Rodríguez, Silvio - the upbeat cut is fun, if slight.
"Me Voy Contigo" is closest to a pure son, and shows how wonderfully swinging that form can be.
The concluding "Popurri De Adalberto" is a race through the hits he wrote for Son 14; normally I dislike that sort of medley but this is so spirited (and fast-paced) I have no cause to complain.
Fin De Semana (1988)
The compelling merengue "Lo Que Está Pasando" comes complete with a sly chorus, a propulsive bass line and two false starts. The title track is also a standout, and there's a
fine take on Arsenio Rodríguez' "Mami Me Gusto." To round things
out, there's a cover of Pablo Milanés' "Son Para Despertar A Una
Negrita" and the self-explanatory "Amor En Tiempo De Merengue."
Around this time, Álvarez backed Gina León on Nostalgias, a set of classic boleros like "Hoja Seca." (DBW)
La Salsa Caliente (rec. 1985-1988, rel. 1993)
A well-selected greatest hits, with the two or three best tracks from each of the first four solo discs. (DBW)
Dominando La Partida (1990)
I've heard five of these eight songs, including the pounding dance number "Si La Guagua Esta Llena" and Arsenio's "El Divorcio."
However, Adalberto takes a walk on the mild side on several cuts ("La Tercera Historia"), so I wouldn't put this at the top of your shopping list.
¿Y Que Tu Quieras Que Te Den? (1992)
Though keeping true to his traditional roots, Álvarez stretches out a
bit more here: on the title track he adds hip hop elements to
his usual classy arrangements, while lyrically he gets on the
santería bandwagon. Then he gets back to basics with the acoustic
ballad "Tu Fiel Trovador," another Arsenio cover ("Acerca El Oido") and
the powerful black consciousness salsa "Las Caras Lindas." Álvarez only
wrote three of the eight tunes here, but it's a good introduction to the
breadth of his talents.
Also available under the title Caliente, Caliente. (DBW)
El Caballero De La Salsa (Adalberto Álvarez y Issac Delgado: 1995)
A collaboration with Delgado.
En Vivo (1997)
Magistral!!! (Alvarez: 1997)
Sin Su Son, as it were, and curiously it's the least tradition-conscious Álvarez album I've heard.
Instead of his usual touches of tres and fealty paid to Arsenio Rodríguez,
"Como Gozan Los Cubanos" sounds like the great lost Los Van Van song, and much of the disc bears songo touches (viz. the ostinato bass on "Soy Yo, No Busques Mas"). "Bailala Pe'gaita" even opens with a cheesy organ recalling Formell's "Chang¨i 68" period.
Vanvanero that I am, I fall for this stuff every time, but you'll get a better sense of the Álvarez approach from many of his other outings.
The lead singers are Aramís Galindo and Héctor Valentín; Adalberto's daughter Dorgeris Alvarez also joined as pianist around this time, but the ferocious, quote-rich piano solo on "La Vi Caminando" isn't her: it's noted jazzer Michel Camilo.
Jugando Con Candela (1999)
Suena Cubano (2001)
Roberto Linares became the primary arranger at this juncture, and while there's some balance - "La Cleptómana" is a lush, romantic bolero - most of the tracks are aimed straight for the dancefloor:
"Si No Fuera Por Las Mujeres" is a juggernaut; "Dejame Llorar" and "Caprichosa" blend old-time melody with fresh
pungence and punch.
"Mi Tumbao" shows Álvarez integrating old and new, with a rap over the piano solo - each would have been strong enough to stand on its own.
Includes a medley of four early hits: "A Bayamo En Coche," "El Son De La Madrugada," and so on.
Para Bailar Casino (2003)
Not the most striking set of tunes ("Loco Enamorado"), but the arrangements lift it into another realm: The horn charts smoke ("Maquina Para Bailar"; "Raíces"), "Deja La Mala Noche" transcends its destiny as an ordinary love song thanks to a gripping piano montuno, while the otherwise routine "Tuma, Timbal Y Bongó" spotlights an exceptionally enjoyable solo from Dorgeris. It's fun to listen for the "I Shot The Sheriff" riff at the end of "Esa Mujer," to say nothing of straight-ahead crowd-pleasers like "El Hechizo." Not first-class Cuban dance music, but right at the top of the second tier.
Mi Linda Habanera (2005)
Dorgeris Álvarez was elevated to co-musical director, which might seem like nepotism if you haven't heard her play. But at first, the results were inauspicious: By and large, this is the kind of precise, professional, prefab record I find so dispiriting about late timba. Whether you examine melody, structure or feel, tracks like "Ella Es Una Abusadora" and "Lección De Amor" come off the same well-worn assembly line. Even the mammoth 12-minute remake of ""¿Y Que Tu Quieres Que Te Den?" adds little or nothing to the original. Happily, there are exceptions: "Controlate" is a robust traditional son, while "Pregúntame Como Estoy" is a whirlwind of piano and horns.
Gozando En La Habana (2008)
In the same vein, but everything's a bit sharper: the traditional son ("Camina Y Prende El Fogón") and the more current timba ("Qué Voy A Hacer Si Te Vas," with a nice quote from "Never On A Sunday"); dance cuts ("Aprende Muchacho") and love songs ("Hasta Aquí Llegó El Amor," where the vocalist channels Huey Dunbar) alike.
Several tunes are by Aldo Miranda ("Amor De Mentira"), two each are from Yuraldys Lago and Michel Gonzáles (title track). Then there are two hit medleys, one for the 80s and one for the 90s (which boasts a wonderfully out-there guitar solo).
I wouldn't expect this to make into a Cuban music fan, but it'll make you glad you already are.
El Son De Altura (2010)
A batch of punchy, tightly arranged dance tracks, not modernizing traditional Cuban forms so much as infusing them with urgency ("Bailando En La Tropical").
And as before, Dorgeris contributes some striking solos with more than a hint of jazz ("Quién Será Mi Amor").
About half the tunes are by Adalberto ("Tu Falta De Ortografía"), with the rest coming from near and far: "Linda Santiaguera" is by Rodulfo Vaillant; the less-effective-than-usual NY salsa number "Dos Mujeres" is by Dashell Cañizares.
Respeto Pa' Los Mayores (2014)
There are many ways to show respect for elders, and Alvarez has chosen a fine one, talking traditional son in an energetic, sophisticated direction without the help of jazz, funk or soul tropes - lots of tres and brass and little synth or trap drumming. In other words, this is thoroughly up-to-date salsa, not timba, and it's bristling with intensity ("Prepárate Pa' Lo Que Traigo"; "Agua Fr&ieacute;a, Agua Caliente") without sounding trendy or nostalgic.
"Dime Tu ¿Que Puedo Hacer?" works a strong syncopation for more entertainment value than you'd think possible.
Though most of the rhythms are Cuban, "Somos Latinos" is a cumbia, underscoring the song's unity message. The disc is light on ballads, and Álvarez has often been more innovative but rarely more exciting.