various artists,
Navidad Gozosa: Voces Del Milenio
(St. Clair, 2004)

Navidad Gozosa: Voces Del Milenio is a collection of traditional and contemporary Spanish-language Christmas songs. Welcome to the 20th century, where Spanish-language Mexican music was produced by a Canadian company and is being reviewed by an English-speaking American. We are the world.

I admit to bias when it comes to Christmas music. Only in recent years have American Christmas carols stopped sounding like dirges or hymns. They have traditionally been fairly solemn. In contrast, Mexican Christmas songs have always been lively and spirited, seeming much more like the celebration of the birth of a savior than those dirges we so often hear. Thus, I admit my bias.

When I heard "Popurri De Plenas. Plena Libre," I did not think any of the other selections could compare. It has heavy harmony and background vocals with interesting changeups. The horn section does a triple-tongued mimic that blew me away. They add a bit of fun to this impressive demonstration of skill by having the trombones do a train horn. That is like a total musical entertainment experience: great vocals and extreme musical skill combined with playfulness.

Then I heard "Rumor. Punto Y Aparte." Juan Martinez does a wonderful job on the vocals, though it is not as heavy with the harmony. The beat is hard, fast and emphatic with changeups. It builds to a crescendo and we get a multi-trombone trill in absolute perfect synch. Amazing!

These two selections eclipsed everything else for me. It simply cannot get better. But let us talk about vocals. This means we are talking about Rafy Monclova and Jose "Cheo" Feliciano. Monclova, who performs "A Saludarte Vengo, Los Hispanos," has a voice made for opera. The rich fullness of his powerful voice is accentuated ideally by the background harmony. They give him the ideal amount to fully showcase his vocal assets. It is a splendid performance.

Feliciano gives us the baritone version of that opera voice, complete with natural vibrato to stir the soul, in "Como Tu No Hay Nadie. Cheo Feliciano." This song begins slow, putting Feliciano's vocal skill in the spotlight, then gives us a changeup into a hard, fast beat.

If you prefer guitar, you will find "Cantares De Navidad, Pedro Guzman," featuring Benito De Jesus, to be an exceptional piece.

I enjoyed every selection in Navidad Gozosa: Voces Del Milenio. It is a festive musical collection to energize your holidays.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

13 December 2008

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