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2007's Top Latin Pop / Rock Albums

Rock Wins Over Pop

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2007 was a big year for Latin pop/rock with some big albums from perpetual favorites Juanes, Gloria Estefan and Manu Chao. Rock en Espagnol has also seen some significant new artists and really deserves its own list, but this year I'm still going to merge the two categories, because in the world of pop/rock, it's often difficult to tell where one genre starts and the other begins.

1. Juanes - La Vida Es .. Un Ratico

Courtesy Universal Music Latino

After 2005's Mi Sangre, it was tough to figure out where Juanes new album was going to take him. Now we know; La Vida Es Un Ratico brings fans a more mature sound, more socially conscious themes bundled with great arrangements. Co-produced with long-time collaborator Gustavo Santaolalla, the break-out single, "Me Enamora" has already been the #1 single for 15 weeks, going into 2008.

2. Gloria Estefan - 90 Millas

Courtesy Sony BMG
As much as I love this album, I wasn't sure how to categorize it. There's a little salsa and a lot of afro-cuban based rhythms. But there's also plenty of Gloria Estefan's signature latin pop sound reverberating throughout the album. This is Estefan's 4th Spanish language CD and it could well be her best.

3. Cafe Tacuba - Sino

Courtesy Universal Music Latino
Along with Carlos Santana and Mana, Mexico's Cafe Tacuba may well be one of the most enduring rock groups in the Latin music world. Always innovative and unique, Sino takes a step back, musically, remaking classic rock style tracks reminiscent of The Who, David Bowie and late Beatles. But while the nod to musicians that have influenced the band jumps right out at you, the songs are new, thoughtful and put back the 'classic' in classic rock.

4. Manu Chao - La Radiolina

Courtesy Nacional Records
Spanish-born, Parisian-based Manu Chao sings in six languages, but in all of them he brings to bear his political/social commentary. His political concerns are clearer than ever on La Radiolina but, when coupled with his eclectic, unique musical style, they're sure to convert you - maybe to his politics, but surely to his music.

5. Ozomatli - Don't Mess With The Dragon

Courtesy Concord Records
Los Angeles collective Ozomatli is always dynamic and their music is often surprising. They include a little of every genre in their music. On Don't Mess With The Dragon, you can hear son jarocho, hip hop, rock, cumbia (and that's just the first couple of songs). This album is joyous, raucous and an instant crowd pleaser.

6. Ojos De Brujo - Techari

Courtesy Six Degrees Records
Spain's Gypsy collective, Ojos De Brujo, is splitting up in 2008, and that's really a shame (unless it just doubles the fun as the musicians go out on their own). If Techari is their last album, at least they're going out with an album that is pure musical fireworks. The band starts with a flamenco base and then fuses that base with hip hop, rumba, funk, jazz and more. The result is startlingly original and always great music.

7. Pacha Massive - All Good Things

Courtesy Nacional Records
Pacha Massive's All Good Things is another CD that's hard to quantify with that uniquely urban sound that happens when you mix Latin rhythms with contemporary elements and glue it together with the musical sensibility that is uniquely New York. This is an album to listen to and to dance to and one of my favorites for 2007.

8. Kumbia AllStarz - From Kumbia Kings To Kumbia AllStarz

Courtesy EMI
Last year started out with the acrimonious split of the beloved Kumbia Kings and publicly hurled barbs by co-founders A.B. Quintanilla and Cruz Martinez. It evolved into two new groups, Quintanilla's Kumbia AllStarz and Cruz' Los Super Reyes.

It also changed their respective music, with Los Super Reyes retaining the sound of the original Kings while the AllStarz moved into cumbia-influenced pop. Despite the AllStarz incredibly complicated album name, it was hard to resist the draw of PeeWee crooning his way through some catchy tunes, especially the chart-topping "Chiquilla".

9. Jennifer Pena - Dicen Que El Tiempo

Courtesy Univision
2007 was very kind to Jennifer Pena, both with the announcement of her engagement to fellow artist Obie Bermudez and then with a great new album, Dicen Que El Tiempo. The tejano superstar delivered the goods with a Tex-Mex blend of strong beats flavored with contemporary elements and electronics. This album sounds like the music Selena would be singing if she were around to perform in today's music scene.

10. Yuridia - Entre Mariposas

Courtesy Sony Norte
I wanted to include a straight, contemporary pop album on the list, and Yuridia's Entre Mariposas was the one I liked best. For those unfamiliar with the Mexican singer, Yuridia came in second on reality show, La Academia, and has done well with her albums since (this is her 3rd).

The songs are all well written and the artist has a strong, natural voice that works well with the material. The break-out single, "Ahora Entendi", will give you a good idea of why this album is on the list of the best from 2007.

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