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LATIN PULSE

Digging Into the Past, Present--and Future

August 11, 1996|Enrique Lopetegui

This edition of Latin Pulse covers a pioneering Mexican rock band, its inheritors, a comeback girl and one of the most promising voices of mariachi--or is it almost-mariachi?

*** Los Teen Tops, "20 de coleccion," Sony Latin. The credit for originating Spanish-language rock usually goes to Argentina, where the rock en espan~ol movement began in the late '60s. But those who really know argue that it was Mexico's Los Teen Tops. Led by Enrique Guzman, Los Teen Tops mostly performed Spanish-language versions of early rock 'n' roll classics without adding any major musical contributions. The key to their success was that they didn't just translate the lyrics, but adapted them with an imaginative Mexican flavor. They were a hit in several Latin American countries, including Argentina, where many of today's influential rockers cite them as a key inspiration. These 20 hits from the early- and mid-60s are a must for collectors and those curious about where it all started.

*** Nydia Rojas, "Nydia Rojas," Arista Latin. A former member of Los Angeles' all-female Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, 16-year-old Nydia Rojas is one of today's most important female mariachi voices. Unlike the genre's more spectacular vocalists, her style leans toward simplicity and feeling. Her mentor, Jose Hernandez, produced the record, and it reflects his crusade to pop-ize mariachi and take it to as many people as possible. The album starts with a Jose Alfredo Jimenez classic and ends with a version of Blondie's "The Tide Is High." And guess what: It ain't bad. Purists will complain, but this is a fine debut album of mariachi fusion--right on the edge, but still mariachi.

*** Maldita Vecindad, "Baile de mascaras," BMG Latin. The impact of 1991's debut "El Circo" was a hard act to follow, and it took Maldita Vecindad a while to come back with its third album. "Baile de mascaras" ("Masquerade") certainly is not as in-your-face as "Circo," which set the standard for all the Mexican rock that followed. It's more of an atmosphere album, and with the exception of a few tracks that rank with Maldita's best it has a world-beat flavor. After an exhausting three-year world tour, there's enough here to bury the rumors of the band's burning out.

** 1/2 Marisela, "Borron y cuenta nueva," BMG Latin. Almost four years after drug problems threatened to end her successful career, the Los Angeles-born pop/romantic singer is back with a new look and a new record. Marisela sold millions with well-produced but unoriginal material, and was more comfortable with familiar formulas than artistic risks. But "Borron y cuenta nueva" ("A Fresh Start") benefits from Marisela's above-average voice and a few genuinely good songs. It might not be enough to restore her top ranking, but "Borron" certainly indicates that at least she's back.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

* TimesLine 808-8463

To hear excerpts from the albums reviewed, call TimesLine and press * and the artist's corresponding four-digit code.

Los Teen Tops *5721

Nydia Rojas *5722

Maldita Vecindad *5723

Marisela *5724

In 805 area code, call (818) 808-8463.

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