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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

* 1/2 LUIS MIGUEL "Romances," WEA Latina

August 24, 1997|Ernesto Lechner

The third installment in the Latin pop superstar's series of hugely successful "bolero" albums attempts to strike again, with a great musical director (Mexican composer Armando Manzanero) and an intriguing bunch of songs, most of them associated with older generations of Latin American popular music.

Miguel's previous stabs at a genre that's dangerous to tamper with offered many pleasures. The most ambitious (and the worst) of the three, "Romances" sinks under its own weight, delivering mostly bloated versions of timeless material.

Although Miguel is a highly charismatic presence in his live performances (he plays four nights at the Universal Amphitheatre starting Sept. 18), here his voice sounds too middle-of-the-road to express the bolero's heart-melting passions. The instrumental treatment of the material doesn't help, either. "Sabor a Mi," a classic of longing and subtle seduction, is spun out of control with the addition of drums, reducing the lilting melody to something reminiscent of a TV commercial jingle.

"Man~ana de Carnaval," a Luis Bonfa classic from the movie "Orfeo Negro," is the only tune where the transition from "bossa nova" to Luis Miguel torch song is done with lightness and grace. These two elements are sorely missed throughout the rest of "Romances."

*

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

*

Hear the Music

* Excerpts from these albums and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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