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* * MARC ANTHONY "Libre" \o7 Sony Discos/Columbia\f7

November 25, 2001|Agustin Gurza

Expectations were high for Marc Anthony's first salsa album in four years. Problem is, high hopes can be easily dashed, turning anything short of a masterpiece into a disappointment. And "Libre" is no masterpiece. The album is named for the singer's liberated state of mind during the nine months it took to create it. He worked at his home studio, with wife and child nearby, legal hassles with his old label far behind. While it's a slick production, it lacks the soul and spontaneity of the best tropical music. The singer does a lot of huffing and puffing that pass as deep emotion. And his band stirs up tornadoes of sound that impersonate excitement. But real thrills are missing.

Perhaps it's unfair to judge the romantic crooner by the gritty and jazzy standards of Afro-Caribbean music. Marc Anthony is a hit for his love songs set to salsa tempos, a style he mastered in the '90s with his dynamic voice. His fans will be ecstatic to get nine more torch tunes, but hard-core salsa fans hoping for something new and daring will be, well, disappointed.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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