On his third solo outing, Brazilian crooner Alexandre Pires, formerly lead vocalist of Sopra Catarira, continues to issue his albums in both his native Portuguese and in Spanish. Interestingly enough, it is his Spanish language recordings that sell the most. On Estrella Guia, Pires takes his now-trademark silky-smooth approach to Latin pop and, along with producer Adrian Posse, makes it slicker than ever (think Celine Dion). Unlike his earlier outings, there is nothing here to suggest that Pires is even from Brazil -- all notions of samba have disappeared and are instead covered in generic washes of synthesized strings, computerized percussion, and vocals so multi-tracked it's impossible to tell whether they are male or female. That said, Pires' voice counts for a lot. The songs themselves are beautiful Latin pop songs, heavy on the smoother-than-smooth balladry that makes singers like Marc Anthony so successful. The difference is that Pires is a better vocalist in the purest sense of the word than virtually any of his contemporaries. But even here, when he sings in Spanish instead of in his native tongue, the depth of his emotional expression is somewhat stilted, hence the different mixes of the albums -- the Portuguese one concentrates less on overblown arrangements. The two most successful moments here are in the duets "Solo Que Me Falta," with Alejandro Sanz, and "Inseguridad," with Rosario. On the former, the shimmering smooth jazz arrangement allows both men to pull out all the stops and juxtapose their voices with one another without competing. When the semi-funky rhythm kicks in on the second verse, they become inseparable as opposing forces. On the latter, a nuevo flamenco number, Pires is able to step out of the box he's placed himself in, and he goes deep into the tradition for his phrasing, allowing Rosario the pop refrain to balance the track -- in other words, to pull it away a bit from its folk influences. Other than these two moments, however, Estrella Guia is virtually interchangeable with his other solo recordings, beautifully executed but generic nonetheless. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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