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Tiempos

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Album Review

Afro-Cuban purists would have loved it if Rubén Blades had stuck with the type of straight-ahead salsa that put him on the map. But in the '80s, Blades felt the need to branch out and start experimenting with other Latin styles — a move that disappointed salsa purists while earning him a reputation as one of Latin music's major risk-takers. Even though he was still considered a salsa vocalist in the late '90s, 1999's Tiempos is far from a pure salsa album. Rather, it's an adventurous, probing Latin pop effort that incorporates salsa along with Brazilian, Spanish, and Central American elements. On Tiempos, Blades is joined by the Costa Rican band Editus, whose members fit in perfectly and help the Panamanian singer provide an unpredictable, eclectic album. And Tiempos is as compelling lyrically as it is musically. Often sociopolitical, Blades' lyrics reflect on such topics as poverty in Latin America and corruption on the part of some governments in that part of the world. Though much of the album is melancholy, it isn't without optimism or hope for the future — Blades sees a lot of suffering and hardship in Latin America, but he also has hopes for a brighter tomorrow. Of course, those who don't speak Spanish won't understand the lyrics; they'll have to settle for savoring the album's musical richness.

Biography

Born: 16 July 1948 in Panama City, Panama

Genre: Salsa and Tropical

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Rubén Blades is one of the most successful vocalists in the history of Panamanian music. A former member of bands led by Ray Barretto and Willie Colón, Blades has continued to influence salsa music with his highly literate, politically tinged lyrics and his modern-minded arrangements, which substitute the usual horn and Latin percussion sections with synthesizers and drum sets. Often referred to as "the Latin Bruce Springsteen," Blades provided a musical voice for the middle class of Central America....
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Tiempos, Rubén Blades
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