Photographer: Robert Hacman.
Many industry and social media rumors surrounded the recording sessions for Juan Gabriel's Los Dúo album, a collection of his hits reimagined with an all-star cast of international vocalists. (One of which was that during a recent illness, he had actually died.) This set had been in the works for more than a year while he personally and meticulously lined up selected collaborators. Regardless of who either didn't make the cut or signed on, in the end it doesn't matter. Gabriel's trademark standards are uncompromised on the final product. This 16-track set is chock-full of inspired performances by a wide variety of international artists. The album's first single is a redo of Gabriel's immortal 1984 hit "Querida," sung with Juanes. Great care was taken to capture the original sonic vibe while the Colombian rock star added his own character to the song, remaining reverent while updating it for a new generation. Another highlight is the lovely ballad "Se Me Olvidó Otra Vez," with Marco Antonio Solís. This version is laden with mariachi guitars, strings, and congas. Spain's Natalia Jiménez lends her dynamic alto to "Si Quieres," and the song just drips with sensuality and romanticism. "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," with its shimmering synths, grand piano, and strings, features Gabriel with Italian singer, songwriter, and producer Laura Pausini. It's a fantastic match that juxtaposes the "Divo of Juarez" with the "Diva of Romagna." "La Diferencia," with Vicente Fernández, is as rootsy as its gets, even if the arrangement is grander than basic mariachi. More uptempo is "Caray," with Alejandra Guzmán, which weds mariachi to rock en español. The soft rock cumbia in "Pero Que Necesidad," with Emmanuel, is another golden moment here. "Te Lo Pido por Favor," featuring Luis Fonsi, is steamy like the original, but the contrasting delivery styles in the pair's voices add a depth and perspective. Last but not least is the bumpy dancefloor pop of "Vienes o Voy," as Gabriel is assisted by Fifth Harmony. Los Dúo may be a collection of hits, but given the great singer's choice of collaborators, the painstaking charts, and the canny production, the once familiar becomes new again. ~ Thom Jurek
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