Latin Gospel Projects

Latin music, with its horn-flava'd intracies, complex and busy rhythms and sunny vibes has recently been embraced by Gospel artists ranging from 1NC ("Nobody"), The Kurt Carr Singers ("In the Sanctuary"), Excelsior, Daryl Coley and Beloved and many more.

With its irresistable stylings and infusion of sizzle, it's been welcomed into the urban arena, perhaps due to the relative ease in integration and natural flow that it imparts, along with its draw to dance.

Recent months have seen an abundance of new Latin and Latin flava'd Gospel projects to choose from. Notably, there has been a surge of projects from hispanic-rooted artists, those with the ability to deliver the real thing. The Miami-based Latin Christian label, One Voice in particular has shown incredible promise with its growing roster.

So, if Latin's got your ear, check out the following projects.

Alvaro Lopez
The Alvaro Lopez Project
One Voice
Alvaro Lopez CD Taking on the responsibilities of producer and collaborator, renowned percussionist Alvaro Lopez brings an eclectic mix of music to the table, as he spirals us into a gorgeous mix of authentic Latin sounds courtesy of his sizzling Res-Q Band, plus some of the finest players available (Abraham Laboriel, Nando Hernandez, Tower of Power) and a roster of vocal talent (ilAna Garces, Abel Orta).

The project moves from frenetic cuts such as "Life Is Short" with all its brassy fury, to the percussive "Lo Que Sone" to a funk-based "Life Me Up" and the urban keyboard/vocals dream "Res-Q". In between, there's some great instrumental stopovers ("Smooth Jam", "Jazz Jam") and some fascinating rootsy jams ("Albare al Senor"). With plenty of spice, driving rhythms, jazzed flows and some great vocals-based grooves, most of this material would easily find its way onto any urban Gospel DJ's playlist.

Freddie Colloca
Dance El Ritmo
One Voice
Freddie Colloca CD On his first English language album, vocalist Freddie Colloca picks up where he left off on his much acclaimed Spanish language projects. Predominantly Latin pop but with a definite flair for the exotic urban, Dance El Ritmo satisfies with its diversity and energy. Colloca's voice is made for pop and easily transforms to fit the several styles on this record. Notable are the the reggae rhythm touched "At The Cross" with bilingual English/Spanish lyrics.

Producer Aaron Lopez obviously enjoys himself here, particularly on the very flamenco-flava'd "Love's Raining Down" as well as the over-the-top, fast-moving danceable gem that is the title track ("catch the rhythm of new life"). Also heavily produced is "Live It To the Limit", with infectious worldbeaty crashes and chinky percussion and guitar underpinning Colloca's tribute to the life that God gives. Each of these is intensely listenable and will be comfortable to the urban ear.

Elsewhere on the project, pop sounds, ballad cries and a rock tendencies each somehow combine with latin and urban ("I Run To You", "Lluvia") making Dance El Ritmo a celebration of musical styles that defies categorization.

Various Artists
Savor the Flavor
One Voice
Savor the Flavor CD Designed as a sampler of One Voice artists, but offering a melange of beauty that goes beyond its introductory purpose, this is a project for those wanting a taste of what Latin Gospel has to offer.

You hear the richness of mega-percussionist and producer Alvaro Lopez on the Latin mariachi tip on "Alabare", and a couple of selections from Gospel's Latin pop voice, Freddie Colloca. Also here are some cuts from B>Jennifer Salinas, who leans towards some lightly urbanized vocals (backed by brass and an intense rhythm section) on "When You Came To Me" and "Tell Me".

Kristy Motta delivers Spanish on "Hoy Puedo Entender" and ileAna Garces is featured on "I Finally Realized". There's also a killer of a rousing, rockin' groove from Latin band Parousia on "Especie en Extincion" to round out the set.

ileAna Garces
Dare To Love
One Voice
Dare To Love CD This is a project with a heavy touch of urban influence (rhythms, bumpin' tracks) and newcomer ileAna Garces puts a spin on the whole by way of her atypical vocal approach. Hard-edged with a tinge of honey on some turns, Garces' Cuban-rooted pipes could just as easily find a home in rock or alternative genres. She has chosen to nestle in urban contemporary instead, and you can credit producer Alvaro Lopez with fashioning a soundscape around her to make things fit.

Songs such as "Disposable", "What's Up" and "I Can Imagine" carry a familiar street production vibe with tracks that cry for jeep play. Other stylings rest softer ("Looking Back", the acoustic guitar splashed "Worth It"), and there's a couple of Spanish interpretations as well. Dare To Love is a project that finds its own niche, and while it may take a while to understand, once you're there, it soon becomes comfortable.

Marc Millan
My Life
Mercy Street Records
My Life CD Born a balladeer, Marc Millan debuts on Mercy Street Records with a collection of self-penned songs that highlight that gift. While not digging too deep into Latin elements on the instrumental side, Milan nonetheless brings a distinct Latin flair to several songs, and is particularly expressive when singing in Spanish.

The first half of the project has a smooth urban/pop flair, with some beautiful arrangements and a knack for soul hooks. "Today" and "It Amazes Me" especially stand out. "My Life" is well-crafted work that moves from gentle piano accompaniment to power vocals as Millan testifies with intensity and honesty. The album ends with three Spanish language versions of songs previously sung in English on the same project.

Palabra Sonido y Poder
Lion of Zion Entertainment
Palabra Sonido y Poder CD The reggae outfit that has defied all naysayers and forged ahead with ministry convictions has a unique Gospel reggae project that serves to deliver Spanish versions of several of their most popular hits from their previous projects (WordSoundandPower and its dub companion DubSoundandPower —see review).

Christafari call some of this material "me-reggae", a cleverly coined (and trademarked!) phrase that the group uses to capture the essence of the musical style ( a blend of merengue reggae). "Pero Tengo Un Corazón" and "La Fiebre Del Me-reggae" are cuts showing this style. Other songs include a remake of their popular hit "Can't Stop Now", and some sung in Portuguese and "Spanglish" as well. Noted vocalist Gamaliel Ruiz joins in for a guest spot. Great and catchy from tracks one to fourteen, this is a real sleeper.

— reviewed by Stan North

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