Miss Little Havana is half celebration of the music Gloria Estefan grew up around, half soundtrack to falling in love again with the one you fell in love with in the first place. Rhythm is everything and everywhere. Gloria's lyrical themes range as broad as the musical traditions she scoops from navigate are varied (Cuba, Miama, Mexico and South America to be exact).
|Hair today, hair tomorrow.|
|Gloria has yet to sign on for the new franchise: Housewives of Havana.|
Less is much more on the gentle romantic calm of I Can't Believe, which introduces jazzy and mellow piano riffs mixed with some understated Latin lounge aroma, which is formidable in its own right, and rendered so via Gloria's delivery of a gorgeous lyric about catching the same glimpse of another, and herself, all these years later. This is a truly heartwarming song, and its Cuban inflection helps create an unassuming appearance that only experience could pull off to such a high standard. A fine pick among the more emphatic contenders for album highlights. Estefan's soothing voice perfectly conveys the strain of being once mudled up in life's obstacles and now finding herself marvelling "isn't life really something?" This moments kills me. The tight rhythm section accompanying the quick step middle-eight is also really something.
|Hands off Gloria.|
The modest salsa shuffles of Heat, Say Ay, So Good, Right Away and Make Me Say are further consecutive hip-shakers. Gloria gets to relax a bit and enjoy the contemporary edge that never deviates from her tradition and warm capabilities. They have much the same flavour, but importantly have connection. Cutting to the bone, Time Is Ticking is Reach 15 years on. With more than a hint of velvet to her vocals, where her lyrics fall into well-versed ground it is the deluxe emotional depth I'm most grateful for.
Because of its ten year exposure, Gloria's belated recording of Let's Get Loud isn't winning many fans, which might be due to the fact that for many it might sound a little exhausted. It represents where she left off with Gloria! and therefore feels slightly out of place here. A signature song for J-Lo (co-written by Estefan, but left off her own album), it wasn't even a hit and yet has became a ubiquitous reference point for Latin cross-over pop. Estefan herself missed the so-called Latin pop heatwave of 1999, ironically led by J-Lo among others (even Geri Halliwell managed to be ready for it without knowing). Had it been included on Gloria! these doubts would not be considered, and it would have been a sure-fire signature anthem for her at a time when she really needed it. However, despite lacking the sheer spontaneity and flamboyant virtuosity it would have delivered back in 1998 it is a very welcome recording to finally own. Contrived as hell, it's a classic hand-bag anthem. 10 years on, Gloria's going to different clubs where you'd get thrown out for that kind of carry on.
Joyful sounds ablaze on a dynamic return to dance. This is a richly textured document of an original and important voice in modern music. Miss Little Havan re-captures the bravura that made her such a potent threat in the first place. More chic than extravagant, why bother trying to be anything less?