Picks and Pans Review: Agua De Luna

updated 03/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/30/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ruben Blades

Ruben Blades's music needs no translation, even if his lyrics do. The Panamanian salsa star, movie actor and holder of a Harvard master's degree in international law, has written eight songs based on early short stories by Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Even before Norteamericanos consult the English translations on the sleeve, they will find that the music—with its dashing energy and intelligence—speaks for itself. Blades, 38, revolutionized salsa a few years ago. He substituted synthesizers for horns, reached beyond the Afro-Cuban beat to embrace a panoply of Latin American rhythms and shifted deftly between verse, chorus and instrumental breaks to give his songs an almost novelistic dimension. On Agua de Luna (Moon Water) Blades and his exceptional band take these qualities further than ever. His melodic lines, for all their length and intricacy, are digestible. Thanks to his bright voice and precise diction, every darting syllable tingles. Rather than retell the Marquez tales, Blades usually offers a philosophical response or evocation. Two lines in La Cita (The Appointment) translate as "There is no alibi that can justify our innocence on Judgment Day/ We are already condemned for having invented how to condemn." Considering how beguilingly these words snake by in Spanish, you admire even more Blades's rare ability to combine sense and sensuousness in music. (Elektra)

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