Picks and Pans Review: MTV Unplugged

updated 02/04/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/04/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

Alejandro Sanz (WEA Latina)

Album of the week

When any Latin-pop troubadour from Spain begins to achieve international fame, he's inevitably dubbed the next Julio Iglesias. Well, Alejandro Sanz is no Julio Iglesias; he's his own man, who, unlike his predecessor, doesn't like his music so pretty and velveteen-smooth. With his sandpapery, soulful voice, Sanz has plenty of grit. Think a Spanish Joe Cocker minus the theatrics.

This live album, which was recorded during a taping for MTV Latin America in Miami last October, serves as a perfect introduction to Sanz, who led last year's Latin Grammys with four wins. These intimate, stripped-down versions of his most popular tunes—all performed in Spanish—put the focus on his raw vocals and gift for nuanced songwriting. Whether on passionate ballads or gospel-charged blues-rock, he avoids the lightweight Latin-pop of Ricky Martin and Iglesias's son Enrique. And accompanied only by himself on guitar, Sanz ends things with a flamenco flourish on the new composition "Buleria."

Bottom Line: Olé!

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