Not even the shorest glimpse of the movie El Cantante is not necessary to understand Marc Anthony is no Hector Lavoe.
Short on schooling but long on raw ability and bravado, Lavoe had a unique propensity – unlike Anthony whose antics at times seem forced – to grasp a stage with his austere voice and gloomy, elongated improvisations.
Whether or not Anthony hits the target of depicting the famed Puerto Rican/Fania All-Stars vocalist in the biographical movie being released next month remains to be seen – although early reviews haven’t been very glowing.
But Anthony does a credible job of interpreting “Mi Gente” (My People), the just released single of the movie soundtrack and one of Lavoe’s biggest hits over 30 years ago.
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Despite experiencing an obvious strain in trying to hit the downtrodden tone of the opening verses of the song, Anthony makes up for it by soaring above the rumbling of trumpet and timbales with audacious calm and authority.
Unlike in some of his original material, Anthony does the smart thing and backs away as the intermix of instruments – including a Willie Colon trumpet solo - carries the latter half of the song and lends it the very vibe that made the song a classic years ago.
Anthony’s improvisational skills are sharp as he pays homage to Johnny Pacheco – the song’s author – with a call out asking him if he knows where his grandmother is before answering his own question. His voice hops from the lyrical improvisation to a high-energy pitch drawing out of notes, a staple in most of his songs.
The only downside is that the remake is significantly shorter than the original, which obviously didn’t allow such a masterpiece the justice it truly deserves. -- Fernando Ruano Jr.