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Tony Succar And Friends “Unity: The Latin Tribute To Michael Jackson” Reviewed


Tony Succar


Perhaps this is because 29 year old Peruvian musical wunderkind Tony Succar has the ears to re-imagine Michael Jackson as a South American dance titan, or maybe, in fact, definitely, because Michael lends himself to Latin rhythms, being such a titan of rhythm himself, that he doesn’t need help, but Unity: The Latin Tribute To Michael Jackson is a terrific romp through some MJ moments. Not necessarily his greatest moments mind, I don’t think anyway would deny that “They Don’t Care About Us” is minor league for instance, still Tony and Puerto Rico’s Tropical singer Kevin Ceballo start from a couple of lone beats on the tom toms, and as verse and chorus goes by, build up from the horns, into a mad dash to nothingness. A great version, I prefer it to the original.

It is the only time I prefer the cover to the original (Kevin appears on four songs here, but this is the keeper), but really, that is splitting hairs. I have written about the Tito Nieves take on “I Want You Back” all week and every time I hear it, I am more impressed. A mix of two different sounds which seem to mesh seamlessly, a bi-lingual triumph and an aesthetic closer to Merengue than Salsa, an unstoppable masterwork. The horns in particular are astounding, they swing so hard it makes your heart race.

If this sounds like it is Tango To Michael, I guess it is precisely that to a degree, though sometimes the songs are really reconsidered. Jon Secada, as big a Latin American star as you will find in 2015, both slows the speed, and subtle tweaks the rhythm to “Human Nature” -on the verse the melody line struggles against the beat , and on the chorus, Jon schools em both.Secada, a twenty feet from stardom back up singer for Gloria  Estefan, who found his big opportunity and jumped on it nearly 25 years ago,  has a tighter, deeper, voice than Michael, he gives it a committedness that is  very appealing.

India gives us a fine “Earth Song”, Jean Rodriguez is excellent on two songs, and Tony gives everything to the album, especially a playfulness and a depth of artistic integrity. On his website, Succar is quoted as saying “Even the horn lines, I would transcribe them from Quincy Jones’ productions and then apply them to the arrangement in a different way. The essence of every song was respected. I gave it my best to create this very thin line between what Michael did with his production and what I brought to the project.”

Perhaps best of all is saddest  of  all and a most powerful claim for our shared love of Michael and of life.  Tito Nieves, who lost his son Ommy Nieves to bone cancer at the age of 24, s joined by his other son Tito Nieves jr, for a deeply felt “We Are Not Alone”.

I certainly hope this is performed live soon, Barclay Center could do with it, But till then even if you aren’t a Latin American Pop fan, this is a terrific way to start figuring out what you’re missing. A triumph for Tony and a fitting tribute to the Prince of Pop.

GradeL A-


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