DLG / Huey Dunbar
Reviewed on this page:
Dark Latin Groove - Swing On - Gotcha! -
Yo Sí Me Enamoré - Music For My Peoples - Renacer
Hit NY producer Sergio George had always been trying to reconcile his R&B and salsa sides, and he really succeeded with this late 90s project, both commercially and artistically. The formula is Huey Dunbar on
romantic tenor vocals, and James "Da Barba" on low-pitched rap vocals, over a base of Latin percussion and piano mixed
with bass-heavy grooves and samples. Together with George's enviable talent for song selection and arrangement, it's a
powerful combination. However, ever since their smash debut, George didn't developed the group's style at all, and by the time Dunbar left for a solo career it seemed like no great loss. But almost ten years later, George brought a new, Dunbar-less version of the band back to life. (DBW)
Dark Latin Groove (1996)
The group's debut is also its most consistent effort: "No Morirá" is an irresistable
tuneful salsa with New Jack beats adding extra oomph; "Me Vas A Extrañar"
slows down a son montuno to hip-hop tempo and adds a swinging horn section and
gorgeous backing vocals courtesy of Alicia Luna;
"Muévete" (not the Los Van Van tune), with no
discernable R&B influence except for a brief rap, throws in
a humorous quote from Willie Colón's "La Murga."
If you thought urban music was running out of ideas, the counterargument is right
here. If that's not enough, Dunbar is also a fine singer with a striking upper register, though
sometimes the arrangements leave the vocal duo in the background. The musicians are a stripped-down version of George's usual stable: George on
all keyboards and programmed drums; Marc Quiñones playing all live percussion;
Ruben Rodríguez on electric and acoustic bass, and Louis Bonilla
as a one-man trombone section. (DBW)
Swing On (1997)
This was rushed out after the success of their debut, and it doesn't
show any development - just more crossover dance
("Lágrimas"), straight salsa ("Juliana") and ballads ("La
Soledad"). But George still knows how to pick catchy tunes (co-writing
three of them himself) and craft exciting arrangements, so "more of the
same" doesn't mean "boring." The salsa ballad "La Quiero A Morir" was a
massive hit, thanks to a great tortured vocal from Dunbar and a complex
arrangement building to a memorable climax - none of the other songs are
on that level, but they're plenty good. New member Fragancia adds some
rap vocals, but doesn't have much of an impact on the disc's sound.
By this point George seems to be running out of ideas: "Volveré" is a rather forced attempt at another
"No Morirá," and it's present in both salsa and bachata versions. There's a much more traditional Latin
sound here, including collaborations with Johnny Pacheco ("Acuyuye") and Johnny Colón ("Got A Hook On You"),
and it's double-edged: on the one hand, the tunes are solid ("Eres Mi Vida," "Prisionero") and Huey's vocals are up to the challenge;
on the other, the shift to standard salsa seems a concession that the NY Latin funk approach is played out. But the
high energy level here will keep you from worrying about that too much.
More guests this time around: Lewis Kahn adds violin to "Acuyuye," Chika raps on "Gotcha," and Cesar Fernández
and Bern Shoenhart contribute guitar.
Yo Sí Me Enamoré (Huey Dunbar: 2001)
Dunbar split for a solo career, and George mostly came along for the ride, producing everything except for two alternate versions:
Juan Salazar produced the ballad take on "Lo Siento" (as if the salsa one wasn't sappy enough) and Alejandro Jaén produced the
single form of the title track (George produced a son version). (George produced both ballad and salsa versions of "Con Cada Beso" -
the latter is the record's best cut.)
Without the rap interludes and funk influence, it's basically pure salsa, and very thin: with all the dual versions,
there are only eight different songs, and most of them are serviceable ("A Cambio De Que," "Ella") but never exceptional:
there's not one brilliant track that makes the album worth having.
Fortunately, Dunbar's singing is as good as ever (Omar Alfanno's "Amor De Siempre").
The musicians are the usual crew - Quiñones, Rodríguez - plus a full horn section; Lucero duets on "Lo Siento."
Music For My Peoples (Huey Dunbar: 2003)
George helmed a couple of tracks ("Fuerte"); most were produced by Miguel Bonilla. Generally in the same dramatic salsa vein of DLG ("A Donde Iré"), though there's also "Spring Love" (in English and Spanish versions) from freestyle vet Stevie B, and the insipid dance track "Chasing Papi" from the film of the same name, with a rap from Fat Joe.
There's even a cover of Willie Colón's "Sin Poderte Hablar" that's amusing though the gyrations detract from the tune's emotional resonance.
Whatever the style, Dunbar's voice is strong ("Jamás," also in two versions) and the material isn't
("Bacardi Party"), so it ends up being decent for fans but nothing to recommend.
George put together a new version of the band with Yaya Vargas (from the reality show Making The Band) singing the leads, and DJ Napo and Ness joining James and Fragancia on spoken vocals.
Unfortunately, George didn't pull together much new material, so half the disc is remakes of earlier DLG hits: "La Quiero A Morir," "Volveré," "Juliana," and so on. The re-recordings are ostensibly live, but they've been so produced they don't sound it, which defeats the purpose.
It's a particularly bad idea because the exercise spotlights Yaya's weaker vocals: she does her best, sassing like India Lite ("No Morirá") but her best definitely isn't good enough.
The new songs sound a bit better, since they're more layered and don't lean so heavily on Yaya's singing ("Pero Me Acuerdo De Tí"), but George's commercial sense seems to have taken a vacation: "No Soy Esa Mujer," which sounds like an intended single, is flat and forgettable.