Turns out that all you have to do is listen to the opening track of Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson to recognize that the idea of combining the songbook of the American pop genius with the energy of salsa and Latin rhythms is a no-brainer. The question is what took it this long.
The album combines the talents of over 100 musicians. Credit for that goes to producer/arranger/percussionist Tony Succar. The idea for Unity was in the fusing of two cultures. “The one thing that stood out in Michael’s music was love. The reality was unity,” Succar says. He continues, “I also wanted the title to stand for something: a real marriage between Latin roots and American pop culture, and to help keep Michael’s legacy alive.”
If that was the objective, there is no question that the album is a smashing success. Individual listeners will certainly have their favorites among the album’s dozen songs, but this is a disc where the song you heard last is the song you like best – that is until you hear what comes next.
Joining Succar on the project are some of the brightest stars of Latin music. The opening number “I Want You Back” and the album’s closer “You Are Not Alone” feature Tito Nieves. Kevin Ceballo highlights four tracks including a dynamic version of “Thriller” and “Man in the Mirror.” Jon Secada handles “Human Nature,” and Obie Bermúdez and Jennifer Peña have a lovely duet on “Todo Mi Amor Eres Tu.” Jean Rodriguez does exciting work on both “Billie Jean” and “Smooth Criminal.” In one of the album’s many highlights, and my own particular favorite, “Earth Song” gets a dramatic reading from India.
Succar points out that keeping “Michael’s legacy alive” meant using material from the original arrangements and applying them in different ways. “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.” What he brought to the project was both sensitivity and passion, qualities felt throughout the album.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00RWKNDIM,B00UN051AQ,B00UN05E4E]