Sunday, June 8, 2008

Gloria Estefan's '98 "Gloria!" is Still Fly in '08

June 2nd, 1998 marked the return of Gloria Estefan as one of the reigning dance floor principals of her time.

Ten years ago Gloria! (1998) stormed onto the scene and still trips the light fantastic with its infectious fusion of disco, Latin, and dance styles. Looking back at the Gloria! project, it's apparent that youth is matter of subjectivity in the terms of sound. When youth is blended properly with the sophistication of age, it can make an intoxicating blend for the audiophile.

The History
After the platinum win of the compelling Destiny (1996) LP and its coinciding Evolution World Tour, Estefan wanted to rightfully celebrate what she had accomplished at that time in her career. The 1990's were spent scoring countless creative, critical, and commercial accolades. She would open the decade with her Into the Light (1991) album, born out of her tragic bus accident the year before. Her first retrospective came in 1992 with many platinum returns. In 1993 she broke down another barrier by releasing Mi Tierra ("My Homeland"), her first full-length traditional Spanish language album, and the first to be released on such a large scale platform. It remains one of the most successful tropical albums to date.

A covers project in English followed in 1994 with Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, and spun off two bursting renditions: Vicki Sue Robinson's "Turn the Beat Around" and Carl Carlton's "Everlasting Love." Another Spanish album came in 1995 with Abriendo Puertas ("Opening Doors").

Wielding the blade of the "A/C Ballad" well, Estefan also hadn't completely forsaken her dance floor roots. The single "You'll Be Mine (Party Time)" and the Tony Moran edit of the downtempo "I'm Not Giving You Up" had been dance chart hits and concert favorites. If anything, it showed Estefan that it was time to come home to "the rhythm" she had so coyly warned us about many years before.

The Record
Working in tandem with longtime songwriters/producers from her Miami Sound Machine days, Estefan conceptualized that her eighth record following Destiny would be a retrospective highlighting her best dance cuts with a few remixes added. This idea was dismissed as it seemed more ideal to just make a whole new album instead and so Gloria! was realized. The aforementioned production squad mobilized to begin work: Kike Santader, Tony Moran, Pablos Flores, Lawrence Dermer, Jorge Casas, and Estefan's husband Emilio. These men were key to the chemistry in classics such as "Conga" and "The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" that ranked as some of her finest early work. This time the salsa backbone and touches would be paired with retro disco strokes and current dance-pop alterations that were the rage at that time.

The Gloria! album is segued, lending it a breath-taking effect due to its pace. The record literally lifts the listener up and barely sets them down. Ten original songs were placed on the album along with five custom remixes (all were surprisingly solid), making the album a one-stop party shop.

Swinging open with the bittersweet taste of infidelity and unrequited love on "Heaven's What I Feel," Estefan gave a knock out performance.
The subject matter was sandwiched in a sublime melody and placed over a house-lite beat. Estefan worked the song from its midtempo frame that climaxed into the layered chorus.
Vocally, Estefan continually dazzled in the vivacious and pleading "Don't Let This Moment End." She glided in melancholy and desire over the ornate song structure without a problem. Giddy and enthused on the jubilant urban explosion of "Feelin," she added new dimension and color to the already vibrant arrangement displayed. The bilingual bang in "Oye!" stands as Estefan's spiciest performance to date. Two versions, the sleek chic album version and the raucous carnival of Pablos Flores' remix at the end of LP (in full Spanish), were wonders to behold.

The sumptuous balance between a classic Latin rhythm section and electronic programming took place on "Real Woman." The mesmeric synth stabs operated over a propulsive pound and then alternated with a pre-chorus chunky percussive break accentuated with punchy brass flavor.

Estefan fell under Wyclef Jean's tequila thrall on "Don't Release Me" long before Shakira confessed to him that her hips didn't lie. Jean opened the song as a smooth player who meets Estefan in a swank bar and has to persuade her that he isn't a "dealer from Havana." After a bit of sweet talking and an exchange of liquid seduction, Estefan surrendered to the sweetest "love hangover." As she purrs to not be released, the song grooves along before spilling into an ultimate stepping jam. The remix furthered the cool chemistry between the two.

The Impact
Gloria! was released in America on June 2nd, 1998, while most of the international market had received the LP in May. Estefan showcased the lead single "Heaven's What I Feel" with a backdrop of her other hits on VH-1 Divas Live. The show's maiden voyage featured Estefan as one of the headliners along with Aretha Franklin, Céline Dion, Shania Twain, and Mariah Carey.

Gloria! gracefully landed at #23 on the U.S. Billboard 200, in England it placed higher at #16, and in Spain it dominated at #1. Four singles were released commercially from the album: "Heaven's What I Feel," "Oye!," "Don't Let This Moment End," and "Cuba Libre." Of the four in America, "Heaven" was the biggest hit, as it came in at #27 Pop. The remaining singles didn't impact on the U.S. Hot 100, but raged throughout the various U.S. and international dance charts in terms of airplay and singles sales. Overall, the Gloria! album would sell close to the near platinum end of gold with 500,000 copies. In America it marked Estefan's first non-platinum album but was considered a massive success critically and within its targeted dance music scene. In Spain, one of Estefan's major markets, the record reached platinum four times with 400,000 copies sold. In its last certification Gloria! (Spring 2001), it had shifted 2.2 million copies worldwide.

Directed By: Gustavo Garzón

Estefan also secured several Grammy nominations: "Don't Let This Moment End" 1999 for "Best Dance Recording" and "Best Music Video Long Format" in 1999 for the DVD release of the videos from Gloria! entitled Don't Stop!. This album predated the American "Latin Explosion" by several months and was definitely of a higher caliber than the albums of that movement. It has been 10 years since Gloria Estefan donned her dance threads, she followed up with two more Spanish language albums and an organic English album, all were of course fantastic. Gloria! looked back and forward in equal measure and continues to shine and shimmer as a milestone for Gloria Estefan. Five stars out of five stars.-QH

[Editor's Note: This album is still readily in print and was re-issued in 2007 with slightly altered packaging.-QH]

1 comment:

S. Flemming said...

Nice. You should send this link to Kodi, because he loved this album when it first came out. Like you, he loves Gloria period.