Personnel: Carlos "Junior" Cabral (guitar); Otto Avalos (violin); Rodrigo Duarte (cello); Fernando Acosta (clarinet, saxophone); Miguel N£¤ez (piano); Armando Montiel (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Ricardo Arjona.
A year after releasing Lados B (2003), a stopgap compilation of obscure album tracks, Ricardo Arjona reached into his back catalog once again for Solo, an "unplugged" album featuring stripped-down versions of fan favorites, three new songs, and a rarity. More so than any of his albums to date, Solo showcases Arjona as a songwriter of exceptional talent. The elaborate musical arrangements that characterize much of his output have been stripped away, leaving him alone to perform his songs with only the slightest musical accompaniment, all of it acoustic (e.g., guitar, piano, woodwinds, harmony vocals). Arjona often sings in a hushed voice, and it all feels incredibly intimate. The problem is, the elaborate musical arrangements of his past work are a significant part of his appeal, something that fans of his rock material in particular will find themselves missing here. Arjona wisely sticks with ballads like "Te Conozco," "Tu Reputaci¢n," and "Se¤ora de las Cuatro D?cadas" on Solo, and doesn't attempt more explosive songs like "Historia de Taxi," "Dime Que No," or "El Problema." The couple rock songs that he does adapt, "Mujeres" and "Si el Norte Fuera el Sur," turn out mixed; the former works well but the latter falls flat. Moreover, the acoustic instrumentation that adorns these songs often feels superfluous, especially the harmony vocals. It may have been better if Arjona had sung with nothing more than acoustic guitar and piano accompanying him. In the end, Solo is most valuable for its three new songs ("Asignatura Pendiente," "Soledad," "La Mujer Que No So¤?") and the rarity "Porque Es Tan Cruel el Amor," which dates back to Arjona's early album Jes£s Verbo No Sustantivo (1990). The documentary DVD that accompanies some editions of the album is also valuable and may be reason enough for some fans to seek out Solo, yet another stopgap release of questionable necessity by Arjona that recycles old material. ~ Jason Birchmeier