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A complete review of Antony Santos' 1992-2002 albums

bachatero

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I've noticed that bachata music has gotten almost no coverage anywhere, neither on the internet nor in conventional literature, despite being really popular among certain large demographics. So, I'm going to review the 11 albums that Antony Santos, a big bachata musician from the 90s, made from 1992 to 2002.

Background: What the heck is bachata music anyway?
(Read EVERY word here carefully!)

Bachata music is a genre from the Dominican Republic. It started in the 60s, evolving from a different genre that African slaves in Cuba had invented much earlier, in a way similar to American rock & roll. Back in the 60s it involved acoustic guitars, congas, bongos, and the güira which is a special Dominican instrument. Until the 90s, Dominicans perceived bachata as being for "the poors" because poor Dominicans had been both the primary creators and consumers of that music.

Well, it all changed in the 90s. There was this bachatero (someone who makes bachata music) called Antony Santos (full name Domingo Antonio Santos Muñoz, phew!) who grew up in this poor little village in the middle of nowhere in the DR. Back in the late 80s he joined this band to make some Dominican music and have fun together. Fine. However, there eventually came some fussing and arguments and AS left to make his own music.

As it turned out, AS had some huge potential and one of his first songs became really popular among the entire DR, not just among "the poors." That single-handedly made bachata music the coolest thing ever and suddenly became what radio stations wanted to play. AS kept making hit albums every year until the late 2000s when he just needed a break. As a side effect, bachata's popularity due to AS caught the attention of some kids in the Bronx who wanted to make some bachata of their own. They ran out of good ideas until someone told them to break the rules, so they made Aventura (who you might have heard of already), and the rest is history.

If you want to know what it sounds like, imagine soft rock in a R&B style with a special guitar effect. I don't have enough room for the technicals here so that's for another post.

Final note: some of AS' music is actually merengue, which is a very similar style from Puerto Rico, and "balada" which is simply a slow dance ballad.

An overview of the albums

AS released his first music in 1991 on casette but rereleased it on CD in 1992. Then, he made an album every single year until sometime in the 2000s and started back up again recently, for a total of 20+ studio albums. Most of them are great, some average, and just a couple stinkers. I can't vouch for the newer releases' quality because he's getting up there in the ranks of "older" musicians. I'll only be covering those from 1992-2002 since that's what I have in my lossless collection right now and that's 11 selections anyway. Most of them have at least "good" dynamic range as you can see here: https://dr.loudness-war.info/?artist=antony+santos&album=

Review format

These reviews are in "braindump" format where I just write whatever comes to mind first. That means you should read them in order.

Let's get started!

La Chupadera (1992)

This is his first album. It came out in 1991 but on compact casette instead. To make the CD release with its different album cover format they just took the UGLY cover from the casette, slapped it on an UGLY yellow background, scanned it, and called it a day. They forgot to change the EQ so it would sound good on CD with a flat response. The song "Voy pa' allá" is what made bachata popular in the whole DR. Don't listen to this album unless it's for historical purposes. It sounds horrible on digital/CD because there's way too much high end.

La Batalla (1992)

This one sounds a lot better. They have a square cover now that doesn't look bad. The merengue "El baile del perrito" is the longest song here at a full 8 minutes, actually only marginally more than the average but still the longest. There isn't much spectral content above 16kHz but it does not sound like that, in a good way. I love how skillful AS is with the guitar even with zero effects. There is some huge dynamic range here. Go and listen to this album!

Corazón Bonito (1993)

This album sounds like they put a bunch of distortion on an acoustic guitar. It doesn't sound bad though, just different. The merengues here are really good for gym training. I have heard "Lo que tú quieras" is really good for bachata dancing. Some of the songs here have really awkward intros ("Vámonos pa' arriba" and "Te quiero te quiero") but were the most popular back in the day. My favorite is "Se fue la bola" because of how catchy it is. I'm practicing to play "Corazón bonito" on guitar and the intro is freakishly difficult. This is a pretty good album overall!


Cojelo Ahí (1994)

This is the first album to use the Ibanez PT-4 guitar pedal which gives more modern bachata its characteristic guitar sound. This album also has the absolute worst dynamic range out of the ones I'm reviewing here. (Note that the least dynamic song still has a DR rating of 7!) Some of the songs are really good! I would say it's worth a listen. The song "Corazón culpable" was really popular in Mexico.

El Mayimbe... Y Nada Mas (1995)

This is probably my favorite other than another one I'll cover later. The songs here have a lot of emotion and interesting licks/gimmicks that keep this album memorable. There's also tons of dynamic range. Watch out for "El calor" because somebody was a complete troll and made it several times louder than any other track so it blasts your ears if you're listening to it in order. Go listen to this right now!

Sabor Latino (1996)

This album is just really boring. I can't think of any songs that stand out other than "Consejo de padre" because of its fake live performance gimmick. There are also a couple ballads which sound totally different from bachata. Don't pay too much attention to this album unless it's for the ballads.

Como te voy a dejar (1997)

This one is slightly more interesting. Somebody made a big whoopsie and made all the songs really muddy like there's too much 100Hz, so it just sounds fed up. The songs are a little more memorable. Go see if you like this album!

Me Muero De Amor (1998)

This one was made pretty well. There's a little bit of extra high end in an area that somehow reveals bad audio systems. Somebody preparing the digital release really goofed up and got rid of everything past the eighth track and copied "El ombliguito" to the ninth. That song is actually really catchy like most of AS' other merengues! Go listen to this album.

Enamorado (1999)

They completely blew the budget on the beautiful album cover where yours truly wears a ridiculous jacket on a funny background. Apparently, "K&A Graphic Designs" did this one. The songs here are largely fine. "El colín" is really complex from a musical standpoint and "No te puedo olvidar" was actually sampled in a recent hit release from Bad Bunny, which is somebody you may or may not be comfortable knowing the existence of. The song "Enamorado" was AS' last ballad for a few years. It has some really funky mixing and AS' singing wasn't the best there. Go check this album out and see if you like it. Here's the totally-90s cover for your viewing pleasure:

Enamorado.jpg


El Balazo (2001)

This one was actually released in the DR in 2000 and in 2001 everywhere else. There's a bit of high end missing here so it sounds weird on most sound systems. The album cover looks like it just came out of the Matrix. The last song, "Cuanto lamento," is a special version of "Cuanto lamento" which is the first but in a different style that also sounds like it came out of the Matrix. See if you like it or not!

Juego de Amor (2002)

This is my favorite along with EMYNM. Whoever mixed it gave the bassist the respect they deserved. And, whoever they got for the bass was a real hotshot and had 5 strings which makes for some seriously slick basslines that I can't play with just 4 strings. This album is also the most consistently dynamic out of the bunch. The bachata songs here have a lot of cowbell parts. The merengues, however, have a lot of brass, which I don't like the sound of so I don't listen to them. There is a birthday song here ("Brindo por tu cumpleaños") which is hilarious. If you look very closely into AS' eyes you can see that they're green! Go listen to this album because it's great. Here's a song to get you started:


Conclusion

If you've read this far, then awesome! I love bachata music but can't believe how little attention it gets in more academic settings. Hopefully this post changes that just a little.

What are your thoughts?
 

dasdoing

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I call this type of music "regional" music. it's basically a cultural thing. yea, styles have made it from "regional" into mainstream, but most don't.
Here in northeast of Brazil we have a similar style called "arrocha"
 
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