On Tangos, Rubén Blades’ long-time friend and collaborator Carlos Franzetti arranges 11 of Blades’ most melodic and well-known compositions. Franzetti’s tremendous arrangements provide new colors and textures normally associated with the tango idiom to Blades’ lyrics and should give their fans several new sonic dimensions to explore. Accompanied by the Leopoldo Federico Orchestra, a tango quintet, and strings and woodwinds, Blades’ classic salsa material becomes more rhapsodic and classical while still maintaining its continuous beat.
Tangos opens with the lilting “Paula C,” a dramatic take on the romantic classic that was written about one of Blades’ former girlfriends. It is followed by “Ligia Elena,” which is about a society lady who falls in love with a musician her wealthy parents don't approve of. Blades’ story telling and Franzetti’s arrangement really work well together since the poetry is beautifully enhanced with the spirit of tango. “Ella” is also a homage to a strong woman and its melody will stay with you long after the recording ends.
One of Blades’ most well-known compositions is about “Pedro Navaja,” the murderous hustler. Arranged with hints of charanga, this is not a pure tango but still has the feelings and heart of its rhythmic pulse. Blades, as the storyteller involves you with his descriptive lyrics while Franzetti seals the deal with the great musical arrangements that enhance what Blades is saying. The poignancy of “Adan Garcia,” is spellbinding as the protagonist’s insanity is depicted through sorrowful lyrics and the orchestra's atonality. “Tiempos” concludes the program and resolves much of the story’s tragedies with its premise about love and forgiveness.
Tangos could be considered one of Ruben Blades’ better offerings because of its new arragnements. However, because it is sung in totally in Spanish, this album may not be the cross-over hit in the USA that Blades and Franzetti may expect. Nevertheless, Tangos deserves to be in your collection of Spanish recordings.