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Louie Vega 

Elements of Life

Wednesday, Mar 31 2004
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Louie Vega's musical journey to maturity has been an extensive tour of self-discovery. Vega broke out as a teenage DJ in the Bronx Latin-freestyle scene of the '80s (notably remixing the classic 1987 hit "Silent Morning" by Noel) and has been a dominant figure in house music ever since. He is best known for his long-running producing partnership with Kenny "Dope" Gonzales as Masters at Work (aka Nuyorican Soul), one of the most influential duos in the genre. Together, they've shown a versatility that ranges from modern soul (working with the likes of George Benson and James Ingram) to the Latin influences that make up Elements of Life.

Significantly, on this work Vega has dropped the "Little" prefix from his name after using it throughout his career. It's not a casual omission, either; it seems more like a transition in his perception of self. A new marriage (to Anané, the singer from the Cape Verde islands, who can be heard on three tracks here) and a young son greatly affect the tone of the album, which feels like a celebration of life from start to finish, especially on the two collaborations with New Jersey duo Blaze -- Kevin Hedge and Josh Milan -- "Brand New Day" and the title song. Milan's roots in the church are clear in his extraordinary voice, which has no parallel in the world of house music. His pipes complement the other male singer on Elements of Life, Raúl Midón, a singer/songwriter who has provided backing vocals for Christina Aguilera (on "Mi Reflejo") and Marc Anthony (whose first album Vega produced), and whose "Cerca De Mi" here sounds no less joyous than Milan's inspired performance.

This isn't a dance album, although it comes from one of the genre's foremost architects and is easily appreciated as such. More important, it's an album alive with melodies and rhythms as distinct as the Latin American countries that influence them, from Puerto Rico and Cuba to Brazil and beyond. Louie Vega, no longer little, has a large artistic gift, the full potential of which he's just starting to grasp.

About The Author

Tamara Palmer

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