Released in November of 1991, Romance not only signified an existential turn in Luis Miguel’s career, but also expanded the horizons of Latin music. Under the guidance of maestro Armando Manzanero, LuisMi left behind his teen idol persona and discovered a new identity as a mature interpreter of classic boleros. Interestingly, the initial idea was to make an album of original compositions by Spanish producer Juan Carlos Calderón, his longtime collaborator. When the project was delayed indefinitely, LuisMi found refuge in one of Latin American music’s key genres, and he did so with the assistance of one its more sophisticated practitioners. At the time, boleros were a relic of the past. But Manzanero’s production—a duty shared with Luis Miguel—plus the velvety orchestral arrangements by Bebu Silvetti brought a warm, cosmopolitan tint to the repertoire, which also benefited from the technological advances of the ’90s. In hindsight, the bolero was a perfect vehicle for LuisMi’s voice, with its elegant and gentlemanly mystique. The success of Romance is largely based on the astute selection of songs, from “Inolvidable”—a tune that Tito Rodríguez had transformed into a hymn of unrequited love in the mid-’60s—to “Contigo en la Distancia,” a gem from the Cuban songbook written by César Portillo de la Luz. In the world of Romance, the tropical textures of Afro-Caribbean bolero breathe right next to the tenderness of legendary trio ensembles (Los Panchos, Los Tres Ases) and songs by Mexican songwriters such as María Grever (a delicious rendering of “Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado,” with funky touches of percussion and bass, is featured here). Recorded at Ocean Way studio in Los Angeles, the album boasts contributions by musicians from the California salsa and Latin jazz scenes: conga player Luis Conte (a former member of Madonna’s touring band), Colombian saxophonist Justo Almario, and trumpeter Ramon Flores, among others. Every instrumental solo matters on Romance; it’s a record that thrives in the little details, forever in love with the formal beauty of its soundscapes. Besides selling millions of copies, Romance generated three sequels, brought new life to the bolero genre, and confirmed Luis Miguel as one of the most transcendent singers of his generation.

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