Gloria Estefan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 12:00am

Gloria Estefan

Unwrapped (Sony)

For an album freighted with promises of 'the real Gloria' and 'no emotions left undisturbed', Estefan's Unwrapped plays out as a triumph of optimism, almost joy.

A quick resume: Estefan was the voice of Latino pop outfit The Miami Sound Machine (remember them? They only put out two dozen records in two decades from the late 1970s, selling nearly 75 million albums), then went solo in the 90s until a yacht accident in 1995 nearly ended her life and career.

But the 46-year-old once seen as a Latin answer to Madonna has grown stronger with every record since, and this, her first English-language release in five years, is a pinnacle.

That it displays a maturity across the board - singing, songwriting, musicianship - lacking in much of her earlier output is perhaps not so much down to any particular reinvention as much as the dignifying presence of her 23-year-old son Nayib in the background. He has produced a full-frontal documentary DVD released with Unwrapped and intended as further access to his mother's heart.

For Unwrapped delivers what it promises: Gloria raw. There is nothing mind-bogglingly deep and meaningful, but it is heartfelt, not to say upbeat (though the highlights tend towards melancholy: soulful, twisting violin on Time Waits; the wistful tones of Say Goodbye). Also standing out are Estefan's perky duet with Chrissie Hynde on One Name and alternative English and Spanish versions of the catchy radio player Te Amare.