Alejandro Sanz, "Paraiso Express"

85 Billboard Rating

The sound of Spanish pop star Alejandro Sanz's new studio set, "Paraiso Express," is more melodic and commercial than his past two, more ruminative efforts-and this is a good thing. Sanz wrote most of the new songs at the piano, and it shows on tracks like "Sin Que Se Note," which conjures vintage Elton John in its big choruses and melodies. Sanz's quirky, inventive side is heard on the reggae-tinged "Mala," with its punctuated guitars-a mix of flamenco and rock-and on the moody "Lola Soledad," a kind of vampy tango imbued with melancholia and awash in a multiplicity of surprising arrangements. The songs on "Paraiso Express" veer in many directions, from solo piano to walls of electric guitar to a predilection for the Hammond B-3 organ. The least surprising track is the bilingual single "Looking for Paradise," which features Alicia Keys. Take it as the light sorbet that cleanses the palate before a gourmet meal. -Leila Cobo