La Mafia

At its inception in the early eighties, the heart and soul of La Mafia, the most enduring group in tejano, was los hermanos Gonzales: Oscar y Leonard. The former was the singer, the latter the guitarista. But by the time they hit their stride in the mid-nineties with "Un Million De Rosas," the Houston group was almost all Oscar, the vocalist taking on matinee-idol status. Two years ago Leonard quit and sued the group over use of the band name, a split that almost ended La Mafia. But now that the legal hassles have been settled out of court, Oscar De La Rosa, as he calls himself these days, has returned La Mafia to the Latin charts with Contigo, picking up where the band left off in the quest for a larger international audience by rolling out the ballads and boleros that showcase his singing talents. The guy can flat-out croon. The opening notes of "Amor Secreto" and the title track suggest the potential to rise to the level of a Julio Iglesias or a Juan Gabriel. That comes at the expense of some of La Mafia's other obvious talents. The last track, "Morir Soñando," suggests that had the band pursued more of a rock en español path, it might have become rockers on the level of Santana. As for the hardcore La Mafia audience that pines for the cumbias and the odd polka, look no further than Siempre Cuenta Conmigo (Freddie), the debut of Leonard (now Leonardo) Gonzales y los Magnificos, which effectively recreates the classic La Mafia sound of ten years ago. In that respect, loyal fans and new listeners benefit from this sibling split, no matter which version of La Mafia rings your chimes. Take your pick.

 

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