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A discographic profile of the popular Dominican salsa singer.

Profile: José Alberto, "El Canario" by John Child (

ALBERTO, José "El Canario" (b José Alberto Justiniano, 22 Dec. '58, Villa Consuelo district, Santo Domingo) Salsa singer, nicknamed 'The Canary' because of his exquisite voice. Moved to Puerto Rico age seven, studied music at the Antilles Military Academy; then to NYC and first recorded there as lead vocalist on Curious? '76 on TR by Tito Rodríguez Jr.. Worked with Típica 73 from '78 to early '80s (performing on their albums Salsa Encendida '78, Típica 73 en Cuba: Intercambio Cultural '79, Charangueando con la Típica 73 '80 and Into The 80s '81), and was one of the lead vocalists on Noche Caliente '82 on K-Tel, prod. by Louie Ramírez, the first album to give romantic ballads an uptempo salsa make-over. Alberto went solo and released three overlooked LPs on the Sonomax label: Típicamente '84, Canta Canario '85 and Latino Style '86; he switched to the newly formed RMM label and scored a hit with Sueño Contigo '88, giving a harder edge to the usually bland salsa romántica sound. He made his UK debut '88 with his own band and accompanying Celia Cruz. His follow-up Mis Amores '89 was also a hit, but his voice sounded strained on the less successful Dance With Me '91, with young Dominican merengue star Sergio Vargas guesting; however he was back on form for Llegó La Hora '92 co-prod. by RMM's house mus. dir. Sergio George. Alberto won the ACE (American Cable Excellence) award '93 for Best Local Tropical Group. On the '93 gathering of RMM's leading artists: Combinación Perfecta, he was paired with Oscar D'Léon on the track "Llegó El Sabor."

He performed on and produced the salsa debut El Canario Presenta Boy Thode '94 on Mat Records by the Curaçaoan singer Boy Thode; his own '94 release De Pueblo Y Con Clase was produced in P.R. by trumpeter/ arranger Tommy Villariny; sang on RMM's European Salsa Explosion recorded live at Midem, Palais du Festival, Cannes, France Feb. '95. Self prod. On Time '95 rec'd in P.R., incl. a duet with Celia Cruz, reasserted his stature as a purveyor of swinging salsa dance music; he participated in RMM Tropical Tribute to the Beatles '96. Performed at the Salsa Ball at London's Olympia, Sept. '96 - the UK's first salsa stadium event. Paid homage to the great bandleader with Back To The Mambo/ Tribute To Machito '97 co-prod. by Alberto and RMM's new A&R director Isidro Infante, who also contributed mus. dir., keyboards and three arrs. (incl. hit "La Paella"), and featuring guests Tito Puente and Dave Valentín. RMM issued José "El Canario" Alberto: Greatest Hits in their commemorative 10th anniversary Serie Crystal (Crystal Series) '97. Alberto and Valentín's performance of 'La Paella' at RMM's 10th anniversary concert at Continental Arena, Meadowlands, NJ, on 30 Aug. '97 incl. in 2 CD set The 22nd New York Salsa Festival '97. While RMM issued a further compilation (Mis Mejores Canciones '98) he jumped ship to RykoLatino for Herido (Heartbreak) '99. Alberto told Farándula magazine in June '99 that Herido marks 'a new level in my career' and signing with RykoLatino "opens new possibilities to my music." Participated in Típica 73's 25th anniversary reunion concert at P.R.'s Luis Muñoz Marín Amphitheatre on 16 April '99 and performed on the same bill as other RykoLatino signees, Jimmy Bosch and Plena Libre, at the South Beach Open Air Stage on the first day of the Midem Américas 1999 event 22-25 July '99.

-This is a revised version of one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child ( for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UK£16.99.

They are published on the Descarga website by kind permission of Mr. Donald Clarke.

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