The Caliente Column

Liberacion: Mex-Tex Gruperos
By Doug Shannon (

The eight-man group from Monterrey, whose style has been called "Mex-Tex"
by some, is at the peak of its popularity after two consecutive hit
albums, "Liberacion" and "Para Estar Contigo."

Although the group has never had any hits in the Tejano market, it
starred in ads for Miller Lite on the syndicated TV show "Tejano USA" and
frequently appears in Dallas and Houston.

In addition, its 1992 hit "Como Estas Tu" was covered by San Antonio duo
RONNIE TEE & MARCOS ANTONIO on their 1994 Manny release "Mundo de Suen~os."
(The duo reportedly went their separate ways this year.)

"It's interesting to us that other groups listen to our music," director
Virgilio Canales said.

"We don't mind it. I think that people cover our songs in a style that may
be stronger in a specific market. The Tejano market has been a little bit
closed to us. But I think more Tejano acts are listening to our music and
making use of it, and viceversa, we have recorded Tejano songs that
weren't being heard in Mexico."

Canales, 53, has been Liberacion's director since the seventies. They
signed with Disa in the early eighties, specializing in high-energy cumbias
and charangas. In 1988, they even recorded a rock tune, "Probemos Otra Vez."

Their style changed noticeably in 1991 with the addition of vocalist
Juan Tavares on the album "Entre Nubes." That album still contained plenty
of cumbias, but its biggest hit was ballad "Como Duele," which introduced
Latin America to Tavares' sweet tenor.

Tavares' latest project is a duet with LOS BYBY'S called "Seamos Amigos,
Seamos Hermanos," from their new album on the Disa label, "Eres Mujer."

Canales explained the group's transition from tropical to romantic.

"We started out recording two or three ballads on each album. On our new
CD, 'Para Estar Contigo,' we have five ballads, five cumbias, and two
rancheras. People like to dance to cumbias, quebraditas, rancheras, and
chicanas. However, we're identified with a romantic sound that the people

Interestingly, soon after Tavares helped Liberacion reach a higher level
of popularity, another veteran cumbia-charanga group, LOS REYES LOCOS,
added a honey-voiced baritone, Julian Tristan. Thus far, their attempts
at replicating Liberacion's success have been overshadowed by their
novelty hits "El Lloron" and "Mi Teta," which seem to have distracted
attention from Tristan's impressive vocals on cuts like "El Corazon Ha
Hecho Pedazos" and "Medias Negras."

Unlike some groups' ballads, which can clear a dance floor faster than
you can say "nickel draws," Liberacion's soft-pop boleros and power ballads
are just what the crowd wants.

"Entre Nubes" was more than just Liberacion's first big hit album. It was
also the first to be distributed in the U.S. by industry dominator
FonoVisa Records. Their material is still released by Disa in Mexico,
where 1992's "Con Mas Amor" is titled "Con La Fuerza Del Destino," and
1993's "Liberacion" is titled "Directo Al Corazon." Luckily, "Entre Nubes"
and "Para Estar Contigo" have the same title on both sides.

"We plan to stay with FonoVisa in the United States," Canales said. "We
are happy with the promotion FonoVisa has given us. And they just began
operations in Argentina."

Since "Como Duele" first scaled the charts, they've struck Billboard's
Hot Latin Tracks top 20 with four other songs: ballads "Ese Loco Soy Yo,"
"Vuelve Mi Amor," and "A Esa," and cumbia "Para Estar Contigo."

During the group's 1993-94 tour, Canales announced his intention to
retire at the end of this year to pursue other musical projects and
devote more time to his family. But the vocal and outspoken disappointment
expressed by so many fans forced him to put off his plans. Though Canales
stays in the background during Liberacion's shows, true fans know that
he is the one responsible for crafting the group's commercial, danceable

"I didn't change my mind just to please myself," he said. "My future
plans are still the same, but I will remain with the group through 1995
and God willing, through 1996."

Canales added that he plans to add a new full-time keyboardist to the
group. Liberacion currently uses seven keyboards, six of which are
controlled by Canales. Though Agustin Martinez occasionally fills in
on keyboards, his specialty is the trumpet and percussions.

Canales speculated that upon his retirement, guitarist Amador Alvarado may
step in as director.

The rest of Liberacion is: Juan Tavares and Jose Guadalupe Barrera,
vocals; Efrain Guajardo, drums; Ricardo Guerrero, sax and percussions;
and Gabriel Aldana, bass.

With eight members traveling together constantly, arguments are
inevitable, according to Canales. But they've never come to blows.

"At times we may use harsh words with each other, but these are passing
things," he said.

Liberacion's next project is in September, when it records its upcoming