The Caliente Column

Whose Grupo Is It Anyway?
By Doug Shannon (tmaxgroup@yahoo.com)

Greek myth tells us that the mighty god Zeus was "the father of brave
kings and heroes." But in the Latin music industry, Zeus may soon be
known as the father of all groups.

This confusing story began in 1992, when fledgling independent label
AFG Sigma (owned by LOS TEMERARIOS' members Adolfo, Fernando and Gustavo
Angel) signed a romantic group from California known as Zeus.
Their music featured the sleek, Temerario-esque vocals of Mario Godinez.
"Marchate" was their first album for the label. They opened for Los
Temerarios throughout California and found their CD sitting at #7 on the
Billboard Regional Mexican album chart by late 1992, on the strength of
such shimmering ballads as "Espejismo," "Nena," and "Marchate."

It was proof that Zeus was hot and that tiny AFG Sigma could challenge
FonoVisa's sales dominance. The next step for Zeus was to build on its
breakthrough success with a hit followup album. But that album would
never be.

Mario, his brother Sergio (Zeus' guitarist) and another member left
the group in 1993 to form AURORA. Zeus' replacement vocalist, CARLOS
CATALAN, had a radically different voice. His powerful baritone just
didn't sound right with the sugary soprano synth chords that complemented
Mario's voice. So Zeus changed its style as well, creating a more
rhythmic drum- and bass-heavy sound.

Zeus' first single with Catalan was "Valentina," the theme to the
telenovela featuring Veronica Castro. The song was penned by Castro's
then-boyfriend, Adolfo Angel, director of Los Temerarios. Members of
Los Temerarios wrote several other tunes for the album, also titled
"Valentina." Although Zeus' 1993 version looked and sounded nothing like
their 1992 incarnation, AFG Sigma campaigned hard for the group, believing
that "Valentina" was a sure-fire hit. The group signed on for another
tour of duty as Los Temerarios' opening act. But they wouldn't be known
as Zeus much longer.

"Muere Zeus...Nace LOS SOBRINOS DEL SOL!" the advertisements said. May
1993, and the confusion was about to set in. Thousands of Zeus "Valentina"
CDs had already been manufactured when, according to a source at AFG
Sigma Records, a Mexico-based group named Zeus stepped forward and
claimed that they had registered their name in Mexico before AFG Sigma's
Zeus. Now, any group that's just revamped its sound and lost half of its
members should have probably changed its name anyway, but what Zeus
didn't do aesthetically they were forced to do legally. Hence Los Sobrinos
del Sol. As for the already-manufactured CDs? A little white "Los Sobrinos
del Sol" tag was stuck on the CD next to the large Zeus logo. Subsequent
pressings were labeled with the Los Sobrinos del Sol logo. Possibly owing
to the confusion over the name change, "Valentina" didn't make the
Billboard chart.

By Dec. 1993 Mario and Sergio's Grupo Aurora had released an album on
AFG Sigma, "Te Deje Partir." The group sounded much more like Zeus than
the Sobrinos del Sol version of Zeus, but when Los Temerarios began their
1994 Lobo Tour, it was Los Sobrinos and not Aurora that landed the
coveted opening slot. Though "Te Deje Partir" was well received by critics,
it too failed to make the Billboard chart. Reportedly unhappy with AFG
Sigma's promotional effort on their behalf, Aurora left the label in 1994
and subsequently disappeared for over a year. 1994 would belong to Los
Sobrinos' vocalist Carlos Catalan--too bad the rest of the group couldn't
join in on the fun.

That's because by spring 1994, Catalan had accepted an offer to replace
Roberto Verdusco as lead singer for FonoVisa recording act INDUSTRIA DEL
AMOR, the pop-ballad group from Oxnard, California. Not coincidentally,
their album featuring Catalan, "A Capa y Espada," produced the more hit
singles than any of their previous albums. Industria's sentimental,
soft-rock style was the perfect fit for Catalan's vocals. The album
produced four chart singles--"Dos Enamorados," "A Capa y Espada," "No
Te Imaginas," and "Cuando Un Amor Se Va."

"A Capa y Espada" proved that for an up-and-coming vocalist like Catalan,
talent can only take you so far--it helps to have the most genre-dominant
record label in the country behind you as well. In an interview, Temerarios
director and AFG Sigma co-owner Adolfo Angel indicated that he was quite
upset with Catalan for leaving Zeus/Los Sobrinos for Industria. But it
was obvious that "A Capa y Espada" hadn't outperformed "Valentina"
because it was a better album, but because FonoVisa could do what AFG
Sigma could not. Catalan had more than made up for the disappointing
performance of "Valentina." May 1995, and the title of Industria's
new album promised fans a "Reencuentro." Only it wasn't with Catalan.

Nasal-voiced Roberto Verdusco returned, "A Capa y Espada" disappeared
from store shelves and online catalogs (though 14 other less-successful
titles remained), and "Reencuentro" produced a grand total of one hit on
Billboard's Hot Latin Tracks chart, "Siempre Te Voy A Querer."

Meanwhile, Los Sobrinos soldiered on with new vocalist Francisco Zazueta
and released their second album, "Mis Ojos Tristes," also in May 1995.

By mid-1995, the only good news to come out of this mess was that Zeus'
"Marchate" was still selling well. And to everyone's surprise, a new
Zeus album titled "Como Quisiera" popped up on store shelves. But on
closer inspection, Zeus' "Como Quisiera" had the same track listing as
Aurora's "Te Deje Partir"! Two CDs labeled with different titles and
different artists, but containing exactly the same music.

Aurora finally resurfaced in Sept. 1995 on Sony Discos with a new album
"Un Nuevo Amanecer." This would clear things up, right? Ha! Aurora
rerecorded four songs from "Te Deje Partir"/"Como Quisiera" for "Un
Nuevo Amanecer." It gets worse! The song "Como Quisiera" from "Te Deje
Partir"/"Como Quisiera" is a totally different song from the "Como
Quisiera" that appears on "Un Nuevo Amanecer"! So first Aurora released
two CDs containing the same music labeled with different titles and
different artists, and then they released two songs with different lyrics
and music, but with the same title and by the same artist.

That ties up all the loose ends except for Catalan, the ex-Zeus/Sobrinos/
Industria vocalist. Sources close to Los Temerarios said there was no
way Adolfo Angel would let Catalan return to Los Sobrinos. Catalan was
picked up by Disa International in fall 1995 and released a CD, "Loco
de Amor," in October. Bolero "Si Tu Quisieras" and cumbia "Valor," the
album's first two singles, moved Catalan closer to a norten~o sound.
Unfortunately, Disa hasn't been much more successful than AFG Sigma
at cracking the FonoVisa juggernaut. LOS REYES LOCOS and BRYNDIS are the
only Disa acts that have made the Billboard charts in the last three
years. Not surprisingly, nothing from Catalan's latest effort has
charted, though his voice sounds as good as ever.

Zeus may have the last laugh. A source at AFG Sigma says the label is
considering signing an Austin-based group called Los Gatilleros and
renaming them Zeus, since Los Gatilleros' vocalist reportedly sings a lot
like Mario Godinez. If that happens, it would be the third group that's
not known as Zeus to release an album under the name Zeus. It's up to
them to break the curse--between Zeus' "Marchate," Zeus/Los Sobrinos del
Sol's "Valentina," Aurora/Zeus' "Te Deje Partir"/"Como Quisiera,"
Industria del Amor's "A Capa y Espada," Los Sobrinos del Sol's "Mis Ojos
Tristes," Aurora's "Un Nuevo Amanacer," and Carlos Catalan's "Loco de
Amor," no one who was a member of Zeus has yet released two consecutive
albums exclusively credited to the same artist.