Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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(b José Alberto Justiniano, 22 December 1958, Villa Consuelo district, Santo Domingo) Salsa singer, nicknamed 'The Canary' because of his exquisite voice. He moved to Puerto Rico age seven, studied music at the Antilles Military Academy; went to NYC and first recorded there as lead vocalist on Curious? '76 by Tito Rodriguez Jr. He worked with Tipica 73 from 1978 to the early '80s and was one of the lead vocalists on Noche Caliente '82, produced by Louie Ramirez, the first album to give romantic ballads an up-tempo salsa make-over. Alberto went solo and released three overlooked LPs on the Sono Max label: Tipicamente '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 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; he was back on form for Llego La Hora '92 co-produced by RMM's house music director 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 Combinacion Perfecta, he was paired with Oscar D'Léon on the track 'Llego El Sabor'. He performed on and produced the salsa debut El Canario Presenta Boy Thode '94 by the Curaçaoan singer Boy Thode; his own '94 release De Pueblo y Con Clase was produced in Puerto Rico by trumpeter/arranger Tommy Villariny, which featured RMM's new A&R director Isidro Infante and guests Tito Puente and Dave Valentir. He sang on RMM's European Salsa Explosion recorded live at MIDEM at Cannes '95. The self-produced On Time '95 (PR) included a duet with Celia Cruz, and reasserted his stature as a purveyor of swinging salsa dance music; he participated in RMM Tropical Tribute To The Beatles '96, and paid homage to the great bandleader with Back To The Mambo/Tributo A Machito '97.