Zona Preferente: MTV Unplugged

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The unplugged trend of the 1990s could be quite revealing. If a band used amplification to mask its deficiencies, going acoustic could easily expose them. But when artists who had a lot going for them -- everyone from Aerosmith and Bruce Springsteen to L.L. Cool J -- went unplugged, they had a lot of strong material to rely on and triumphed in an acoustic or electro-acoustic environment. Stripped of the arena rock amplification it was known for, Maná generally sounds decent on this live-in-a-studio recording for MTV Unplugged. Much of the material is commercial, middle-of-the-road pop/rock fare; ballads like "Vivir Sin Aire" and "Cachito" are enjoyable, though not earth shattering. Nonetheless, the Mexican rock en Español band can be challenging at times. "Cuando Los Angeles Lloran" is a poignant ode to Chico Mendez, a South American environmentalist/activist who was murdered because of his fight to save the Amazon, while "Ana" describes the desperation of a pregnant 15-year-old who is afraid to tell her parents and gets no support from the boy who impregnated her. Equally sobering is the reggae-influenced "Falta Amor," an account of a homeless child. For the most part, however, Unplugged is the work of a band that is content to be decent when it's quite capable of being compelling. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi