Review: “Destiny” by Gloria Estefan (CD, 1996)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate uncertain is the 1996 seventh solo album Destiny by Cuban American singer, songwriter, and actress, Gloria Estefan. Will this album Reach new highs, or is it Destined for the bin? Read on…

Gloria Estefan - Destiny (1996) album
Gloria Estefan – Destiny (1996) album

This 11 track CD opens with some gentle water running as men chatter in the intro of titular track Destiny, co-written by Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Percussion drops in, with classical guitar ushering in Gloria’s exquisite soft and warm vocals. Strings and more percussion fall effortlessly into the song as it builds, all fitting perfectly alongside Gloria’s vocals without once getting in the way – a musical ensemble of instruments. It’s a gentle beginning to this album, and a wonderful one at that.

Third single I’m Not Giving You Up follows this, and we’re treated to lots more beautiful percussion and acoustic guitars, but this time there’s a soft pop undercurrent with breathy vocal moments, and subtle effects. The result is another rich and mid-tempo song, giving Gloria plenty of opportunities to show off those vocals as strings and percussion swirl around her.

Steal Your Heart is next, opening with yet more wonderful guitar from co-writer Kike Santander. This feels very much more acoustic that the previous songs, until the 1m 20s seconds when it takes on a wonderful bass and handclapped tempo and feels like it’s galloping along. Gloria’s vocals here are beautiful.

That’s followed by the first of the songs not to have Gloria in the writer’s credits – The Heart Never Learns, and this is stylistically different – feeling like something from one of her 1980s albums – a kind of emphatic synth-laden heartbroken ballad. It’s musically nice enough, but it feels a little dated.

Oodles of funky trumpets and saxophones and shuffling percussion drop you into an upbeat party Gloria with second single You’ll Be Fine (Party Time). The percussive party feeling of this track makes me think a little of Harry Belafonte’s hit Jump In The Line. This belter of a track gave Gloria another Top 20 UK hit, reaching #18.

Next is Path Of The Right Love, another Gloria written track, and we’re dropped straight in on percussion and vocals. Gloria has tons of space here to show off those unmistakable vocals and those shine really well here as the song slowly plods around alongside her.

Show Me The Way Back To Your Heart follows this, and gives songwriter Diane Warren her second writer’s credit. The song opens like the theme to BBC defunct soap Eldorado, before giving way to a gentle ballad, underscored by strings. The track is quite a nice little slow number, which does seam to meander around a bit, complete with gear change in the final third, but of course Gloria’s vocals shine wonderfully here and she takes it all in her stride. The song was used as a promo in Brazil for the album although it was not released as a single.

That’s followed by Along Came You (A Song For Emily), a song for her daughter, singer Emily Estefan born in 1994, who is even credited here as performing a ‘baby rap’. It’s the longest track here, weighing in at 6m 19s. The song is a gentle ballad, with some really nice vocal harmonies and strings, as the song gently plods along. It’s clearly a very personal and special song for Gloria and Emilio, but for the rest of us, it’s a bit of a wafting slog.

Higher is next, a track that was released as a double-A side single with I’m Not Giving You Up, and it’s off to a galloping party style sound. Loaded with fast percussive sounds, brass stabs, and pacey vocals from Gloria. It results in sounding like a stylistic 1960’s song instead. It’s quite a fun little song, and the funky brass and call-response sections work really well and give it a playful quirkiness.

That’s followed by I Know You Too Well, and this reminds me again of earlier 1980s hit Anything For You. It’s a nice warm mid-tempo song, that Gloria manages to deliver with great ease as strings and acoustic guitar swell around her. It’s a nice little heartfelt song.

The album closes with the lead single Reach, which became the official theme of the 1996 Summer Olympics. The track, written by Gloria and Diane Warren, reached #15 in the UK singles charts, but was utterly deserved of higher. The song is grand in sound – richly layered with instruments, and Gloria’s stunning vocal performance really shows her as the truly brilliant vocalist that she is. ‘If I could reach‘ she sings… but we know you can Gloria… and you do. Perfect. I bet hearing this live would be absolutely soul shakingly thrilling.

Gloria’s lead single Reach (1996), from the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Verdict

Over all, this album is a wonderful addition to Gloria’s back catalogue.

It is richly produced and loaded with detail throughout that isn’t buried in the mix. The high points are very much Reach, I’m Not Giving You Up, You’ll Be Mine (Party Time), Destiny and Steal Your Heart – all of which are so fully formed, and beautifully sounding, that they are flawless. The energy of You’ll Be Mine, and Higher works really well here, as it is a bit of a sea of mid-tempo songs.

Where the album does take a duff turn, it’s only minor as the songs sound so well performed and produced, that it’s only a lack of stylistic range that dampens the score here – with The Heart Never Learns and Path Of The Right Love being the dullest here. A bit more of that highly refined Cuban energy that we know Gloria can erupt with, and we’d have had a perfect album.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2022 REVIEW RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1996 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #12, certified Silver by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.49 from a British Heart Foundation store.

Based on all of the Gloria Estefan albums we have reviewed so far, we are able to calculate her average album score as 3.67 out of 5.

Gloria Estefan's album review ratings over time.

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