Oscar Lopez: Armando’s Fire

Guitarist Oscar Lopez boasts a dazzlingly brisk percussive-guitar attack that is matched perfectly with fiery, organic Latin styles. On Armando’s Fire, this startling technique is dressed to impress a pop-oriented audience, with glossy arrangements often detracting from the album’s core fireball performance. Lopez struts his stuff most effectively on showstoppers like the stomping “Gypsy Soul,” pushed by a dark flamenco strum, “Dance of the Sun,” with its blistering fingerwork, and “Emotions,” a gentle but intense showcase of fire and spirit. Other potentially strong tracks, including “Latino” and “Walking Through the Pyramid,” are simply overdressed: they bafflingly challenge listeners to strain to hear the nuances of Lopez’s unique voice. There are also a few completely misplaced pieces, like the strange spy-movie synth of “Romance.” Lopez is clearly a major talent, who deserves a more straightforward setting.