Una Forma Mas
Sire 617922 Cuba / Latin
thought of a cappella is not what excites our soul. A cut here or
there, sure, but a whole disc starts to drive us bonkers before
long. Even groups we respect like Take 9 or Zap Mama work best when
individual tracks are included on a mixed tape.
Sampling is a difficult group to review because while one side of
the brain is amazed at the vocal acrobatics, the other side is saying
"so what?". The selection of songs here would be a great
representation of The Great Cuban Songbook, if there were one, most
of the tracks are marred by overkill or a silly nasal "forties"
of the better tracks is La Negra Tomasa (also known as Bilongo).
But even here we can think of three versions we like better,
Tito Rodriguez' in particular. Beny Moré's Dolor y Perdon
is turned into a cartoon soundtrack and his Que Bueno Baila Usted
is given a clever treatment but it falls so short of the original
or even Oscar d'Leon's remake you wonder why anyone would bother.
Vocal Sampling as a novelty act would provide some mild amusement
but for something resembling real musical satisfaction, look to
a good Beny Moré compilation.
originally appeared Summer 95
Moods of Spain
Restless 7729102 Pop
remember quite awhile back seeing a music video for the not so cutting
edge rock group Nelson. There was prefabricated concert footage
of the two long haired, denim clad fellows. In the audience there
were several huge American flags being waved by actors playing audience
members ("All right, U.S.A.!!!!"). We thought it odd that
here was a whole new generation taking the trappings of the 1960s
and early 1970s and adopting them without acknowledging their anti-establishment
and counter culture references, even if their "hippie-look"
long hair had been carefully blow dried.
another case where packaging is deceiving. The blurb sticker on
the case claims a quote from the New York Times: "...where
the streets are made of red velvet, the fog is as thick as cigarette
smoke and the snow is martini olives". The artwork seems inspired
by Bluenote and the group's name conjures up some sort of Latin
reference. Sounds like MrLucky territory.
reality is a very run-of-the-mill pop album on Quaaludes. Leader
Josh Haden has obviously listened to a lot of Elvis Costello and
1980s "new wave" bands. While he imitates the sound of
Costello's voice, he hasn't got the phrasing down and being that
Costello is hardly a singer, the phrasing is pretty key. The songwriting
is blatantly sophomoric with no interesting turns or challenges.
Where the red velvet, cigarette smoke and martini olives come in
is anyone's guess.
normally don't review such pedestrian fare but the truth in advertising
issue seems to have been violated.
The History of Space Age Pop Vols 1-3
RCA/Advance RADV66645-2, 66646-2, 66647-2 Easy Listening / Lounge
ourselves in the late 1970s and early 80's meant scouring the Salvation
Army and other fine thrift stores for clothes, cocktail shakers,
furniture and most importantly, Lps. Like many collectors, the initial
appeal was mostly based on the wacky covers. The music was often
funny and we'd play it at our celebrated cocktail parties as a hoot,
but slowly and surely we came to love this nutty genre that has
been called Space Age Bachelor Pad Music and now Space Age Pop.
were never as manic about collecting as others we knew. Our tastes
started heading South Of The Border with the countless Xavier Cugat
and Edmundo Ros collections available, which of course led to our
now legendary love of things Afro-Latin, authentic and otherwise.
Now, collecting is a very expensive hobby and most of the choice
titles are in others' collections. The days of three for a dollar
are long gone.
those even mildly interested in the genre, RCA/Advance Music has
released a wonderful tribute called Space Age Pop. Unless you really
are odd (and that can be a good thing), the contents of this three
volume set should keep you perfectly happy for awhile. There will
no doubt be nit-picking pedants who find fault with the selections,
but this set is a winner. This goes beyond RE/Search's Incredibly
Strange Music series, which is fine but a bit cynical. Here,
with a more distinct focus, much of the music is silly, some of
it great and all of it fun and inspired by something we can barely
understand in the 1990s.
know you're really in trouble when about halfway through the first
disc you notice that the music doesn't sound so weird at all. In
fact, we were thinking how in many ways this music is similar to
Jamaican dub music, which focuses on a style of music that was mostly
in vogue a generation or two earlier (Space age pop songs were mostly
well known standards). The basic rhythms are the same as the inspired
genre, but the orchestrations and melody are whittled away to their
barest minimums and the hooks are brought up front.
you even have the slightest hint of a sense of humor, you can enjoy
these discs on that simple level, but there's a lot more going on
here and discovering it is quite a bit of fun.
Relaxed Piano Moods
Debut / OJCD 1702-2 Jazz
Scott was a kitten on the keys. This recording made with Charles
Mingus and Max Roach is great cocktail jazz. It starts out slow
and the tempo continues to build. Scott has a rather clunky style
and is hardly one of the greats, but this wonderful date makes for
easy listening in the best sense.
was married to the late Adam Clayton Powell, if you're looking for
cocktail chat to accompany this disc.
Disques Vogue In Paris: Highlights
BMG/RCA 09026682172 Jazz
this disc is meant to be a sampler to entice you to try other Disques
Vogue titles, it really stands on its own merits, at a bargain price
few can resist. All the tracks were recorded in Paris between 1948
and 1956 by great American jazz players who were at the same time
on their best behavior and free to try new things. The highlights
for us are Gigi Gryce's Paris the Beautiful, a gorgeously
orchestrated tribute to City of Light and Roy Eldridge's really
bitchy The Man I Love, which conjures up an image of a completely
different fellow than the Gershwins imagined.
found this for $7.00.
Pacific Standard Time
Concord Jazz CCD 4664 Jazz
have something really fine in this recording by the Alan Broadbent
Trio. Gorgeous, full, straight ahead jazz that manages to sound
hip and traditional at the same time. Concord Jazz has released
some impressive titles over the years but it would be safe to call
them very conservative, even with their Picante label that releases
mostly Latin jazz. This isn't a bad thing but boredom can creep
in and take over. From the really attractive artwork to the actual
recording, Pacific Standard Time proves there's life in the
old girl yet.
trio from New Zealand really can swing. They also can choose a well
rounded intelligent set of songs that works individually and as
a group. The actual recording is pristine without being sterile
which is a real plus because Putter Smith's wonderful walking bass
lines are up front where they belong.
Love In Vain meanders for too long and is more a showcase for
Broadbent's speed on the piano than great music, but every other
track is a good reason to buy this CD.
the piano playing of Alan Broadbent is quite a great new discovery,
it's not as if he were just pulled out of a hat. He'd been working
as an arranger for years with the likes of Mel Tormé, Woody Herman
and Irene Kral. He even arranged numbers on Natalie Cole's underrated
Take A Look.
karaoke tip: This unusually upbeat version of I Should Care
is fun for a sing-along. Try it for yourself and see!
Quiet After the Storm
Blue Note CDP 724382951124 Vocals
are generally very kind folks here and it really takes a pretty
awful disc to whip out the poison pen. Last year we weren't very
forgiving to poor old Barbra Streisand for her pathetic Back
To Broadway and we were even more stern with Dianne Reeves for
her ridiculously indulgent mess called Art & Survival.
There's nothing worse than a big talent taking a wrong turn. Streisand
gave up music years ago to be a movie star so we don't expect much,
but Reeves' disc was a follow up to her brilliant I Remember
and we felt betrayed.
After the Storm doesn't make up for Art & Survival
and it doesn't reach the same high as I Remember but it's
basically pretty solid and hopefully the start of a long climb back
up to the top of the female vocalist heap.
is no songwriter and the energy she spends expressing herself would
be better spent looking for real songwriters. Her lyrics are full
of tired cliches or they're sickeningly cute. You could smile
away the storm clouds...../and it feels just like sunshine when
that smile lights up your face. Yuck.
she's in great voice and a few of the songs are really wonderful.
Her takes on Comes Love and In a Sentimental Mood
are great. Her dirge delivery of Both Sides Now, however,
must be left over from Art & Survival. On the whole,
we are willing to forgive but not forget. Let's see what she does
The Very Best of Beny More' Vols 1 & 2
RCA 74321260292 / 74321262382 Cuba
gone on many times before about the great Beny Moré in these pages.
Nobody better represents the wonderful marriage of Cuban influences
in the 1950s than Beny. We're hardly the first to recognize his
talents. Beny Moré is to Cuban popular music what Sinatra is to
the Yanquis. Like Sinatra, Beny can swing with the best yet some
of his best and most memorable songs are Latin ballads, or boleros.
two discs are mostly re-releases of Moré classics using the first
generation analog masters, which means the sound is about as clean
and pure as we can hope for. That doesn't mean these volumes are
now in stereo but they do sound great. Whether they sound good enough
to buy again if your Beny Moré collection is complete is debatable.
There are a few cuts we were unfamiliar with and we think Beny is
so swell that purchasing these budget line CDs was an easy task.
those new to El Barbara del Ritmo, this would be a great place to
start. Take Volume 2, put it on your hi-fi and turn out all the
lights. Play Cuando Quieras Volver at top volume and imagine
slow dancing with the best Cuban rum running through your bloodstream
and the ideal dance partner (who claims not to mind your smoking
a big fat cigar) in your arms. The moon is full, illuminating the
palms over the bay. The heat is still intense even though it's late
evening, yet somehow you remain refreshed and ready for your date
with destiny. Gosh, life is great!
No Se Parece a Nada
Crescent Moon / Epic 66966 Salsa
our words: You will hear hype. Gloria and Emilio Estefan, the King
and Queen of Miami, in case you haven't heard, have decided Albita
is the next great Cuban songstress. Albita has a very nice voice
and has the potential to be a fine singer except that she sounds
so much like Cuba's Celina Gonzales at times that it's weird. This
in itself isn't so bad. Bobby Darin sounded like Sinatra and Laura
Nyro was indistinguishable from Streisand at one time. The mistake
is the collaboration with the Miami Sound Machine, an organization
that had a big disco hit with the song that urged us to "Do
The Conga!", even though the beat wasn't vaguely Afro-Latin,
let alone the easily identifiable conga.
Estefans have done what they do best, which is take talent and process
it into slick mediocre product. The end result is not unpleasant;
it's just sterile, bland and overproduced.
advice is to pass. Listen to the Qbadisc Celina Gonzales collection,
or better yet, some vintage recordings with her late husband Ruetillo.
We'll check back with Albita after she leaves the Estefans.