Rancho Gordo

Featured Reviews

And From the Archives

A complete List of All Previous Reviews

Search MrLUCKY

Or try an Advanced Search

Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Pink Martini
Heinz Records HNZ001-2CD
A Woman at her piano

What a welcome release this is! Spending a long afternoon at our local musical mega-store, having our senses dulled by the pulsating boring "sounds of today", we happened to spot Sympathique by Pink Martini in the Easy Listening bin. With its artsy cover design, quirky track selection and inspired band configuration (brass, strings, harp, and Latin percussion), we thought we'd take a chance.

We've been underwhelmed by most neo-Lounge recordings by the young folks, especially the overrated and underdeveloped Swing and R & B bands. We won't name names. Sympathique plays it remarkably straight-ahead and is unabashedly gorgeous and yet undeniably modern. More salon music than Lounge and more intelligent than camp, this disc is one of those gracious rarities that works as both background and foreground music. A slightly bitter melancholy runs throughout giving the beautiful melodies their edge.

Highlights include the opening track, Amado Mio, which was too short when Rita Hayworth sizzled it in Gilda. This version is almost five minutes long. Art Blakey's No Hay Problema from the film Les Liason Dangereuses 1960 benefits from the band's enthusiasm and modern recording techniques.  The two original tracks, Sympathique and Lullabye are respectfully fun and moving. Instrumentals are nicely balanced with vocals and the lack of camp is refreshing.

On the down side, morose covers of Qué Sera Sera and Never on Sunday add nothing and go on a bit too long. Other than being done to death by everyone else, Brazil (Acuarela de Brasil) also requires a bit more reckless abandon than Pink Martini's forte of controlled elegance can cough up but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

Despite a few flaws, we're giving it our highest rating.

(Spring 1998)



Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
The Hottest New Group in Jazz
Columbia/Legacy C2K 64933 Jazz/Vocals

Lambert Hendricks & Ross

It's easy to complain about what the major labels do wrong when it comes to reissuing their back catalogues. Real fans tend to prefer entire album releases with the original cover art and liner notes. The labels prefer compilations that rarely make a real fan happy. We can think of dozens of favorite LPs that haven't been transferred to CD while mediocre compilation after compilation gets made. Bucking this trend, Columbia has released its three Lambert, Hendricks & Ross LPs plus five previously unreleased tracks on one two-CD set, with the original album art. It's a reason to celebrate.

From the 1950s, LH&R have been about the most influential jazz singers ever, despite their rather limited recorded output. In a few short years they set the standard for things to come. They all had solo careers with various degrees of success but it's when they came together that they really went to town.

The three albums included are The Hottest New Group in Jazz, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross Sing Ellington and High Flying with the Ike Issacs Trio. We think the first disc is their finest but all of them have much to recommend. We've spent years collecting various Annie Ross discs based on her singing on The Hottest New Group in Jazz. Unfortunately, she's inconsistent and these  recordings really were her shining hour (although she has some really groovy early 78s, available now as King Pleasure Sings / Annie Ross Sings [Prestige OJCD2172]). Jon Hendricks continued to be the Bard of Jazz, writing lyrics to jazz solos for what seems like almost anyone who would sing them. We admit the only other Dave Lambert recordings we know of are pre-LH&R dates with Charlie Parker.

For the uninitiated, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross sang a particular kind of Jazz called vocalese. Hendricks would write lyrics to seminal jazz solos rather then the original melody. It had been done before but LH&R perfected it. Sometimes the lyrics sound forced and often their voices pale in comparison to a sax or trumpet but it's always swinging and more importantly, fun.

The great tracks are too numerous to elaborate on but if you have even a vague interest in Jazz, vocals, or real 1950s hipness, this is the CD to get.



Summer 1997

Ricardo Ray
Jala, Jala Boogaloo, Volume 2
Tico SPLACD 8630 Latin

Ricardo Ray
Tito Twist

The only thing more irritating about Latin music than the lack of credits and liner notes, is the lack of humor. Serious fans often fall into one of two camps: World music aficionados or slick Friday night salseros. The World Beat fans stress the importance of "Afro" in Afro-Cuban music while the Latin community that supports more the mainstream Salsa insists on their own version of hip. We like a good laugh now and then and we always are up for a dance, so it's no surprise that we find the whole Boogaloo movement of the late 1960s so irresistible.

Also referred to as "Latin Soul", the Boogaloo light burned bright and quickly. Taking elements of a rich Latin heritage and scaling it down to an almost childlike consistency and mixing it with a healthy dose of Black "Soul Power", the Boogaloo was tops for a brief moment in time. The piano riffs were groovy percussive confections along the lines of Cool Jerk. The lyrics were often in English and nonsensical, flip or about the brotherhood of man and when you think about it, why can't we all live together in peace? It confused the older folks but young Latinos had discovered their Latin thing.

The big hits of the period included Joe Cuba's Bang Bang, El Watusi by Ray Barretto, Johnny Colon's mind-bending Boogaloo Blues (about an acid trip) and Pete Rodriguez' I Like It Like That, now famous thanks to a Burger King television advertisement. At first rejected by the likes of Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and El Gran Combo (who all went on to record their own versions of the Boogaloo and funky Shing-a-ling), it became all the rage until it was supposedly killed by the mighty Fania record label, which didn't have the same pulse on the kids' taste and was powerful enough to put an end to the fun. Part of the criticism was that the music didn't stick to a strict clave beat, but often the tempos would be mixed up, at one moment Mambo and funky Soul the next.

It wasn't all good. Some of it was just watered-down Soul with bongos, the recordings are often horrid and the lyrics could make one lose his sofrito, but when it was on the mark, it was a gas.

One of the best artists was Ricardo Ray. An early album, On the Scene With Ricardo Ray (Disco Hit DHFR1107CD), was undeniably recorded in the 1960s but the music is either more traditional or Jazz influenced, not completely Boogaloo. He even does a swinging version of Bud Powell's Parisian Thoroughfare. It was with Jala, Jala Boogaloo (Allegre SLPA8570) that he hit his funky stride. Teaming with vocalist Bobby Cruz, they helped define the Boogaloo sound. Cruz had a husky voice that was perfect for the times. Most of the lyrics were in Spanish, peppered with a few English phrases like "right on!" and "go, man, go!" Even better is Jala, Jala Boogaloo, Volume 2. The songs and arrangements are tighter and it features the inanely sensational Mr. Trumpet Man, the Latin Mr. Tambourine Man. While the music is undeniably Boogaloo, it never strays far from Ray's Latin roots. Along with the camp are slowed-down versions of the Son Montuno and sped-up versions of other Afro-Caribbean beats. The sound quality is pretty good and we can't imagine not dancing, preferably in a cage suspended from the ceiling.

The magic didn't last long. The same year, without vocalist Cruz, he recorded a more Soul-oriented Let's Get Down to the Nitty Gritty with the vocals mixed so upfront that it's hard to even hear the band behind the generic, uncredited "soul singer". It's so bland it's hard to imagine it's the same band.

It's a shame the era didn't last longer and it's confusing, maybe even racist, that there's never been a Boogaloo revival. It's as danceable as any Motown or Soul, and the fact that it hasn't been played into the ground makes it a real treasure worth pursuing.

Summer 1997


  Boogaloo Recommendations:
If you find yourself intrigued by the intoxicating beats of the Boogaloo movement, you'll find it tough going finding decent titles. A few of our suggestions, along with the Ricardo Ray titles, follow:
Various Artists:
 All Great Stars – 60's Gold
Fania/ Musica Latina SO53
There are a good number of dumb tracks on this collection, but many of the most important titles are featured, like Boogaloo Blues, Bang Bang, I Like It Like That and Tito Puente's original version of Oye Como Va. The Meditation by the TNT Band is hysterical.
Various Artists:
Dance the
Latin Groove
Charly 164
Not as focused as it could be, this British release features some good obscurities, the seminal Right On! by Ray Baretto and La Lupe's fiery version of Fever.
Various Artists:
Latin Soul Boogaloo
Laserlight 12913
Not particularly good, but it's cheap and features a converted Tito Puente doing the Boogaloo.




The Martini rating System

© Coconut Grove Media

Scientific, Accurate
& Easy To Understand!
5 Martinis = Classic
4 Martinis = Great
3 Martinis = Good
2 Martinis = Fair
1 Martini = Poor


Mr. Lucky Shakes Your Blues Away!Are you on the MrLucky Mailing List? Subscribe today and recieve monthly updates via email. Why not fill out the form today? It's so easy to do!

Want to drop us a line? Email editor@mrlucky.com

©1993-2003 Coconut Grove Media. All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.


Privacy Statement