The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings
Reprise 47045-2 Vocals
recently, when asked about Sinatra, our response was immediately
"the Capitol years." We often speak in absolutes and live to regret
it. Sure, we have the Tommy Dorsey box (The Song Is You RCA
07863 66353-2) and like it a lot, a few Columbia discs, and a few
live recordings. For our aesthetic and taste, the Capitol years
are just what grease our griddle.
the Reprise years, we've always loved the Jobim disc and September
of My Years, but we've never been inspired to dig much deeper.
We've never been nuts about That's Life, My Way or even Strangers
in the Night. Don't even get us started about New York, New
York. You can see why we've never pursued these recordings.
other problem is that during these years, we were actively participating
in the mass-produced counter-culture. Frank represented everything
we were against and we could cut him no slack. His attempts to keep
with the new beat of a vibrant generation made him look even sillier.
back, we just have to say Frank was always great, even when he sang
garbage. Especially on the first 10 of this 20-disc set, Frank was
in great voice and mostly sang great music with great arrangements.
The second half of the set is more problematic but it's actually
fun to see how a classic pop singer tries to adapt to the times.
Sometimes it actually works.
enjoyed a recent immersion into Sinatra. We played every disc in
succession and made mental notes about our favorite tracks. The
box, while handsome in its simplicity, contains a virtually useless
book that offers no insight on the individual recordings, not even
revealing which tracks were on what albums. We used Will Friedwald's
musical biography of Frank, The Song Is You (DeCapo Press)
as our guide and had a fine vacation. The book is great in that
it feels as if you're having a conversation with a friend you wished
you had that could discuss the details and effects of Sinatra's
voice, even when you don't agree.
The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings for everybody? No,
but we bet Sinatra fans, armed with the Friedwald book, will have
a great time.
De Puerto Rico
Agogo (Qbadisc) AG 9503 Latin/ Puerto Rico
speaking of Puerto Rico's contributions to Latin American music,
it's usually to describe their particularly intense style of Salsa
or their influence on Latin music in New York. In addition to the
Salsa beat, Puerto Ricans also have produced the Bomba and Plena
to varying degrees of success. The Bomba is supposedly more African
in influence while the Plena is more Spanish. To be honest, we've
never had much luck distinguishing the two, but have always been
keenly aware of a different Puerto Rican sound that almost seems
to mix Brazil's Samba with the more Caribbean styles.
the Bomba and Plena started as a more folkloric music and both continued
to evolve. Versatile Salsa musicians would often throw in a Bomba
or Plena into the mix. Puerto Ricans Ismael Rivera (What a voice!)
and Rafael Cotijo (What a beat!) never strayed far from their native
roots. Recently there's been more interest in these particular forms,
most notably by the rootsy band Los Pleneros de la 21.
de Agua's De Puerto Rico al Mundo takes the Plena and Bomba
and sets them on fire. Much like the renewed energy in a lot of
Cuban music, Viento de Agua modernizes the sound without compromising
the original. And like Salsa, the intensity and manic fun starts
strong and just keeps getting stronger, particularly on tracks like
De Puerto Rico a Nueva York. Even when things seem to start
out sweet and carefree, the crescendo builds, often to the point
of happy hysteria. We just love this sound.
dud on the album is Rockeros Muertos which is listed as a
"Plena / Rock." Silly guitar riffs and a Styx sense of drama aren't
our bag, and we doubt they'll be yours, but it's just one track
on an otherwise excellent recording.
Estoy Como Nunca
Polydor 314521547-2 Latin
has been written about the Mambo wars of the 1950s and the rivalry
between Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez. It would be hard
to say of there really was a winner (although Tito Puente's longevity
helps his case.) Of the Big Three, we have to admit we've always
found Tito Rodriguez the least interesting. He's had many wonderful
hits and quite a few good arrangements but his voice wasn't particularly
striking and he insisted on singing bolero after bolero, which drags
down the action and there are many mediocre boleros. Having said
all of this, we're happy to report that Estoy Como Nunca
is about the most welcome re-issue we could hope for.
sound quality is excellent and it's a treat to hear the big brassy
horn section go to town. The numbers are very "arranged" and the
notes credit Ray Santos (See Mario Bauza's recent CDs and Linda
Ronstadt's Frenesi) and Rene Hernandez. The feel is definitely
mambo, which is interesting since the recording date is from 1968.
Soul, Boogaloo or the seeds of Salsa would have seemed more likely.
Still, there's no sense that this is a nostalgic tribute to the
past. This is the real thing.
are a few boleros, but don't be discouraged. The title track, followed
by more equally danceable material, is such a great flag-waver
that it alone is worth the cost of the CD.
originally appeared in the March 1994 issue of MrLucky)