"Mas Y Mas: The Los Lobos Box [BOX SET]"
Still in their prime, this Los Angeles band has had a great career--one certainly worthy of box set coverage. "Mas y Mas" is an exhaustive collection that's loaded with treats for the Los Lobos completist. In addition to all of their hits, it includes tons of nuggets: covers, outtakes, demos, live versions, and songs from soundtracks and compilations that were never available on a Los Lobos disc.
"Purest Of Pain"
Son By Four
The Latin answer to the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees (who've made a crossover attempt with "Una Noche"), Son by Four up the ante for boy bands: they're completely bilingual, plus they mingle Latin rhythms with the usual pop/R&B blend. So now there's another reason for teenage girls to scream, in Spanish.
Puerto Rican merengue sensation Elvis Crespo returns with an attempt to re-create the magic of "Suavemente." Though his merengue-pop stays close to his tried-and-true formula, it still definitely heats up the dance floor.
"Guitarra Mia: A Tribute to Jose Feliciano (Un Tributo Jose Feliciano)"
Jose Feliciano's ability to create lush, atmospheric music is apparent in this tribute to his work. The maestro himself contributes to this collection, as do current Latin pop stars, including the likes of Marc Anthony, Gisselle, and Son by Four.
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A longtime fan and supporter of Brazil's tropicalia pop-rock, David Byrne teamed with genre icon Caetano Veloso on the softly rhythmic, bilingual "Dreamworld: Marco de Canaveses." Download this highlight from "Red Hot + Lisbon: Onda Sonora"--a Red Hot benefit CD for AIDS awareness and relief.
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"Solo: Live In New York"
Jesus "Chucho" Valdes
Cuban master pianist Chucho Valdes, the founder of Irakere, is a musician of power and elegance. On this solo outing in New York City he makes his piano sing, coaxing boleros and rumbas out of its keys.
"Las Flores De La Vida"
Charismatic pianist Compay Segundo's beautiful son montuno continues to delight, as Buena Vista madness enters its fourth year. This is Cuban soul music, and it's beautiful to see it finally getting its due. Segundo's graceful interpretations of Latin classics such as "La Negra Tomasa" are warm--like an old friend you haven't seen in years.
"Buena Vista Social Club"
Wim Wenders's gorgeous portrait of Cuban musicians and the story of American guitarist Ry Cooder happening upon their musical gifts is as picturesque as they come. It is misleading in that it paints a portrait of a Cuba indifferent to these musicians' gifts (which couldn't be further from the truth--many were able to make their music due to Cuban government programs), but it does capture the zest and vitality of these artists. Wenders's film is one of the most beautiful in recent memory.
"Strawberry & Chocolate"
This film presents, with warmth and generosity, another nuanced, vibrant picture of Cuba. It's a great story of the unlikely friendship between a young communist student and a cultured, intellectual homosexual, and how they come to terms with one another. It's also a fine personal portrait of daily life in Cuba: beautiful in a somewhat tragic way, like an aging starlet with a lot of feistiness in her yet.
"Merengue Con Diente"
"Merengue con Diente" is a hilarious novelty compilation that literally means "merengue with teeth." It unites merenguero odes to various animals, like "El Baile del Perrito" (The Dance of the Puppy) and "El Gato" (The Cat). In addition to illustrating the ludicrousness of merengue lyrics, it's also a lot of fun. Maremoto (who's featured four times and clearly has some issues to work out) contributes the raucous "El Toro," which benefits from the singer's maniacal ragga-inflected voice and a dance-friendly arrangement. This is great silly dance music.
"Salsa Fresca! Dance Hits Of The 90's"
"Salsa Fresca!" is a strong Latin dance compilation that features many big players of the modern salsa scene (Grupo Niche, Frankie Ruiz, and musician's musician Willie Colon) and some of the best dance hits of the '90s. It's a great introduction to the tropical rhythm that is currently the dominant sound of Latin America.
This Bogotano band is one of the most creative Latin alt-rock groups around, and "Serie 2000" is a great introduction to their sound because it features most of their biggest hits. Singer Andrea Echeverri's bittersweet drawl is incredibly unique, enriching these lush rhythms. The Aterciopelados have managed to incorporate traditional Colombian rhythms with Pixies-esque guitar riffs without sounding even remotely cheesy. Their elegant music has a lot of soul.
The rebel yell of rock, punk, and youth is definitely present in Bloque's self-titled debut. But that attitude meshes beautifully with Colombian sounds (vallenato, cumbia, and coastal drumming at their best) to create a sound that simultaneously boils with fury and tradition. Their debut is one of the most exciting albums (in English or Spanish) in recent memory.
See our Caffeinated Colombian Rock list
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