Compiled by El Largo  (1st Dec. '99)



"El Apartamento" J&N Records/Sony

Produced: Willie Rosario/Bobby Valentin. Arranged: Ramon Sanchez.

A fantastic CD celebrating Rosario's 40th year in the music biz. Gilberto Santa Rosa and Tony Vega, former singers with the Puerto Rican timbalero, guest on the CD along

with renowned pianist Papo Lucca and bassist Bobby Valentin. This track features Santa Rosa at his best.



"Permiso Que Llego Van Van" Havana Caliente

Produced: Charlie Dos Santos/Juan Formell. Arranged: Juan Formell.

Another long running Latin institution is Cuba's Van Van. Resurgent in the 90s with a string of must-buy albums, the old guard of Juan Formell, Cesar Pedrozo and Pedro

Calvo still kicks although relative newcomers Mayito Rivera and Roberto Hernandez take their fair share of the limelight on vocals.



"Mi Mujer Es Como Una Bomba" RMM

Produced: Oscar D'Leon/Isidro Infante. Arranged: Isidro Infante/Nelson Hernandez

Respect to D'Leon for admitting that the effects of salsa stardom had almost reduced  his recording involvement to a 'turn up, sing and wait for the cheque' situation.

Hardly satisfactory for a person who even cried musically as a baby. How many other stars are big enough to admit that they have been resting on their musical laurels? So it's a hands-on production with D'Leon writing, arranging and playing on  many of the tracks- you'll know which ones. The lyrics to 'Mi Mujer es Como una Bomba' were penned by Tokyo resident Pedro Valle and nearly caused a row in the talented Valle family. Yumuri added the music and their other brother Maraca recorded it on the LP Sonando.



"Ya No Se Hace Falta" Ahi-Nama

Produced: Lazaro Valdes/Adolfo Costales. Arranged: Lazaro Valdes

One of Cuba's hottest timba bands returns with its best release yet under the leadership of Lazaro Valdes. Included with the CD are some nice liner notes about the

emergence of the timba sound written by the album's co-producer, Costales. The title of the CD could well summarize the band's judgment on the departure of Haila Monpie from the group.



"El Padrino (De Tal)" Cutting Records

Produced and Arranged: Win and Dose

Fulanito is back at its Guallando baddest. Still featuring Arsenio de la Rosa on accordion, this is crazy Latin hip-hop cumbia and if you liked the debut, this is a required purchase.



"Lagrimas Negras" RMM

Produced and Arranged: Isidro Infante

Who would have thought anyone would risk a cover of this Matamoros classic, let alone mixing it with house, hip-hop and other urban influences? Corrine, daughter of Angel

Lebron, that's who. The RMM team have done a slick job and with Corrine's youthful vocals and some measured rap from Bimbo, it works.



"Caminando" Caiman Music

Produced: Tonny Tun Tun/Luis Corporan. Arranged: Tonny Tun Tun.

Now recording material for himself, Tonny Tun Tun is a one-man merengue act like Elvis Crespo (who also co-wrote this tune). There is some hardcore merengue here.



"Baile Encantado" Korta Records/Sony

Produced and Arranged: Tomas Bernal

Venezuela's Kache has a new release out with a classic South American feel, although also included is some rap and some NG La Banda covers. This track has an old skool sound and a perfectly weighted, hypnotic coro.



"Amor Secreto" Codiscos

Produced and Arranged: Diego Gale

Diego Gale first recorded Amor Secreto back in 1989 on his first release after leaving Niche. This reworking starts off almost like a 90s Cuban track and ends up with a

boogaloo clap (the next track is a full blown boogaloo). Grupo Gale is one of Colombia's tightest acts and it's good to see some freshness among the Colombian orthodoxy.



"Empujando El Cielo" H.O.L.A. Recordings

Produced and Arranged: Magic Juan

Obviously, Los Tiburones del Merenhouse are trying to attract interest from a variety of communities with several songs in English- they haven't done a complete Marc Anthony though. 'Empujando el Cielo' stands out from the rest of the tracks as a high energy Latin hip-hop dance track. See them live and you'll have no doubt that Magic Juan has the talent to rap with hip-hop's best.



"Volvere" RMM

Produced: Louis Garcia. Arranged: Humberto Ramirez

Ray Sepulveda's duet with Johnny Rivera, "No Vale la Pena", has been one of the most popular salsa tracks in Japan over the last five years. It's almost unthinkable that

Sepulveda retired from singing in the 80s to work for the US Post Office. His fifth release with RMM combines his romantic singing style with very danceable tunes. This track arranged by trumpeter Ramirez, who also solos on it, is a rock solid choice for the DJ.



"Cuando Tu Amor Se Acabe" Sony

Produced and Arranged: Ramon Sanchez; Co-Production: Victor Manuelle

On this release we have the following musical formula: Victor Manuelle + Ramon Sanchez + His Recording Highness Sir George = Unmistakable. No surprises here.



"Te Voy a Olvidar"  Prestigio Recordings/Sony

Produced: Eddie 'Kuki' Perez. Arranged: Eddie 'Kuki' Perez and Franklin Martinez.

There's never a shortage of 4-man merengue acts appearing on the scene. This is one of the better ones of '99.



"Desde Que Te Fuiste" WEA Caribe

Produced: Angel Fernandez. Arranged: Ricky Gonzalez

Some may have tried to dismiss Negron as a teenage phenomenon, but there's every sign that his distinctive voice is around to stay. This third release is perhaps his most consistent yet and that despite having 4 different producers, Fernandez, Ramon Sanchez, Sergio George and Rudy Perez. A sign of astute management?



"Aguita Pura" Combo Records

Produced: Eric Figueroa. Arranged: Lucho Cueto

Like Salif Keita, Cano's most interesting facet is his voice not his appearance. When it comes to the technicalities of singing Latin music, he's something of a purist, but

whether you believe he has a superior vocal delivery or not, there's no doubt that on this album he packs a heavy punch- Aguita Pura is a thumping good track.



"Esa Mujer" RMM

Produced: Isidro Infante/India. Arranged: Isidro Infante/Nelson Hernandez

You either love her or hate her- a sure sign of a strong personality. On this excellent number her singing is a little mellower than usual and accordingly the result has a much warmer feel. More like this please.



"Sonaremo El Tambo" Nippon Crown

Produced: Orquesta del Sol and Jun Takagi. Arranged: Ken Morimura

Are they from Puerto Rico or Cuba? When they play in-your-face tracks like 'Sonaremos El Tambor', you really need to double-take the sleeve photos to make sure that they aren't from the Caribbean. Orquesta del Sol is Japan's oldest salsa band having formed in 1978 in the wake of the Fania All-Stars first visit to the Far East.  Del Sol has gone on to inspire, and in many cases outlast, a host of other Latin acts in Japan such as Orquesta de la Luz. Del Sol's album Pa'Lante is a live studio recording which its musical director and pianist Ken Morimura says  has the "puro sabor" of a live gig.



"Se Nos Acabo El Amor" Sonolux/Sony

Produced and Arranged: Miguel Bonilla

It's hard to forget the association of Luis Damon's yearning whispery vocals and Osvaldo Pichaco's technological salsa sound on tracks like 'Vivir la Vida' (1996). However Damon has probably made the right decision to keep moving from producer to producer so as to avoid getting a typecast sound.



"Busco Una Chica" (Remix) J & N Records/Sony

Produced: Tato Pena. Arranged: Nestor Gonzalez

For the DJ,  this merengue with a house beat is the perfect tool for segueing from  merengue to merenrap/house.



"Se Me Ha Hecho Dificil" MP

Produced: Julio Gunda Merced

Ruiz was singer with  Pedro Conga's group for seven years. This third solo release is for lovers of Ruiz's sensual sound. "Se Me Ha Hecho Dificil" is the catchiest track on

the album Finally, for those of you looking for a madcap theme tuneyoufre your millennium celebration:



Try the CD "La Mujer del Nuevo Milenio" on Combo Records.





Cuban Colors (RMM)

Nora was Orquesta de la Luz's singer and if you like her voice this latest CD will be of interest. As the title suggests, the idea behind this CD was to record with a Cuban sound and with the expertise of ex-Irakere flutist Maraca Valle as musical director and main arranger, this has been achieved. We are not talking a 90s timba sound here. Think of a more traditional sound- the leader of the Afro-Cuban All Stars Juan Marcos de Gonzalez also arranged one of the songs. In fact, the participants are a veritable

roll call of Cuban names: prolific key man Chucho Valdes, tresero Pancho Amat, in-demand conguero,Anga Diaz and top singer Issac Delgado who says the release has "real Cuban color." Praise  indeed.




Agua de Cuba (CuBop/Ubiquity)

Cuban elder of the congas and long time influence on the US Latin jazz scene. There's a real assortment of compositions on this CD ranging from Aguabella originals to covers of the well-worn Manteca and Watermelon Man; there's even a Lennon and McCartney. However, don't be put off- all the pats, slaps and martillos are up in the mix so if you are a percussion fan, there is only one logical decision-buy it.



Live at MOCA (CuBop/Ubiquity)

Also out on the  reliable Cubop label is this live offering from Matos with a line up including  Steve Baxter on trombone, Michael Turre on saxes and Victor Cegarra on

ivories. Latin Jazz fans won't be disappointed.



(AJ Records)

Renowned trumpeter Humberto Ramirez took four years to get this Latin jazz project together and recorded. It features over 65 musicians playing in different combos and

the names include longstanding ones such as Papo Lucca, Bobby Valentin, Roberto Roena, and  newer ones such as Paoli Mejias (percussion), Charlie Sepulveda (trumpet) and Luis Marin (keyboards). With such a selection of musical outfits something is sure to please, but there is certainly more of an influence of contemporary jazz on this CD than in the previous two CDs mentioned (Aguabella and Matos).



Salsa Dura (Ryko Latino)

This bonist writes  songs about  car breakdowns, so it's clear that he's got a sense of humour. (That's before any mention of Steve Turre playing conch shells.) However, Bosch is a player to be taken seriously and he's certainly game to have a go at all kinds of challenging rhythms from yambu to plena, mozambique to songo. So sit back and let Bosch's heavy-duty tow truck pull you in unexpected directions.  La grua llego, que alegria!


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