Joe Cuba | El Alcalde Del Barrio

Fania (2010)
By GUSTAVO TURNER  |  March 9, 2010
4.0 4.0 Stars


Fania kicks off 2010 with what is sure to end up being one of the year's most important archival releases of Latin music. Nuyorican bandleader Joe Cuba, who died last year, was very involved in compiling this non-chronological survey of some of his best (as well as some of his hardest-to-find) recordings. Like any such journey by a seminal figure with a long career (e.g., Dylan's Biograph box set), the end result is both idiosyncratic and revealing.

We get the legendary stuff like "Bang Bang" (the track that kicked off the boogaloo craze) and "El Pito" (a/k/a "I'll Never Go Back to Georgia"), an infectious workout that could make the dead dance and that — legend has it — intimidated James Brown himself. But we also get a lot of doo-wop-inflected material that harks back to the New York street-corner roots of the versatile Spanish Harlem percussionist, plus a few wonderfully sentimental boleros ("Los Dos," "Aunque Tu"), the ancestral Caribbean beat of "Boom Boom Lucumi," and a true oddity, a spacy, echoey ballad called "Como Rien" that would have delighted Sun Ra and Arthur Russell.

The two-disc set even finds room for the unbelievable "Psychedelic Baby (You're Psychin' Up My Mind)," Joe's futile 1967 attempt to update his sounds for the Flower Power generation. Many tracks feature the band's smooth vocalists — notably Cheo Feliciano and Jimmy Sabater — but the main ingredients are always Cuba's assured rhythmic mastery and his influential vision. The bridge between the Latin jazz of the 1950s and the salsa of the 1970s passes through Joe Cuba — this is his autobiography in sound.

Related: Myra Melford’s Be Bread | The Whole Tree Gone, Four Tet | There Is Love In You, Ape & Undu | Jaw & Order, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , autobiography, Entertainment, Entertainment,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   IAN KING | PANIC GRASS AND FEVER FEW  |  March 16, 2010
    Just a few weeks after we reviewed the belated release of African Head Charge's latest, another, more recent gem from the always rewarding sonic laboratory of Adrian Sherwood arrives.
  •   JOE CUBA | EL ALCALDE DEL BARRIO  |  March 09, 2010
    Fania kicks off 2010 with what is sure to end up being one of the year's most important archival releases of Latin music.
  •   ALEJANDRO FRANOV | DIGITARIA  |  March 03, 2010
    Alejandro Franov is an Argentine multi-instrumentalist who's been involved in the more serious, and often experimental, side of the Buenos Aires music scene since he was a teen in the late 1980s.
  •   THE SOULJAZZ ORCHESTRA | RISING SUN  |  February 23, 2010
    We're living in the middle of a veritable renaissance of "Spiritual Jazz."
    UK dub guru Adrian Sherwood and adventurous percussionist Bonjo I have been releasing their sonic experiments as African Head Charge since the early 1980s.

 See all articles by: GUSTAVO TURNER