Sing it Out to Swing it Out!
Through samples and loops, vocalese accompaniment within a chorus, harmony behind a verse, or a featured vocalist singing standard verses and choruses, the human voice brings a warm commonality to music from almost every space and time, including these six new and recent releases.
A Man & His MusicEl Alcalde del Barrio
Exhaustive and exhausting (because you won't be able to stop dancing), A Man & His MusicEl Alcalde del Barrio presents the first major retrospective of the 240 albums recorded by Joe Cuba, the Father of Latin boogaloo, and was released in February 2010 to commemorate the one year anniversary of his passing.
Gilberto Navarro was born in early 1930s Spanish Harlem. Inspired by the storied Latin percussionist Sabu, he taught himself to jam on congas and eventually wound up in the neighborhoods' legendary Latin ensemble La Alfarona X. A promoter gave Navarro his "Joe Cuba" stage name; his body of work and the adoration of Latin and dance music fans for that work gave him his nickname, "The Mayor of the Barrio" (El Alcalde del Barrio).
Cuba's lyrics and music deftly and synergistically create the ultimate boogaloo party, and you'll discover way too much fun dancing among these 34 tracks to fully detail. The first track on this compilation asks "Do You Feel It?" and the subsequent music answers with such potent, powerful Latin and Latin boogaloo grooves that you can't help but feel it! Different sections of a very large groupincluding, from its sound, little childrenshout out the "Bang bang" and "Beep beep" lyrics to "Bang Bang," and as dumb as that may read on paper, it sounds brilliant in your ears: "Bang Bang" was one of if not the very first Latin singles to pass one million sales. Those ears won't be able to tell where the piano ends and the vibes begin, and where the vibes end and the percussion begins, in "El Pito (I'll Never Go Back to Georgia)." It all sort of melts together into a musical stream, and sparkles beneath a magical, glorious Latin sun.
"La Calle Esta Durisima" shines no less brilliant, especially when Tommy Berrios' vibes bounce Caribbean beats off its wall of Afro-Cuban percussion, and Berrios' solo to close "Y Joe Cuba Ya Llego" dances like Snoopy rocking his doghouse top.
To be honest, I wish I could share more about other tunes, such as "Macorina," for which I have very few useable notes because, by that time, I just had to get up and dance. Even so, A Man & His Music reveals a truth that Spanish Harlem has known for decades: Joe Cuba led some hellacious Latin boogaloo bands, was himself a ferocious entertainer, and it seems completely impossible to listen to his music without wanting to dance or at least smilewildly.
The Story Teller
Clutchy Hopkins is one of the most inscrutable musical characters you'll ever meet, if you could meet him. No one seems to know who he is, including and especially his record label, or even if Clutchy Hopkins is a singular him or a collective them. Complicating the matter, The Story Teller has vocals but not one single lyric. So how does this person who may not even be a person use no words to tell a story?
The same way that a haiku can tell a story: by connecting threads of barely sketched yet evocative pictures that create, reflect and repeat quick scenes of mood and thought, and then dissolve like mist. The Story Teller loosely connects a series of thoroughly minimalist sound portraits, without one instrumental or vocal solo.
"Miles Chillin'" builds up from what almost sounds like spare piano, electric guitar and African percussion parts, in a production that gives just as much importance to these instruments as to the space around and between them. So does the spaced-out, frozen chill of "Drunk Socks," which rocks off its hypnotic bass line. "No Contact...Contact" conjures a deeper, more psychedelic mood: a soft vocal chant drones in harmony with acoustic guitar while an electric guitar from the 1960s dances with hip-hop drums from the 1990s, and flute floats in and out like a curious, fluttering butterfly.