The Rough Guide to Boogaloo, The Rough Guide to Celia Cruz

The Rough Guide to Boogaloo
World Music Network

 

The Rough Guide to Celia Cruz
World Music Network

 

No self-respecting culture would willingly acknowledge the indelible mark of the "Theme from Batman" upon its legacy. Hence the impulse to dismiss the '60s boogaloo craze as Latin music's seventh-grade yearbook photo, an awkward transition between mambo's supper-club respectability and the high-energy instrumental prowess of salsa. "Corny" is how Sue Steward, compiler of The Rough Guide to Boogaloo, apologetically describes such engaging clichés as the teens-on-the-make lyric of Ralph Robles's "Soul Nitty Gritty" and the "party-rabble noises" of the Joe Cuba Sextet's "Oh Yeah"--and remember, Steward likes this stuff. I'd call it "pop" myself--the melodic piano backbone that centering the simplified arrangements, much like the handclaps reining in the polyrhythms, met the soul market's demand for spritz and concision halfway. As with most pop, this music feels immediate and temporary: even if jealous older bandleaders and promoters hadn't smothered boogaloo in its crib, as some suggest, the rise of salsa super-label Fania would likely have rendered its simplicity obsolete. Which means Steward's insult-to-injury inclusion of two proto-salsa jams from the Fania All Stars is totally cheating. Both of 'em smoke, though. Steward compiles with a DJ's catholic preference for flow over ideology, so she also pacifies us cornballs with Ray Barretto's hit "A Deeper Shade of Soul"--plus two Bobby Valentin riffs off of "Batman."

Celia Cruz had been performing for three decades by the time she slummed into "Tumbaloflesicodelicomicoso," her entry on The Rough Guide to Boogaloo, or "Metida Con You," the uncommonly elegant example of the style Steward includes on The Rough Guide to Celia Cruz. Cruz's status as "Queen of Salsa" has always been misleading--it not only suggests an inaccurate comparison to Aretha Franklin, with whom Cruz shares little beyond unfortunate wardrobe decisions and a commanding presence, it ignores the breadth of her recorded output. This compilation of her Fania work begins in 1967 with the son septet La Sonora Manteca. Six tracks in, "Reina Rumba," featuring bandleader Johnny Pacheco, introduces the lighter rhythms, speedier tempos, earthier horns, and brighter sound that will predominate. Jumbled chronologically while ignoring signature numbers in favor of unrepresentative tracks like the repetitive, incantatory "Elegua" (the only evidence here of her longstanding collaboration with Tito Puente), this Rough Guide doesn't even feint at being definitive. But it does smartly document Cruz's consistent ability to negotiate the contemporary rhythms of each era. Maybe Celia and Aretha have something significant in common after all.

 
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