Celia Cruz

A Rough Guide to Celia Cruz

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Ah, that voice! Oh, those horns! Oy, that sound quality. Actually, the sound on these vintage recordings isn't as bad as it could be; it's just that in several places it's nowhere near worthy of the great Celia Cruz, whose voice has been the defining sound of Cuban salsa since she emigrated to the United States in 1959. Her band joined her in 1960 and took the growing expatriate Cuban community by storm; until her death in 2003 she remained America's preeminent exponent of Cuba's music. This carefully selected retrospective includes recordings made between 1966 (with her original band, the spectacular La Sonora Matancera) and 1992 (when she was a mainstay of the great Fania label). The older recordings sound like they're ready to explode from the effort of containing Cruz's huge, brilliant voice and the massed horns of her band, but the less than audiophile quality does little to lessen the songs' impact -- if anything, it accentuates their energy and Cruz's irrepressible vivacity and good humor. Because the program is so well selected, highlights are difficult to identify, but particular mention has to go to the irresistible "La Jaibera," which opens the album, and the equally delightful "Reina Rumba." This album is very highly recommended as an introduction to Celia Cruz's catalog, but it should by no means be considered sufficient.

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