Tito Puente

King of Kings: The Very Best of Tito Puente

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Tito Puente was never one for half measures, and even in death there's no modesty involved, as the label calls him King of Kings. It might be an exaggeration, but only a slight one, and it gets the attention. Still, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and there's a hearty meal here, albeit one missing one or two choice dishes, like Puente's original version of "Oye Como Va," a song that indirectly brought him a whole new audience. However, "Honk Kong Mambo" is here, "Dance Mania," and "Dance of the Headhunters," so it's hard to find too much fault with the disc's 21-track selection. While the man wasn't shy about having his timbales, or himself, front and center, he truly was a driving force in his music -- and, as this CD shows, he knew how to write more than his share of good tunes, too. Some of it has a slight novelty aspect, like "3 D Mambo," and he definitely worked the whole mambo craze of the '50s for all it was worth. Still, he did have more strings to his bow, as tracks like "Saca Tu Mujer" prove, and he was a world-class percussionist, and an able bandleader, with a flair for popular jazz. He worked hard -- exceptionally hard -- and deserved his success. This collection might not be the ultimate Puente compilation -- that's yet to be put together -- but it's still worth it for the wealth of dance music inside.

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