Various Artists

National Geographic: Destination Cuba

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One of many, many albums that attempt to cover all the bases of Cuban music in a single disc. As with all the others as well, the single disc by itself can never really hope to explore the vast diversity of sound available on the island. Nonetheless, National Geographic: Destination Cuba is one of them that makes a good attempt at such a goal. The major styles and performers are represented well, as Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, and Pío Leyva all contribute a performance, and a couple of Pérez Prado numbers show up as well. The album starts out on a relatively standard composition of mambo with some predictably exceptional timbale playing by Tito Puente and his band, and moves at full steam onward from there. Bits of salsa, Cuban jazz, and mambo all show up quietly, as son makes itself known through the whole of the album. In large part, the scene given by the album is that of the nightclubs, with the vocal stars taking the front, and the instrumentalists giving a strong backing. There are certainly instrumental solos here, and they're something worth hearing . It's the vocalists, though, that are really focused upon. Omara Portuondo, Cándido Fabré, Pío Leyva, and Raúl Planas are all present (Beny Moré and Ibrahim Ferrer are perhaps the only notable vocalist omissions), and give the album its edge. Give it a listen, and use it as a starting point to explore the genres of Cuba deeper.

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