Various Artists

Peru Maravilloso: Vintage Latin, Tropical & Cumbia

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Peru Maravilloso: Vintage Latin, Tropical and Cumbia is the inaugural release by England's Tiger Milk Records, a label run by restaurateur/record producer Martin Morales. A former Disney music executive, DJ, and ardent world traveler, Morales decided in 2010 to shift his life's focus to celebrating his Peruvian heritage by opening the Ceviche restaurant in London's Soho district and launching a record label aimed at reissuing lost Peruvian classics and launching new artists. It's a fitting conjunction: fiery Latin music from the '60s and '70s curated by a passionate, globe-trecking foodie. Eschewing a particular theme or genre, the 15 tracks on Peru Maravilloso cover a variety of diverse acts from a politically turbulent and musically vibrant period in Peru. Beginning in the '60s, the country's traditional music was slowly being abandoned in favor of western-influenced rock and psychedelic music as Latin groups began to combine various styles that often featured electric guitar at their center. Chicha riffs meet gritty '70s funk on "La Cumbia del Pacurro" by Juaneco y Su Combo, while the fuzzed-out cumbia of Los Zheros' "Para Chachita" takes its cues from '60s garage and surf music. A fairly even mix of vocal and instrumental tracks are represented here, showing a variety of worldly influences. The heavy-handed vocal stylings of Zulu mirror the kind of mainstream pop that dominated the western charts in the early '70s and Los Ecos' wah-wah guitar cover of the Beatles' "I Feel Fine" is a straight-up tribute to the influence of '60s rock music in the Latin world. Still, all of this is filtered through the warm, kaleidoscopic lens of musicians raised on South American rhythms, as clearly heard on the spicy opener "Mambo de Machaguay," whose horns and piano work hint at more of a big-band jazz influence. This fantastic collection was obviously a labor of love for Morales, and it shows in the sequence, pacing, and song choices. Much like David Byrne did for Brazilian music with his classic 1990 compilation Brazil Classics 1: Beleza Tropical, Morales has strung together a very appealing and diverse collection of Peruvian music that serves as a window into the country's rich musical history and also plays well as a full album. It's a tough trick to pull off, but this compilation is a front-to-back winner. Pair with a bold, spicy malbec and dancing shoes.

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