Mongo Santamaria

Red Hot

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In reaching for another shot at the big time, Mongo Santamaria sold much of the heart out of his music by turning himself over to producer Bob James, his arranger Jay Chattaway, and the fading disco fad. The result is a near disaster, an overproduced, overdubbed, rhythmically overbearing affair, staffed largely by James and his family of New York session players (including the Brecker Brothers, Eric Gale, and Steve Gadd) with only a handful of Mongo's sidemen, polished to a slick fare-thee-well. "You Better Believe It" is the sole Marty Sheller-arranged track; despite the Anglo-sounding chorus, the Guajiro groove conquers the production. Mongo alumni Hubert Laws has some nice moments in the Brazil-flavored "Sambita," but when you hear "Watermelon Man" redone to a horrible disco beat ... goodbye.

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