A serviceable introduction to the music of Xavier Cugat, this Living Era compilation focuses on the years 1935-1946. The material predates Cugat's glitzier lounge recordings from the 1950s and '60s, providing textbook examples of rhumbas, tangos, congas, boleros, and sambas. These charmingly old-fashioned "exotic" performances mingle traditional Latin American dance music with North American pop sensibilities, using an attractive assemblage of guitars, flutes, reeds, violins, sanguine accordion, and mellifluous marimba. "The Lady in Red," a rhumba recorded April 1, 1935, was the inspiration for Louis Prima's famous swing rendition, waxed on May 17th of that year with clarinetist Pee Wee Russell. In addition to more or less authentic vocals by Chacha Aguilar, La Chata, Alfredo Valdez, and Cugat's wife, Carmen Castillo, this sampler features Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, Don Reid, Lena Romay, Buddy Clark, and Leah Ray. The range of material is neatly representative of Cugat's standard repertoire, from suavely romantic to kicky and campy.
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