Alegre All-Stars

The Alegre All-Stars, Vol. 2: El Manicero

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Swapping trumpeter Puchi Boulong for departing flutist Johnny Pacheco gave the Alegre All-Stars an added burst of firepower, but when they reconvened one year after their triumphant debut LP, the results weren't quite as invigorating. Like the first, The Alegre All-Stars, Vol. 2: El Manicero is a party record with all the freewheeling descargas, head charts, group interplay, and swinging solos gained from their inspiration, the Cuban All-Stars. The record kicks off with a jaunty run-through of "Peanut Vendor" ("El Manicero") and switches gears with "Consuelate," a muscular workout for only the percussionists (Kako, Willie Rosario, Joe Quijano, Frank Malabe) and vocalists (Dioris Valladares, Willie Torres, Elliot Romero, Victor Velazquez). Torres contributes a stately bolero ("To Be With You"), and the group comes together for the closer, another descarga, "Bembe en la Luna." Besides the missing Pacheco, the only other major change was Mark Weinstein substituting for Barry Rogers on trombone, which doesn't make a difference. It's difficult to explain why this follow-up doesn't have the same spark as the original, especially since later records by the same group recaptured that missing spirit.