Various Artists


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Boogaloo was a blend of Latin music with R&B/soul touches that flourished briefly in the '60s, especially in New York but with some international projection thanks to Ray Barretto's "El Watusi" and Joe Cuba's "Bang Bang." It was a pretty short-lived phenomenon that got swallowed up by the '70s salsa boom, and the French Boogaloo compilation delves into the Latin side of the style (sometimes known as bugalu) by focusing on artists like Pete Rodriguez, Johnny Colon, and Ricardo Ray, who are unknown to Anglo ears. But two Cuba hits, "El Pito" (aka "I'll Never Go Back to Georgia") and "Bang Bang," are here and both remain absolute killers -- the former with extended vibes solos over an irrepressible groove and general lunacy. The stop-and-start arrangement to the latter is a model of taking a groove to the edge of boredom, breaking it down and then back up again to explode totally fresh -- that "be-be/" chant and percussion rev-up just kills every time. It's basically a forerunner of that late '80s dancehall DJ technique, and the extroverted invitations to participate aren't far from hip-hop, either, on a record that sounds like a genuine party you want to be at. Particularly on Rodriguez's tracks, boogaloo sounds like an opportunity for '60s-generation Latinos to break free from formality and get wild. "I Like It Like That" features call-and-response vocals over a strong bass foundation, while "Pete's Boogaloo" sports a kinetic riff before slipping off into pianistics. Colon's slower "Boogaloo Blues" gets some bluesy piano licks in with trombone support before locking down into the groove, and the "LSD has a hold on me" chorus hook speaks for itself. But boogaloo was also a rhythm trend, and Chacon's "Sabroso Boogaloo" is just a pop cash-in and Rodriguez's "Boogaloo NavideƱa" an acceptable Xmas novelty tune. Ismael Rivera's "Bamba Cure" and "Mogoo Boogaloo" are much more conservative, sedate grooves with a traditional Cuban orchestra feel. Ray's "Danzon Boogaloo" is pretty pop, too, with snappy horns driving the song, but "Richie's Jala Jalaa" is killer, full of piano ripples, cowbell/percussion clatter, horn blanket melodies, good singing, and a fully fleshed-out arrangement. "Micaela" is less manic than Rodriguez's other tracks, really digging down deep on the piano hook and letting the clave city percussion and good singing create excitement. There are some nice band breakdown horn solos at the end, and like most of the groups here, they know how to extend the groove without losing impact. There may be a more definitive compilation out there somewhere (hopefully one with more extensive historical liner notes in English), but it's still a good introduction that cuts close to the Latin music core of the sound.