Various Artists

Caja Cubana

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Caja Cubana Review

by Greg Adams

Caja Cubana is a three-disc box set containing three compilations of vintage Cuban music that are also available separately: Cuban Lounge, Las Divas Cubanas, and Salsa Cubana. Salsa Cubana is unique among the three in that it has decent liner notes and provides some information about the recordings. Taken as a whole, the box set is a mess, with considerable overlap between the three discs in the box set and another compilation from the same label titled Los Crooners Cubanos. For example, all three discs in the Caja Cubana set include the songs "Imágenes" by Doris De La Torre and "Que Linda Es Mi Habana" by Velia Martinez. "Veinte Años" by Maria Teresa Vera appears twice, as does "A Santa Barbara (Que Viva Chango)" by Gina Martin. The low list price compensates to some degree for the repetition, but it makes the project seem like a slapdash affair; at the very least, the compilations represent an attempt to repackage too few recordings into a number of different anthologies. The music is taken from the catalog of Sound Triangle, which encompasses recordings made for a variety of independent Cuban labels between 1956-1983. The presentation may be weak, but some of the cuts are interesting, such as Ana Margarita Casado's Spanish-language version of Frankie Avalon's "Venus," and Enrique Herrera's heavily accented English-language rendition of "Summertime" from Porgy & Bess, with only a pair of beatnik-style bongo drums for accompaniment.

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