Few have impacted both the artistic direction and public credibility of Cuban music as much as the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz. Because of the broad scope of her popularity and influence, there are many collections of her work to choose from. The 2003 release of Candela Pura offers, as the name implies, pure and uncut Celia. Released only a few short weeks after the tragic passing of this landmark artist, the Fania label waded through Cruz's enormous catalog and compiled 15 simmering-hot tracks. Starting in 1958, Cruz recorded nearly 60 albums in her career, establishing herself early as the foremost female vocalist in the male-dominated salsa world. Included in the play list are not only some of her many studio successes such as "Bomboleo," but also tracks demonstrating her enormous presence as a live performer, like "Bemba Colora." Throughout the disc, Cruz demonstrates her masterful improvisation. She had a vocal sensibility firmly rooted in rhumba, an element that is becoming sadly rare, but can be heard clearly on "Ritmo en el Corazon." There are innumerable transcendent musical moments to be cherished from throughout Cruz's lustrous career. Music coordinator Victor Gallo deserves much credit for his discriminating taste. Though all Cruz recordings invariably reveal her genius, the material on Candela Pura makes for a particularly delightful collection.
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AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez