Héctor Lavoe

Greatest Hits [2010]

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This is a fairly unique greatest-hits collection in that it contains no “perceived to be the best" content from the label -- in other words, filler. Everything here is indeed representative of Héctor Lavoe's best-known, best-loved, and most commercially successful music. These 14 cuts are placed in reverse chronological order to offer a unique appreciation of the greatest salsa singer of all time, and incidentally, one of the most original vocal stylists of all time in any musical genre. It begins with his solo work and moves back to his salad days singing with Willie Colón's band. The opening tracks, “Periodico de Ayer” and “El Cantate,” account for over 17 minutes on this 62-minute disc. What’s so utterly remarkable about them is that, based on Colón's arrangements, they cover most -- if not all -- of the history of Latin popular music in the barrio up to that point, from meringue through to the height of salsa. Colón's brilliant string-and-brass charts and the layer upon layer of percussion and rolling, punchy piano give Lavoe two showcases to let his stellar gifts be heard through the mix. It might seem an odd choice to open a set like this and then go backwards to selections such as “Hacha y Machete,” “Calle Luna Calle Sol,” and “El Malo” (which closes the collection), but listening through, it makes perfect musical and aesthetic sense. There are several multi-disc packages of excellent Lavoe material out there on Fania as well, and they all have their merits, but for the fan looking for the very best distilled in a single disc, or the novice looking to get acquainted with Lavoe, this is the one.

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