Rubén Blades

Greatest Hits [2010]

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The most renowned voice in salsa history, Rubén Blades provided a critical bridge between tradition and innovation, writing folkloric songs that were nevertheless set in the cities and singing in the great sonero tradition but usually experimenting with crossover and fusion. Few doubt that his best recordings appeared on Fania during the '70s and early '80s, so that label's Greatest Hits edition takes its place as the best single-disc compilation available on Blades. It begins with two tracks from 1978's Siembra, the seminal LP recorded under the leadership of Willie Colón. No less than three songs -- including career highlights like "Juan Pachanga" and "Paula C" -- come from the following year's Bohemio y Poeta, his breakout record under his own name and the one that cemented his status as salsa's street poet and strongest voice. Greatest Hits doesn't extend beyond the early '80s, and focuses as much on Blades appearing co-billed with Willie Colón as on his "solo" career, but it's the easiest and cheapest place to find Rubén Blades' career summarized so well.

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