Released in 2001, Keeper of the Flame isn't a compilation, an anthology, or a best-of. Instead, this package finds Concord reissuing Poncho Sanchez' first two Picante dates, 1982's Sonando and 1983's Bien Sabroso, as a two-CD set. Those albums weren't Sanchez' first ones ever -- before signing with Concord, the conguero recorded two LPs for Discovery in 1979 and 1980, respectively. Neither Sonando nor Bien Sabroso ever went out of print, and those who already have those albums on CD have no reason to acquire Keeper of the Flame. However, this double-CD is well worth obtaining if you don't have those albums on CD. Back in 1982-1983, Sonando and Bien Sabroso set the tone for Sanchez' Concord output -- like his subsequent albums, both are dominated by instrumental Latin jazz but contains a few salsa vocal numbers as well. The noteworthy salsa tracks on Keeper of the Flame include the spirited "Este Son" (featuring vocalist Jose Perico Hernandez) and the infectious cha cha "Sonando," which is based on Ray Barretto's "Cocinando." As solid and rewarding as this material is, Sanchez would only get better as the 1980s progressed. But Keeper of the Flame reminds listeners that his association with Concord got off to a promising start with Sonando and Bien Sabroso.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2