Various Artists

Kool It: Soul, Funk & Jazz Go Latin

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Often it can be very disappointing buying a record with only covers, simply because the originals turn out to be so much better. To some extent that is true about Kool It. Joe Bataan's long, slightly Latinized version of "Theme From Shaft" is a track where you find yourself longing for the original, and Ray Barretto's cover of "Summertime" is totally pointless. (It should be said, however, that most "Summertime" covers are.) But this record of famous soul songs turned Latin holds a lot of things to recommend it. Many of the tracks are irresistibly charming, like a gay, lighthearted version of "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," or La Lupe's "Fever," with laughter and rolling R's, before the song throws off its Afro-American coat halfway through and turns fully Latin, the lyrics turning Spanish. And, generally, the best songs on this album tend to be the ones with the most Latin ingredients, since when they are close to the originals it becomes obvious that soul bands play better soul. But only looking for funny or camp versions here would not do the album justice. "I'm a Good Woman" by El Chicano does very well in comparison to Barbara Lynn's version. And Mongo Santamaria's "We Got Latin Soul," is actually way better than the original, "We Got More Soul." And if this is not enough, the very informative sleeve notes by James Maycock and the sheer danceability of most of the tracks make this album well worth buying. Harmless has released another intelligent compilation but -- still -- many of the original songs are better.

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