La Sonora Matancera was famous not only for its first-class musicians -- it was also famous for featuring talented vocalists like Celia Cruz, Myrta Silva, and Nelson Pinedo. Released by the London-based Rise International Music in the late '90s, this 14-song CD focuses on Pinedo's work with the legendary Cuban salsa band. A singer who was as flexible as he was charismatic, Pinedo could swing hard and passionately on uptempo son, rhumba, mambo, and guaguanco, only to turn around and tug at your heartstrings with lilting boleros (Latin ballads). Pinedo is as convincing on hard-swinging Afro-Cuban classics like "Mi Barquito Marinero," "Sabrosito Asi," "Besame Morenita," and "Mujer Celosa" as he is on romantic boleros such as "Amor Fenecido," "Te Enganaron Corazon," and "Indiferente." Unfortunately, the liner notes are weak -- no recording dates are given. But the sound quality is decent, and Rise's choices are first-rate. Full of gems, this CD demonstrates why Matancera was one of the top salsa bands to enrich the pre-Castro Cuba of the '50s -- and why salseros continued to hold its classic recordings in such high regard long after the '50s had passed.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson