Miami Sound Machine

Primitive Love

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Few modern-day listeners realize it because so much of the group's back catalog languished out of print seemingly forever, but it took Miami Sound Machine nearly ten albums to score a crossover hit. That crossover hit, "Conga," was quite a song, of course, and it not only allowed Miami Sound Machine to "cross over," but also rocketed them from regional to international recognition in one fell swoop as the song became a dancefloor phenomenon. (For instance, there allegedly was a news story at the time about how people in Miami were so enamored with the song that they formed a three-mile-long line dance in the city streets!) There's more to Primitive Love than "Conga," of course, but the song is so singular that it's hard to discuss the album without going on and on about the song and its storied success. Anyhow, as aforementioned, Primitive Love was not the debut of Miami Sound Machine; it was something like their ninth album (the back catalog remains mysterious because of its rarity, hence its nonexistence in the minds of most). Granted, the group had scored a very minor hit a year prior with "Dr. Beat" (debatably the inspiration for the more well-known "Surgery" by World Class Wreckin' Cru -- or at least the "calling Dr. Dre" part), but nothing to date readied the group for the recognition Primitive Love would bring. The sound and style of the album are firmly entrenched in mid-'80s dance-pop, not unlike, say, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. That comparison is apt because both acts were ethnically Latina yet kept the Latin elements of their music toned down to a rhythmic undercurrent. For example, you'll hear very little Spanish on Primitive Love. What you will hear is a minor dance-pop gem for its time. About half of the songs admittedly are misfires for one reason or another, often because of the canned synth-drum percussion that instantly dates the music. But the other half either borders on unabashed dance-pop greatness or actually attains it, as in the case of "Conga," "Bad Boy," "Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)," and "Words Get in the Way." Miami Sound Machine's next album, Let It Loose, is almost a song-for-song rewrite of this one -- and a better one, it should be noted. But Primitive Love certainly has its own charms, and while it may sound jarring to modern ears with its pervasive mid-'80s synth-drums, that's part of its quirky charm. And if anything, there's always "Conga," which alone makes this album noteworthy.

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