Various Artists

Pure Salsa [Metro]

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Divided into three discs, Vintage Latin, Cuban Fire, and Salsa Swing, Pure Salsa: The Soundtrack to the Ultimate Salsa Dance Class looks to teach listeners about the history and development of the genre. In doing so, it doesn't limit itself to what would be considered "typical" salsa music (disc three, with cuts from Eddie Palmieri, Alfredo de la Fe, and José "El Canario" Alberto is about as close as it comes), but moves into meringue, Latin pop, son, mambo, and even calypso. Despite its title and the liner notes summarizing different important periods in salsa's life, the album's actually more of a Latin music overview that then chooses to take a greater focus on salsa rather than something that's, well, pure salsa. There are a few of the requisite stars included on the compilation (Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Beny Moré), but there are also a fair number of relative newcomers, some of whom are pretty well known (¡Cubanismo!, the Afro-Cuban All Stars, whose song with Felix Baloy, "Baila Mi Son," is great) and some of whom are not (Ritmo Alegria, for example, who still manage to show up seven times between all three discs). The cuts from these latter artists are still good, but many of them have the super-produced feel that modern Latin music often takes, missing a bit of the punch and rawness that earlier salsa often had (luckily, Cruz's song, "Rumba Para Parejas," isn't lacking in the slightest). For someone who's looking for a more contemporary, smoother sound, and to whom big names and big songs don't matter as much, Pure Salsa could be a good introductory album to Latin music (though there are better ones out there), but to anyone who really knows salsa and wants something that truly dedicates itself to it, this compilation doesn't quite cut it.

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