Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: Café Latino

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The older Putumayo gets, the more they seem concerned with a particular "vibe" on their releases rather than the widest possible representation of styles under particular international banners. This is especially true on Café Latino, issued during the year of their 20th anniversary. Earlier titles such as Afro-Latin Party, Latin Beat, and Latin Groove were far more compelling titles where the producers were as interested in showcasing the interplay between song melody and rhythms as they were the pop sweetness of the post-nueva canción generation. Even the Café Cubano entry offered, in its guajiras, sons, and boleros, more diversity of sound, texture, and melody. That's not to say there aren't some great songs here; there are. The most notable are the sultry "Alcoba Azul" from Mexico's Amanda Martinez, Cuba's Roberto Poveda's gorgeous "Mulatto," the Alex Cuba Band's "Café Havana," and the lilting, bittersweet "Soñando con Quito" by Ecuador's Alex Alvear with Marta Gómez. Most of rest of the cuts, however, are simply there, just as a brief summer breeze might be. They're pretty, but not much else. Unfortunately, as a whole, Café Latino doesn't meet the high standard Putumayo set for itself.

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