Tito Puente

Quatro: The Definitive Collection

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Quatro: The Definitive Collection assembles four truly classic Tito Puente albums recorded between 1955 and 1960 for RCA, and adds a disc of outtakes, alternate takes, and rarities in a lavishly designed limited-edition box set. The box is 6" x 6" with each album housed individually in a thick cardboard sleeve with back and front facsimile cover art. These four albums were cut in chronological order: Cuban Carnival (1956), Night Beat (1957), Dance Mania (1958), and Revolving Bandstand (1960), the last recorded in collaboration with the Buddy Morrow Orchestra. Hardcore Puente fans will already have everything here -- in 2002 the complete RCA recordings from 1949-1960 were released in two volumes. But context is everything. These albums were recorded after Puente exhausted his original relationship with Tico. (There he cut 156 songs between 1949 and 1955 that appealed to serious Latin music fans as opposed to making Latin music for more general audiences -- though he had been recording for RCA simultaneously.) But Puente got his way with the majors on these four albums. He made no concessions creatively. The end result in virtually every case here is stunning, beginning with the burning Cuban Carnival and its hit, "Pa' los Rumberos." This is such an enduring tune that the bonus disc includes seven outtakes in varying lengths. Its follow-up, Night Beat, featured Willie Bobo, Mongo Santamaría, and Bobby Rodriguez in its rhythm section and a young Doc Severinsen on trumpet. Dance Mania took not only the mambo dance scene of the United States by storm, but was also a smash in Puerto Rico. It is regarded as one of the 25 most significant recordings of the 20th century by The New York Times. Wildly creative, it features the major-label debuts of two historic figures in Latin music: conguero Ray Barretto, who replaced Santamaría, and vocalist Santitos Colon. The latter remained with Puente for nearly 15 years. To some, Revolving Bandstand once sounded like a curiosity piece, but it is now regarded as a visionary Latin recording. Puente's and Morrow's bands were recorded simultaneously, playing call and response with different charts on a series of standards, one playing jazz rhythms, the other Latin rhythms. Arrangements were handled by Puente and George Williams. The bonus disc includes Puente's first RCA single, "Ran Kan Kan" b/w "Timbal y Bongó" (his biggest single ever), the aforementioned outtakes, alternates of two tunes from the Revolving Bandstand sessions, and two tracks that didn't make the album -- "Moonlight in Vermont" and "La Virgen de la Macarena." Taken together, these three-plus hours of music offer not only hardcore fans a gorgeously packaged collection of deluxe remasters, but in context a unique hearing of a period when Puente literally changed musical history. For anyone compelled by any of his other recordings who doesn't yet have these, Quatro: The Definitive Collection is a prime opportunity.

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