During the early to mid-'30s, when Xavier Cugat set out to achieve popularity and success as a bandleader in the U.S.A., he knew he had his work cut out for him. Years later he quietly observed: "Americans knew nothing about Latin music. They neither understood nor felt it. So they had to be given music more for the eyes than the ears." This explains the flashy band uniforms, sexily draped female vocalists, exotic instrumentation, and the signature mascot Chihuahua dog. Even without the eye-candy trimmings, Cugat's music is fascinating fare. Charly's The Romantic Sound of Xavier Cugat zeroes in on Cugie's star vocalists, ranging from Carmen Castillo, Del Campo, Miguelito Valdés, and Machito to Northern wonders like Dorothy Miller, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dinah Shore. The material appears to date mainly from the late '40s. "La Cumparsa" and "Jalousie," a tango that sounds peculiarly similar to the Busby Berkeley showpiece "By a Waterfall," are the only instrumentals included in this compilation, as "Cuban Love Song" contains a wordless vocal chorus by the band. Cugat's take on "Enlloro" is almost as passionate as Carmen Cavallero's. For the record, "La Bomba" bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Ritchie Valens hit "La Bamba." And for an interesting comparison, try chasing Cugie's version of "Duerme" (Time Was) with John Coltrane's briskly inventive hard bop instrumental rendition, recorded for Prestige Records in 1957.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf