A reissue of their very first recording effort, with the addition of three bonus tracks on the top of the disc, Rumba Caliente 88/77 is a beautifully remastered showcase of los Muñequitos at their inception. More clearly audible than ever before, the qualities that captured the imagination of their homeland and later the world audience are more evident than ever before. Specializing in the folkloric tradition of the Matanzas region, which emulates a simpler, clearer melody than their counterparts in Havana (for instance, Clave y Guaguancó) los Muñequitos forego the hectic, cacophonous style often associated with rhumba. Instead, the melody of the tumba and conga ring clear, with edgy quinto phrases from musical director Jesús Alfonso Miró, and a chorus dark, rich, and sweet as azucar de cana. Los Muñequitos are internationally recognized as the finest performers in their specialized art form. These modern masters, though many of the players on this record are no longer with the group, play and sing with such grace and style that the listener cannot help but fall in love with them, and the misterio that surrounds their craft. Rumba Caliente 88/77 would be a fine addition to either the collection of the rhumba aficionado or the curious uninitiated.
AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez