Al Castellanos

Speak Up

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"Speak Up Mambo" was Al Castellanos' first big hit with Mardi Gras, a precursor to his great tongue-twister (or speed vocal), "Merengue Ta-Ka-Ta." The album is one of the label's best, and Castellanos does equally well with cha chas, mambos, and merengues in equal parts. ("Are You Kidding" is a very strange, inventive jam with a mostly spoken and scat voice-over; all the tracks are vocal.) The most intriguing tune may be the Oriental "Cha Cha Cha at the Harem," a natural choice for the clarinetist Castellanos, who later would do "Cha Cha Cha at the Sahara" on a self-titled album. Speak Up is a great showcase for Castellanos' several talents: writing, clarinet, vocal pyrotechnics, and keeping standard dance music fresh. [Long out of print, Fania reissued the album on CD in 2000.]

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