Various Artists

That Crisp Cuban Conjunto Sound

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One of several good-to-excellent salsa compilations that Tropicana put out in late 1998, That Crisp Cuban Conjunto Sound focuses on high energy, Afro-Cuban conjunto bands. In the liner notes, Oliver Berliner discusses the differences between conjunto instrumentation and charanga instrumentation. In a nutshell, charanga bands use a lot strings, which gives them a sweeter, softer sound -- the conjunto format, however, makes for a tougher, more hard-swinging approach. Play Orquesta Broadway (a lilting New York charanga band) next to Puerto Rico's driving, passionate Gran Combo, and you'll see how different the approaches can be. On this invigorating CD, Tropicana turns its attention to conjuntos ranging from the famous Conjunto Casino (which was formed in the late 1930s) and Conjunto Rumbavana (which goes back to 1956) to Son 14, a conjunto that didn't make its debut until 1977. Although Berliner's liner notes are informative, the disc suffers from the same problem as other Tropicana collections: a lack of either recording dates or release dates.