Tito Puente

The Best of Tito Puente: El Rey del Timbal!

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Summarizing Tito Puente's numerous accomplishments on a single CD would be impossible. El Rey del Timbal!, a 1997 disc spanning 1949-1987, barely scratches the surface -- but for Puente, a five-CD box set would also only scratch the surface. But this gem-laden collection does illustrate just how remarkably consistent the salsa legend was during the course of 38 years. El Rey del Timbal! kicks into high gear with 1949's "Ran-Kan-Kan" before treating listeners to such essential 1950s recordings as "Cao-Cao Mani Picao," "Cual Es Tu Idea," "Agua Limpia Todo," and "Oye Mi Guaguanco." Live versions of "Separala Tambien" and "A Gozar Timbero" from 1960 are superb, as is 1961's exuberant "T.P. on the Strip." Though salsa dominates the disc, Puente's Latin jazz output for Concord Picante in the 1980s is well represented by "El Rey del Timbal" and "Machito Forever." Die-hard Puente fans will notice that "Ban Ban Quiere," "Oye Como Va," and other essential hits are missing, but then no one said El Rey del Timbal! was all-inclusive. Again, it barely scratches the surface, but what a marvelous surface it is.

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