Pepino

The Many Sides of Pepino

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Subtitled "The Versatile One," The Many Sides of Pepino has all manner of unique traits making for one very anomalous whole. Pepino was a diminutive Mexican hired hand on the television show The Real McCoys, from back in the days when Hollywood felt it acceptable to portray Argentines wearing sombreros. Yes, it is a rare personality, or "golden throat," album with nearly the dated offensiveness of Pat Boone doing Speedy Gonzales. But underneath the cheese is the fine musician Tony Martinez.

A boxer from Puerto Rico, Martinez was a well-rounded performer specializing in Latin percussion for Hollywood. Before forming his own band, he played bass for Noro Morales, which is no doubt why Morales' favorite "Perfume de Gardenias" is included here. "Rum & Coca Cola," here performed as a calypso-conga with organ and vibes, and "Cuanta la Gusta" are tunes associated with the Andrew Sisters and Carmen Miranda (who performed and recorded together).

Musically, you name it and The Many Sides of Pepino has it: Latin (serious and otherwise), calypso, rock, and spoken word. "I Dig You the Most" is a near-beatnik, hipster lounge-act number, the kind of thing fans of Connie Stevens with Edd Byrnes on "Hawaiian Eye" will love. Electric guitar crops up just enough to remind you the label is Del-Fi, a California label known mostly for surf albums. But there is also evidence of Martinez's more serious talent. The vibes and timbales playing is first-rate, and his own "Mandarin Mambo" stands as a vital piece of Latin jazz worthy of Alfredito or one of the Titos on early Tico. The "versatile one" is likely to be ignored by many who would appreciate him, but he definitely has plenty to offer, whatever it all may mean decades after the demise of the TV show.

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