Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Salsa: Two CD Deluxe Edition

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The Rough Guide to Salsa focuses on the burning grooves of New York, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and beyond. The dozen cuts on disc one of this special reissue edition are enough to fuel a dance party. That said, the high quality of the musicianship displayed on much of the material here offers even the most casual listener the opportunity for something approaching awe. For dancers, it's a treasure chest of pure pleasure. Cartagena's Joe Arroyo offers a killer tropical salsa here in "Vuelta." José "El Canario" Alberto's "Ella No Está en Ná" is Puerto Rican hard salsa at its best, with big punchy horns acting in rhythmic counterpoint to the claves and layers of drummers. Veteran salsero Roberto Roena offers a deep son with "Vigilandote." The Afro-Cuban connection (by way of New York and Senegal) is explored by the four-part harmonies of Africando on "Lindas Africanos." Choco Orta's gorgeous Puerto Rican tropical on "La Voz del Pueblo," reflects the direct influence Tito Puente's small groups. On "Gimme Some," Austin's Grupo Fantasma brings the funk Latin-style. The track derives direct inspiration from Mongo Santamaria, Santana, James Brown, and Ray Barretto's Latin jazz grooves but is pure 21st century. Included as a bonus disc is La Verdad, the sixth album by Richmond, Virginia's Bio Ritmo. The band melds classic forms -- cha-cha, tropical, Afro-Cuban son, Nuyorican salsa -- to wah-wah and fuzz guitars, rubbery electric basslines, and Brazilian cuíca on these tracks. La Verdad may use the musical foundation Bio Ritmo have built over the last decade as a base, but their assemblage and exploration of rhythms, arrangements, harmonies, and melodies result in their most forward-thinking, fully realized recording: they point to new frontiers for salsa as the century moves on. There is plenty of bang for the buck here: a smoking sampler of world salsa, and the best single disc by one of North America's finest practicing salsa groups at a low price.

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