Various Artists: Salsa Explosion: The New York Salsa Revolution 1969-1979

Various Artists: Salsa Explosion: The New York Salsa Revolution 1969-1979
As a white guy, my exposure to salsa music is very sporadic. Most of experience with salsa music is usually when it is being blasted out of a passing car or playing in a bodega while I am shopping. Salsa Explosion: The New York Salsa Revolution 1969-1979 is pretty much made for people like me. The compilation was put together by Strut Records and is comprised of selections from one of the world’s most respected salsa record labels, Fania Records.
The album features salsa icons like Puerto Rican trombonist Willie Colon, the late Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria, the queen of salsa Celia Cruz, and perhaps the only salsa musician I could actually name before researching this album, Tito Puente, just to name a few.
Despite my limited knowledge of salsa, I could tell you the basic characteristics of the genre. The instrumentation usually includes percussion like claves, cowbells, timbales and conga and a brass section usually with trumpets and trombones at least. Many salsa tunes also include piano.
What I also mistaken thought about salsa was that salsa music is fairly loud and joyous. Salsa Explosion proved me wrong in several places. Ralfi Pagan‘s “Brother, Where Are You?” sounds like the r&b of salsa. The track has smooth grooves and understated instrumentation while the vocals are very solemn. The entire mood of the song is more somber than I would ever have expected from salsa music. The same can be said for other selection from the album like Joe Cuba Sextet‘s “Do You Feel It (Tu Lo Sientes)”.
But for the most part, the tracks on Salsa Explosion are the type of loud, brash salsa I imagined and that is a good thing. Listen to the album makes me want to blast it in my car or attempt to dance to it (my horrible rhythm will probably prevent me from trying though). For beginning salsa listeners, Salsa Explosion is really like “a dummies guide to salsa” and should be a must own.
Rating: 8.7/10
MP3: Tito Puente & Celia Cruz “Pachito Eche”
Buy: Insound!

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