OK, look, I’m not exactly a musical purist. I think that hybridization — the mixing of musics, cultures, what have you — has been responsible for some of the best culture has to offer (look at cubism or hip-hop). Yet, at the same time, when one hears Latin music sung by a pristine, Waspy voice, there just seems like there’s something wrong — like the music strikes a discordant chord in your spine, and you don’t know why. That’s one of the disturbing feelings one can get from listening to Tropical Brainstorm. While respecting MacColl’s dedication to and respect for Cuban music, she sounds more like Carly Simon than Celia Cruz. The other disturbing thing is that the woman is a really good songwriter. This is just fun music. Not a purist herself, the British MacColl puts a fresh twist on the mambo and Latin jazz that is hip and beyond delightful. You can’t help moving, dancing, or getting that goofy smile off your face. This is a quirky album with a lot of fun songs (“Designer Life,” “Us Amazonians,” “In These Shoes?,” and “Mambo de la Luna”), but the voice just comes from the wrong island. Sometimes, I found myself wanting to discard the album — yet, something kept pulling me back in.
Instinct Records: http://www.instinctrecords.com