Mondo Melodia / Ark 21
Just because a certain musical genre was offered up as a fad and then quickly disappeared, should not necessarily delegitimize it as a decent form of music. This is true of swing (I’ll always feel sorry for the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who never reached the heights they should have), and it could not be truer of a lot of different genres within Latin music (you can do whatever you want to marimba and bolero, for example).
This disc is appropriately dedicated to a watershed moment for Latin music in the States: the Buena Vista Social Club. Why not? That multi-disc project simply exploded in everybody’s face, made a lot of money for everybody even remotely involved in the music, and has shown remarkable staying power. A lot of people owe at least a nod to the Cuban musicians and Ry Cooder, who all made the project possible. However, I do think that this mixed bag, Mondo Latino, could’ve been a much better tribute.
It starts off well enough, catching Eddie Palmieri in a ’70s-funky mood with “Lucumi, Macumba, Voodoo,” but then quickly goes downhill with very typical songs from Manol=CCn and Los Van Van. Daniel Ponce makes up some ground with a disco son exploding with percussion and piano flourishes, “No Comprendo,” and the compilation makes two direct nods to the project itself with songs from Afro Cuban All Stars (my favorite, “Amor Verdadero”) and the master, Rubén Gonzalez. Celina Gonzalez’s powerhouse voice is a beacon of dance. Then the music seems to disappear for a couple songs until Cal Tjader’s “Mamblues.” Then the last three songs are suck, good, suck with Adalberto Alvarez, Jimmy Bosch, and Jose Alberto.
I’ll have to say that out of all the Mondos I’ve heard so far, this is the most uneven.