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Column: Editor's Picks

by Bruce Polin

If the first month of 1995 was any indication, the balance of the year is going to produce vast quantities of interesting releases. My one wish for '95 is that the major labels take more chances with both new talent and existing commitments. The airplay formula is really tired. The more sophisticated listener has been alienated and this is not a good thing. It's those listeners that generally have more disposable income.

The New York band Madera Fina has released Donde Nadie Llegó (TL-13715.10). This is their second release and it proves that their first was no accident. De Aqui Pa'Lla (TL-13711.10) is the title of a new CD by a whole bunch of Puerto Rican all-stars. Participants include Andy Montañez, Papo Lucca, Cachete Maldonado, Tony Vega, Gilberto Santa Rosa, etc., etc. This is a mega-production a la last year's Descarga Boricua. All Cuban material is performed here. Supposedly, there is a part two in production where Cuban all stars do Puerto Rican numbers. Interesting.

Check out Roberto Torres' El Castigador (TL-13714.10). This was his first solo project and has the likes of Barry Rogers, Frankie Malabe, Andy Gonzalez, Yayo El Indio, Chocolate Armenteros and others. Roberto Roena Y Su Apollo Sound 2 (TL-13772.10) has been reissued. This appeared just after his new release on the MP label, El Pueblo Pide Que Toque (TL-13734.10). Fania has also just completed a two CD set of Roena's best material.

Eddie Palmieri reissues are still materializing. Following up the classic Azucar Pa' Ti (TL-13633.10) is another classic of equal stature, Superimposition (TL-13798.10), with Ismael Quintana on vocals. Every cut here is superb. "La Malanga," "Pa'Huele," "Bilongo," etc. Grupo Sierra Maestra has released an instant classic, Dundunbanza. This Cuban son group is doing a lot of Arsenio Rodriguez tunes (thus the CD title). They also do a version of Ruben Blades' "Juana Peña" which I thought was a great idea.

A salsa reissue of note is Johnny Pacheco's Flying High (TL-13774.10) with the famed vocalist Melón. Henry Fiol has released Lo Maximo (TL-13770.10), a beautiful "best-of" release that has some of the same cuts as the Earthworks compilation entitled Sonero. However, Lo Maximo has eleven tracks, as opposed to nine, making it a better value. I love Fiol's laid back style. If you don't have any of his work, check this one out..

David Calzado y Su Charanga Habanera has produced Hey, You, Loca! (TL-13647.10). This has a very modern Cuban charanga sound. High energy and, of course, technically superb. "Tu Me Desesperas" is the first track of Justo Betancourt's El Que Sabe, Sabe! (TL-13771.10) It alone is worth getting this CD for. A knockout. This is one of Betancourt's best releases.

The vaults of SAR/Guajiro records seem to grow deeper and deeper all the time. The latest reissue is Roman y Su Conjunto Nabori (TL-13695.10). Harry Roman is the director and plays a nice tres. Chocolate is on this with arrangements by Alfredo Valdes. A wonderful montuno sound. Gema 4 is an a cappella group consisting of four women with a great concept. They do classic boleros with no instrumental accompaniment. Their vocalizations are haunting and gorgeous. I've become very fond of this CD.

Ismael Quintana's 1976 release of Lo Que Estoy Viviendo (TL-13773.10) is my salsa reissue of the month. First of all, what an amazing band! Papo Lucca, Nicky Marrero, Roberto Roena, Eddie "Gua Gua" Rivera etc. This CD throbs. Did I mention Ruben Blades and Tito Allen on coro? This is a must have.

Drums of Vodou (TL-13808.50) is a book we recently took in. The CD, available separately, consists of the rhythms of Haitian spirit possession. Incredible percussion. It features Frisner Augustin. Cut six, "Djouba," is remarkable. Highly recommended. Orquesta Original De Manzanillo, the famed charanga band has a new release entitled Caribeño 100% (TL-13777.10). Charanga fanatics out there are gonna want this one. There is a timbale solo on here that sizzles.

By the time you receive this, I should be the proud dad of my second child. We know it's a girl, however, she's yet untitled. Send us your name suggestions. The winner will receive a three year subscription to this newsletter. Really. Gotta go — contractions are 5 minutes apart.

— Bruce

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