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Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Merengue Dance

(World Music Network; US: 30 Jun 2009; UK: 13 Jul 2009)

The Rough Guide to Merengue Dance opens with its glitziest tracks and starts moving on to the more eccentric music later, which says something about the expected audience and/or the compiler’s opinion of it. Pay attention to the “dance” in the title, for it’s an apt word choice. The merengue on this album has the same aim as electronic dance music: It wants to get you moving, ecstatic, shuddering with endorphins, quick, quick, faster, faster. On this rough guide, though, the thing being worn out on your behalf is typically not a mixing desk but a live accordion player, a group of singers, or a man holding a trumpet. The ensembles assemble musical puzzles at warp speed, the intersecting vocal arrangements of Kinito Méndez’s “Tírame Tu Que Yo Devuelvo” dart past, and the accordion player in María Díaz’s “El Hombre Que Quise” twists himself in knots. There are older names and newer ones, and specialties range from El Prodigio’s accordion to rapping from Papi Sánchez. “Ajena” from El Boy, Krissppy, Fuera De Ley gets placed toward the end where its deliberate comedy melodrama, coming after everyone else’s undeliberate melodrama, will have the strongest impact. Smart music with a one-track mind.

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