Treats for collectors of obscure Latin groove, but still appealing to more casual listeners.
Pablo E Yglesias' excellent sleeve notes to Latin Rare Groove Volume 2 evoke a subterranean world of obsessive record collectors seeking out funky, tropical dance music, with a breed of über-fans from around the world trawling through record fairs and auctions to obtain that elusive piece of Latin vinyl. It's questionable whether this world crosses-over into the rigorous environs of a high-energy Zumba exercise class or the sequins and glitter of "Strictly Come Dancing", where Latin music is at its most prevalent for gringos, but consider the possibility of a slightly over-weight record-collecting hipster decked out in lycra, wiggling his fleshy backside to the strains of the latest Latin cross-over hit every Saturday morning, just to keep vaguely in shape. Yes, we are all in our own way fearsome strange mutants, and Latin Rare Groove Volume 2 is perhaps proof of the pudding.
Yglesias (who also put together this compilation) points out that there is a long tradition of "super-fandom" and "intrepid scholarly connoisseurship" in Latin music as with any other genre, and just because "rare groove" owes its name to the '80s London club scene, which focussed on obscure soul, funk and jazz, doesn't necessarily mean the movement, or this record, is just some passing fad. The album traverses time (from the ‘60s to more recent times) as well as continents (Europe by way of Britain and Amsterdam, North America through New York, and of course South America). This is indeed world music, but not because it is "ethnic"; it’s likely that the desire to shake one's tosh to a stonking beat is universal. Ricardo Ray & Bobby Cruz's "El Cencerro Shingaling" is, as the title suggests, a raucous mess of excitement; Papo Y Su Combo's "Papa Boogaloo" and Peliroja's "Ciudad De Nadie" must be floor-fillers in the right kind of clubs. Carlos Hayre Y Su Orquestra’s “Mi Chica Se Vuelve Loca” has some awesome big band orchestration and percussion.
However, this is not merely dance music as the album could equally serve as a soundtrack to the spicy life you lead in your head or as your own version of reality. The New Mastersounds' "The Tin Drum" comes across all Starsky and Hutch and Los Kenya's "Un Clavel, Una Tarjeta Y Un Lapiz" is pure '70s kitsch. Los Belking's "Sabata" has grooves that will make the hipster levitate with joy, Conjunto Papa Upa conjure up a smoking Western with “Camuri Chico” and Nelson Y Sus Estrellas’ “Fantasia Latina (Guaguanco)” has the hectic rhythm of a hot city life in the tropics.
The last five tracks are made up from today’s crop of Latin bands; Aillacara 2743, Quantic, Jungle Fire, Systema Solar and Rene Lopez. They all merit inclusion, particularly the hip-hop cross-over of Systema Solar’s “Vo Voy Ganao” and Rene Lopez’s romantic “Steal Your Love”, but it’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that the older tracks have more depth and character. It may be a trick of the mind to consider that things were better in the past, but it does seem like more fun was had in the old days.
The stand-out track is pleasingly a true rarity, by an obscure ‘70s NYC Salsa orchestra, Conjunto Alayon, which never finished its debut album. Somehow, the previously unreleased "Ha Llegada La Hora" was found for this album, complete with a superb trombone solo by Jimmy Bosch. As for much of the record, if you don’t want to get up and dance to this, you must either have rocks in your head or a heart made of stone. If this is the case, please don’t approach me at parties. Life is too short not to participate.