Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Cesta All Stars- Salsa Maxima

The Cesta All Stars, a super group of the most talented exciting artists of the Golden Era of salsa, was formed in 196? By Joe Quijano. Originally billed as the Alegre All Stars, they moved with Joe to the Cesta label, which he created in 196? And were then known as the Cesta All Stars. Under the direction of Charlie Palmieri, this group of talented artists came together and, quite simply, jammed.

With a lineup that includes such greats as Charlie Palmieri, Cheo Feliciano, Jimmy Sabater,Kako Rodriguez, Willie Torres, there is the potential for both greatness and disaster. How does one take someone at the top of his game and get him to stand back and let others shine? How do you manage to Al Santiago and Charlie do it like true maestros!

Salsa Maxima stands out, the sheer exuberance of the artist comes through in every note. The joy and excitement of playing with other artists of their caliber is almost palpable. Each artist takes his turn at being the star, then steps back to shine his light on the other players, as they each have their turn in the spotlight. The music is clearly the star of this show, the lyrics are secondary. That is not to say they are unimportant or dispensable; the vocal performances are superb and worth the price of the cd, but the vocalists support the musicians, rather than the reverse.

I enjoy this cd, in part, because the artists are so clearly enjoying themselves. I want to be invited to this party!!

1.No Hace Falta Papel – A descarga mambo(Mambo jam session)

An awesome horn solo is the centerpiece of this raucous jazzy jam.

2. Soneros en Una Cesta-

“yo me siento dichoso….”

This is one of my absolute favorite songs, I can think of no way to improve upon it. The vocalists , Jimmy Sabater, Joe Quijana and Willie Torres, take turns telling us the story of how they got together to play(I like self referential song). The phrasing is particularly interesting as they repeat, stretch and crunch words to make them fit the music. While it helps to have lyrics that make some sense, really there is no reason to say “todo el mundo” 5 times in a row, other than than because it sounds good and you need to buy time to think up the next line. I say this because people often want songs translated and I tend to reply ‘It is untranslatable. I can translate the words, but I probably cannot make it make sense to you. It isn’t meant to make sense any more than the lyrics of Tutti Frutti are meant to make sense”.

It’s a slow sexy jam. The music is laid back, yet intense and the driving vocals add the perfect counterpoint adding needed fire. I like the guiro, it reminds me of the creaking of a rocking chair on a front porch.Its a very subtle touch that, at least for me, is irrestible.


Bobby Rodriguez, their “clock”, on the bass.

Luis Ramirez- I only realized last night that this was vibraphone and not piano, proof that I don’t listen to the lyrics or the music as closely as I could. I’ve played this song at least 1000 times in the past 4 years. It is absolutely KILLER.The brightness adds some welcome levity to this track, like the sound of rain on a tin roof or the chirping of coquis against the wind and thunder night during a summer storm. Check the section from 5:24 to 5:43.

By 6:23 it seems as if the song is over and has peaked with the most excellent vibe solo, and if it had peaked that would have been just fine. But there is more.

Chombo? On the sax? I don’t actually know.

The horn screams and wails. It moans, it speaks and ultimately its call becomes too strong to resist. The other instruments answer in turn, gradually joining the fray and coming together an electrifying crescendo, a musical orgy. I feel a sense of relief when it ends. I will point out a few sections I enjoy, some I often miss because once the other instruments return, I become distracted and cant follow him.


7:43-7:51 (7:48 in particular)

Things get a little messy here, but I will point out a few more parts I like. I have problems following a particular instrument, so I find myself listening to the vibes when I was trying to follow the sax, for example.




8:12 I was watching the vibes, and missed the horn at 8:15



4. Jala-Jala con Aguardiente

Jala Jala makes me feel happy and festive. There is some seriously fast drumming going on, and the horns aren’t exactly slacking. Though this was done in a studio, I hear it as being outside at a street festival. The drumming can sound messy, but as it progresses the rythms become more distinct and easier to discern. The drumming and horns are definitely the stars of this show.

5. El Rinconcito

A nice change of pace, a slower son montuno jam here. This is all about the percussion and the piano, a great combination of latin and jazzy that really works.

6. La Quinta De Beethoven

“This is the 5th played on the 3, we know its weird, but so are we”. A latin jazzy take on Beethovens 5th. Barry Rogers KILLS on the tres! It is totally unexpected, but it works. There is something hypnotic about this song and I get lost about halfway into it,I find it trance inducing. Check out the part at about 3:30. Then Charlie on the Piano starting at about 5:03. A minute later, Chombo gives us a smoking jazzy sax solo and ,again, he KILLS it.

7. Aguardiente con Jala Jala

Another fun jala-jala. I have to admit, I don’t find anything particularly spectacular about this one. But its good, fun and upbeat and certainly a percussionists playground.

8. Ran Kan Kan

MAMBO! I love mambo!! The horns are all talking, and whatever they are saying works for me. It starts off like a nice mambo and then we get a fairly quiet interlude and a bit of “descarga”. Kako gets busy on the timbales and gets some backing from the horns and the vocalists, but its all about him for a few minutes then Dandy takes over and shows HIS stuff. There’s some handclapping going on, but I am not sure if this was part of the session or something added in editing. I like it, so I don’t mind. The one thing I don’t like about this song is that it sort of peters out as if they couldn’t figure out exactly how to end it properly.

9. Delirio

Well, what a surprise. A bolero. And in English?! After the mayhem we have experienced so far, it is almost impossible to believe this beautiful passionate, yet restrained bolero was created by the same crew of musicians. The piano- lovely, the horns- beautiful, the percussion- impeccable. Willie Torres’ voice is velvety and yearning, with an unexpected sweetness. Cheo, who drops his verses in Spanish;is a wonder! Though I prefer him as a sonero, his skills as a bolerista are not to be dismissed.

10. Recuerdos de Baranquilla

There are a few things I cannot resist- cowbells and the “caballito” rhythm. I know, many of us have grown weary of it, but I never do. I like the vocals, can’t get much more nasal than that! I’ll mention a few nice sections- 2:50, though you need to wait for it to build to appreciate it fully.4:11 and 4:54.

This is just an awesome song, I can’t not move to it when I hear it.

The lineup-

Musical Director – Charlie Palmieri.

Cheo Feliciano, Dioris Valladares, Jimmy Sabater – Soneas

Changuito Montalvo, Joe Quijano, Víctor Velásquez, Willie Torres , Yayo El Indio- Coro

Barry Rogers- Tres

Joe Wohletz -Trombones

Víctor Paz, Pedro “Puchi” Boulong , Roy Roman- Trumpets

José “Chombo” Silva Tenor Sax

, Mario Rivera – Bariton Sax

Charlie Palmieri- Piano y Organ

Charlie Fox, Piano

Bobby Rodríguez, Bass;

Kako, Orlando marin, Timbales

Louie Ramírez Vibráfono y Percusión;

Johnny “Dandy” Rodríguez, Congas y bongos;

Willie Rosario, Timbales y bongos;

Frankie Malabe, Conga

Pedro Perdomo Conga y Percusión;

Producers-Al Santiago, Joe Quijano


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Antes los Ojos Del Mundo

1.Antes los Ojos del Mundo
Nice salsa, pleasant and very danceable.Lead vocals and coro very mellow. (I was thinking rich as I wrote mellow, is mellow at all related to the word melao?) Tight and danceable, with a nice bit of sabor. But not a great song,it lacks fire.

2.Amigo Nunca- A salsa romantic.The percussion sounds Colombian to me, I actually don’t know where this group is from. But my guess would be Colombia or Venezuela. The vocals make me think Venezuela.

Lead vocals are decent, but there is something rather ordinary and uninteresting about them to me. The flute is a nice counterpoint to his husky sort of smoky voice. It begins to pick up at the coro, when that cowbell kicks in I forget everything else! The cowbell and piano work well together, but there is something about the way this is mixed that I don’t like.

3. Estampas y Figuras- How charangesque. I have a fairly large vocabulary of words I invented to describe songs that have flutes and remind me of a charanga. This has a nice old school feel, but Im not feeling the vocals much. This song feels too Cuban to me.

4.Mi Vecina- The percussion works, the flute isn’t too irritating. I really am not being grabbed by the vocalists though,

5. Invitacion al Soneo- This could be good, but there is something stale about it. I feel as if it is an attempt to recreate an older sound, it doesn’t sound fresh to me. And it feels restrained. Sometimes a song is too clean, too tight, too perfect. The singers sound impassioned, but they don’t cut loose.

6. Abre las Puertas de Mi Corazon- A sexy bolero. Well, I think all boleros are sexy.Smoky, ambient, moody.

7.Pa’ guapacha- Well, at least the drums sound hollow and real and not computerized. The intro leads me to believe that there may be some fire in this song. It picks up and the piano is fun, but its not engaging me. It’s a good song, but it feels like perhaps its been smoothed over too much. I compare this to Sonero En Una Cesta and THAT is engaging.

8. Un Cha Cha Pa Miguel- Aw, old school with some chachacha.I have to admit, the nostalgia factor makes this enjoyable to me.

9.Dejese Eso- Problem number one, the vocalist is good and proficient, but I don’t feel anything when he sings. I don’t feeeeeeeeellll anything.I don’t feel anything at all, this song makes me want to dance yet it doesn’t touch me or move me emotionally.

10. Aceptalo- My favorite song from this cd. Why? Probably the cowbell. And the singer does seem to be reaching deeper inside this go round.

11. Descarga B- Tino- A jam session.Flutes bug me. And it feels Studio. It doesn’t feel like it was played, it feels like it was produced.

Overall, I give this a 7 out of 10. I’m guessing its Venezuelan, I’m guessing its recent and influenced by salsa dura. Technically ok, decent vocals. But there is something stale about it to me, it lacks immediacy, passion. Its not raw enough for me. Proficient but not passionate. It lacks the pathos, the malicia that I look for in salsa. It feels like a practiced attempt to recreate golden age salsa dura, and that perfection makes it feel stale, which is unfortunate.

A good cd to listen to at a gathering when you want some good music and ambience, but not to move the crowd. Its good enough to enjoy, but not so good that it distracts from other activities.

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I love this song. It starts off softly and its a bit melancholy. Its got a nice slow sensuous groove and the coro is really sexy. Seems he’s lost his girl and wants her friend to talk to her so she’ll come back to him.
See, THIS IS WHY reggaeton marketing fails. This is what we women like to hear.Its sexy and slow enough to dance to and be very expressive and sexy or up close with an adored partner.

I spoke to a friend the other night, a salsa DJ who was giving me lessons and playing some new reggaeton from the Island (Puerto Rico, there is only ONE Island). We were complaining about another DJ, who is Panamanian and played a lot of reggae and hiphop stuff. I was actually ANGRY because the music was sucking and a lot of women went and sat down.The regulars started clearing the club 30 min early when we realized that the music was NOT going to get better.
(Its NEW reggaeton OLD salsa dude, NOT OLD reggaeton NEW salsa. Sheesh)

The other friend was laughing at my anger, and he said, “When I DJ I make sure to keep the women moving. The women make the club. If the women arent happy, theres no club. You have to play stuff they like, not a bunch of hard hiphop stuff”.

See, I think that coming from a hiphop context, where men will get out on the floor alone and stomp and pump their fists and do their male war-dances alone and just get “crunk”, there may be a lack of understanding on the part of some DJs that in a latin club it is essential that the women participate. If we dont dance, the men dont dance. If we arent feeling the music, we sit and sulk or fix our lipstick and arrange our clothing until the music is good again. If we’re dancing and the song sucks, we kind of go limp.

So I am gonna tell all the club DJs, get this one. Its sexy, sensuous, and DY is pining away for the love of a woman and begging to have her back. Women will LOVE this. See, we live for men messing up and begging for us back. If you havent noticed, most reggaeton is some man begging some woman for SOMETHING 🙂

Ciao for now

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Must Hear- Noche De Entierro, Entregate, De Ti Me Enamore

Los Benjamins- La Loca Cut
Royal Rumble, Piden Reggaeton, Acelera, Slow Motion, Noche De Entierro, Entregate, La Ex, Tocarte, Esta Noche, Mi Fanatica, De Ti Me Enamore, Alocate, Contigo, Tu Me Arrebata, Clack Clack

Royal Rumble (Se Van)- ***

This song is ok, a bit dark and not too exhilarating. Very aggressive vocals though. As an opening track, its decent. But definitely on its own, it leaves something to be desired.

I don’t really like this song. First of all it has some of the most irritating female vocals ever. That alone is a turn off, then the song is pretty boring. I usually skip this one.

Hello- 3 Boring. One of those songs that wants to be romantic but just sounds slow and dragging. I also dislike the vocals which drown out the music enough to make this not worth listening to. Sometimes irritating vocals are mixed low enough that you can just listen to the beat and ignore the singing. Not this one.

Entregate 8- Ok, now we are talking. Wisin and Yandel BRING IT. Just the right amount of force and aggression in the delivery and musically interesting enough to keep you listening. Very danceable, I always find myself bobbing my head as I listen to it. Lyrically, of course, its about sex.

Beautiful- 6 I would dance to this but I don’t really LOVE it. It has a good sound, but Don Omar’s delivery seems to me to be all aggression and lacking in any other character. Rhythmically its ok, but its overly repetitive and by the 2nd minute Im simply waiting for it to go off. But I give it a 6 because at least its ok to dance to and sometimes when dancing, repetition is a good thing. But I don’t find it fun to listen to.

Noche de Entierro-9
This is the best track on the cd. Theres a lot of variety and plenty of musical changes. Reggaeton and CUMBIA? Is that cumbia I hear? I keep wanting to sing “Amor a la Mexicana”. Im not a musician, but is this entire cd in minor keys? It has a bit of a melancholy sound. Well, considering the content I suppose that’s appropriate. The song is about the end of a relationship. Anyway, this one is pretty good, I can listen to it over and over and not get tired. I think in general the tracks with multiple artists are better than the one with single artists. Daddy Yankee shows up as do Wisin and Yandel and everyone else on earth. The remix is also very good with Ivy Queen stepping to the mic for a few.

Mi Fanatica- Arcangel y De la Ghetto 7 Coming after Noche de Entierro this often is a let down for me. I have to listen to it on its own to appreciate it. I love Arcangel’s delivery, he has a sexy voice. De la Ghetto reminds me of Too Short, its something in the vowels, very open and drawn out and not very Spanish-like to my ears. I didn’t give this an 8 because it’s a bit slow and Im not sure that I would really want to dance to it much, its not rousing but its definitely listenable..

Esta Noche- 6 Hmm. Im torn. Tito El Bambino needs the weight of Hector as ballast, to add some heft to his lightweight vocals. This song reminds me of Gasolina musically, and vocally its Tito doing Tito. Im gonna go with a 6 not because its not good, but because its nothing special.

La Ex-6 Another song that’s trying to be sultry and seductive but ends up being a bit dull. But, I would dance to it in the club. I don’t really like Alexis and Fido so that’s certainly a factor in my low-ish rating. The vocals aren’t getting it, nor are the lyrics.

De Ti Me Enamore-8 I love this song. Im gonna rate it only an 8 because I guess some of the other songs are better and this one does drag toward the end. Also Baby Rasta does have a bit of a weak voice. But man, its BACHATA. I don’t know why but when u add the nasty beat of reggaeton to the bachata sound it makes me (and all the other club rats) go mad. This is rather “bouncy” too and bouncy is always good. The vocals are kinda mixed low letting the “strings” take the lead, I think that’s a good choice for this song as Baby Rasta’s vocals couldn’t carry it alone.

Slow Motion- 7 I like the song, but I dislike that its being sung by what sounds like either an infant or a small girl. Yo-seph sounds like he is 12 years old and that makes the song seem too juvenile for my tastes. To compensate for his youth he seems to be yelling instead of singing. Musically, its decent but nothing insane or new. I think the remix (isn’t there always a remix?) will be better if they can add some Adult voices.

Alocate- 6 This has a dark sci-fi/industrial/techno feel to it. I haven’t decided if I like it or not. Sorry. The hook is catchy though, sometimes when Im sleep I hear it running thru my head.

Tocarte- 7 Other than the girl voices, I like this. Oh, theres bachata, that’s why. Im so transparent. But for some reason when they add bachata to a reggaeton track they seem to compensate by ramping up the percussion so rather than being soft and romantic, the tracks are often very aggressive. In addition, by using the structure of bachata they ensure that the songs aren’t 4 minutes straight of dembowdembow.

Disimula- Hmm. 4 I don’t like this.In fact, I’m skipping it because I don’t want to hear it again even to review.

Acelera- 7 Gee Franco, are u trying to scare us onto the dance floor. These are vocals with teeth. It’s a good song, danceable. Whats the word I’m looking for? Solid. A good solid dance track.

Clack Clack- 8 An aggressive song for some serious dancing. I have no idea what the song is about because I never listen to the words. Forget the words, just go dance.

Ella Piden Reggaeton-8 Another SLOW song. How many on this cd do we have now with SLOW in the title? I actually like it.

Deja Que Quitarla Ropa- 3 Well, if you want to listen to it, go ahead. Im going to skip to the next one. Oh, its slow and dragging and makes me want to go to the bar for a coke or freshen my lipstick before a good song comes on.

Contigo- 6 Ah, more romance. This isn’t as boring as the others and I guess its worth playing a time or 2.

Tu Me Arrebata. 7 The vocals remind me of Tego, similar timbre and flow. The music sounds like Oh Dios to me and I like the guitar. This is moderately paced, so not a killer dance song, but its still danceable.Unlike some of the other tracks, its pretty evident that a man is singing. The delivery is quick but not forced and none of that shouting, no overcompensating for a weak young voice here.

No Te Quiere- 6 I’d dance to it. But its rather droning and that sad sensitive singing doesn’t really excite me.Still, it’s a solid song.

Libertad-5 This is a hidden track. It can stay hidden. Luigi? Is he Mario VI’s brother? Oh well, I give it a 5 simply because its ok and produced well and the vocals don’t make me want to immediately skip to the next track.

Lento RMX- GO AWAY. I hate this song. That’s all that’s to it.

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