Gipsy Kings (1988) by the Gipsy Kings --- World music at its best, Gipsy Kings combine elements of Spanish flamenco, afro-arabic, and traditional gypsy music sounds into a exciting modern mix. They've produced many fine albums since this first album was released over twenty years ago.
Big Bang (1994) by Los Enanitos Verdes-- "Little Green Dwarves" is an Argentine group that often has a Beatlesque sound. They play sharp, slick rock and roll. This favorite album includes "Lamento Boliviano", one of my all time favorite songs with one of the best smooth guitar solos ever. It also has one of my favorite choruses:
Y yo estoy aquí Borracho y loco
Y mi carazón idiota Siempre brillará
Y yo te amaré Te amaré por siempre
Nena no te peines en la cama
Que los viajantes Se van acasar.
Which translates as:
And I'm here drunk and crazy
And my idiotic heart will Always shine
And I will love you--I will love you forever.
Baby, do not comb your hair in bed
That travelers are going to delay.
My wife, whose native language is Spanish, says the last two lines are translated correctly, but she has no idea what they mean. I was thinking it could be some kind of Argentine idiom that she doesn't know. But it doesn't really matter--I think it sounds cool in Spanish.
Pies Descalzos (1996) by Shakira ----Hailing from Colombia, Shakira was still a teenager when she recorded this album of her own compositions. After I started hearing some of these songs on Spanish radio and seeing her performances on the Spanish TV station I predicted to my wife that Shakira was going to become a big crossover star one day. I called it right. She continues to make great music, but there's something about the innocence of this early recording in Spanish. There are some excellent songs on this album with superb musicianship and production.
Los Super Seven (1998) by Los Super Seven -- This group from the U.S. is a true Tex-Mex supergroup which includes country stars Freddy Fender and Joe Ely, and members of Los Lobos, and accordionist extraordinaire Flaco Jimenez. The album is primarily traditional Tex-Mex and Mexican music played straight and flawlessly. This is a rollicking good time album perfect for your next taco and nacho party.
Por Encima de Todo (1999) by Limite --The group was fronted by the lovely Alicia Villareal. When I first saw her on the Spanish TV station she had this schoolgirl look with braces and pigtails, but dressed in the typical cowgirl ranchera style, even though she was well in her twenties. She has since graduated to a more mature, often glamorous look. She has also moved on to a solo career. Her work with Grupo Limite was excellent Mexican ranchera music. This album includes two of my favorites--"Capricho Loco" and the wonderful "Ya No Hay Amor", which has an accordion break that can make you imagine that you are in a street cafe in Paris.
Bajo El Azul de Tu Misterio (1999) by Jaguares-- This group is headed by Saul Hernandez, one of the most influential artists from the Mexican rock scene. They play alternative rock music that is sometimes ethereal and moody and at other times driving and frantic. This two disc album includes an excellent set of studio recordings and a very listenable live set of many of their previous hits.
Cuba Linda (2000) Cachao -- Israel "Cachao" Lopez is a legendary bass player, composer, and band leader from Cuba. He was at the forefront of the Afro-Cuban rhythm movement in the 1930s and helped bring the mambo craze to the U.S. in the 1950s. When I was in high school in the late 1960s I used to enjoy picking up Radio Havana and listen to the music they would play between tirades of propaganda. I was entranced by the music they would play and long wanted to find music like it. The music on the Cuba Linda album is like that music. What wonderful musicianship!
Gozo Poderoso (2000) by Aterciopelados--This group from Colombia is deeply rooted in traditional styles of music modernized in a pop alt-rock vein. They deal with social issues the are relevant to Colombia and the world. I don't really pay attention to trying to translate their songs, but I like the way they sound.
The Complete RCA Recordings Volume 1 (2000) by Tito Puente-- Born in New York of Puerto Rican parents, Tito Puente is a giant of mambo and Latin jazz. His greatest popularity was during the 50s, but he remained a staple of Jazz festivals and the concert circuit until his death in 2000. This is a six disc set of his work during 1950s.
Nuestro Destino Estaba Escrito (2003) by Intocable-- This group comes from Zapata, Texas. They are one of the most innovative Tejano/Norteno groups and have been highly influential as they fuse traditional Mexican styles, with country, reggae, and a touch of rock.
La Sandunga (2003) by Lila Downs-- One of the most intellectual artists around, Lila Downs was born in Mexico, but raised in the United States where she obtained degrees in voice and anthropology. Her mother was a cabaret singer and her father a college professor. Lila performs all sorts of traditional music styles and jazz. Some of her music appears on the soundtrack of Frida, a film with Salma Hayek about the life of artist Frida Kahlo.
Mambo Sinuendo (2003) by Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban--The packaging of this CD is as cool as the music contain within. Ry Cooder has long championed Latin music and was instrumental in the Buena Vista Social Club project which introduced legendary Cuban artists to audiences in the United States. This particular album at times makes me imagine the Ventures playing Latin music. The album has a dynamite line up of musicians.
Oops! Was that twelve and not ten? Believe me I could have kept going because I still missed favorites like Mana, Jose Feliciano, Fey, Soda Stereo, Cafe Tacuba, and so many more. There is some great music here that I encourage you to check out for yourself.
Two weeks from today I will be hosting The Soundtrack of Your Life where you put together your own collection of songs that make up your life's soundtrack. You can read more here. Hope you can join us on Monday July 19th.