Sunday, March 28, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW: Joe Cuba's El Alcalde Del Barrio

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Joe Cuba
El Alcalde Del Barrio
Fania: 2010

You need not know who Joe Cuba is or had to have been in an uptown barrio to feel the legend drip from this record. As a matter of fact, you’ve probably heard songs like “Bang Bang” or “El Pito (I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia),” but could never place them. Songs, which made you think geez I associated that ditty with a whole culture, not a person .

Culture is exactly what El Alcalde Del Barrio symbolizes. The songs on this two-disc boxed set transcend their 1950’s doo-wop and 1970’s Latin Jazz time span; and the popular tunes from the anointed “Father of Latin Boogaloo” have been co-opted by Hip Hop samples (rewind The Black Eyed Peas’ “Karma” for a morsel of Cuba’s “El Raton”), movies (remember the bodega scene in Spike Lee’s Crooklyn during which the store clerk dances a number with a be-weaved Rupaul?), and even copycats (of course, that would be Pete Rodriquez’s “I Like It Like That”). Joe Cuba’s seductive conga is not just a sound. It’s a sentiment.

Once again, that Boogaloo swing will send you reminiscing, but the doo-wop selections introduce you to that young Cuba who sung ditties under the Spanish Harlem lamplight. These songs represent the springboard behind Cuba’s R&B leanings like the barbershop quintetish “It’s Love,” which channels harmonic backup vocal into a heart-throbbing romance ballad.

Cuba has also thrived off songs with choral refrains like the ruddy “A Las Seis” with Cheo Feliciano and the festive “La Calle Durisima” with Willie Garcia in addition to making a living off the mid-century Soul wave. Even up until to his death in February 2009, Cuba had consistently packed concert halls on tours. El Alcalde Del Barrio really portrays a rare multi-phase artist whose own personal growth has spawned a generation of eclectic music.

-Sidik Fofana

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