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Skip into a parallel universe where the hottest musical development is Ska Cubano, the meshing of unstoppable Jamaican rhythms with crazy Cuban brass. More retro fun, high-octane dancefloOr fuel and plenty of choruses to shout. The genres: might-have-been, 1960's Cuban ska, noisy cumbias, new son-ska and several innovative musical experiments by the members of the band. There are fewer covers and more original material, much of it thoroughly road-tested on tour. Tracks: LUPITA / LA TROVA / CUMBIA DEL MONTE / MAMBO SKA / IDENTITY / PACHITO E ´CHE / ALTO SONGO / HIT THE TRACK / PIEL CANELA / HOLD TIGHT JAMAICA / TEQUILA / LA GAITA SABROSA / SKA CHE / MEGUMI´S AMOR / PEPE Live Dates 8th April Jazz Cafe, LONDON / 17th April Brewery, KENDAL / 23rd April Wilde Theatre, BRACKNELL / 3rd MayGlobal Gala, CHELMSFORD / 23rd MayKnockengorrch Festival, SCOTLAND
Long awaited (not least by themselves) the release of the third album from the Anglo-Cuban entertainment innovators follows colourful reports of what the collective's various members have been up to - from selling magic canes to tourists in Santiago to treading the boards. So can Ska Cubano still hack it? Affirmative. True, there are loose ends and even the odd bum note. But then again, the occasional impression that the brass section has perhaps had too much tres anos to focus on the horn charts is entirely consistent with the Ska Cubano aesthetic. Indeed it's arguably a production choice of some finesse.
From the opening crack of `Lupita' to the closing clarinet skirl of the sensational last track, we're in safe hands. The same strict-tempo approach from the uncompromising baritone sax of Megumi Mesaku and the same unerring recognition on the part of Natty Bo that a toucan call or a pantomime 'Ay! Ay, ay, ay!' can have equal weight to a virtuoso horn solo.
The cumbias are great, replete with scintillating clarinet. Rey Crespo's excellent bass is backed up some lovely hoarse marímbula (rumba box). There are excursions into vintage salsa and even Monserratian train blues. And to cap it all there's 'Pepe', an old dance chestnut rendered as an absolute scorcher of a down-home merencumbia with guest vocals by Los Harmonicos, a couple of teenage amateurs of such luminescent talent as to make the track alone an irrefutable argument for buying the album, and earn Mambo Ska its 'barbaro!' certificate with flying colours.
© Philip Sweeney -- Songlines magazine #69 - Top of the World album review
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