I found this record in my record collection; I’m not sure whence it came. On the cover, two sleepy persons — quite possibly married — in tuxedo and long red dress, perform a static-looking dance. But the lower right-hand corner proclaims: "Tito Puente, ‘King of the Cha Cha Mambo’ & His Orchestra" — that’s hopeful. And every hope is fulfilled by this spry, gentle, filigreed album. The titles are largely in English — "Adele," "The Knockout," "The Man from Jamaica" — but the singing is entirely in Spanish, and the orchestra is in Spanish, too. Much great pop music pretends to be stupider than it really is. (This is what fascinates middle-aged guys about the Beatles.) The tone here is light, almost instructional Arthur Murray — and probably dance instructors in New Jersey did use this album as a classroom resource — but the band is muscled with interior power. It’s like a snowmobile in a tutu. And the flautist! (No musicians are credited, though the dyspeptic cover photo is attributed to Jack Zwillinger.) This flute-wielding guy, or woman, brings acres of sunshiny intelligence to the landscape of "Hot Tamales" (the sixth song). And practically every other tune. (There’s one fine sax solo, and Tito himself is always commenting, on timbales.) The intention and sound are quite contemporary, and some Finnish DJ may be "sampling" Dance The Cha Cha Cha this very morning.
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