Anibal Velaquez-Mambo Loco
Probably my most abused LP that I bought this year. I can’t tell how many times I’ve played Mambo Loco at shows or just sitting at home. Velaquez is a master of the accordion and very influential in bringing Colombian Cumbia to the rest of the world. I found that his outside influences, mostly from Cuban music, made his sound easier for people to digest. In my DJ sets, Mambo Loco served as a gateway into Salsa or Merengue or out of that into Cumbia. I’m telling you, this one is straight heat! If you still aren’t a fan of Cumbia after this album, you are probably dead.
Charanjit Singh — Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat
Does House Music have its roots with Charanjit Singh and his box of archaic early 80’s electronic equipment? That is debatable, but what isn’t is that Singh’s electronic Indian Ragas contained some of the freshest sounds to hit my ear in a while. "Raga Bairagi," my favorite track, is a cluster of different Indian influences with Singh’s ear for soundtrack music. It's as if he imagined Moroder working with Herbie Hancock to create the soundtrack to the Indian version of The Warriors.
I can't help but imagine how much fun we would be having now if the Western world had embraced Charanjit Singh in the eighties like they did Ravi Shankar in the sixties.
Black Man's Cry – The Inspiration Of Fela Kuti
Let’s face it: Tribute albums are usually not that great. Then again, we are talking about Fela Kuti. What makes this release different is that it focuses on the generational and international influence of Fela Kuti’s music. Whether it was bands from Nigeria, Colombia or New York, they were all driven to cover songs by Fela and put their own stamp on his music. The vinyl version has each time period and country divided by sides of the 10” LP, which made the release more cohesive than the CD version.
Pomegranates – Persian Pop, Funk, Folk, and Psych Of The 60s & 70s
This is another LP that I have just abused this year. Because I mostly do DJ sets at Latin Music clubs I didn’t get much of a chance to bust this album out, but at home this album was on heavy rotation. This album is both sweet and sublime, a love letter from a generation of Persian music that has come and gone. Each artist on this compilation shows Western influences but is undeniably Persian at the core and you are reminded how progressive Iran was before the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
El Gusano — Fantasia Del Barrio
In its original release in 1975, El Gusano only made 300 copies of the all-instrumental Fantasia Del Barrio and it came and went. The band from Cotulla, New Mexico didn’t fit in with any style of music. It's rock with some funk and Tex-Mex influences done by four Chicanos but it is closer in sound to early Sun City Girls than it is to Little Joe Y La Familia or Santana. One of the reasons is that guitarist Eugenio Jaimez returned from duty in Vietnam in a fragile state, like most of our veterans did. I felt that the way he dealt with his pain was though his guitar and his compositions. Once the needle hits the LP you’ll notice that El Gusano is one of most expressive instrumental bands ever. In each song you can feel the joy and heaviness of returning home and the troubled times of feeling out of place. On top of that, it’s four guys jamming in a garage and making music that they loved and now, so do I.