Dance Mania Vol. 1

Tito Puente & His Orchestra

About eight years ago I pledged to brush up on my knowledge of the music of the 50s by listening to all of the "must listen" albums from a couple of big list books. I'm still working my way through them (hey, there are nearly forty albums!), and here's one of the last to write up.

I knew nothing about mambo - let alone the Tito Puente, the "King Of Mambo" - prior to listening to this, and in all honesty I think I'd struggle to distinguish between it and,say, merengue (the latter is more of a "marching" beat, apparently).

Dance Mania probably serves as a good introduction, even if it doesn't include the song most rock music fans would know Puente for, "Oye Como Va" (as covered by Santana on Abraxas). Unfortunately, not being familiar with the intricacies of the style means that all the tracks here tend towards sameness. It's all a bit early-60s jazz club, like the Purple Pit in Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor -  jazzy and brassy, maybe a bit like big band swing, except more relaxed. Great if it really floats your boat, maybe a bit wearing after twelve tracks of what is broadly indistinguishable music.

A couple of the instrumental tracks stand out for me: "Hong Kong Mambo" is a great riff, and "3D Mambo" has a great feel. Overall, it's good for something a bit different in the background though, and as ever with these recommendations, I'm very pleased to have heard it and know it.

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