various artists,
New Latin Xpress
(Shakti, 2003)

A few years ago, Latin pop seemed to have exploded in the U.S. with the likes of Ricky, Enrique, Shakira and the like. If you haven't had your fill yet, or just want to expand your collection, New Latin Xpress from Shakti Records would be a great CD for you. With 14 tracks, this CD covers Latin styles from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, Havana, Sao Paulo, Barcelona and beyond. To quote from the CD, "the sounds are progressive hybrids of hip hop, rock, reggae, dance, house, electronica, ska and roots -- all in a distinct Latin idiom."

The CD starts off with the short (under two minutes), yet sweet "La Primavera" by Manu Chao. Some of you might know Chao from his days in the French-Spanish ethno-punk band Mano Negro. On this track Chao keeps asking his lover what time it is. The lyrics are pretty simple even if you don't speak much Spanish (although there is probably some slang going on that I'm not catching). It is a fun track. It blends pretty seamlessly right into "Gigante" by Sergent Garcia. This band hails from Paris. I thought they were from Cuba as they sound like they are blending a little reggae with some son and salsa.

Professor Angel Dust & the PH Force do a kick-ass cover of "Oye Como Va." I hope none of you purists hunts me down for saying this, but I like this version better than Santana's version. This song was meant to be funked up! I didn't even know I could rap in Spanish until I heard this rendition! Any of you who have heard this cover on the radio probably know what I'm talking about.

Lila Downs has a little deeper voice than many female vocalists, yet she can hit some high notes when she has to. This Mexican native has one of the more powerful performances with "Transito." If any of you have seen the Salma Hayek movie Frida then you have heard Lila. She invokes a lot of emotion into her singing. This is easily one of the better tracks on the CD.

Other artists on the CD include Cabas, Ely Guerra, Si*Se, Buscemi, Titan, Edesio, Kinky, Susana Baca, La Mosca Tse-Tse and P18. With this many artists, it won't be surprising that I mention that some songs are way better than others. Fortunately, while there are a few so-so tracks, there is not a bad one in the group. How often do you find that in a compilation?

New Latin Xpress is a perfect CD for anyone trying to get a broader listen to the sounds of Latin music popular throughout the world today. A lot of styles are covered, yet the selections are such that the CD does not come across as disjointed. And if you give it a chance, who knows, you might find a new favorite Latin artist!

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 1 November 2003

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