Album Review #15: Dance Mania by Tito Puente and His Orchestra (1958)

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I enjoyed this album greatly. As the third album of Latin music in the last five albums I’ve reviewed, you’d think the genre would start getting tired by now. But, as I’ve learned, Latin music is a vast umbrella for countless incredible genres of music, of which there are simply too many to list. It’s a massive, fascinating world of music, and albums like Dance Mania by Tito Puente and His Orchestra are the cream of that world’s crop.

A trend I’ve noticed: in both Palo Congo and Kenya, my favorite part was the percussion. That holds true with this one. The drums are just so excited and interesting that they carry the music on their rhythm alone. This is music you need to move your feet to. Every song is pulsating with liveliness, and does every damned thing in its power to put a smile on your face. The record’s opener, “El Cayuco,” and the instrumental “3-D Mambo” are the album’s best two tracks, in my opinion. Every element of the jazz orchestra collaborates perfectly, creating an almost ridiculously cheerful musical blend that never loses its appeal even after multiple repeat listens.

Dance Mania by Tito Puente and His Orchestra is a truly enjoyable album. Usually I find that albums lose their luster after about 4-5 listens, but this one just never loses its sheen. It’s an excellent listen, filled with catchy rhythms and cheery melodies that almost anyone would find irresistible. Listen to this one: you might just like it.

Favorite Tracks: “El Cayuco,” “3-D Mambo,” “Cuando te Vea (Guáguanco)”

Next Up: Lady in Satin by Billie Holiday (1958)

Album Review #14: Here’s Little Richard by Little Richard (1957)

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What can I really say about this one that hasn’t already been said? Here’s Little Richard is a true classic of early rock ‘n’ roll that still holds up almost sixty years later. It’s short, at only about twenty-eight minutes in length, but I personally find it to be to the album’s benefit. It leaves you wanting more, and with the sheer amount of energy contained in this record, any longer and it would simply tire out.

Pretty much all of the tracks here are great, but of course the opening track “Tutti Frutti” is a standout. Simply put, it is one of the most iconic songs of the entire decade, and is exciting, catchy and just plain fun. “Ready Teddy” is great for the same reasons, with really the entire album exuding pure energetic frenzy like no other album at the time did. “Oh Why?” is a change of pace, with sad and lonely lyrics and a great singing performance. Every song here is excellent, without a single wasted moment to be found.

This album is a true landmark in rock’n’ roll, paving the way for the entire genre to follow. It’s short, sweet, and if you haven’t already given it a listen, do so as soon as possible. It’s not that long, after all. It’s worth it.

Favorite Tracks: “Tutti Frutti,” “Ready Teddy,” “Oh Why?”

Next up: Dance Mania by Tito Puente and His Orchestra (1958)

Album Review #13: Kenya by Machito (1957)

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Kenya by Machito is one of my favorite records of the list so far. Explosive and exciting all of the way through, it really is one of those albums that I struggle to find anything I dislike about it. It remains fully enjoyable and engaging even after multiple repeat listens, and of the thirteen albums I’ve reviewed so far, this one is definitely my favorite.

There honestly isn’t a single track on this album that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, but even then a few were definite highlights. “Wild Jungle” is probably my favorite out of its twelve tracks. It kicks the album off in a hyper-energetic frenzy that’s almost impossible to sit still to. My second favorite track has to be “Conversation,” with a ridiculously catchy and dance-able melody that’s so good it manages to carry the whole song. The entire album retains the excellence of these two tracks, though, so picking highlights is almost pointless.

So, if you’ve never heard this album before, you absolutely should. While In the Wee Small Hours still tops my rankings, this one’s a definite #2. This one gets my biggest recommendation.

Favorite Tracks: “Wild Jungle,” “Conversation”

Least Favorite Track: Uhh… I got nothing.

Next Up: Here’s Little Richard by Little Richard (1957)

Album Review #12: Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis (1957)

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This album is good, but not great. Miles Davis is undoubtedly my favorite jazz musician, and his later albums, namely Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew, rank among my favorite albums of all time. With this one, however, it was just kind of forgettable for me. Maybe because it’s stuck in the shadow of the records that were to follow, but Birth of the Cool just didn’t really do much for me.

It’s hard to write about an album that you don’t really have any feelings towards, positive or negative. That said, there were some tracks here and there that I enjoyed enough to mention. “Moon Dreams” is in my opinion the highlight of the album, with a great mood and relaxing atmospherics. “Godchild” is pretty catchy, with a jumpy melody and the usual quality improvisation. Other than those two, none of the tracks really stuck out to me in particular. There aren’t any bad tracks on this album, just ones that fail to make an impression.

So this album just wasn’t for me. It’s alright, but I probably won’t be revisiting it again. Miles Davis’ later albums are absolutely incredible however, and I can’t wait to get to them. So what did you think of this album? Leave your feedback in the comments, I’d love to hear your opinions!

Favorite Tracks: “Moon Dreams,” “Godchild”

Next Up: Kenya by Machito (1957)