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V/A - ˇGozalo! (Bugalú Tropical Vols. 1 & 2)

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Artist: V/A

Album: ˇGozalo! (Bugalú Tropical Vols. 1 & 2)

Label: VampiSoul

Review date: Feb. 22, 2008

Vampisoul's recent compilations of popular Latin music from Peru in the 1960s and '70s quietly impress with the breadth of music presented (I thought it was all pan flutes and shit), as well as the prominent command of unexpected musical idioms. As fun as boogaloo is to some, it's a relief that much of the music on these two volumes focuses on cha-cha, son, guajira, early rock/rumba fusions that both predate and predict Santana, and Palladium-era mambo.

Volume One begins with Charlie Palomar's "Vives Boogaloo," an instrumental jaunt that owes as much to Cal Tjader's great lineup of the late '50s and early '60s, but with a horn section, as it does to the boogaloo tradition that was dominated in the states by Ray Barretto. Adding vibraphone to a Latin combo will inevitably draw Tjader comparisons, but the handclaps and rowdy cheers from the chorus do hark back to Tjader's famous "Soul Sauce (Guachi Guara)," which itself was clearly influenced by Barretto and others from the New York scene. The first volume's second track, "Baby Boogaloo," sticks even more closely to the Nuyorican format, bringing the tempo down to just below that of a surf tune.

After these early openers, however, Volume One begins to go further afield with entries like "Hilton's Descarga," a speedy rumba/mambo hybrid that features a spot-on solo played on the ebony flute (favored in so many Cuban lineups), leaving a flavor that has most often been heard in the descarga ("discussion" or jam session) pieces by famed Cuban bassist Cachao. The punchy attack on the timbales boasts a fire more commonly associated with mozambiquero Manny Oquendo than, say, mountainous or coastal Peru. Other curiosities, such as "Booga Jazz,” feature wildly disparate elements like bluesy walking bass lines and R&B caterwauling that fits neatly in between Cab Calloway and James Brown. The sheer number of styles represented here shows that Peruvian musicians not only had access to the sounds that were happening in the United States and the Caribbean, but they in fact mastered them, often with an eerie precision that would preclude classification as boogaloo, a style that was nothing if not loose and relaxed.

Drawing from largely the same period, Volume Two still manages to show a maturation. The grooves are even more solid (check out the rapid tumbao of "La Negra Esta Gozando" by Mario Allison y Su Combo; it starts with a ticker tape cowbell pattern, lurches down into 6/8, and then quickly emerges as a simmering rumba) and increasingly demonstrate the introduction of more rock elements. "Boogaloo Perro" kicks off with a ridiculously greasy wah guitar intro that shifts into a saturated tenor not unlike a Farfisa married to an oud. The rhythm section keeps it simple and dynamically subtle, but the guitarist samples every style and shape of West Coast rock ‘n’ roll guitar from the ’60s. Halfway through, the tempo downshifts to an almost Grateful Dead meander, and 30 seconds later the band thinks better of it and cranks the tempo back up. In parallel to these decidedly rockist contributions, Volume Two shows the incorporation of sounds more commonly associated with the region, particularly Colombian cumbia, updated through mambo instrumentation on Carloz Munoz's "El Conductor.”

The contrast between these regional and global influences, combined with the passionate precision displayed throughout, makes Gozalo! both a fantastic document of the Peruvian music scene during the '60s and '70s and a solid sampling of nearly all Afro-Latin styles during the same time period.

By Andy Freivogel

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