Various Artists: 'Hammock House Africa Caribe'

Here’s a sweet one. Working from original analog multi-track tapes, New York producer Joaquín “Joe” Claussell set out to re-create the golden age of salsa (the salsa dura, or “hard” salsa of the ’70s put out by the legendary Fania label) into a powerful two-disc contemporary dance record. CD one is a live continued mix; the second is remixes of classic Fania tracks by Ray Barreto, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Mongo Santamaría, and others. Despite some risky changes, the essence of the originals is maintained in a glorious update. Take the memorable version of “Siembra,” originally released by Willie Colón and Rubén Blades in the eponymous 1978 album (arguably salsa’s greatest album). Claussell got rid of key horns in the intro, but added them later on in the song, and the track explodes with a new incredible organ solo and field of percussion. Blades’ improvised socially conscious soneo sounds better than ever; the song even sounds faster, but isn’t. I don’t know what Colón or Blades would think of this experiment, but “Siembra,” the backbone of that Siembra album, was obscured by the success of “Pedro Navaja.” Now, thanks to Claussell, it got the treatment it deserved.


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