Sunday, October 7, 2007

Los Dementes - El Tiempo Pasa, Pero Mi Salsa Llego (Palacio)

This post has been a long time coming. It's time, at last, to dip into the forgotten origins of salsa outside of the United States.

Some of you may remember my comments about the origins of salsa in my El Cantante review, what one commenter called a "non-centrist" view of salsa. It is indeed a fact that salsa was not just a Nu-York creation. In the late 60s, many Latin American communities were collaborating in a world-wide vision of salsa that, despite being just as fresh and innovative as Nuyorican salsa, would be hidden behind the Fania logo. This is not to say that Nuyorican salsa was inadequate, or subpar (after all, I did a massive upload of the Hector Lavoe & Willie Colon discography); I'm simply pointing out that the American account of salsa is a biased one. In the process, we, the fans of Latin music, have missed out on some incredible music. Today's post is a small attempt to change that.

Enter Venezuela, circa 1966. For years, radio waves from as far away as Spain, Mexico, and Puerto Rico have been criss-crossing the streets of Caracas, planting rebellious seeds of Latin music into the minds of its youth. Among them: Federico Betancourt, Olinto Medina, Oscar Simoza, and Ramon Rivas. You might know them better by the names of their bands: Federico y su Combo Latino, Sexteto Juventud, Oscar D'Leon, and today's featured artist, pianist Ray Perez.

These are just some of the creative minds who would establish a flourishing salsa scene that was just as hard-hitting and unprecedented as anything that the streets of New York were putting out. Influenced by the aguinaldos of Venezuela, the seis of Puerto Rico, and the music of Mon Rivera, Ray Perez would begin his salsa career (though it was not called salsa then) in 1965 with Ray Perez y su Charanga, an early incarnation of the band featured today, Los Dementes (the crazy men). Ray, nicknamed "El Loco" (the crazy man), originally wanted to title the band Los Dementes, but such a name would have sparked a riot in those days. Rather than let his band name set people off, he did it with his music. With a peerless melding of folk traditions and new experimentation, Perez began writing some of Venezuela's most furious music, an incendiary brand of salsa with heavy trombones as its centerpiece. The first Los Dementes album was released in 1966 (Ray Perez claims the year as 1966; other accounts claim the year as 1967).

By now, you might be noticing the glaring similarities between Ray Perez and Willie Colon's respective forgings of salsa. Both were influenced by Mon Rivera; both were raised on the folk forms of their culture; both would incorporate this into their music while attempting a new, groundbreaking sound; both were recognized in rebellious ways (Colon had a reputation for being a tough kid, presumably informing his gangster marketing image for Fania; Ray Perez was dubbed El Loco for coming up with new things); both created a music that was culled from their streets (as Ray Perez put it, the barrios of Caracas are "like Brooklyn, or the Bronx."); and both released their first albums at about the same time. This is not to say that Perez and Colon are similar people, or that Nuyorican salsa and Venezuelan salsa are the same--the two movements are distinct and have their own legacy, and I cannot even pretend to know the nuances of each. But they share a trope that is central to much of the music that history remembers best: they dared to try something truly new.

And yet, history hasn't recognized Ray's accomplishments as well as they have Colon's. Los Dementes would become a tour de force in Venezuela and abroad, earning Ray fame in Mexico and even Italy. A driven artist, he would also form myriad bands such as Los Calvos and Los Kenya. At clubs around Venezuela, he would share the honor of alternating the stage with greats such as Eddie Palmieri, Joe Cuba, Pete Rodriguez, and Ray Barretto. Barretto once joked to Perez, then called Ramon, that the era of the kings was coming to an end (the Spanish word for king is rey, which is pronounced the same as "Ray"). It would be fitting, then, when in a seemingly inevitable move, Perez relocated to New York in 1969 and was dubbed Ray himself.

In New York, he would play with Kako, Chivirico Davila, Cortijo, and Ismael Rivera. As if to cement the similarities between Venezuela and New York's thriving salsa scenes, Los Dementes would later record for Fania.

El Tiempo Pasa, Pero Mi Salsa Llego, loosely translated as "Time passes, but my salsa is here now," is a fitting name for a retrospective of the work of Los Dementes, released only last year. It's a fortunate glimpse for those of us who don't have the $200 to shell out for a single Ray Perez-related LP (if we can even find one). Much like my personal favorite group Conjunto Canayon, you can distinctly hear folk music underpinning the Los Dementes sound, but the gritty trombones and frantic vocalizing of great singers such as Perucho and Teo Hernandez launch their music into an unmistakably modern timbre. Some of my favorites include the compilation opener, Vengo de Oriente; the truly CLASSIC La Llorona, with its haunting, reverberting plucks of cuatro (or is that violin?) and powerful performance by Teo; the fun, Vitin Aviles-esque El Perico; Justo Brito y Juan Tabare; and Cosas Que Pasan. But, as is the case with any well-put together compilation, picking favorites proves pointless. Grab it and see for yourself.

Get it here

As a testament to his legacy, Ray Perez appeared in a club in Italy last week as part of a well-attended tribute to his music. Check out some footage of the event:

And while we're hitting up Ray Perez videos, here's a much later incarnation of Los Dementes in a hilarious TV performance that is aaaaaalllllll 80s.

Also, check out an excellent Descarga interview with the man himself.

And don't forget to check back soon, when I'll be uploading another gem from the early days of Venezuelan salsa.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Orquesta La Terrifica - Terrifica (International, 1974)

Ready for more salsa brava in the vein of Orquesta Guarare? Get your hair did for dancing, because this album is hot.

Much like the rather confusing Ray Barretto split that gave rise to Orquesta Guarare, Orquesta La Terrifica splintered off from Sonora Poncena in 1973, one of the most famous groups to ever come out of Puerto Rico. When I say that La Terrifica sounds like Guarare, there's good reason: La Terrifica's early albums featured vocalist Tito Gomez, who sang for Orquesta Guarare and Ray Barretto and just recently passed away. The members defected with leader and Sonora Poncena trumpeter Jose Rodriguez; other members included Mikey Ortiz (timbales), Francisco Alvarado (bongos), and Tito Valentin (arrangements). Later veterans of La Terrifica would include famous arranger Jorge Millet (piano), Hector "Pichie" Perez (vocals), Yolanda Rivera (vocals), Manuel "Mannix" Martinez (vocals), and Hector Tricoche (vocals). I haven't been able to confirm this, but according to this site, Hector Lavoe himself helped out on coro during live shows in 1974, alongside vocalists Yayo and Adalberto Santiago.

Despite never being as popular as Sonora Poncena, La Terrifica put out some of the best salsa of their era and, thankfully, their devoted fans haven't forgotten them. A number of Orquesta La Terrifica albums have been reissued over the past few years (most famously, their self-titled was re-released in 2002, sporting their biggest Jorge Millet hit, Pura). To my knowledge, Terrifica, their first album, has never been re-issued.

From the first taste of Jose Rodriguez's horn lines on Acere Trumbero, you know you're in salsa heaven. The penchant for hard-edged salsa on Terrifica overshadows their former (and slightly more complex) Sonora Poncena sound. Tito Gomez and his coro do an excellent job here on cuts such as Hachero Mayor and the gorgeous bolero No Te Vayas Juventud, a poignant lament that finds Gomez begging his personified youth to "stay just a little longer." And for all of you from Ponce, PR, prepare to reminisce about la famosa Guancha with the fourth cut. Other tracks like Comedia and Vicente Camaron keep it upbeat, and Biribo is an incredible closer and my favorite on the album.

Solid from start to end! Enjoy!

Note: Divshare has been experiencing random outages, so if the link below doesn't work, try again a little later.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Monguito - Escuchame (Fania, 1971)

The Cuban-born sonero Monguito is an often overlooked treasure in the extensive Fania catalog. Sporting one of the most recognizable voices in all of Latin music, Monguito aka Ramon Quian aka "El Unico" (The Unique One/The Only One, as he is nicknamed) sounds somewhat like the musical result of pinching Ismael Rivera's nose shut with a clothespin. It's not exactly the most flattering description, but not one meant to imply that Monguito is ever annoying. On the contrary, Monguito's voice is surprisingly satisfying. Much like Rivera, he embodies an earthy, pragmatic aesthetic in the tradition of the son montuno, forged in the streets of Cuba. Monguito also shows an excellent pedigree. His voice and acclaimed improvisational skills first appeared on Arsenio Rodriguez's Primitivo in 1963; he would go on to sing in the bands of Johnny Pacheco, Larry Harlow, and the Tico All-Stars, in addition to producing a string of solid cuts on the Fania label.

If you're at all in doubt as to the power of Monguito's voice, check out Lindo Guaguanco, a hot tune that finds a brazen Monguito playfully wondering if anyone can sing a guaguanco better than him. Monguito's voice is also surprisingly flexible and is easily at home on boleros such as El Ano 2000. You'll also find slight hints of charanga on No Hay Amor Sin Caridad, in addition to Monguito's humorous pontificating on the fairer sex on Las Mujeres (Women). Escuchame is an excellent melding of the street wisdom of son montuno with tinges of the polished Fania sound.

Get it here

More info on Monguito courtesy of the fine folks over at Descarga here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Hector Lavoe, tu es eterno"

Still working on the next music update, but I wanted to hip you all to a couple of aftershocks in the world of El Cantante.

Willie Colon himself has had a few words to say about the film. Taken from his official website (and much thanks to La Onda Tropical for spreading the word):

The Creators of El Cantante missed an opportunity to do something of relevance for our community. The real story was about Hector fighting the obstacles of a non-supportive industry that took advantage of entertainers with his charisma and talent. Instead they did another movie about two Puerto Rican junkies. The impact of drugs in the entertainment industry is nothing new; look at Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Whitney Houston today.

I think Hector deserves the recognition the movie pretended to give him. However, as someone who advised the producers, it's painfully obvious that they didn't understand what made him so important. It was the music. It was his talent. They didn't understand or respect the true importance of our music to people around the world. It's difficult to comprehend how two individuals who are in the music business like Marc and Jennifer are not aware of the damage and the consequences of promoting only the negative side of our Latin music culture.

I was disappointed that there wasn't a minimal effort to correct what I felt were serious chronological and factual errors. This tells me that they expeditiously crafted the simplest cliché script in order to just make a film quickly.

After the premier of El Cantante in Puerto Rico there were several statements of protest by people who had supported and participated in the project until they saw it. Their complaints were not about sour grapes or J-lo and Marc bashing but from a sense of betrayal and disappointment.

We are all invested in the world that this movie represents. For many of us the hope of our story finally being told sank into the horizon with the final version of this film.

--Willie Colón

Ismael Miranda and Jennifer Lopez have had their say as well.

...and so have other fellow bloggers.

Though certainly authoritative, these voices are but a few of many being heard after the film's review, and I'd like to remind everyone who reads this that there have been numerous reactions to El Cantante beyond simple film criticism (including my own). Some, like Colon, consider it a scar on the history of Latin music in the United States; others consider it a worthy testament to a cultural and historical period that deserves attention. At the risk of implicating myself in what seems to be a rather heated debate (admittedly one that I really have no kind of authority to speak about), I would like to make an observation.

While I was cobbling the Lavoe discography together, I spent a lot amount of time revisiting the Lavoe I heard growing up as a child, and eagerly discovering the many corners of his discography that I'd never heard before. Even as I write this, the string ruminations and trumpet's herald of the epic El Cantante blares in my ears. Perhaps you, too, decided to throw on an old Colon/Lavoe record that you haven't spun for a while; or, if the music of salsa was new to you, you found your hips moving in ways never before attempted, your head nodding to the soul of la clave. Through all of this, our ears have heard a lot of mudslinging, but we've also heard something much more enduring and sublime that withstands the debates and cultural politics. Seriously guys, this is timeless music, and it's my opinion as the "lowest" among all critics--a fan--that there is no better way to hear the story of Hector Lavoe than how he told it himself: as un cantante, as a singer. Before long, this debate will be tidily filed away and forgotten. Will your Hector Lavoe records, CDs, mp3s, suffer the same fate? I trust that if you're here, they won't. Like Chapin over at La Onda Tropical recommends:

"Forget the movie, and go discover the music of Hector Lavoe, Willie Colón,
Ruben Bladés
and all other Fania stars."

I'll admit, there were moments where I became more caught up in the frenzy of El Cantante than in the music of the real Cantante. I've come around. I'm going to keep on with Hector Lavoe the musician, not "Hector Lavoe: The Debate." I think there's a reason why Ruben Blades made a musical clarion call for Latin solidarity on the seminal Colon/Blades album Siembra, as have countless artists before: because there is a kind of unity that you can find in art and creativity. Toward oneness with music; toward music with oneness.

What can I say, my soap comes in big boxes.

To close this, check out a hip poem by a messenger of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, courtesy of Lil' Mike's Last Known Thoughts And Random Revelations.

Willie Perdomo - The Day That Hector Lavoe Died

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Still alive, and now a Metro-Rican

Hey guys, sorry for the dearth of posts in here, I've been busy moving and adjusting to a new place and school. I now call Washington, D.C. my home, and I'm reaping the benefits of living in a (bigger) city. Case in point: this weekend, I'm seeing Willie Colon AND Eddie Palmieri, so stay tuned for pictures and reviews.

And don't think that the music has disappeared. I've spent much of the past month listening to a lot of new and excellent stuff, and I'm certainly going to pass it on to all of you. That being said, I have a much busier schedule now, which means a few changes to this blog are forthcoming. I've always tried to make this blog more than just a mere depository for mp3s by adding background information, anecdotes, and opinions, hoping to bring the music to life for novice and veteran listeners alike. However, this requires a lot of time and research (a single album post can take 2-3 hours), and I just don't have that kind of time anymore. Letting this blog bite the dust, however, is even less of an option.

This means that I can either 1) make my posts more sparse, but with the same quality of information and depth as my past posts, or I can 2) make more frequent posts but with little to no embellishment. Granted, I haven't been so hot with updating regularly as of late, but during the summer I was posting almost every day, or if not, every other day. I'm not sure whether or not I'll go with the more frequent, less quality posts or the less frequent, more quality posts, but if you guys have any preference, speak up. My decision will definitely hinge on what it is you guys appreciate (or don't appreciate) about this blog.

Regardless, stay tuned for music. The Sun of Latin Music lives!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tempo 70 - El Primer LP (Mericana, 1972)

After all of the Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, and Fania, I feel it's time to head out of mainstream Latin into the used record bins for another rare treat, and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Tempo 70 is the brainchild of Argentinean pianist Bebu Silvetti, who in the early 70s relocated to Puerto Rico and put together the band featured today. Over the course of his life, he played everything from son montuno and guaguanco to Latin jazz to disco. In fact, he is most well known for his 1976 disco hit Spring Rain. Four years prior, however, Silvetti's Tempo 70 would experiment with Latin soul ballads, guaguanco, and a notoriously funky, though relatively unknown, hit on El Primer LP.

IMPORTANT: (Edited August 19) The information above has been disputed. A while ago a person claiming to be Silvia Silvetti, daughter of Bebu Silvetti, commented on this post saying that Bebu never lived in Puerto Rico and was never involved with Tempo 70. I attempted to contact this person via their email,, and received an automated message saying that the email does not exist. About a week later, I received an email and more comments from that email address, with the message containing the following: "I'm not disputing that those songs are my father's, I was disputing the information that he NEVER lived in Puerto Rico and was not aware of that album. I know many albums were published without his knowledge." Previously, I claimed that this person was a fake internet identity. After being contacted again, I will admit that I am still skeptical as to the whether or not this person is legitimate after they emailed me, as a hotmail address can easily be created, and none of the things being said by this person are verifiable. That being said, it is certainly possible that Bebu wrote El Galleton and it was published/covered/stolen by another band without his permission. It is equally possible that it was otherwise. The person claiming to be Ms. Silvetti has their story; what follows is the evidence that supports another story. I cannot claim that either is right, I can only post it to keep everyone informed of the differing accounts. As always, I attempt to post as accurate information as possible, and in the event that the commenter actually is Sylvia Silvetti, then I would like to thank her for reading my blog and contributing to the information posted here.

What follows is the evidence supporting the Bebu Silvetti and Tempo 70 link: the picture below of the El Galleton single clearly displays Bebu's name, and I have a number of web sources claiming the involvement of Bebu Silvetti with Tempo 70:
And, furthermore, El Galleton was recently featured on a compilation entitled Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in New York City, and that compilation credits Silvetti as the man behind the song. A number of websites document this:,,227993,00.html|SILVETTI&sql=11:dpfpxqrgldke~T4 If anyone has more information about this, feel free to contact me. Continue reading for the rest of the review.

To be fair: I am not a huge fan of El Primer LP as a whole album (read on before you write it off, though). The first time I threw it on I was greeted with an absolutely horrible bolero (ballad), and there is a somewhat unspoken code in Latin music that if an album kicks off with a bolero, you'd either better be on your guard or 70 years old. To some extent, the sagely advice proves correct: about half of the album is plagued with very poorly done boleros with a cantante whose awful, gaudy high notes betray his safer swimming in shallower registers.

On the other hand, the rest of the album is filled with upbeat, roots-based tunes. El Charlatan has the dynamics of Ismael Rivera's Cachimbos (aka Cortijo's band during a particular period in their stint with Rivera), and the singer performs much better here. La Pequita de Paquita features some excellent Eddie Palmieri-esque piano work.

The real gem of the album--and what makes buying the whole LP worthwhile....that is, if you can find it--is El Galleton, a much drooled-over 45 that turns both Latin and soul-heads alike. El Galleton plays more like a night at the Apollo than son montuno. The song begins with some excellent descarga on the bongos, and then a rather silly call-and-response verse comes in where the band orders you to Juntale la manteca a'l galleton (Slap the butter on the cracker). The e song breaks down as they switch to pondering the philosophical difference between una galleta (a cracker) and un galleton (a &!*%&# huge cracker--the use of -on at the end of a Spanish word is somewhat, though not exactly, akin to the English superlative, much like changing "funky" to "funkiest," where the -est means "most or very funky"). Before you know it, a surge of organ feedback has washed over you and you're suddenly being chased by the fuzz across Spanish Harlem's 110th in a Latin-ised blaxploitation film. Even the church organs cut through the addictive horn lines to make you get up and dance.

In the interest of flexibility, I've given you two options. You can listen to and download El Galleton as if it were a 7" single, or y0u can download the entire album. Both are available. I'm only presenting the option because I personally listen to El Galleton much more than I do the entire album, and I wouldn't force an album on anyone just for only one song. That being said, I still think that El Primer LP is worth checking out, and it's so rare that you'll be one of the few ears to have ever heard it. As long as you just skip past the boleros (or slow-dance to them with your old lady, if that's your thing), you'll find some good cuts worth your time.

Picture taken from Office Naps

Listen to El Galleton

Saturday, August 4, 2007

El Cantante (2007) Review

With all the fuss I've raised over El Cantante (including uploading the entire Hector Lavoe discography), you can bet I was there opening day to revel in the glory of seeing Hector Lavoe's life adapted to the big screen. So what did I think? A very haphazardly put together review follows. If you don't want spoilers, or just can't stomach strong opinion, then don't read it!

In short: what a terrible disappointment.

It's almost difficult to know where I should begin, but I would like to get one thing straight. I want everyone who reads this blog to know that, contrary to what the film implies and a number of people are saying, Hector Lavoe did NOT create salsa music. The line in the film where Johnny Pacheco (played by Nelson Vazquez) painfully delivers lines claiming that Lavoe & Colon mixed "mambo, merengue, jazz" into a "sauce like gumbo" and dubbed it salsa is outright false, and a gross mistake on the part of everyone involved in the making of the film. Though certainly instrumental in popularizing it, Lavoe was one of numerous poster children for the music at the height of its popularity, not its creator. The origins of salsa as a music are heavily disputed. Its earliest use dates as far back as the 1920s with the Cuban son of Ignacio Pineiro, and artists such as the Venezuelan Federico y Su Combo, the Puerto Ricans Charlie Palmieri, Pupi Legarreta, and Joe Cuba all released album utilizing the word salsa long before Colon and Lavoe began their career with 1967's El Malo. In truth, salsa is a Latin hybrid drawing from the musical traditions of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and a host of other Latin countries. Cuba, Panama, Colombia and many more all had thriving salsa scenes that rivaled that of Fania, but simply did not have a place in American consciousness to lay claim to salsa music. So, for us over here in the states, whether gringo or even Nuyorican, salsa may seem to have been born in this country, but it was not. To say that Hector Lavoe or even Willie Colon and the Fania label were the architects behind this music would be as erroneous as claiming that Miles Davis invented jazz, or that Led Zeppelin invented rock n' roll. It's simply not true. A useful distinction that I make is in referring to the Fania scene as Nuyorican salsa, rather than simply salsa. This acknowledges that, in its tenure in New York City, salsa took on a new sound with refined instrumentation and production values that made it distinct from other forms of salsa. But the only and original form of salsa it is not.

A few other inaccuracies plagued the movie as well. Some question whether or not Puchi (Hector's wife played by Jennifer Lopez) was as important in Hector's life as El Cantante claims it to be. Furthermore, not only was the reference to the origins of the hit song El Cantante unconvincing, but the story is, by many accounts, false. The movie portrays Ruben Blades taking the stage with an acoustic guitar, and giving Hector, who is in the audience, as a gift, a new song that he had written. Considering that Blades ranks as one of the best singers in all of Latin music, it's rather unfortunate that the actor playing him could barely carry a true note. Moreover, the actual story of the song was one of enormous tension. Blades originally wanted to record the song himself, and some accounts say that Colon convinced him to reluctantly give it to Lavoe. Though afterwards Blades acknowledged that Lavoe did a better job with the song than he ever could have, the real-life account is still one of dispute, rather than that of the film in which a wide-eyed, naive Blades dedicates a song to a man whom he claims a childhood hero (which, in some ways, does not make chronological sense).

Having seen director Leon Ichaso's previous biopic Pinero, and being sorely disappointed at the hectic and overwrought cinematography and schizophrenic pacing in that movie, I should have anticipated those same aesthetic aches in the Lavoe film, but did not. Unfortunately, they are all there. Ichaso's pointillist, hurried glimpses of virtually every angle in a room or scene is a tried and true case of using far too much to say far too little. The film runs the chronological gamut of over thirty years, but Ichaso saw fit to make it seem as though a contextually-undefined, ten minute snapshot of Hector Lavoe's life every five or so years could paint an accurate and satisfying picture of the artist's career. Riding the Lavoe timeline with Ichaso at the helm is akin to a nauseating roller coaster. The plot only surfaces in fits, jumps, and starts, with no real sense of pacing in an attempt to make Lavoe's out-of-control lifestyle appear vibrant. To that effect, the film only falls into cliches, haphazardly using blurred scenes of Lavoe with a needle in his arm to say something about Hector's character.

The portrayal of Hector Lavoe (as played by Marc Anthony) truly amounted to something as the film began, but had altogether vanished by its mid-point. Numerous accounts describe Hector as the most humble, good-natured man that one could ever meet, and Anthony surprisingly nailed that aspect during Lavoe's rise to fame. The initial romance between Puchi and Lavoe is charming, and Lavoe's lines witty without being overbearing. One of my favorite moments in the movie involves Lavoe on tour, after a show with a beer in hand, innocently following Willie Colon and his current female companion towards Colon's room. When Colon forcefully shuts the door behind for some privacy, thereby locking Lavoe out, Anthony produces the most perfect, awkward pause and unassuming saunter back to his room. Small details like this reeled me into Lavoe's character as the movie began, but as the sex-drugs-salsa kicks in, Anthony began portraying a completely different, aggressive character with no real impetus behind the change. Perhaps even more important, Ichaso places no substance behind Hector's depression and his battle with drugs. Throughout the movie, his faults are taken at face value with no apparent need for explanation. The result is a character who seems as unexplainable to audience members as he is to the actor impersonating him.

Hector's wife Puchi has been heralded by many as the role that Jennifer Lopez was born to play. In some ways, this is absolutely correct, as Lopez's interpretation crackles with raw energy. That energy, however, is ultimately without direction, as Lopez fails to differentiate Puchi as anything other than plot-line filler. Yes, Lopez has done a terrific job of displaying a very heated Nuyoricena, but the problem is that Puchi is not simply that. What makes Puchi Puchi, as opposed to a stereotype of an aggressive wife of a musical superstar, is completely lost in the fray.

The musical performances of Hector Lavoe, on the other hand, are vibrant, and I certainly have to commend Anthony for an excellent impression of Lavoe on stage. Anthony copies Lavoe's inflections while still retaining the signature timbre of his voice, and even nails many of Lavoe's live mannerisms such as cradling the bottom-most section of the microphone. The music was a welcome aside from the virtual strobe-lighting of the rest of the film.

In that vein, it seems that "the music was great" is about all that I can say after seeing El Cantante. I would have derived a more enjoyable experience from seeing Anthony impersonate Lavoe on stage for nearly two hours. I suppose that after this disappointment, at the very least I do have the Lavoe records to come back to. El Cantante plays much better as a soundtrack than as a film.

But, it's easy to be a critic, no? I highly recommend that you see the movie for yourself, and I encourage disagreement in the comments. I wanted to walk out of the theater raving about the movie because I had placed a lot of weight in seeing a person so obscure to those around me--yet vital to my family, my culture, and myself--receive some due recognition. I will admit, in closing, that a large part of my review may very well derive from the the disappointment felt after having placed such importance on this film for so long.