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Celia Cruz: Latin Music's First Lady - Her Essential Recordings

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Album Review

Celia Cruz is widely acknowledged as a great 20th century Latin popular music vocalist, and this two-CD set includes 40 songs from various periods of her early career. What, then, could be wrong with it? Well, when you have a wide-ranging anthology of a significant artist, you shouldn't feel as though you have little idea of what was done when. That, however, is the case with this package, not just because it zigzags back and forth chronologically, but also because it fails to provide recording/release dates in the track listings, although a few are given in the liner notes. It can be deduced that most or all of these were recorded in the 1950s and 1960s, as it's inferred (though not wholly spelled out) that all of the material was done for the Secco label. All that griping out of the way, the discs do contain quality music, with original versions of numerous songs that she remade in New York in the 1970s. There are also both sides of her 1951 debut single, "Cao Cao Mani Picao"/"Mata Siguaraya," and much of this is recognizably helping set a foundation for modern salsa in its vivacious combination of jazz, Latin, and pop styles. There are also some cuts that have a strong association with the Santeria religion, as well as some material without as strong of a salsa flavor (like the lilting "Lacho"). But shouldn't an artist as notable as this be rewarded with more knowledgeable documentation, if only to provide at least a little more general information about when and where this stuff was recorded, and how her music evolved?


Born: 21 October 1925 in Havana, Cuba

Genre: Salsa and Tropical

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Celia Cruz was one of Latin music's most respected vocalists. A ten-time Grammy nominee, Cruz, who sang only in her native Spanish language, received a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement award, a National Medal of the Arts, and honorary doctorates from Yale University and the University of Miami. A street in Miami was even renamed in her honor, and Cruz's trademark orange, red, and white polka dot dress and shoes have been placed in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute of Technology....
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Celia Cruz: Latin Music's First Lady - Her Essential Recordings, Celia Cruz
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