Orquesta El Macabeo ‘Salsa Bestial’ (Vampi Soul) 4/5

Orquesta El Macabeo are a twelve piece salsa ‘gorda’ or heavy salsa collective from Puerto Rico who give the tried and tested salsa formula a thoroughly modern twist by incorporating elements of ska and rock, though the predominant sound is unquestionably the classic Latin music era of the early 1970s when Fania reigned supreme. The group excel on burning mid-paced numbers where the traditional musical craftsmanship of ‘sonero’ vocals and jazz-inflected keybaords combine to good effect. Fans of Eddie Palmieri and the harder hitting salsa of Conjunto Libre will find much to admire here and that includes the Fania All Stars-inspired ‘La Dieta’ which has a wonderful melody and a lovely piano solo from Anibal Vidal Quintero, or the Santana-esque groove of ‘Alacrán’ which has a killer hook and an extended electric piano segment. For dancers and salsa dura aficionados alike, look no further than the storming ‘Cogiendo pon’ which reveals elements of the indigenous Puerto Rican folk rhythms of bomba and plena that renowned musicians such as Cortijo and Ismael Rivera weaved into their music. Incidentally the album title reworks the song title (not included here) of one of salsa’s greatest duets, that of Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. They would certainly approve of them usic contained within. Factor in the full-steam ahead salsa of the opener ‘El Sueño (The Dream)’ and you have one fine all round album that thankfully deviates from the rampant commercialism of much modern day salsa.

Tim Stenhouse