In his book High Fidelity, Nick Hornby espouses on the art of making the perfect compilation tape. It’s an enlightening passage which could easily be eclipsed if someone could persuade Gilles Peterson to write an entire book on the subject.
Let’s face it he’s an expert- your local record shop could easily clear a few shelves for a varied “Gilles Peterson Selects…” section. This time his discerning ear is employed to bring us a double disc collection of Nu Yorican goodies from the Fania, Tico and Cotique labels.
Of course, you’d expect Peterson to pull out all the stops and this compilation is lovingly curated from over 200 album’s worth of solid listening. By his own admission most of the tracks are instrumental as it’s sometimes difficult to get with the vocals, but you will find a striking roster of artists to listen to- Tracks are provided by the likes of Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Joe Bataan and much more.
The tracks subtly differ from the traditional formula you’d expect. Some tracks focus on a more Jazzy feel, some flirt with disco and others aim for the funky hotspot.
Louie Ramirez‘s Rush Hour In Hong Kong has a cheeky oriental flavour in a piece that wouldn’t be out of place in a 60s spy movie. Roberto Roena‘s English language Shades of Time is a funky easy listening style tracks with groovy bass and horns. The old standard Tighten Up is also included, with its superb bass and horn breaks it’s an impossible song to cover badly. Freak Off by Orchestra Hollow is an outstanding three minute wonder too.
With so much on offer the danger is that a lot of tracks begin to wash over you after a while and can feel a little samey. That’s certainly the problem that the second disc encounters. Because of that this compilation is best enjoyed dipped in and out of to fully appreciate what’s going on. Listening to so much relentless energy can be tiring after a while.
Of course, a lot of the success of this hinges on whether you like your Latin music or not. Whilst Peterson’s name is likely to attract a few converts it’s ultimately put together for those in the know. The rest of us are sure to have an enjoyable time though – given the soaring temperatures and the premature summer you’ll find this is certainly feel good music for the hot outdoors.