Rare Latin Grooves Excavated In Anthology

Apr 1, 2015

There's a new entry in the ongoing series of Rough Guide music anthologies called Latin Rare Groove Volume 2. The mostly instrumental cuts draw on salsa, funk, soul and rock from vintage and new performers. Fresh Air music critic Milo Miles surveys the terrain and wonders what exactly to call this combination.

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This is FRESH AIR. There's a new entry in the ongoing series of Rough Guide music anthologies called "Latin Rare Groove Volume 2." The mostly intrumental cuts draw on salsa, funk, soul and rock from the past few decades. Music critic Milo Miles has a survey of the terrain and wonders what exactly to call this combination.


MILO MILES, BYLINE: "Latin Rare Grooves Volume 2" includes releases from the 1960s and '70s, but also currents tracks from performers who continued the tradition of Latin fusion music, but I feel that the collection is misnamed. The term rare groove originally applied to R&B and rock oldies that had been overlooked when they came out and are worth a second life. The deluxe obscurities were used up quick, and rare groove became code for, by this because you haven't heard it - we didn't say it was any good. Besides, some of the performers on "Latin Rare Grooves" are neither oldies nor little-known. The group Quantic, for instance, are at least mid-level stars.


MILES: The name retro grooves is a possibility, I suppose, though Ricardo Ray and Bobby Cruz were right up to the minute when their contribution came out in 1966. And there's a further problem that retro can't mean the same thing to groups from countries as diverse as Peru, Venezuela and the Netherlands. Nope. Seems to me that what we have with "Latin Rare Grooves Volume 2" is that modern term that solves all contradictions, the mixtape. Best of all, the only criteria for a successful mixtape, like "Latin Rare Grooves," is that you keep having fun as you keep dancing all the way through. But, well, it is extra fun when a standout track is taken from a 1970 album that was never finished and released, like this from Conjunto Alayon.


CONJUNTO ALAYON: (Singing in Spanish).

MILES: The program on "Latin Rare Grooves" divides songs into clusters by vintage performers, international bands and current outfits. But what unites them all is an appreciation of a kind of handmade urban boogie. There's only judicious passages of folkloric or hip-hop here.

The one misfire is Rene Lopez's "Steal Your Love," which has a comely melody and beats, but its sexual politics are the most retro part, stuck in the midnight rambler era. Since it's the final track, you can always leave the party a bit early.

Fusion has gone out of fashion for modes like rock and jazz. The best music news delivered by this collection is that in Latin music, the flair for eclecticism, the desire to intertwine with other styles of pop and dance music remains as vital and attractive today as it did 40 years ago. "Rare Grooves" stays in the heart.

GROSS: Milo Miles reviewed "The Rough Guide To Latin Rare Groove Volume 2."

Tomorrow on the show I'll talk with Bruce Eric Kaplan, a New Yorker cartoonist whose signature is BEK. He's also a producer and writer on HBO's "Girls" and worked on "Seinfeld" and "Six Feet Under." He has a new memoir. Also, we listen back to 1985 interview with Cynthia Lennon who has died at the age of 75. She was married to John Lennon from 1962 to '68. Join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Dorothy Ferebee is our administrative assistant. Our associate producer for online media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.