Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Willie Colón's El Malo kinda reminds me of the Joe Bataan disc I reviewed last week, except with fewer sappy love ballads - none, to be exact. It's a short (30:11), eight-song album with a couple of instrumentals and a couple of songs in English. (Actually, "Willie Baby" is half in English, half in Spanish.) The vocals are by Hector Lavoe, and he's as good as he's reputed to have been. Though he doesn't sound a damn thing like Marc Anthony, so it's no wonder that friggin' biopic, El Cantante, got disappeared. Does anybody know what happened to it? Is it out on DVD? Is it supposed to hit theaters, like, ever? Anyway, this is not a "pure" salsa record; it's got some bugalu tracks and other stuff like that, one of which, "Willie Whopper," would be my favorite track on the album if the (English) lyrics weren't so dumb. It's got some great organ, and handclaps. I like handclaps. My absolute favorite track on El Malo is the title cut, which has tons of energy from Lavoe and terrific, almost distorted trombone blowing from Colón. I also really dig the piano on "Skinny Papa." Every track on this album has something to recommend it; I love the florid backing/chorus vocals on "Chonqui," plus it's got an almost free-jazz piano breakdown (as in, it sounds like the keys are gonna break off the instrument if it goes on much longer). Then there's a pause, and the whole band comes back in, with Colón blasting air into and out of his trombone like he's got a small rodent trapped in the bell or something. "Chonqui" is probably the dramatic high point of the album. The closing track, "Quimbombo," is (just) another high-speed, high-energy workout to finish things off, with the whole band playing at the top of their abilities. There's no reason in the world not to own this album. I'm very glad I do.

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