First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2009, Volume 16, #8
Written by John Metzger
Fri August 21, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT
Nine years after his death at the age of 77, Tito Puente finally is getting the retrospective he has always deserved. Much as its title suggests, the primary emphasis of Dance Mania: Legacy Edition is a remastered rendition of Puente’s groundbreaking 12-track endeavor from 1958. By augmenting the collection with the entirety of its second act — which was released in 1961 — as well as a careful selection of outtakes and other recordings culled from the same era, the newly minted effort provides a sterling introduction to Puente’s considerable canon.
Issued at the height of the Latin music craze that swept through America during the latter half of the 1950s, Dance Mania has long been regarded as Puente’s crowning achievement. Even for the uninitiated, it’s easy to see why. Puente was known for his exuberant stage demeanor, but even without his physical presence, his music remains the epitome of a gigantic, joyful, and intoxicating noise. The basis for his output was a blend of Latin rhythms and big-band jazz that essentially expanded upon the stylistic forays of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Where their output had a tendency to sound sophisticated and elegant, however, Puente’s recordings felt downright primal. Instead of exuding an aura that was mysterious and romantic, his material burned with the white-hot heat of sex and seduction.
Through all 45 of its tracks, Dance Mania: Legacy Edition rolls past without a single note of hesitancy. Its swing-era constructs are consumed by the fiery, percolating rhythms that burst explosively from its core. Time and again, horns and saxes splash brightly against the churning grooves, and the complexity of the arrangements is masked by the tunes’ unwavering infectiousness. As a combination of bongos, congas, and timbales repeatedly whips the songs into a furious frenzy, the undulating dance among the various instruments becomes irresistible.
Without a doubt, Puente’s 50-year career is lined with countless other stellar recordings. Dance Mania: Legacy Edition not only forsakes his signature song Oye Como Va, but it also was sculpted from an extremely narrow set of parameters. As a result, the outing’s scope is too limited for it to be considered a comprehensive overview of Puente’s lifelong work. At the same time, though, the material on Dance Mania: Legacy Edition, all of which was made between 1956 and 1960, serves as ground zero for understanding his mastery.
Of Further Interest...
Dance Mania: Legacy Edition is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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