Friday, March 23, 2007

Do The Mombo!

Ultra Lounge, Vol 2: Mombo Fever


by Richie Unterberger
When Latin bandleaders popularized mambo in the early 1950s, this set many pop and big band acts scrambling to get in on the action. Mambo Fever, part two of Capitol's Ultra-Lounge series, takes 18 such examples from the vaults, spanning the mid-'50s to the early '60s. Yma Sumac (an exotica singer, not a bandleader) and Billy May are the only readily recognizable names on this compilation, which is akin to hearing competent, somewhat Whited-out derivations of Perez Prado. There are odd touches like Sumac's high-frequency warbles, John Buzon's roller-rink organ runs, and the sheer silliness of Chuy Reyes' "Oink, Oink Mambo." But the results are oddly similar, on one level, to hearing some White bands try to play the blues—in comparison to the most genuine article, it's somewhat sanitized for broader consumption. That's not to deny its considerable fun (if lightweight) qualities; this usually works up respectable heat, in addition to evoking the slightly kitschy '50s mentality that is a necessary ingredient of the space age pop revival.