n'klabe's I Love Salsa is great traditional Puerto Rican salsa at a time when Reggaeton seems to be taking over the island. Not a lot of surprises, just a satisfying all-salsa album.
n'klabe - The Band
That's why it's so refreshing to find a group of young musicians - 15 in all - devoted to traditional salsa. Fronted by Hector Jose Torres Donato, Felix Javier Torres and Johnny Moldonado Diaz, you get the impression that it's a trio; in reality, the entire orchestra is young, with 12 instrumentalists joining the main vocalists and playing with verve and a full, professional, experienced joy that belies their age.
Salsa Greats Sing Along
I Love Salsa is aptly named and features a guest list of salsa greats: Victor Manuelle, Cheo Feliciano, Rey Ruiz, Ismael Miranda, Voltio, Luisito Carrion, Brenda K. Starr and Moncho Rivera.
The traditional style of the album is both its strength and its weakness. It's always a pleasure to hear straight, traditional salsa played by an accomplished group of musicians - and that's what you get with this album. But I have to admit that it would be nice if they took a few more risks, because as pleasant as it is listening to this album, it lacks an edge, something to make it stand out from everyday, good (OK, excellent) but predictable salsa.
In fact, that's what makes the track "Amor de Una Noche" stand out. Reggaeton's Voltio joins the act (did you notice his name in the 'salsa greats' list?) and gives it a different edge that just enhances the salsa sound.
Other notable tracks are "Polos Opuestos" with Brenda K. Starr, another voice that accentuates any song she sings. "Tiempe" with Luisito Carrion really burns up the digital turntable and "La Favorita" with Moncho Rivera has the kind of key changes that I love in salsa.
The album ends with a ballad version of "Amor de Una Noche." Nice, but I miss Voltio.
There are three versions of I Love Salsa. I recommend the special edition, which has the bonus track of n'klabe singing "I Love Salsa." Devoid of all guest artists, the energy and seriously tight instrumentals on that track make it my favorite.